Brown University sociology professor John R. Logan came of age in the mid-1960s during a time when the country was undergoing tremendous social, political and economic changes. While many of his fellow college students at the time immersed themselves in those changes, Logan was so fascinated that understanding how they occur and impact society became his life’s work.
As for Rhode Island’s current struggle to right its economy, he says there’s plenty of evidence to suggest where attention should be placed.
I always end up focusing on education,” he said. “The places with the more educated and more skilled workforce are the ones that are going to do better economically.”
PBN: What is the main focus of your work now at Brown?
LOGAN: I am primarily an urban sociologist who works across disciplines, including demography, politics and economics. I’m doing several major projects. One is directing a study of how America has changed in the last 20 or 30 years, supported by the Russell Sage foundation. It has 14 teams of researchers around the county looking at different aspects of social change. The topics range from income and wealth inequality, to immigration trends to changes in the family.
PBN: What attracted you to this kind of work in demographics?
LOGAN: When I was an undergraduate student at Berkeley in the mid-1960s, the civil rights and the anti-war movements were furious. A lot of changes were in the air. Even though I was a top student in math and science in high school and my teachers expected me to go into a career in physics, or something like that, I decided that the need was to try to understand changing social conditions and politics. I was quantitative and scientific in my orientation, and I decided to apply that to social and political questions. Social science has allowed me to examine so many different topics. It might be about grandparents having the responsibility of taking care of grandchildren, income inequality or the effect of the recession on different groups.
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