Jeff Evans spent most of his career working for the federal government. He began work at NIH in 1975 and retired from NIH as the Director of Intergenerational Research with the Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch of NICHD in 2011. He graduated from Loyola University, Maryland in 1967 with a B.S. in Economics and received a Ph.D. in Economics from Duke University in 1972, where he was one of Joe Spengler’s last students. He was cross-trained in Demography and took instruction from Nathan Keyfitz and Horace Hamilton. He was always interested in public policy and earned a law degree from the University of Maryland as a way of preparing himself for public policy work.
Over his long career at NIH, Jeff made innumerable contributions to the field of population research and to ways that NIH could better support the advance of demographic science and public policy. For example, Jeff created a way that NIH could use grants to aggressively pursue targeted research goals. Calling it an RFA (Request for Applications), he used it to focus the energy of the population research community on important policy relevant topics such as adolescent pregnancy, pregnancy resolution, international migration, family structure, family and child wellbeing, intergenerational behavior and transactions, population and the environment, and socio-economic status and health.
Jeff believed that the population research community could execute large-scale data collection projects and share these data among themselves. He was involved with a large number of data collection projects and, in all of them, he created a still-continuing tradition of data sharing that has transformed the field. The list of projects includes the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), the Three City Study (Johns Hopkins University), the Fragile Family Study (Princeton University), the LA Family and Neighborhoods Study ( LAFANS, UCLA), the Mexican Migration Project (Massey), the Malaysian Family Life Study (RAND), the Indonesian Family Life Study (RAND), the New Immigrant Survey (RAND/Princeton), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (Michigan), the Children of the NLSY (Ohio State), the IPUMS (Minnesota), the Child Supplement to the British National Child Development Survey, and numerous supplements to official government datasets.
Jeff also created a new type of institutional support that networked researchers from numerous institutions to attack policy relevant research topics. The Family and Child Well-being Research Network was a 10 year effort to bring the experts of several fields together to create hybrid approaches to the study of the family and child development. The Community Child Health Research Network was a joint effort with the NICHD Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch to use Community Based Participatory Research methodology to study the question of how prenatal stress imprints a biological and developmental stamp on children and gives rise to health disparities in infant mortality and morbidity.
Jeff led several major, cross-cutting initiatives that mobilized talent from both the federal government and academic research community to evaluate and change the state-of-the-art in several subjects. He was a founding member of the Federal Interagency Forum for Child and Family Statistics that just celebrated its eighteenth anniversary as an institution that helps 23 federal agencies co-ordinate their efforts to improve the information base about families and children. He led an effort that established an indicator system to measure the well-being of children that is published yearly and for which Vice President Gore awarded his team a “Hammer award”. Jeff was the research director for the Federal Fatherhood initiative and was awarded a “Hammer award” from Vice President Gore and the Secretary’s Award for distinguished service to the Department of Health and Human service for leading a team of 78 federal and academic researchers that identified gaps in our understanding about fathers and that found ways of filling those gaps. He also chaired a trans-NIH group to promote the use of Community Based Participatory Research in NIH.
Jeff was a dedicated servant to the PAA and served it in many capacities. He was its Secretary-Treasurer from 1993 to 1996, served on the Nominations Committee in 2004, and served on the Board of Directors from 2010 to 2012. He chaired the search for an Executive Director in 1992-1993 which resulted in the hiring of Stephanie Dudley, and he co-chaired the search committee for Stephanie’s replacement in 2014 which resulted in the hiring of the current Executive Director, Danielle Staudt.
Jeff enjoyed mentoring young investigators and in bringing new talent into population research, as many demographers know who benefited from his professional advice and mentorship, and his guidance on seeking support from NIH. He was a valued ambassador to allied fields and organizations. He believes to this day that population research is a focal point of public policy at every level of government.