J. Mayone Stycos was an early pioneer in the development of the field of population studies. Born in 1927, he graduated from Princeton in 1947 with a BA (honors) in Economics. His senior thesis, “The Spartan Greeks of Bridgetown” was published as three articles in the Journal, Common Ground. The next few years were spent as a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Columbia University, where as Research Analyst at the Bureau of Applied Social Research he specialized in survey methodology. His doctoral committee was composed of Kingsley Davis, Herbert Hyman, Abram Kardiner, Paul Lazarsfeld, and Robert Merton. In this period, he also served as Field Director for an island-wide fertility survey in Puerto Rico.
In 1957 Professor Stycos launched his long and distinguished career at Cornell University in the Department of Sociology. In 1962 he founded the International Population Program (IPP), subsequently renamed the Population and Development Program (PDP), and served as its director until 1992. These programs were supported by such organizations as the Population Council, the Ford Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He also served as chair of Cornell’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 1966 to 1970 and as director of the Latin American Studies Program from 1962-1966. In 1988 he joined the Department of Development Sociology, retiring in 2000 as Professor Emeritus.
His career was filled with more contributions to the study of population and development than can be mentioned here. Highlights include serving as a member of the Latin American Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences (1963-65), as trustee of the Population Reference Bureau (1964-68), and as a member of several National Institutes of Child Health and Development (NICHD) training and research boards on population (1965-69). He also served on the board of the Population Association of America (1968-71), the Executive Committee of International Planned Parenthood, Western Hemisphere (1965-71), the Advisory Committee in Population and Development, Organization of American States (1968-70), and the Population Task Force, U.S. Commission for UNESCO (1972-73). He was a Fulbright-Hays Distinguished Professor at the University of Warsaw (1979) and received a Fulbright Program Research Award for fieldwork in Costa Rica (1986).
Numerous private and public organizations utilized Professor Stycos as a consultant, including the Airlie Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau, Centro Latinoamericano de Demografía (CELADE), the Population Council, UNESCO, USAID, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Division, and WHO.
In the 1990s Professor Stycos turned his attention to population and the environment. He joined the Planning Committee for the Global Omnibus Environmental Survey of the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (1993-99, chair in 1996), and (with Max J. Pfeffer), received several grants from the USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out public opinion research on the environment in the New York City watershed. Publications and research grants have been a major part of Professor Stycos’s career. Field research for his doctoral dissertation in Puerto Rico in the early 1950s led to his frequently cited and reproduced book, Family and Fertility in Puerto Rico: A Study of the Lower Income Group (1955). He subsequently collaborated with Reuben Hill and Kurt W. Back in The Family and Population Control: A Puerto Rican Experiment in Social Change (1959). Two further collaborations with Kurt Back followed: The Survey under Unusual Conditions: The Jamaica Human Fertility Investigation (1960) and The Control of Human Fertility in Jamaica (1964). By the late 1960s his interests spanned the Western Hemisphere, as reflected in the books Human Fertility in Latin America: Sociological Perspectives (1968) and Ideology, Faith and Family Planning in Latin America (1971).
Professor Stycos produced six major research volumes, several monographs, some of which were reprinted or translated into Spanish, and published more than a hundred and fifty articles on birth control, fertility, socio-psychological dimensions in husband-wife relations, and survey research. Most of his work focused on the Latin American context but he also published the results of field research conducted in Egypt, India, China, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the United States. He maintained extensive worldwide interests and collaborations and served on twenty-nine doctoral committees. The majority were students from developing countries.
Professor Stycos documented his publications with photographs taken during field trips. His lifelong pursuit of photography culminated in a collaboration with Cornell Capa, (founder of the International Center of Photography), on Margin of Life: Population and Poverty in the Americas (1974). His photographic work has been exhibited at Cornell University and several Ithaca area galleries. He is well known for his piano playing and singing. He performed American standards and Latin American boleros (captured on a private CD as Stycosongs). The annual IPP parties at his home ended with singing and dancing to Latin rhythms with Professor Stycos tireless at the piano until the reluctant departure of the last guest.