STANLEY LIEBERSON was born in Montreal and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of PS 253, JHS 234 and Abraham Lincoln Public High School. After two years at Brooklyn College, he was admitted to the graduate program at the University of Chicago, where he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology. Much of his career involved work on race and ethnic relations in both the United States and elsewhere. His dissertation won the University's Colver-Rosenberger Prize, and was later revised and published by the Free Press as Ethnic Patterns in American Cities. He has written a number of other books dealing with race and ethnic relations, along with numerous papers on this topic in the leading journals. One of these books, A Piece of the Pie: Blacks and White Immigrants Since 1880, received the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award of the American Sociological Association. Other books on this topic include Language and Ethnic Relations in Canada and From Many Strands: Ethnic and Racial Groups in Contemporary America (co-author, Mary C. Waters).
When he was a graduate student, by chance Lieberson discovered neglected data on banking which eventually was incorporated into an ecological study conducted by his mentor, Otis Dudley Duncan, on metropolitan dominance. Lieberson became one of Duncan's co-authors, along with other graduate students, of the influential volume, Metropolis and Region. For a number of years, he was active in the area of human ecology which culminated ten years later when Beverly Duncan and Lieberson published a second volume dealing with changes in the nature of metropolitan dominance, Metropolis and Region in Transition.
Stemming from an interest in language usage in multi-ethnic nations, Lieberson began to study bilingualism, language conflict, comparative diversity, economic issues and the like. He had strayed into the rapidly developing interdisciplinary field of sociolinguistics (incorporating linguists, anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists). Explorations in Sociolinguistics, was edited by him. A collection of his work on the topic,Language Diversity and Language Contact, was edited some years later by Anwar S. Dil as part of a series Stanford University Press issued on Language Science and National Development. An essay on this part of his career appears in a volume dealing with the pioneers in sociolinguistics edited by Christina Bratt Paulston and G. Richard Tucker, The Early Days of Sociolinguistics.
In recent years, he has developed two new interests: one is a re-examination of the reasoning underlying our research. This led to the publication of Making It Count: The Improvement of Social Research and Theory, as well as a number of articles such as: "Small N's and Big Conclusions", "When the Right Results are Wrong", "Einstein, Renoir, and Greeley: Some Thoughts About Evidence in Sociology","Modeling Social Processes: Some Lessons From Sports", "The Big Issues in Society and Social History: A Probabilistic Perspective"and "Barking Up the Wrong Branch: Scientific Alternatives to the Current Model of Sociological Science" (co-author, Freda B. Lynn).
The second new interest is in using first names to study how tastes and fashions operate and, in turn, contribute to an understanding as to how cultural change occurs. Since there is a fashion and taste dimension in many areas not customarily viewed as involving these influences (say, subjects studied in science, the design of highly technical products, thinking about religion, philosophy, social movements, the "higher" arts, forms of humor, recreational activities--to name a few), this subject includes far more than the conventional topics considered as matters of fashion. Names are particularly useful for three special reasons. First, there are good data based on births that permit relatively rigorous analysis over long spans of time and, moreover, allow for cross-national considerations. Second, these tastes are unaffected by the powerful commercial forces operating to influence most domains of taste. Manufacturers and retailers, for example, have no vested interest in the choice of names, but only in products purchased for children. Third, many tastes are affected by economic factors, but all parents can and do give their children names. As a consequence, this allows for an analysis of the "pure mechanisms" involved in fashion, without being confounded by commercial and economic forces. A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change (Yale University Press, 2000), uses first names as a way to uncover the stunningly orderly mechanisms underlying changes in tastes and fashions, as well as cultural changes more generally. The book is the co-winner, Best Book in the Sociology of Culture, Culture Section (2001) from the American Sociological Association, and the winner of the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award, Eastern Sociological Society (2002).
His current long-term project is to develop a new approach to a wide variety of issues connected with the use of evidence in the non-experimental social sciences. As in the past, he is likely to continue writing occasional papers on a wide variety of other topics such as: voluntary associations, diversity measures, segregation measures, leadership and organizational performance, correlations of ratios and difference scores with common terms, the interpretation of net migration rates, ascriptive stratification, military-industrial linkages and the demographic analysis of culture.
Lieberson is a former President of the American Sociological Association, the Sociological Research Association, and the Pacific Sociological Association. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University. Lieberson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and is an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Iota of Massachusetts at Harvard College.