Duncan, Otis Dudley 1921-2004

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DUNCAN, Otis Dudley 1921-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born December 2, 1921, in Nocona, TX; died of prostate cancer November 16, 2004, in Santa Barbara, CA. Social scientist, educator, and author. Duncan was a quantitative sociologist who was the first to study the importance of socioeconomic status of a person's parents as a determining factor for passing down educational success and social status to the next generation. With his B.A. earned from Louisiana State University in 1941, he went on to receive his M.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1942 before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he completed his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1949. Brief teaching jobs at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wisconsin—Madison were followed by a longer period spent at the University of Chicago. Here, Duncan was a professor of sociology in the early 1950s and a professor of human ecology in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also served as associate director of Chicago Community Inventory in the early 1950s and associate director of Population Research and Training Center from 1953 to 1956. From 1962 until 1973, he was on the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he taught sociology and directed the Population Studies Center from 1967 to 1968. Duncan then moved to Tucson to teach at the University of Arizona from 1973 until 1983, spending the last years of his academic career at the University of California at Santa Barbara, until he retired in 1987. As a researcher, Duncan was interested in using statistical analysis to study populations and social trends. He was particularly interested in finding out how important it is in determining one's own future success to have a parent who is well educated and of high social standing. He discovered that parents' schooling only partially influences how well their children do in school, a finding he discussed in The American Occupational Structure (1978), written with Peter Blau. In other research, Duncan also found that it is more difficult for African Americans to pass down their social gains to their children than it is for whites. Social status was also a concern of Duncan's in other books he wrote or coauthored, including Occupations and Social Status (1961) and Socioeconomic Background and Achievement (1972). Among his many other books are The Negro Population of Chicago (1957), An Examination of the Problem of Optimum City Size (1980), and Notes on Social Measurement (1984).



Chicago Tribune, November 29, 2004, section 1, p. 11.

New York Times, November 27, 2004, p. A16.

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Duncan, Otis Dudley 1921-2004

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