demographers/social scientists

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Kenneth Prewitt

With a budget of about $7.5 billion and a staff of more than 900,000, Census 2000 was the largest peacetime mobilization effort in the history of the United States government, and was widely considered to be the most accurate census yet. The man at the helm: Kenneth Prewitt, who was the director of the Census Bureau from 1998 to 2001. Currently, he is the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York City.

“I was not fully prepared for the emotional connection that a very large part of the population has to the census,� says Prewitt. “It is the one inclusive civic national experience that this society has. Election Day only includes half the population at best, and then, only the adult population.� And while many people roll their eyes at the census, or simply toss the form into the trash, Prewitt says a surprising number of people want to be involved. “People find in the census a way to express themselves — not everyone, of course — but millions of people wanted to be counted and to be a part of it, and they worried that if we didn't get to them right away that maybe we'd forgotten them.�

Prewitt joined government service following careers in academia and private philanthropy. He was director of the National Opinion Research Center (based at the University of Chicago); served two terms as president of the Social Science Research Council; and spent a decade as senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Prewitt taught for 15 years at the University of Chicago, and also at Stanford University (where he received his PhD), Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Nairobi and Makerere University (in Uganda). He has written more than 50 articles for professional journals and dozens of books.

In His Own Words

Over the last 25 years, indeed for the past century, the numbers of immigrants and their origination regions of the world have been a major source of change. In the earlier part of the last century, immigrants were largely European in origin, and obviously we had an immigration surge from Asia and Latin America in the last part of the last century that's fundamentally transforming our country. It's also moved us from being a pan-European nation to a pan-world nation. We are literally, perhaps with the exception of Canada, the only nation in the world that's composed of every other part of the world.

Jeffrey Humphreys

It all began with a simple phone call. “A businessman called me, looking for purchasing power estimates for black consumers in Georgia,� recalls Jeffrey Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth in the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. “To my surprise, I wasn't able to find what he needed. There were a few sources for general information at the national level, but nothing at the state level, and nothing current.� That phone call was 14 years ago, and it planted the seed for the work Humphreys has dedicated himself to ever since.

In 1989, Humphreys launched the first study of minority buying power for each of the nation's major ethnic groups. The results were released in 1990. Today, the Selig Center's minority buying power reports are released annually, and include detailed estimates and projections of the spending power of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and American Indians.

Humphreys has begun to tailor his data analysis to user demand. For the first time last year, the Selig Center offered spending estimates for broad categories of goods and services, but Humphreys plans to include detailed estimates within those categories. “It is important to know not just how many dollars are in the hands of minority consumers, but also how those dollars are actually being used on such things as grocery products, health care, new and used cars,� he says.

Humphreys served in many different roles at the Selig Center prior to becoming its director in 2000. He is a widely published author in the fields of marketing research, economic forecasting, transportation and economic development.

In His Own Words

Among the most significant demographic trends of the past 25 years has been the rising participation of women in the labor force, which greatly increased the productive capacity of the nation. Also, as women became more career-oriented, they delayed marriage and childbearing, which lowered birth rates and altered the age distribution of the population. Some businesses flourished (e.g., day-care centers), and other languished (door-to-door sales). Convenience and saving time became the mantras of an entire generation of working women. The next 25 years? As African Americans, Asians, Native American and Hispanics increase in number and purchasing power, their growing shares of the U.S. consumer market will continue to reshape the commercial and political landscape of America. I have no doubt that these groups increasingly will share in the economic success of the U.S., and will wield formidable economic clout.

John Logan

Many of us would like to believe that segregation was a social ill that disappeared with the 1960s. But in truth, it has followed us into the 21st century. John Logan was the first to document that segregation did not diminish between 1990 and 2000 when he unleashed the earliest analysis of segregation data from Census 2000.

“I was very surprised to see how resistant segregation has been to change,� says Logan, who is director of the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research at the State University of New York at Albany. “I thought, for instance, that there was potential breakthrough in middle-class black Americans' access to a wider range of neighborhoods. I thought that the obstacles were great, but I'm now even more impressed by the barriers and perhaps more pessimistic about the future than I once was. I don't think segregation is going to increase, I think we're changing at a snail's pace.�

In addition to directing the Mumford Center, Logan is a distinguished professor of sociology at the University at Albany and has authored and edited scores of books and journal articles. He is the co-author of Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place (University of California Press, 1987), and he recently edited The New Chinese City: Globalization and Market Reform, to be published by Blackwell.

