Sara McLanahan

William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs.
Director, Center for Research on Child Well-Being.
Office Phone
265 Wallace Hall

Sara McLanahan is the William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She is the founding director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW). She is a principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and 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 is the author of over 180 articles and 7 books including Children of the Great Recession (2016) Fathers Under Fire: The Revolution in Child Support Enforcement (1998); Social Policies for Children (1996); Growing Up with a Single Parent (1994); 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). She received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Sociological Association Family Section in 2004.

Dr. McLanahan currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Russell Sage Foundation. She is a Past-President of the Population Association of America and has served on the Boards of the American Sociological Association and the Population Association of America. She also served on the Institute of Medicine Board on Children, Youth, and Families. McLanahan was elected to the American Academy of Political Science in 2005, the National Academy of Sciences in 2011, and the American Philosophical Society in 2016.

Dr. McLanahan earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979. She received an honorary degree from Northwestern University in 2016.


Selected Publications


2016 --------


Schneider, Daniel, Harknett, Kristen & Sara McLanahan. “Intimate Partner Violence in the Great Recession.” Demography, 53, 471-505.


Garfinkel, Irwin, McLanahan, Sara & Chris Wimmer (eds.) Children of the Great Recession. New York City: Russell Sage Foundation.


McFarland, Michael J., Reichman, Nancy, McLanahan, Sara & Bridget Goosby. “Grandparents’ Education and Infant Health: Pathways across Generations (forthcoming)


McFarland Michael J., McLanaha, Sara, Brooks-Gunn, Jeane, Mitchell, Colter & Dan Notterman. School Poverty and BMI among 9-year-olds: A Gene-Environment Interaction Approach (forthcoming)


2015 --------


Turney, Kristen & Sara McLanahan. "The Academic Consequences of Early Childhood Problem Behaviors." Social Science Research. 54:131-145.


McLanahan, Sara & Christopher Jencks. "Was Moynihan Right?" Education Next. Spring: 17-22.


Choi, Kate, Amy Hsin & Sara McLanahan. "Asian Mothers and Children's Verbal Development in Australia and the United States." Social Science Research. 52:389-407.


Berger, Lawrence & Sara McLanahan. "Income, Relationship Quality, and Parenting: Associationswith Child Development in Two-Parent Families." Journal of Marriage and Family. 77 (4): 996-1015.


Lee, Dohoon & Sara McLanahan. "Family Structure Transitions and Child Development." American Sociological Review. 80 (4):738-763.


Mitchell, Colter, Sara McLanahan, et al. "Family Structure, Instability, Genetic Sensitivity, and Child Wellbeing." American Journal of Sociology. 120 (4):1195-1225


McLanahan, Sara & Wade Jacobsen. "Diverging Destinies Revisited." Pp. 3-24 in Amato, Booth McHale, and Van Hook (eds). Families in an Era of Increasing Inequality: Diverging Destinies. New York, NY: Springer.


Martinson, Melissa, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn & Sara McLanahan. "Variation in Child Body Mass Patterns by Race/Ethnicity and Maternal Nativity Status in the United States and England." 


2014 --------

Pilkauskas, Natasha, Irwin Garfinkel, & Sara McLanahan. "Doubling Up as a Private Safety Net for Families with Children." Demography. 51(5): 1667-1676.


Mitchell, Colter, John Hobraft, Sara McLanahan, et al. "Social Disadvantage, Genetic Sensitivity, and Children's Telomere Length." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111(16): 5944-5949.


Haskins, Ron, Irv Garfinkel & Sara McLanahan (eds.). The Future of Children: Two Generation Programs . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.


2012 --------

Bzostek, Sharon, Marcia Carlson, and Sara McLanahan.  “Mothers’ Repartnering After a Non-Marital Birth.”  Social Forces. 90(3):817-841.

Jackson, Margot, Kiernan, Kathleen and Sara McLanahan. “Immigrant-Native Differences in Child Health: Does Maternal Education Narrow or Widen the Gap?" The Annals. 643: 192-218 

Martinson, Melissa, McLanahan, Sara and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. “Race/ethnic and Nativity Disparities in Child Overweight in the United States and England.”  The Annals. 643: 219-266.


McLanahan, Sara and Irv Garfinkel. “Fragile Families: Debates, Facts and Solutions.” In Elizabeth Scott and Marsha Garrison (eds).  Marriage at the Crossroads. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


2011 --------

McLanahan, Sara. “Family Instability and Complexity after a Nonmarital Birth:  Outcomes for Children in Fragile Families.” Pp. 108-133 in Marcia J. Carlson and Paula England (eds.). Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


Mitchell, Colter, Daniel Notterman, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Iulia Kotenko, Kate Jaeger, John Hobcraft, Irwin Garfinkel, and Sara McLanahan. “The Role of Mother’s Genes and Environment on Postpartum Depression.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (20): 8189-8193.


Cooper, C.E., Osborne, C.A., Beck, A.N., and McLanahan, S. S.” Partnership Instability, School Readiness, and Gender Disparities.” Sociology of Education. 84(3): 246-259.


Watson, Tara and Sara McLanahan. “Marriage Meets the Joneses: Relative Income, Identity, and Marital Status.” Journal of Human Resources. 46(3): 482–517.


Kimbro, Rachel, Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne and Sara McLanahan. “Young Children in urban areas: Link among neighborhood characteristics, weight status, outdoor play, and television watching.” Social Science and Medicine. 72(5): 668-676.


Carlson, Marcia, Pilkauskas, Natasha, McLanahan, Sara and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. “Couples as Partners and Parents over Children’s Early Years.” Journal of Marriage and  Family 73(2): 317-334.


2010 --------

Beck, Audrey, Cooper, Carey, McLanahan, Sara, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. “Partnership Transitions and Maternal Parenting.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (April 2010): 219 – 233.


McLanahan, Sara and Beck, Audrey, “Parental Relationships in Fragile Families” Pp. 17-38 In The Future of Children 20 (2) Princeton NJ: Princeton Press.


Carlson, Marcia J. and Sara S. McLanahan. "Fathers in Fragile Families." Pp. 241-269 in Michael E. Lamb (ed). The Role of the Father in Child Development, fifth edition, New York: Wiley & Sons.