1302A Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, New York
Policy Analysis and Management


 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 contemporary relationships, assessing whether marital or cohabiting unions are associated with the health of single mothers; how children born to unmarried parents fare with regards to their educational outcomes; as well as research on how cohabiting unions progress into marriage, parenthood, or dissolution.   Her recently published  (2017) book, Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships, examines how cohabitation is contributing to growing levels of family inequality in the United States.  A second stream of her work examines the retention and advancement of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) occupations, examining transitions into and retention in STEM jobs, as well as the gender wage gap in STEM.   

Sassler has published extensively on topics relating to family formation and change, including studies of union formation (cohabitation, marriage) and the progression of romantic and sexual relationships, marriage among single mothers (both divorced and never married), and immigrant adaptation.

Her recent research projects examine how union formation and childbearing are associated with health and well-being, occupational attainment and job turn-over, and relationship quality.  For example, she is concluding  a collaborative project to assess the midlife health of unmarried mothers and the outcomes associated with entrance into marital or cohabiting unions.  This project also examined how age at childbearing shapes health outcomes in mid-life, and various measures of well-being for the offspring of unmarried mothers, such as their health, educational attainment, and early childbearing. Expanding on this project, she is currently collaborating with a team of international researchers to compare the associations of union formation and parenting on various aspects of well-being.

Another stream of Sassler’s research utilizes qualitative methods, specifically in-depth interviews with cohabiting couples (with partners interviewed separately) to better understand the processes involved with relationship progression and advancement, decisions about parenting and marriage, and how couples negotiate housework and paid work.  This research reassesses the role that cohabitation serves in the family formation processes of contemporary young Americans.  A particular emphasis is the important role that social class plays in differentiating the relationship processes of today’s young adults.  Additional research, drawing on nationally representative data sources, further extends the insights drawn from the qualitative research, exploring the tempo of relationship progression and its association with how partners assess the quality of their relationship.

A third research focus examines 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.  Using data from the National Science Foundation's SESTAT data, one NSF funded project assesses gender, race, and nativity gaps in transitions into STEM occupations and the wages of  those working in the STEM labor force.  A second NSF funded project follows STEM graduates prospectively for five years, assessing the factors determining transitions into and retention in STEM occupations.  A third NSF funded project explores how the representation of various groups (women, foreign-born but US trained STEM professionals, foreign-born and foreign-trained STEM professionals) shapes retention and wages in STEM fields.


Sharon Sassler and Amanda Miller. 2017.  Cohabitation Nation? Gender, Class,

and the Remaking of Relationships. University of California Press.

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, Yael Levitte, Jennifer Glass, 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. 

Fenaba Addo, Sharon Sassler, and Kristi Williams. 2016. “Reexamining the Association of Maternal Age and Marital Status at First Birth with Youth Educational Attainment.” Journal of Marriage and Family. 78:1252-1268.

Katherine Michelmore and Sharon Sassler. 2016. “Explaining the Gender Earnings Gap in STEM: Does Field 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, Fenaba Addo. 2015. “Early Childbearing, Union Status, and Women’s Health at Midlife.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior.56(4):514-533. 

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

Sharon Sassler and Amanda Miler. 2014. “We’re Very Careful . . .”: The Fertility Desires and Contraceptive Behaviors of Cohabiting Couples. Family Relations. 63(4): 538-553.

Daniel T. Lichter, Sharon Sassler, and Richard Turner. 2014. "Cohabitation, Post-Conception Unions, and the Rise in Non-Marital Fertility." Social Science Research. 47:134-147.

Sharon Sassler, Kristi Williams, Fenaba Addo, Adrianne Frech, and Elizabeth Cooksey. 2013.“Family Structure & High School Graduation: How Children Born to Unmarried Mothers Fare.”Genus: Journal of Population Sciences, Vol. LXIX (No. 2), 1-33.

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 Professiona Occupations.”Social Forces. 92(2):723-756.

Kristi Williams, Sharon Sassler, Adrianne Frech, Fenaba Addo, and Elizabeth Cooksey. 2013. “Mothers’ Union Histories and the Mental & Physical Health of Adolescents Born to Unmarried Mothers.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 54 (3): 278-295.

Amanda Miller and Sharon Sassler. 2012. “The Construction of Gender in Cohabiting Relationships.” Qualitative Sociology, 35(4):427-446.

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.

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.

Sharon Sassler and Amanda Miller. 2011."Class Differences in Cohabitation Processes." Family Relations, 60(2):163-177. (DOI: 10.111/j.1741-3729.2010.00640.x).

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

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. 2010. "Partnering Across the Life Course: Sex, Relationships, and Mate Selection." Journal of Marriage and Family. 72(3):557-575..  

Sharon Sassler. 2004. "The Process of Entering into Cohabiting Unions." Journal of Marriage and Family. 66:491-505.

Policy Briefs

Kristi Williams, Sharon Sassler, Adrianne Frech, Fenaba Addo, and Elizabeth Cooksey. 2013. “Child and Adolescent Health and Well-Being.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 54: 277. 

Sassler is involved with the Cornell Population Center (CPC), and is Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Demography Minor at Cornell.  She is an active member of the Population Association of America (PAA), the American Sociological Association (ASA), and the Eastern Sociological Society (ESS).  She will serve as Chair of the Family Section of the American Sociological Association for the 2018-2019 Program, and 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.  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).  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.

Dr. Sassler iwas a Public Voices Fellow in 2017, and remains an active contributing member to the Council on Contemporary Families.  She has been interviewed for NPR, has written several The Hill and Room for Debate for the New York Times, and is regularly interviewed by journalists regarding her research on union formation (cohabitation, marriage) and family issues. She has also participated in podcasts (Innovation Hub).

At Cornell Sassler has taught classes on population, family policy, race and public policy, immigration and the family, comparative family change, and an honors thesis seminar.

PAM 2150:  Research Methods                                                                                                              PAM 2030:  Population & Public Policy                                                                                                 PAM 2031:  Population & Public Policy Faculty Led Program in  Copenhagen                                    PAM 3360:  Evolving Families: Challenges to Public Policy                                                                 PAM 3620:  Population and Policy Debates in Comparative Perspective                                            PAM 3370:  Race and Public Policy
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,

I am the Director of the undergraduate minor in Demography.   From 2014-2017  I oversee the Human Ecology component of the Cornell in Turin program, where we offer a 3 credit PAM course in Turin, Italy.