Frances Kobrin Goldscheider is Professor Emerita, Department of Sociology, Brown University and College Park Professor, Department of Family Science, University of Maryland
Fran Goldscheider began her professional life as both a newly-minted Ph.D. and parent of young children, living out the gender and family demography issues that have been the sharp focus of her scholarship. She began her undergraduate studies at Radcliffe College and received her B.A. in sociology in 1965 from the University of Pennsylvania, where she continued her graduate studies and completed her Ph.D. in demography in 1971. She immediately joined the sociology faculty of Skidmore College as an assistant professor and then moved in early 1974 to Brown University as an assistant professor in the sociology department. Fran became a core part of the Population Studies and Training Center (PSTC) faculty, where for a long time she was the only faculty member whose research area focused on family demography. Fran was promoted to associate professor in 1980 and professor in 1986. During this time she served as the director of PSTC from 1989-1992 and 1994-1995, interim director from 2003-2004 and as chair of the Department of Sociology from 1984-1987. She also was a research associate at the RAND Corporation from 1980-1995 and has spent time more recently as a visiting scholar at Stockholm University (initially on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2001-2002). By her side since 1983, as a frequent co-author, intellectual sparring partner and devoted spouse, is Calvin Goldscheider.
Fran’s prodigious research on the demography of the family started with a focus on changes in living arrangements in the United States, specifically the increase in living alone among the elderly, and segued to investigating the dramatic changes in the living arrangements of young adults, from the timing and context of leaving the parental home to live independently to the circumstances that have provoked many young adults to return to living with their parents. Her scholarship expanded and deepened to take on core questions around gender and family. In the 1991 book, New Families/No Families: The Transformation of the American Home (with Linda Waite), which received the Otis Dudley Duncan Award from the Population Section of the American Sociological Association in 1993, she linked demographic change with the gendered division of labor. She moved family demography beyond treating men as merely part of the context for fertility to examine their transitions to fatherhood, both step- and biological fatherhood, in the United States and other developed countries. Her research has also examined the implications of immigration for family formation (with Eva Bernhardt and Calvin Goldscheider), gender attitudes and their bearing on union formation and childbearing patterns (with Gayle Kaufman and Sharon Sassler), family consequences of children’s disability (with Dennis Hogan) and the stability of and gender differences in the caring networks of elderly persons (with Susan Allen).
As a mentor par excellence, Fran guided 32 Ph.D. theses and ensured that the field of family demography was strengthened not only by her scholarship and the students she trained but also by the innovative graduate courses she introduced, such as “The Male Life Course” and “Demography of Fatherhood.” She was the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI of numerous grants on family research questions over the past 30+ years from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and National Science Foundation. She also served as Editor of Demography in 1994 and 1995, culminating in a special issue on household and family demography.
Fran is now a vibrant part of demographic research on the family in the United States and Sweden from her home base at the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland. She continues to exemplify for graduate students and colleagues the joyful returns to studying contemporary social changes in the family as well as the joyful returns to living family life fully (her seven grandchildren can attest to this). Her former graduate students fondly remember her trademark accessibility combined with intellectual rigor that led Fran to pose demanding questions, her inspiring yet daunting “sandwich notes” detailing the innovative nature of student research and outlining the additional work yet required, as well as her regular query in graduate seminars as to who was bringing “snack,” to ensure we made it through the next hour and a half. Fran (and Calvin) have opened up their home(s) to many. She is a treasured mentor, valued researcher and appreciated colleague.