Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, September 25, 2017

Herd: Tracking the lives of 1957 Wisconsin high school graduates

Herd: Tracking the lives of 1957 Wisconsin high school graduates

La Follette School Professor Pam Herd will discuss the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), a long-term examination of a random sample of 10,317 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 26 at UW–Madison’s Discovery Building. Herd is principal investigator of the WLS and director of the Center for Demography of Health and Aging (CDHA) at UW–Madison. Her presentation is part of the Crossroads of Ideas public lecture series.

The WLS is the longest-running cohort longitudinal study in the United States, providing the first large-scale opportunity to study the life course in the context of a complete record of ability, aspiration, and achievement. It supports thousands of researchers examining how early- and mid-life experiences influence well-being, income security, health, and cognitive functioning in later life.

Herd, who joined UW–Madison in 2005, was named co-director of WLS with now-retired Professor Robert Hauser in 2010. Her work broadly focuses on aging, policy, health, and inequality. She has two streams of research: how social policies affect gender, race, and class inequality; and the relationship between social factors and health.

A professor of public affairs and sociology, Herd has received numerous UW–Madison research awards, including the prestigious Vilas Mid-Career Award and the Vilas Associates Competition. She also has received several federal grants, including $6.7 million from the National Institute on Aging to generate genetic research on WLS participants.

The CDHA was created in 1999 with funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Since its inception, CDHA has built a dynamic training and research program that rests on a strong interdisciplinary foundation and easily adapts to new discoveries and developments. The WLS is one of CDHA’s primary research efforts,

The WLS began as a one-time survey of Wisconsin’s high school seniors, commissioned by the state in 1957 to help prepare for the increasing demand of higher education. Only after Sociology Professor William Sewell "discovered" the survey in 1962 and followed up on the graduates two year later, did the WLS begin assuming its current identity.