Michael J. Rosenfeld



Michael J. Rosenfeld
Associate Professor

Department of Sociology
Stanford University

450 Serra Mall

Building 120

Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-3958



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Note: This is my homepage, which I maintain myself. The information here is the most up-to-date. The sociology department website also has a profile of me, but the information there is not the most current.

Research Interests:
       I am a social demographer who studies race, ethnicity, and family structure, the family's effect on children, and the history of the family. I am interested in mate selection as a social as well as a personal process. See the description of my book, The Age of Independence, below.

       I am currently working on:
* How Couples Meet and Stay Together, a longitudinal study of social life in the US, funded by the National Science Foundation. The first wave of the study was fielded in 2009. Public data, documentation, and further information is available at the Stanford Library's data distribution website. Links to news coverage about the "How Couples Meet" study is below, under prior media coverage. My first paper from this project, "Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary" was published in the August 2012 issue of the American Sociological Review. The How Couples Meet and Stay Together project has revolutionized our understanding of such topics as how couples meet, the role of technology and the role of family in personal relations, why couples stay together, and whether same-sex married couples stay together as long as heterosexual married couples do.

Links to:    
My research, published papers and working papers My CV My Google Scholar Profile
Press Coverage of my research Home page of the How Couples Meet and Stay Together Project  
Links to my classes: Soc 46N, Race and Ethnic Identities Soc 149, Urban Underclass
Soc 155, Changing American Family Soc 180B, Intro to Data Analysis (undergrad) Soc 323, Sociology of the Family (grad)
Soc 381, Intro to Data Analysis (grad) Soc 388, Loglinear Models  
Other links: Materials from the DeBoer v Snyder trial Marriage and family judicial decisions


Selected Scholarly Publications (PDF format):

o M. J. Rosenfeld. 2007. THE AGE OF INDEPENDENCE: Interracial Unions, Same-Sex Unions and the Changing American Family. Harvard University Press. Available (in paperback) now from Amazon.com. You can also find the book, along with a selection from the text and the index, at the Harvard University Press website.

     The Age of Independence is a book which offers a new theory of family trends and social change in the US. The argument revolves around the independent life stage, a life stage which has emerged since 1960. Young adults experience the independent life stage after they have left their parents' homes, but before they have settled down to start their own family. During the independent life stage young men and women go away to college, travel, begin careers, and enjoy a period of relative social independence.
     The rise of the independent life stage has reduced parental control over the dating and mate selection choices of their children. The decline of parental supervision and control results in a sharp rise in interracial and same-sex unions, the kind of unions that previous generations of parents were able to prevent. Although most Americans and many scholars believe that young adults are returning home to the parental nest in ever greater numbers (a phenomenon the press has dubbed 'the boomerang effect'), this widely held perception has it exactly backwards. In fact what really distinguishes modern family life from previous eras is the new independence (geographic, residential, and social) of young adults from their families of origin.

     Until very recently, individual level census data from the past had never been available for scholarly analysis. What we knew about family life in the past came from diaries, from the official records of a few towns and churches, or from travel writers such as Tocqueville. Now that we have individual level census records from 1850 through 2000, we are able to look into long term trends in family life in a way that inevitably must cast some of our previous assumptions aside. I use the newly available census data to describe the rise of the independent life stage, and the sharp increase in the number of interracial and same-sex unions in recent years. My analysis of census data offers a new explanation for why the tumult of the industrial revolution failed to produce an increase in nontraditional unions: most families in the industrial revolution moved to cities and factory towns together, so the basic structure of parental supervision over young adults was maintained.
     By placing the post-1960 family changes in a long term historical and demographic context, I am able to offer a new perspective on the dramatic recent diversification in American family forms. I use in-depth interviews to explore the life histories of families and couples, and to illustrate the role that the independent life stage plays in social change.
     Same-sex marriage is one of the most divisive issues of our times. My book attempts to answer several questions related to same-sex marriage. First, why now? Why has the climate for gay rights in the U.S. changed so much in the past few years? Second, what next? What do the historical precedents and current demographic trends portend for the future of same-sex marriage in the US?
     The independent life stage has implications beyond the rise of nontraditional unions, which after all are still a small minority of all couples in the US. Because parents raise their children with their future independence in mind, parents raise their children differently, and these differences affect how we all think about individual freedoms.

 Related Figures and Data:
      * A figure and worksheet describing the increasing percentage of American couples that are interracial, by several definitions of interracial.
      * A figure and worksheet describing the increasing number of interracial and same-sex couples in the US.
      * A figure and worksheet describing the decreasing support in the US for laws against interracial marriage.
      * Figures on the phantom boomerang, describing the rise of independent living which is the opposite of the boomerang theory that is so widely believed. Now updated with new figures 4 and 5 showing the rise of solo living among men and women of all ages (but especially senior women).



