Sharon Sassler
Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Policy Analysis and Management

2309A Martha Van Rensselaer Hall



Sharon Sassler received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University in 1995, and joined the Cornell faculty in 2005.  She is a professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management.  A social demographer, Sassler’s research examines factors shaping the activities of young adults and their life course transitions into school and work, relationships, and parenthood, and how these transitions vary by gender, race/ethnicity, and social class. 

Her published research on family demography explores various facets of union formation and how contemporary relationships contribute to growing levels of family inequality in the United States.  Her work has assessed how rapidly relationships progress into cohabitation or marriage, whether transitions into marriage are beneficial for women and children’s health and well-being, how the household division of housework is associated with couple well-being, and the role of children in repartnering behavior.  A second stream of her work examines the retention and advancement of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) occupations.  She is currently engaged in a 5-year NSF funded grant that examines the early career transitions of recent graduates with STEM degrees into the labor force and graduate training programs.

Sassler has published extensively on topics relating to family formation and change, including studies of the progression of romantic and sexual relationships, union formation (cohabitation, marriage), transitions into parenthood, and how couples negotiate paid work, domestic labor, and contraceptive use.  Her recent research projects on family demography explore how the tempo of romantic and sexual relationship progression is associated with union outcomes, how low- to moderate-income families arrange paid work and domestic work and the association with sexual frequency, relationship quality, and joint investments. She also explores the occupational choices of women and men who majored in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), exploring how family expectations, attitudes, and behaviors differentiates the occupational choice and retention of women and men. 

Sassler currently has several grant-funded projects. One, in conjunction with fellow PAM faculty member Laura Tach (and several graduate students) is examining how neighborhood factors – housing costs, local job market attributes – are associated with the tempo of relationship progression.  A second is a 5-year NSF funded grant that follows STEM graduates prospectively for five years, assessing the factors determining transitions into and retention in STEM occupations.  Her third funded project explores how the representation of various groups (women, racial minorities, foreign-born STEM professionals) shapes transitions into and retention in STEM jobs, as well as the occupational choices of those who leave STEM fields.

Sharon Sassler and Daniel Lichter. 2020. “Cohabitation and Marriage: Complexity and Diversity in Union Formation Patterns.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 82:35-61.

April Sutton, Daniel Lichter, and Sharon Sassler. 2019. “Rural-Urban Disparities in Pregnancy Intentions, Births, and Abortions Among U.S. Adolescent and Young Women, 1995-2017.” American Journal of Public Health, 109(12): 1762-1769.  

Sharon Sassler and Amanda Miller. 2017.  Cohabitation Nation? Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships. University of California Press.

Frances K. Goldscheider and Sharon Sassler. 2018. “Family Policy, Socioeconomic Inequality, and the Gender Revolution.” Pp. 199-215, in Naomi R. Cahn, June Rose Carbone, Laurie F. DeRose, and W. Bradford Wilcox (Editors), Family Inequality in Europe and the Americas: Causes and Consequences. Cambridge University Press.

Brienna Perelli-Harris, Trude Lappegard, Ann Evans, Fenaba Addo, Stefanie Hoherz, and Sharon Sassler. 2018. “Do Marriage and Cohabitation Provide Benefits to Health in Mid-Life?  The Role of Childhood Selection Mechanisms and Partnership Characteristics across Countries.” Population Research and Policy Review, 37(5):703-728.

Sharon Sassler, Katherine Michelmore, and Zhenchao Qian. 2018. “Transitions from Sexual Relationships into Cohabitation and Beyond.” Demography. 55(2):511-534.

Sharon Sassler, Katherine Michelmore, and Kristin Smith. 2017. “A Tale of Two Majors: Explaining the Gender Gap in STEM Employment among Computer Science and Engineering Degree Holders.” Social Sciences. 6, 69: doi:10.3390/socsci6030069.

Sharon Sassler, Jennifer Glass, Yael Levitte, and Katherine Michelmore. 2017. “The Missing Women in STEM? Gender Differentials in the Transition to First Jobs in STEM.”  Social Science Research. 63:192-208.

Katherine Michelmore and Sharon Sassler. 2016. “Explaining the Gender Earnings Gap in STEM: Does Group Size Matter?” The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. Issue: The Changing Status of Women and Its Effects on Society, 2(4):194-215.

Daniel Carlson, Amanda Miller, Sharon Sassler, and Sarah Hanson.* 2016. “The Gendered Division of Housework and Couples’ Sexual Relationships: A Re-Examination.” Journal of Marriage and Family. 78:975-995.

Daniel T. Lichter, Katherine Michelmore, Richard Turner, and Sharon Sassler. 2016. “Pathways to a Stable Marriage?  Pregnancy and Childbearing among Cohabiting Couples.”  Population Research and Policy Review. 35:377-399.

Sharon Sassler, Katherine Michelmore, and Jennifer Holland. 2016. “The Progression of Sexual Relationships.” Journal of Marriage and Family. 78:587-597.

Kristi Williams, Sharon Sassler, Fenaba Addo, and Adrianne Frech. 2015. “First-birth Timing, Marital History, and Women’s Health at Midlife.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 56(4):514-533.

Jessica Su, Rachel Dunifon, and Sharon Sassler. 2015. “Better for Baby? The Retreat from Mid-Pregnancy Marriage and Implications for Parenting and Child Well-Being. Demography. 52(4): 1167-1194.

