Sara McLanahan was the William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She was a faculty associate of the Office of Population Research and the founder and director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. She served as Editor-in-Chief of The Future of Children, a journal dedicated to providing research and analysis to promote effective policies and programs for children. She had been the president of the Population Association of America, and served on the National Academy of Sciences-Institute of Medicine Board on Children, Youth, and Families and on the boards of the American Sociological Association and the Population Association of America. She also served on the Advisory Board for the National Poverty Center, the Board of Trustees for the William T. Grant Foundation, and the selection committee for the William T. Grant Young Scholars Award.
Dr. McLanahan’s research interests included family demography, poverty and inequality, and social policy. Her major focus was the causes and consequences of single parent families and how policies can improve the well-being of the children in these families. She directed the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a nationally representative longitudinal birth cohort study of approximately 5,000 families, including 3,700 unmarried parents and their children. She was the author of many articles and books, including Fathers Under Fire: The Revolution in Child Support Enforcement (1998); Social Policies for Children (1996); Child Support and Child Wellbeing (1994); Child Support Assurance: Design Issues, Expected Impacts, and Political Barriers, as Seen from Wisconsin (1992); and Single Mothers and Their Children: A New American Dilemma (1986).
Dr. McLanahan received many awards and honors, including the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Sociological Association Family Section, the Pro Humanitate Literary Award for Parenting and Child Development in Nontraditional Families from the North American Resource Center for Child Welfare, the Duncan Distinguished Book Award, and the Goode Distinguished Book Award for Growing Up With a Single Parent.
She was an elected member of the Sociological Research Association and had been a visiting fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. McLanahan earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979.