Charles Hirschman is Boeing International Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle.
After receiving his BA in sociology from Miami University of Ohio, Charlie headed to a small village in Malaysia, where he served in the Peace Corps from 1965 to 1967. While working in Malaysia, Charlie developed an interest in the demography of Southeast Asia that would motivate him to pursue graduate study in sociology and also help to define an important part of his prolific research program for years to come. Also while in Malaysia, Charlie met the woman who would become his soul mate and life partner, Jo Hirschman (nee Knight).
Charlie returned from Malaysia to begin graduate work in sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where he earned his MA degree in 1969 and his Ph.D. degree in 1972. Charlie’s first academic appointment was in the Sociology Department at Duke University where he spent nine years. In 1981 Charlie moved to the Departments of Sociology and Asian Studies at Cornell University. In 1987, Charlie relocated to the Great Pacific Northwest to become Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology at the University of Washington. From 1995 to 1998, he served as Chair of the Sociology Department at the University of Washington.
In a distinguished career spanning more than three decades, Charlie has published over 100 journal articles and book chapters, co-edited the award-winning Handbook of International Migration, and thereby established himself as a leading scholar in several areas of sociology and demography. He has a long-standing interest in social inequality in the United States, and has conducted some of the best studies to date of ethnic and racial differences in socioeconomic achievement. This research led Charlie to examine the topic of immigration, focusing on how immigrants fare in the U.S. stratification system and beyond. He is also a leading expert on demographic and social change in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Much of what is known about fertility, migration, and socioeconomic achievement in Southeast Asia is due to the careful studies that have been done by Charlie and his colleagues, including the path-breaking collection of individual-level and household-level data in the Vietnam Longitudinal Survey which Charlie spearheaded. For the last several years, Charlie has directed a longitudinal study of high school seniors in public and private high schools in the Puget Sound region – The UW Beyond High School Project. In this project, which received funding from the Mellon Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charlie and his colleagues have examined a very wide range of issues, including racial and ethnic inequality in the transition from high school to college. In addition, Charlie has received significant funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to support his research on the complexities surrounding the concepts of race and ethnicity in American society.
Charlie’s first-rate scholarship has earned him national and international recognition. He has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Washington State Academy of Sciences. In 2005 Charlie served as President of the Population Association of America. His Presidential Address was titled “Immigration in the American Century,” and received a standing ovation from an audience of a thousand demographers and other social scientists.
Charlie has served as mentor to many, many graduate students and post-doctoral research associates in sociology and demography. Many of Charlie’s students and post-docs have gone on to hold faculty appointments at the very best universities in the country, and have become prominent scholars in their own right. Through his mentoring of many international students, Charlie’s intellectual influence now extends far beyond the U.S., to places like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and elsewhere. As a mentor, Charlie holds his students to the same exceedingly high standards that he imposes on himself. But, Charlie also invests immense amounts of time and energy to help his students attain the high standards that he requires. Charlie’s door is always open for students. He greets each student (like he greets everyone!) as though the meeting with her or him is his most important appointment of the day.
Charlie’s capacity for service activities is seemingly endless. Charlie has difficulty saying “no,” and this is no secret within his department, his university, and his profession. The number of committees, review panels, and advisory groups on which Charlie has served is much too great to list them all. Most recently, Charlie has served as Chair of the Population Association of America’s Development Committee and as a member of NICHD’s Population Sciences Subcommittee.