Other Scholarly Publications:

o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2015. "Revisiting the Data from the New Family Structure Study: Taking Family Instability Into Account." Sociological Science 2: 478-501, includes supplemental tables. Since Sociological Science is an open access journal, no credentials or permissions are required to follow the link above.
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2014. "Couple Longevity in the era of Same-Sex Marriage in the US," Journal of Marriage and Family 76(5): 905-918. Link to the journal website here. Supplementary tables are also available.
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2012. "Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China by Judith Stacey" a review essay published online in Social Forces, find it here. doi: 10.1093/sf/sos104
o M. J. Rosenfeld and Reuben J. Thomas. 2012 American Sociological Review 77(4): 523-547 . "Searching for a Mate: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary." The official online version of the paper can be found at the ASR/ Sage publication website. This paper has been among the most read papers on the ASR website since its publication. Supplementary tables are available here.
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2010. "The Independence of Young Adults in Historical Perspective." in Family Therapy Magazine, May/June 2010, Vol 9, Num 3, P. 17-19. Links to a typeset version of the article coming soon.

o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2010. "Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School" in Demography, Volume 47 (3): 755-775 (Copyright 2010 Population Association of America, reprinted here with permission). See also the supplementary table (summarizing prior small-sample studies of children raised by same-sex couples) which is supposed to be available on Demography's website as well..
      * Because this paper was at the time of its publication, the only paper in the literature which compared children raised by same-sex couples to children raised by other types of families, using large sample nationally representative data, this paper's results were discussed in depth during the hearing phase of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Federal district court 2010 (the case which puts the constitutionality of the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 on trial). See link to transcript of day 5 of the trial here. The judge ultimately struck down Proposition 8, and after appeals, the Federal district court opinion was upheld by the Supreme Court, and same-sex marriage became legal in California once again.
      * My paper on children raised by nontraditional families was subject to a comment in Demography (June, 2013) by Allen et al. My response (also in Demography, June, 2013) "Reply to Allen et al," Demography 50 (3) 963-969, is linked here, or here.
      * The debate over how to interpret the 2000 census data with regards to progress of children raised by same-sex couples was renewed in the DeBoer v. Snyder Michigan (2014) same-sex marriage trial, where I appeared as a witness for the plaintiffs, and Allen and Price appeared as witnesses for the state defendants. Judge Friedman's Michigan decision is here. The Michign decision largely settled the issue of social science, children, and same-sex marriage for the courts. The DeBoer v. Snyder decision was overturned on constitutional grounds by the 6th Circuit. The Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell decision reversed the 6th circuit and affirmed the DeBoer trial decision, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. More background documents from the DeBoer trial, including all expert affidavits, are here.

