In Memoriam: Sara McLanahan, 1940-2021

Sara McLanahan, the William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Emeritus, at Princeton University in New Jersey, died on New Year’s Eve. She was 81 years old and had suffered from cancer.

Professor McLanahan was born in Tyler, Texas, and was a piano prodigy. She attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, but dropped out her junior year to start a family. She eventually earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston and went on to obtain a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

After teaching at the Univerity of Wisconsin, Dr. McLanahan joined the Princeton University faculty in 1990 and was jointly appointed by the department of sociology and the School of Public and International Affairs.

At Princeton, Professor McLanahan was the founding director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and a principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a landmark longitudinal study that has for two decades followed nearly 5,000 children born to unwed parents between 1998 and 2000 in 20 large U.S. cities. Researchers around the country continue to draw upon this rich data set to better understand the connections between family structure and social inequality. More than 900 academic papers have been written using data from this study.

Professor McLanahan was co-author, author, or editor of seven books including Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps (Harvard University Press, 1994). This book won the Otis Dudley Duncan Award and the Goode Distinguished Publication Award from the American Sociological Association.

Filed Under: In Memoriam


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