January 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 1

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Emeritus Profile: Archibald Haller

by Craig Shaar, ASA Membership

Archibald Haller's first intellectual love was the physical sciences, an early interest that was furthered by his experience in the U.S. Navy during World War II as an aviation electronics technician where he repaired radar and other electronics equipment. After the war, he found a position working with chemical products research in the 3M research laboratories. This shaped his approach to sociology.

Haller had a budding interest in worldly intellectual matters. He was also interested in reading epistemology and history. Sociology gave Haller an interesting way to observe the world and apply quantitative methods. Haller joined the ASA in 1950 when he was a student at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Taking the fast track through academia, Haller earned a Master's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1951 and his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1954. At Minnesota, he learned about the field of stratification and the work of William H. Sewell, Otis Dudley Duncan, and Hans Gerth, all of whom were at Wisconsin.

Sewell (ASA President in 1971) served as Haller's mentor and doctoral adviser during his graduate studies at Wisconsin. The two collaborated on several journal articles together, using data Sewell had collected earlier. Sewell and Haller were close friends until the former's passing in 2001.

Haller has been a leading authority on the structures of social stratification and the variations they exhibited. He worked with Sewell and Alejandro Portes (ASA president in 1999) to develop a new theory, called "Status Attainment Processes," measuring sociological influences on social mobility The theory focused on educational and occupational backgrounds of individuals. Sewell, Haller, and Portes published an influential article from this research in 1969, after which the article took on a life of its own, having been republished continually through 2007. In 1968 Haller and Portes published another influential article with O. D. Duncan. It offered improvements in statistical analysis.

In 1962, Haller was granted a Fulbright teaching award for a faculty position at the Rural University of Brazil. During his time in Brazil, he analyzed stratification trends in Brazilian society. "There was no allowance in the theories of sociology for an idea of evolutionary changes in stratification. Sociologists thought about Marx and revolutionary changes at the time, but were unaware of less spectacular ones," said Haller. Brazil was undergoing rapid evolutionary change in the structure of stratification, suggesting that this might be happening everywhere. If so, the theory of Status Attainment Processes would have to be modified. Thus, Haller went to Brazil to see if he could learn how that nation's society has evolved, and to revise the status attainment theory accordingly.

There would be several other Fulbright faculty awards for his research in Brazil. During his visits, he continued to study how stratification systems shape Brazilian society. Among other things, he discovered that there were five distinct socioeconomically developed regions in that nation. The Brazilian federal government used Haller's research to spearhead development projects in poorer regions. In 1981, he was decorated by the President of Brazil with the Order of Merit of Labor, Rank of Grand Officer. In pondering how he earned so many Fulbright grants, Haller said he believes the U.S. State Department found his research helpful in understanding social issues.

Haller retired from teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994 after serving as a faculty member at the university since 1965. However, he remained active as a consultant and teaching volunteer in Brazil from 1998 to 2002.

Haller's involvement with ASA included co-authoring one of the first Rose Series volumes, Attitudes and Facilitation in the Attainment of Status with Ruth Gasson and William Sewell (1972). In 1993, he was appointed to the ASA Committee on International Sociology.

Haller is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a past president of the Rural Sociological Society. In 2007, he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Social Science from Ohio State University.

During his retirement, Haller still attends lectures at the University of Arizona campus in Tucson. "Sociology is more sophisticated analytically now than it was years ago," observed Haller. However, he is still contributing his knowledge of social stratification; he is currently publishing several articles on stratification in Population Review. One of these reviews the history of empirical research on stratification, from Ibn Khaldun in 1377 through Max Weber, Pitirim Sorokin, Kaare Svalastoga, and O.D. Duncan. logo_small

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