Donald J. Treiman has made major contributions to the field of social demography in the production of data, scholarship, and a generation of new scholars.
His professional career began at the University of Wisconsin and after spending time at Columbia University he made UCLA his intellectual home. He is now Distinguished Professor of Sociology Emeritus and a Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA and also a Faculty Associate and one of the founding members of UCLA’s California Center for Population Research (CCPR), for which he served as Director in 2006-2008. In the past Don served as staff director of two study committees at the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. He also has been honored with fellowship years at the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral and Social Sciences, and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Don has created deep intellectual connections and long-lasting personal friendships wherever he has found himself in his extensive travels around the world. Recently he has been a visiting professor and teacher at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), the National University of Singapore, and Yale University, and has taught short courses at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey, Peking University, and Shanghai University, among others. Much of this teaching was based on his textbook, Quantitative Data Analysis (2009), which resulted from nearly 40 years of teaching quantitative methods to graduate students.
Don has conducted research and trained students in the areas of social stratification and social demography, particularly from a cross-national perspective, and has led large scale national probability sample surveys focused on aspects of social inequality over the life course in South Africa and across Eastern Europe. More recently, his pioneering Life History and Social Change in Contemporary China project has broadened the field of China studies from a comparative perspective, trained a generation of scholars, and inspired several subsequent social science data collection projects in China. Using these and other data, Don and his colleague Harry Ganzeboom have been engaged in a long-term cross-national project to analyze variations in the status attainment process across nations throughout the world over the course of the 20th century. They have produced an archive of about 500 sample surveys from more than 50 nations, ranging through the last half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. Don’s commitment to the production and curation of data have contributed to the training and careers of a wide range of students and colleagues around the world.
As a scholar, Don is perhaps best known for his finding that occupational prestige hierarchies are essentially invariant across societies and over time, an achievement labeled the “Treiman constant” by Mike Hout and Tom DiPrete in a 2006 review and characterized as perhaps “the only universal sociologists have discovered.” This led to the development of two widely used scales to measure occupational status, one based on his prestige work and the other, with his colleague Ganzeboom, to measure occupational socioeconomic status. Don also has produced important analyses of inequality in China, South Africa, and many other nations. Much of his work focuses on historical changes—both broad trends (e.g., showing a trend toward increasing equality of opportunity throughout the world over the course of the 20th century) and specific societal changes (e.g., demonstrating the way the Cultural Revolution in China undercut normal processes of intergenerational status transmission). In recognition of these achievements he was elected president of the Research Committee on Social Stratification and Mobility of the International Sociological Association for two terms (1990-1998) and was the 2012 recipient of the Robert M. Hauser Distinguished Scholar Award of the American Sociological Association Section on Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility.
Don has been a colleague, mentor and friend to a huge network of population scholars. In addition to providing formal and informal instruction in methods, priceless data collection advice, and constant moral support, he has taught many of us the importance of sharing a long, loud dinner with colleagues at every annual PAA meeting.