o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2010. "Still Weak Support for Status-Caste Exchange: A Reply to Critics" American Journal of Sociology Vol 115 Number 4, Pages 1264-1276. This paper is response to articles by Gullickson and Fu, and by Kallmijn, in the same issue of the AJS. The debate centers around my 2005 AJS piece on status-caste exchange, linked below.
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2008. "Racial, Educational, and Religious Endogamy in Comparative Historical Perspective", Social Forces volume 87, issue 1, pages 1-32 (lead article). Links to typeset version (electronic access necessary) at JSTOR. See also a technical appendix with additional analyses and tables and figures showing that the trend in educational endogamy in the US is relatively flat over time, and that different measures of educational endogamy yield divergent answers as to whether educational endogamy is slightly increasing or slightly decreasing over time in the US. The divergent trend directions depending on the specification of the measure of educational endogamy is a sign that the popular theory that holds that educational endogamy is increasing in the US rests on a shaky empirical foundation.
      * In the front matter of the journal, p.ii, Editor Francois Nielsen wrote the following: "Occasionally I run across papers that not only present original results but also have the scope, theoretical depth and integrative quality to function as an effective review of an entire subfield. A good example is the article by Michael Rosenfeld in this issue."
o M. J. Rosenfeld. 2008. "Intermarriage." In the Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity and Society, Edited by Richard T. Schaefer, pages 736-739. Sage Press. Copyright 2008 Sage Press, reprinted here with permission.
o M. J. Rosenfeld. 2006. "Young Adulthood as a Factor in Social Change in the United States." Population and Development Review 32(1) 27-51. (Copyright 2006, Population Research Council, Reprinted with Permission).
o M. J. Rosenfeld and Byung-Soo Kim. 2005 "The Independence of Young Adults and the Rise of Interracial and Same Sex Unions" was the lead article in the American Sociological Review 70 (4):541-562. The paper is also available through this external link to Ingenta. Also available are supplementary tables for the paper, describing the the method for making 1990 and 2000 census samples of same sex couples more consistent, as well as providing expanded tables of coefficients for some logistic regression models summarized in Table 7 of the paper. Email me if you want a copy of this paper. This paper was summarized and described as 'new and noteworthy research' in the Fall, 2006 edition of the sociology journal Contexts, p. 11.
o M. J. Rosenfeld. 2005. "A Critique of Exchange Theory in Mate Selection." American Journal of Sociology 110 (5) 1284-1325 (Copyright 2005, University of Chicago Press, reprinted with permission). Additional tables, figures and addenda for the paper are available as a separate appendix here. The dataset used in tables 3-5 of the paper is posted here as an excel file. This paper was the winner of the 2006 Roger V. Gould memorial prize for the best paper in the AJS in the previous year.
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2002. Measures of Assimilation in the Marriage Market: Mexican Americans 1970-1990 Journal of Marriage and the Family 64: 152-162 (copyright 2002 by the National Council on Family Relations, 3989 Central Ave. NE, Suite 550, Minneapolis MN 55421. Reprinted with permission)
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 2001. The Salience of Pan- National Hispanic and Asian Identities in US Marriage Markets Demography 38: 161-175. (Copyright 2001 Population Association of America, Reprinted with permission)
oM. J. Rosenfeld, and M. Tienda, 1999. "Mexican Immigration, Occupational Niches and Labor Market Competition: Evidence from Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, 1970-1990" Chapter 2 in Immigration and Opportunity: Race, Ethnicity and Employment in the United States Edited by Frank D. Bean and Stephanie Bell-Rose. New York: Russell Sage. There are two ways to get this chapter: you can buy the book from Russell Sage (search their website for publications here) or you can Email me and I'll send you a PDF file.
o M. J. Rosenfeld, 1997. Celebration, Politics, Selective Looting and Riots: A Micro Level Study of the Bulls Riot of 1992 in Chicago. Social Problems 44 (4): 483-502. (Copyright 1997 Society for the Study of Social Problems. Reprinted with permission)


Working Papers (PDF format):

oM. J. Rosenfeld, 2015. "The Gender of Breakup in Heterosexual Couples,"
oM. J. Rosenfeld, 2015. "Couplehood in the Age of the Internet." Paper draft not yet avaialable, but video of my 2015 ASA plenary presentation on a similar subject is here.
oM. J. Rosenfeld, 2007. "Age at Marriage and Interracial Marriage."



Classes I teach:

o Soc 26 N  "The Changing American Family," a freshman seminar Fall, 2006


Articles on the reading list (external links accessible to Stanford users only)
Shammas, "Anglo American Household Government in Comparative Perspective" (I recommend that you download and print)
Arnett and Taber, "Adolescence Terminable and Interminable" (read in HTML or click on the PDF version, then print)
Rosenfeld and Kim, "The Independence of Young Adults and the Rise of Interracial and Same-Sex Unions"
Rosenfeld, "Young Adulthood as a Factor in Social Change in the US"

  Questions for each reading
  Guide on how to present.


o Soc 46 N  "Race and Ethnic Identities," a freshman seminar Spring, 2014

Questions for each reading

A couple of readings that are no longer on the syllabus but which are interesting none the less:
Kinder and Sears, 1981: "Prejudice and Politics"
Bobo, 1983: "Whites' Opposition to Busing"


Guide on how to present


o Soc 155/255  "The Family/ The Changing American Family" Winter, 2016


Final exam: Monday Dec 9, 3:30P-6:30P, per the Registrar.

Questions for each reading assignment.

What is expected of in-class and in-section presenters


First draft of potential final exam questions (updated for fall 2013)

First draft of potential midterm questions (updated)
Midterm grade distribution (fall 2013)

Preliminary Instructions for the GSS paper project (updated October, 2013)

Some Additional Relevant Links:

* A link to a page of marriage and family judicial decisions and notes; you will be responsible for knowing about many of these cases.

*Relevant to Cherlin's book, a 2006 Newsweek story revisiting an infamous 1986 story on the marriage crunch
*Judith Stacey's "Good Riddance to the Family"
*David Popoenoe's "Two-Parent Families Are better"
*Moynihan's 1965 Report on "The Negro Family"
*Acs et al 2013 "The Moynihan Report Revisited"
*A 1995 US Dept. Health and Human Services Report on Unmarried Childbearing
*Rosenfeld's 2010 paper on Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress Through School
*Some figures on the trends in living alone.
*A 2003 US Census report on Marriage and Cohabitation
*An international comparison of Non-Marital Fertility Rates
*Smith, Morgan, and Cox