April 25, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 16

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    Press presents Laing Award to Laumann, Michael

    (photo) Honored for The Social Organization of Sexuality Edward Laumann and Robert Michael received the Gordon J. Laing Award from the Press on Monday for The Social Organization of Sexuality, which revolutionized thinking on Americans' sexual behavior. The book was published by the Press in 1994.

    Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology, and Michael, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, co-wrote the landmark study with John Gagnon, professor of sociology and psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Stuart Michaels, a researcher with the National Opinion Research Center at the University and project manager of the study.

    The Laing Award is presented annually to the University faculty author, editor or translator of the book published during the previous three years that adds the greatest distinction to the list of the Press. The Board of University Publications selects the recipients. President Sonnenschein presented the award to Laumann and Michael during a reception at the Quadrangle Club.

    The Social Organization of Sexuality provided the first comprehensive and scientifically accurate survey of sex in America. The study disputed many myths about sexual behavior and brought factual information to bear on public-policy debates about sexual practices.

    Unlike previous studies of Americans' sexual behavior, the University survey used a representative sample of the American population. The study involved 90-minute, face-to-face interviews with 3,432 randomly selected Americans ages 18 to 59. The survey was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center.

    The results of the survey revealed a new way of thinking about sexuality. Sexual behavior is not just determined by instinct, the researchers found, but is socially determined and socially controlled to a greater extent than previously believed. Friends, family, neighborhoods, religious beliefs and education dramatically influence who Americans choose for sexual partners, how many partners they have and how they behave sexually.

    Among the findings of the survey was a high degree of faithfulness in marriage. Almost all adult Americans marry, and of those who do, 75 percent of the men and 85 percent of the women said they remained faithful to their spouses. The people who have the most sex and are happiest with their sex lives are monogamous couples.

    Laumann, a faculty member at Chicago since 1973, is an expert on organizational analysis and social stratification. He has studied the legal profession and lobbyists and is the co-author of Chicago Lawyers: The Social Structure of the Bar (1987) and The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policy Making (1993), among other books. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1964 and was on the faculty at Michigan before coming to Chicago.

    Michael, a faculty member at Chicago since 1980, specializes in the economics of the family. Among the books he has co-authored are Allocation of Income Within the Household (1988) and Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (1995). Michael received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1969. Before joining the Chicago faculty, he was on the faculties at UCLA and Stanford.