This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Suzanne Bianchi, Former PAA President, Dead at Age 61

We received the terrible news this week that Professor Suzanne Bianchi of UCLA, Past President of the Population Association of America (among innumerable academic accomplishments) died earlier this month of pancreatic cancer. She was only 61. Although I will quote from the UCLA website, her obituary was printed in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post and many other places, highlighting her contributions to family demography and gender equality in particular--the latter being central to modern demographic thinking, due in many ways to her scholarly contributions.
Bianchi, the first holder of UCLA's Dorothy Meier Chair in Social Equities and a distinguished professor of sociology, was former president of the Population Association of America, editor of the well-respected journal Demography, past chair of the executive committee of the California Center for Population Research at UCLA and former director of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The author of numerous award-winning books and articles, Bianchi is best known for investigating the rapidly evolving ways in which contemporary American women and men juggle the demands of their work and family lives. She studied women's employment, how wives and husbands divide housework and time with children, and how women take care of their children and aging parents.
Until Bianchi's research, social scientists assumed that mothers' involvement in the workplace kept them from home, and that the loss of time with their mother harmed children. Bianchi found that even though mothers' labor-force participation had increased, the time they spent with their children had changed very little. In an attention-grabbing address that she delivered to the Population Association of America in 2000 and in the books and articles she wrote afterwards, Bianchi showed that employed mothers adjusted their work hours, did less housework, slept less and partook in fewer leisure activities in order to be able to spend more time with their children.
At the same time, children's lives also changed, with fewer siblings and more time away from home in preschool and other child-centered activities, so that even mothers who were not employed outside the home spent less time with children because children were busy elsewhere. Bianchi eyed the widespread impact of her findings with a measure of ambivalence.
"My one concern is that I have given the impression that women have found it quite easy to balance increased labor force participation with child rearing, to reduce hours of employment so as to juggle childcare, and to get their husbands more involved in child rearing; and that fathers have found it easy to add more hours with children to those they already commit to supporting children financially," she once said. "I do not think these changes have been easy for American families, particularly for American women.
Although the National Cancer Institute has statistics showing that pancreatic cancer is relatively rare in the US, it has the striking property of a very short period of time between diagnosis and death. She will be missed by all of us.

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