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Population studies pioneer J. Mayone Stycos dies at 89

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Melissa Osgood
Joseph Mayone Stycos

Professor emeritus of development sociology Joseph Mayone Stycos, who taught at Cornell for 43 years, died June 24 at Kendal at Ithaca. He was 89.

An early pioneer in population studies, Stycos was an expert in the study of population and development.

He joined the faculty of Cornell in 1957. In 1962 he founded the International Population Program, subsequently renamed the Population and Development Program, and served as its director until 1992. He also served as chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology 1966-70 and as director of the Latin American Studies Program 1962-66. In 1988, he joined the Department of Development Sociology, retiring in 2000 as professor emeritus.

Stycos was born March 27, 1927, in Saugerties, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Princeton University in 1947. In 1954, he earned a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University.

Doctoral field research in Puerto Rico led to his frequently cited and reproduced book, “Family and Fertility in Puerto Rico: A Study of the Lower Income Group” (1955). Later books included “The Family and Population Control: A Puerto Rican Experiment in Social Change” (1959), written with Kurt Back and Reuben Hill. He also wrote “The Survey Under Unusual Conditions: The Jamaica Human Fertility Investigation” (1960) and “The Control of Human Fertility in Jamaica” (1964), both co-authored with Bach.

By the late 1960s, Stycos’ interest spanned the Western Hemisphere, as reflected in his books “Human Fertility in Latin America: Sociological Perspectives” (1968) and “Ideology, Faith and Family Planning in Latin America” (1971). A prolific author, he published six major research volumes, several monographs and more than 150 articles on birth control, fertility, socio-psychological dimensions in husband-wife relations, and survey research. Most of his work focused on Latin America, but he also published field research conducted in Egypt, India, China, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

In the 1990s Stycos turned his attention to population and the environment. He served on the planning committee for the Global Omnibus Environmental Survey of the Human Dimension of Global Environmental Change Programme 1993-99, which he chaired in 1996. With Max Pfeffer, Cornell professor of development sociology, Stycos received several grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to carry out public opinion research on the environment in the New York City watershed.

He served as a member of many national and international committees including the executive committee of International Planned Parenthood, Western Hemisphere (1965-71); the Advisory Committee in Population and Development, Organization of American States (1968-70); and the Population Task Force, U.S. Commission for U.N.E.S.C.O. (1972-73). He was a Fulbright-Hays Distinguished Professor at the University of Warsaw (1979) and received a Fulbright Program Research Award for fieldwork in Costa Rica (1986).

Throughout his career, he was an avid photographer and illustrated a number of his books with photographs taken during the course of his research. His photography books include “Children of the Barriada: A Photographic Essay on the Latin American Population Problem” (1970). His lifelong pursuit of photography culminated in a collaboration with photographer Cornell Capa on “Margin of Life: Population and Poverty in the Americas” (1974). His photographic work has been exhibited at Cornell and Ithaca galleries. He was also known as an accomplished pianist and singer, and for his humorous compositions.

He is survived by his wife, Maria Nowakowska Stycos, M.A. ’67, Ph.D. ’77, their son; and by a daughter and a son from his previous marriage to Mary McCulloch McGinnis; six grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Donations in his memory can be sent to the Population Association of America, the Population Council or to organizations in the field of Parkinson’s research.