Jeffrey Passel

Coming to America — how immigrants do it, why they do it and what the country's policies are about it — is a topic that has always fascinated Jeffrey Passel. “I have four immigrant grandparents, and I've found the stories that go with immigration compelling, the idea of people setting out for a different country to pursue a better life for themselves and their children,� says Passel. He has spent much of his career knee-deep in immigration data, figuring out ways to measure the population, crunching the numbers and analyzing their policy implications. Since 1989, after a 15-year stint with the Census Bureau, Passel has been a principal research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., where his work focuses on all aspects of immigration.

In the post-Sept. 11 world, Passel's research has taken on an additional focus. “The questions regarding the true number of immigrants and how well we measure immigration are still not answered,� he says. “And the importance of finding answers has been heightened by the security concerns that have arisen since Sept. 11.� Passel is also researching the children of immigrants and English-language proficiency. In addition, he has recently produced detailed population projections for the U.S. to 2050.

Passel worked for the Census Bureau from 1974 to 1989, rising to assistant division chief for population estimates in the Population Division. During his tenure, he was the agency's principal technical expert for undercount measurement of both legal and undocumented immigrants. He also developed and implemented the first official post-census estimates of the Hispanic population.

Passel has served on advisory and technical panels for several government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Institutes of Health. He has consulted with numerous public and private organizations on research activities and demographic trends. Passel has lectured on the impact of immigration on the U.S. at the Foreign Service Institute and at various universities; in addition, he has taught technical demography and population studies at Georgetown University.

In His Own Words

Over the next 25 years, I project that the number of immigrants living in the U.S. will increase from 31 million in 2000 to almost 50 million in 2025, and account for 13 percent of the population. Hispanics will be about 20 percent of the population and will outnumber blacks by more than 3 to 2. ‘Minorities’ will account for over 40 percent of the total population. However, at the same time, the number and proportion of the population who will view themselves as belonging to more than one racial/ethnic category will increase far beyond the levels measured in 2000. At that point, we may well be using a completely different set of racial/ethnic groupings (or perhaps none at all). By 2025, we will be halfway through the retirement of the Baby Boomers, assuming that we'll still be able to retire and that age 65 will still be viewed as a line of demarcation. This is likely to create a number of problems for the federal government unless some of today's current leaders are able to come to grips with a problem 10 to 20 years in the future.

Tom Smith

Tom Smith has measured the attitudes and behavior of American consumers many times over the course of his long career. But he says one of the best ways to understand trends in the U.S. population is to compare them with the trends occurring in other nations.

“You can learn an amazing amount about your society by finding out how alike it is to other countries, and how often it is different,� says Smith, who has been the director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago since 1980. (The GSS monitors changes and consistencies in American attitudes, and is the longest-running long-term project supported by the sociology program of the National Science Foundation.)

Smith was the cofounder and since 1997, has served as the secretary general, of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), the largest cross-national collaboration in the social sciences. The ISSP has conducted an international survey annually since 1985, and currently has 38 nations as members. He was the co-principal investigator of the 2001 National Tragedy Study, which measured public reactions to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and then compared them with American attitudes measured in the 1963 Kennedy Assassination Study.

Smith is the author of more than 400 scholarly papers, and has written about virtually every aspect of survey methods. He formerly edited the “Poll Trends� section of Public Opinion Quarterly and is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Sex Research, Public Perspective, Sociological Methods and Research, Social Science Research, Sociological Methodology and the International Journal of Public Opinion Research.

one to watch

Josh Herman

Josh Herman is product manager for Acxiom Corporation's Personicx segmentation system, a database that provides demographic, psychographic, media and purchasing data down to the household level. He is a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., where he teaches a graduate class on applied geodemography and consumer segmentation. Previously, Herman was the associate director for the American Press Institute, a newspaper think tank, where he researched and conducted seminars on best business practices. As a consultant, he has worked with the United States Postal Service, analyzing data from more than 2 billion transaction records and combining demographic, geographic, survey data and marketing analyses to create business and marketing strategies. Prior to joining Acxiom, Herman was director of applied marketing and training at Claritas. Look for him to continue to create powerful and innovative market research tools that will enable businesses to reach consumers with ever-increasing accuracy.

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