Andrew J. Cherlin is Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Sociology and Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, where he also holds a joint appointment in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1970 in Engineering and Applied Sciences. After teaching at the high-school level for two years, he enrolled in the PhD program in Sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied with Valerie Oppenheimer and Robert W. Hodge. In the 1975-1976 academic year he was a Graduate Student Fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City. He received his PhD from UCLA in 1976 and then accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University, where he has been ever since.
His research is best described as family demography: the social demographic and sociological characteristics of families and household. He has written widely on this topic during a period of intense change in family life in the U.S. and the world. During the first two decades of his career, much of his research and writing focused on union formation and dissolution. In 1978 his paper “Remarriage as an Incomplete Institution” appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, which remains one of his most highly-cited publications. In 1981 he published the first edition of Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, an overview of trends in union formation and dissolution since the mid-twentieth century, a volume popular among course instructors as well as scholars and which he revised in 1992. He collaborated with Frank Furstenberg on many publications, including the 1991 book, Divided Families: What Happens to Children When Parents Part. In an interdisciplinary study with several collaborators, he published “Longitudinal Studies of Effects of Divorce on Children in Great Britain and the United States” in Science in 1991. In 1993 he received a Merit Award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for his research on the effects of family structure on children.
In the mid-1990s, after Congress overhauled the main cash welfare program for poor families, he formed an interdisciplinary group that included senior scholars such as Linda Burton, Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Robert Moffitt, and William Julius Wilson to study that major reform of the U.S. welfare system. Supported by NICHD and many private foundations, the project was called the Three City Study and examined the consequences of the changes in the law for the well-being of children from a new survey of families affected by the reform. The research project resulted in numerous publications in journals such as Science, American Sociological Review, Social Service Review, and Journal of Marriage and Family.
In the 2000s he wrote on some broader treatments of family change. These include his 2004 article “The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage” in Journal of Marriage and Family and his 2009 book, The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. Most recently, he has written about social class differences in family life including a 2014 book, Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America and a 2016 article, “Nonmarital First Births, Marriage, and Income Inequality,” in the American Sociological Review.
Cherlin is notable for his contributions not only to academic and scholarly research but also to communication of population research to the non-academic community. He writes frequently for the media and is often interviewed in newspapers and outlets. He has testified before Congress and makes frequent presentations to policy analysts in Washington and elsewhere. His PAA Presidential Address was on the view of divorce by leading popular authors. In 2001 he received the Olivia S. Nordberg Award for Excellence in Writing in the Population Sciences.
Cherlin has been active in the population research community. He served on the Board of Directors of the PAA in 1985 to 1987 and served as President of the PAA in 1999. In 2009 he received the Irene B. Taeuber Award from the PAA in Recognition of Outstanding Accomplishments in Demographic Research. He has served on numerous NIH review committees, including several Chair positions.
Cherlin’s research has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005 and an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in 2013-2014. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the America Academy of Political and Social Science, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Finally, Cherlin has been an active supporter of population research at Johns Hopkins. He was director of the Hopkins Population Center for ten years and was responsible for major improvements in its functioning and orientation. He remains in a leadership position in the HPC as the director of the Developmental Infrastructure Core. He was active in support of training grants to the Center as well. He has also been a valuable mentor and advisor to many graduate students and research staff.
We are pleased that we have had the opportunity to honor this distinguished population scholar.