PSC Honors Archive, 2009
Research Faculty Achievement Award, Robert Schoeni Robert Schoeni, research professor, Survey Research Center, Population Studies Center, ISR; professor of economics, Department of Economics, LSA; and professor of public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, is a scientist whose vision has facilitated the collection and dissemination of the most influential data available in the social sciences. Not only have his individual scientific contributions been considerable; even more importantly, his leadership on the widely used Panel Survey of Income Dynamics has provided the tools and ideas necessary for an entire generation of scholars to move forward on economic and demographic research. An economist and demographer, Schoeni has become more interdisciplinary over time, bringing to bear the methods and knowledge of different disciplines to a variety of problems. His contributions to economics began with work on family transfers in which he demonstrated that whereas during their lifetimes parents tend to target transfers to their less well-off children, inheritances tend to be divided equally among children. Another major area of Schoeni’s research has concerned the question of whether disability among the aged has been declining over time. Perhaps Schoeni’s most important and lasting contribution is his leadership on the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID), which under his stewardship has moved into the 21st century. Under his guidance the PSID has improved in content, accessibility and usefulness, and now is the key instrument in a growing number of important projects. He has shaped the survey’s content and in doing so has shaped much future research in the social sciences. The PSID recently has expanded scientific inquiries into the strong connections between health and socioeconomic phenomena over the entire life course, from childhood to later life stages. Schoeni has worked with the PSID’s team to expand the data on consumer expenditures and also health status and behaviors, thus opening up new opportunities for advances in science. The PSID has been named as one of the National Science Foundation’s “Nifty Fifty,” the only social science project to receive this distinction. Schoeni serves on a National Academy of Sciences panel on the Census Bureau’s Dynamics of Economic Well-Being System, and he founded the NIA-supported TRENDS Research Network, whose mission is to foster collaborative research around the world by conducting research and evaluating trends in old-age disability.