You are here

Steve Ruggles to Head the Population Association of America

June 22, 2014
Steve Ruggles

After being crowned "King of Quant" by Wired magazine in 1995, appointed founding director of the Minnesota Population Center in 2000, named Regents Professor of History and Population Studies in 2008, and awarded Delta Airlines Platinum Medallion status in 2009, Professor Steve Ruggles has now been elected President of the Population Association of America (PAA), the major U.S. professional organization of scholars and policy makers who research issues relating to human population. Its presidents, like the majority of its members, have generally been economists, sociologists, or public health professionals. Ruggles will be the first historian to hold that office.

Professor Ruggles is best known among demographers for creating the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), the world's largest population database. IPUMS data span two centuries and 100 countries, are publicly available, and now serve some 65,000 registered users. Ruggles is also Principal Investigator of Terra Populus, a project to bring the world's population data under one interoperable umbrella and to integrate them with sources from other domains, such as satellite imagery and climate models. Over the past 25 years, Ruggles has been awarded some 50 major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation to develop large-scale data infrastructure for economic, demographic, and health research.

Ruggles is also well-known for his contributions to our understanding of long run demographic change. His most recent article, titled "Breaking Up is Hard to Count: the Rise of Divorce in the United States, 1980-2010," challenges the widely held view that the risk of divorce has declined over the past 30 years and shows instead that it has actually increased by as much as 40%, due largely to a sharp increase in divorce among people over 40. The 2014 article, co-authored with Sheela Kennedy and published in Demography, has been highlighted in popular media ranging from the Washington Post, Time Magazine, and The Guardian to 60+ blogs and twitter feeds of think tanks, law firms, family therapy centers, and individual pundits.

Professor Ruggles' PAA presidency begins in January 2015. As a historian, he will bring an appreciation for the importance of change over time to the organization dominated by present-minded social scientists -- along with a little Minnesota common sense.

Lisa Norling