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Sandra Hofferth Ph.D.

Sandra Hofferth, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita, School of Public Health

Research Professor

Maryland Population Research Center
2105 Morrill
College Park , MD 20742
Office Phone: 301-405-6404


  1. 1976 Ph.D., Sociology, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, August, Sociology. Dissertation: "Modeling the Contraceptive Behavior of Couples: An Exchange Approach" (Chairman: J. Richard Udry)
  2. 1971 M.A., Sociology, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, August, Sociology. Thesis: "Cooperation and Competition in Peasant Communities" (Chairman: Henry A. Landsberger)
  3. 1967 B.A., Sociology and Psychology, Swarthmore College, June. Fellowships: NIMH Traineeship in Social Psychology, 1967-1968 and 1970-1972.


Sandra Hofferth, Professor Emerita, School of Public Health, and Research Professor, Maryland Population Research Center, is a former Director of the Maryland Population Research Center (2008-2012) and a former co-Director of the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1994-2001). In 2010 she served as Vice President of the Population Association of America. Her research interests include American children's use of time and later health outcomes, work and family, fathers and fathering, and family policy. She has published on the effects of racial/ethnic disparities at the individual and neighborhood levels on father (and mother) involvement and child outcomes and published a series of papers on social capital. She has also investigated changes in children’s electronic media use over time. Dr. Hofferth has researched family issues in the context of public policy for over 40 years, publishing eight books/edited volumes and more than 100 articles and book chapters. She has been supported through multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and private foundations. Besides her deep knowledge of large national data bases, she has expertise in measurement, methods, and structural equation modeling. Her most recent publication is “The New Big Science: Linking Data to Understand People in Context,” an edited volume of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. She is Principal Investigator on an NICHD-funded grant, Time Use Data for Health and Well-Being, which provides advanced extracting capabilities to researchers for multiple years of harmonized American and European time use data on individual time expenditures and family time allocations to activities.


Hofferth’s research contributions lie primarily in five areas: gender, work and family; child health and well-being; electronic communication; migration and immigrant adaptation; and public policy.

1. In the gender, work and family area, Hofferth has more than 40 years of experience in research on family decision-making. Prior to her work, without having any hard data on time mothers spent with children, demographers assumed that employed mothers reduced time with children commensurate with their employment hours; therefore, children of employed mothers spent less time with their mothers. Probably her most important scientific contribution in this field was showing that, in spite of the fact that more of their mothers were employed, children of working mothers in the late 1990s were spending as much time with their mothers as were children of nonworking mothers in the early 1980s (Sandberg & Hofferth 2001). Her research demonstrated that employed mothers were not reducing time with children in order to be employed. In recent years she has been similarly examining trends in the time fathers spend with children, finding evidence consistent with the second part of the gender revolution, that fathers have been spending and are continuing to spend more time with children than in the past (Cabrera et al. 2011; Hofferth & Lee 2015) and that father involvement is related to health (Hofferth & Pinzon 2011).

2. Hofferth has substantive expertise in child health and well-being, particularly research on the measurement of health and well-being. She has studied children’s physical and sedentary activity for the past decade, with a series of papers beginning in 2001 on children’s use of time and represented by a 2010 Child Development paper on “Children’s Home Media and Children’s Achievement and Behavior” (Hofferth 2010). Most of these papers use time diary methods to identify and measure children’s activities. She directed an NIH grant entitled “Measuring Children’s Activity in its Social Context,” from which she published a methodological paper comparing the measurement of physical activity using time diaries with that using accelerometers (Hofferth et al., 2008). This study showed that calculated energy levels gathered from children’s diaries are reliable in that they correlate fairly highly with the data gathered using accelerometers. Thus, compared with standard paper and pencil questions, diaries can represent individual activity levels with a reasonable degree of reliability. Since this article was published, obesity researchers have begun to use time diaries to identify adult activity time and link it to activity level in metabolic equivalents. Besides her deep knowledge of large national data bases, she has expertise in measurement and structural equation modeling (SEM). She published an SEM paper on response bias (Hofferth 2006) and edited a volume entitled Handbook of Measurement Issues in Family Research (Hofferth & Casper 2007). She also has a recent methodological paper using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) well-being module that examines the reliability and validity of the well-being measures in the ATUS (Lee, et al. 2016).

3. Hofferth has expertise in population trends in electronic communications, particularly computer use and cell-phone use, for children and youth. Her research shows the explosive growth of computer and electronic media use from 1997 to the mid-2000s. Probably the most important contribution to science was showing that the increased use of computers over a five-year period was linked to verbal test scores, particularly for female and minority children (Hofferth 2010; Hofferth & Moon, 2012b). Additionally, text messaging on a cell phone was related to higher reading test scores whereas talking on the phone was not (Hofferth 2012a).

4. Hofferth has expertise in the area of minority health disparities, and migrant adaptation. In particular, she has contributed to the literature on immigrant children’s reading and math skills. The most important contribution is in demonstrating the very successful transitions of immigrant children to adulthood, in which they exceed the markers of nonimmigrant children both from their own and the majority race/ethnic background (Hofferth & Moon, 2016; Moon & Hofferth 2015; Moon & Hofferth 2016).

5. Hofferth’s fifth area of expertise is public policy. Her early contributions were to bring a population and demographic perspective to the analysis of parental choice of child care arrangements and how paid child care supplemented maternal care for children and complemented employment.