Sharon Sassler, Soma Roy, and Elizabeth Stasny. 2014. “Men’s Economic Status and Marital Transitions of Fragile Families.” Demographic Research. 30(3):71-110.

Jennifer Glass, Sharon Sassler, Yael Levitte, and Katherine Michelmore.* 2013. “What’s So Special about STEM? A Comparison of Women’s Retention in STEM and Professional Occupations.” Social Forces. 92(2):723-756.

Sharon Sassler, Fenaba Addo,* and Daniel T. Lichter. 2012. “The Tempo of Sexual Activity and Later Relationship Quality.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 74:708-725.

Amanda J. Miller, Sharon Sassler, and Dela Kusi-Appouh.* 2011. “The Specter of Divorce: Views from Working- and Middle-Class Cohabitors.” Family Relations, 60(5):602-616.

Sharon Sassler and Kara Joyner. 2011. “Social Exchange and the Progression of Sexual Relationships in Emerging Adulthood.” Social Forces. 90(1):223-245.

Kristi Williams, Sharon Sassler, Adrianne Frech, Fenaba Addo,* and Elizabeth Cooksey. 2011. “Single Mothers, Union History, and Health at Midlife.” American Sociological Review 76(3):465-486.

Sharon Sassler and Amanda J. Miller. 2011. “Class Differences in Cohabitation Processes.” Family Relations, 60(2):163-177.

Sharon Sassler and Amanda J. Miller. 2011. “Waiting to Be Asked: Gender, Power, and Relationship Progression among Cohabiting Couples.” Journal of Family Issues, 32(4):482-506.

Sassler is an active member of the Population Association of America (PAA), the American Sociological Association (ASA), and the Eastern Sociological Society (ESS).  During 2019 she served as Chair of the Family Section of the American Sociological Association, planning the annual meeting sessions for the 2019 program.  This involved running the Council (along with the secretary/Treasurer), overseeing the five sessions allotted to the section, organizing the reception (held jointly with another section), distributing awards, and chairing the business meeting.  She has served as a Council Member for the ASA's Sociology of the Family section (2013-2016), and chaired the Nominations Committee of the Family Section of the ASA (2015) and of the Population Section of the ASA (2013). During 2019 she was asked to organize a session for the 2020 meeting on marriage, cohabiting, and civil unions.  She was also elected in 2019 to the Board of the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF).

As a demographer, Dr. Sassler is involved with various international and domestic organizations that are engaged with population issues.  She is a member of the IUSSP (International Union for the Scientific Study of Population) Scientific Panel on New and Emerging Family Forms around the World, which planned its second conference for January of 2020.  Dr. Sassler is involved with the Cornell Population Center (CPC), and is Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Demography Minor at Cornell.  During 2019, she was asked to run for the Nominations Committee of the Population Association of America.

Dr. Sassler has also been involved with regional sociological organizations.  From 2007-2010 she served on the Executive Committee of the ESS; during that time, she chaired the Candace Rogers Student Paper award (2010), and chaired the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award (2009) for the ESS.  She also regularly organizes sessions for the PAA and ASA meetings, has served on the Student Award Committee for the Population Section of the ASA, and has participated on the PAA program committee.

Dr. Sassler currently serves as a Deputy Editor for the Journal of Marriage and Family.  She is also on the Editorial Board for several journals, including Demography, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Demographic Research. 

Sassler is a founding member of the Work and Family Researchers Network.  She also was a team member of the Institute for Social Sciences Project on Immigration, titled "Settlement, Integration, and Membership" (2010-2013).  During the Spring of 2013 she was a visiting fellow at the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) in The Hague.  She was a visiting fellow in Summer 2018 at the Australian National University's Department of Demography.

Dr. Sassler has presented at several public lectures and conferences in the past year.  In December of 2019 she gave an invited talk to the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) at the University of Minnesota on the gender wage gap in computer science. She was also invited to sit on the Board of the Council on Contemporary Families.  Dr. Sassler also regularly blogs on relationship issues for Psychology Today.

At Cornell Sassler has taught classes on population, family policy, contemporary relationships, race and public policy, immigration and the family,  comparative family change, research methods, and an honors thesis seminar.  She regularly teaches students abroad, including Populaton Controversies in Comparative Perspectives offered through Cornell in Turin (Italy), and a Faculty-Led Program attached to her undergraduate Population class in Copenhagen, Denmark.

PAM 1050: PAM Career Explorations Course

PAM 1111:  Success in PAM and HCP

PAM 2030:  Population & Public Policy  

PAM 2031:  Population & Public Policy Faculty Led Program in  Copenhagen

PAM 2390:  Modern Romance 

PAM 3360:  Evolving Families: Challenges to Public Policy

PAM 3370:  Race and Public Policy

PAM 3620:  Population Controversies in Europe

PAM 2150:  Research Methods

PAM 4980:  Honors Thesis Seminar

PAM 6360:  Race, Immigration, and the Family

PAM 6720:  Demography Pro-Seminar

1995-96.  Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Population Dynamics.
1995.    Ph.D.     Brown University.  Sociology/Demography
1991.    MA        Brown University.  Sociology/Demography
1984.    BA         Brandeis University.  English & American Literature, Politics. 

In Fall of 2019, I assumed the role of Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for PAM.  I also am the Director of the undergraduate minor in Demography.  At the college level, I also serve as the Chair of the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) for the College of Human Ecology.

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