In Memoriam: Robert F. Schoeni, 1964-2021

October 18, 2021

The Russell Sage Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of distinguished economist Robert F. Schoeni on October 13, 2021. His research spanned disciplines, focusing on the family, social support, and health outcomes. His research interests also included program evaluation, welfare policy, economics and demographics of aging, labor economics, and immigration.

Schoeni worked at the University of Michigan for over 20 years. Most recently, he was Professor of Economics and Public Policy as well as Research Professor in the Survey Research Center and Population Studies Center (PSC) at the Institute for Social Research. He previously served as Co-Director at the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the Postdoctoral Training Program at PSC, and the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging. Prior to working at the University of Michigan, he held several positions at the RAND Corporation, including Associate Director of the Labor and Population Program. He additionally served as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. He was awarded fellowships at several institutions including the National Institute on Aging, the East-West Center, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He was the recipient of the Heidelberg Club International Award for contributions in Gerontology, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Bowling Green High School, and the RAND President’s Award. He received his B.A. from Bowling Green State University, his M.A. from Miami University, Oxford, and his Ph.D. from University of Michigan.

Schoeni had a longstanding relationship with the Russell Sage Foundation, receiving the first of several RSF grants in 2005. He co-edited RSF volumes Making Americans Healthier: Social and Economic Policy as Health Policy (with James S. House, George A. Kaplan, and Harold Pollack) and Working and Poor: How Economic and Policy Changes Are Affecting Low-Wage Workers (with current RSF president Sheldon Danziger and Rebecca M. Blank). He also co-edited RSF Journal issue “Wealth Inequality: Economic and Social Dimensions” (with Fabian T. Pfeffer).

RSF President Sheldon Danziger said of Schoeni’s passing: “I had the good fortune to be a member of Bob's dissertation committee, to co-author grant proposals, research articles, and books with him, and to watch as he developed into a nationally-recognized scholar, caring mentor of students, and innovative research administrator. He was devoted to advancing scholarship on poverty and inequality, courageous in tackling the challenges of ALS, and a role model for his colleagues, family, and community, who all adored him.”

Schoeni was greatly respected for his research and collaborated with colleagues across the United States and internationally. He published articles in leading journals across a variety of disciplines, including Demography, The Journals of Gerontology, the Journal of Human Resources, Social Science & Medicine, and the American Economic Review. He also contributed to numerous books and reports. In addition to teaching and researching, Schoeni enjoyed mentoring early career scholars.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Gretchen, daughters Maddie and Sophie, his parents Ken and Rita Schoeni, and siblings Gayle Rutter, Roger Schoeni, and Sharon Pahl. The foundation extends its deepest sympathy to Robert’s family for their loss.

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