Evelyn M. Kitagawa, a Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Chicago who did path-breaking work on demography, including work on mortality, died Saturday, Sept. 15 at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Kitagawa, 87, was a resident of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
Among her most important works was a large-scale study on the various factors related to death that she conducted with the late Philip M. Hauser, a Professor of Sociology and her mentor at the University of Chicago.
The two received a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to look at the role of various personal, social and economic factors on the cause of death for 500,000 Americans who died in 1960.
The two found that there were large differences in death rates according to income and education. White men and women between the ages of 25 and 64 with less education had higher death rates, the study found. The study also determined that low-income white women had a death rate almost twice as high as those in higher-income categories.
The two researchers’ work on mortality was published in 1973 in the book they co-authored, Differential Mortality in the United States: A Study in Socioeconomic Epidemiology.
Kitagawa also was the author of other important books related to demography. In 1980, she published the results of a National Research Council Panel’s work on population titled Estimating Population and Income of Small Areas. With University of Chicago sociologist Donald Bogue she co-authored two books, Techniques of Demographic Research: A Laboratory Manual (1964) and Suburbanization of Manufacturing Activity with Standard Metropolitan Areas (1955).
“Although best known for her work on mortality, she also did pioneer work in fertility, being among the first social scientists to systematically study the phenomenon of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing that began to skyrocket in the 1960s. She was among the first to study childbearing among adolescent girls particularly in low-income and ethnic neighborhoods,” Bogue said.
“To her colleagues, Evelyn Kitagawa was a highly intelligent and efficient hard worker, a friend to all of her colleagues and deeply respected and admired by all,” he added.
She was born Evelyn Mae Rose in Hanford, California, and received a B.A. with highest honors in Mathematics in 1941 from the University of California, Berkeley.
Kitagawa was head of the statistical analysis unit of the War Relocation Authority in Washington, D.C. from 1942 to 1946 and spent time living and working in various relocation camps, where she met her husband, Joseph Mitsuo Kitagawa. They moved to Chicago where she studied sociology at the University of Chicago, receiving her Ph.D. in 1951. That same year, she began work as a Research Fellow at the Chicago Community Inventory, a University of Chicago pioneer urban research center that had been established by Ernest W. Burgess, and then directed by Hauser. She specialized in the demography of cities and neighborhoods.
She was the organizing and managerial force in the research and preparation of the Local Community Fact Book of Chicago, published after the censuses of 1950 and 1960. “These included a lot of data (census and otherwise) for each subarea of the city. It was important for its time, allowing for rigorous investigation of a variety of topics dealing with urban phenomena — not the least being segregation, health and social class,” said former colleague Stanley Lieberson, Abbott Lawrence Lowell Research Professor of Sociology at Harvard.
She served as a consultant to the Chicago Planning Commission and other local non-profit agencies on matters of labor force, housing, mortality and fertility.
In 1954, she became an Assistant Professor of Sociology. She became a Professor in 1970 and served as the Sociology Department Chair from 1972 to 1978. She was also Director of the Population Research Center from 1977 to 1987. She retired in 1989.
During retirement, she continued to serve as a consultant on research projects at the University.
She was elected as fellow in 1959 to the American Sociological Association, as a fellow in 1968 to the American Statistical Association and as a member in 1971 of the Sociological Research Association. In 1977, she was elected President of the Population Association of America. She was also President of the Sociological Research Council from 1976 to 1977. Kitagawa was a member of the Advisory Committee on Population statistics for the U.S. Bureau of the Census from 1975 to 1978 and served as its chair from 1977 to 1978.
Kitagawa was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Opinion Research Center from 1973 to 1988, when she was named a life trustee.
She is survived by a daughter, Anne Rose Kitagawa of Boston and was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph Kitagawa, a Professor Emeritus of History of Religions and former Dean of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.