James A. Davis

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'James A. Davis' (born in Chicago, 1929) is a distinguished American sociologist who is best known as a pioneer in the application of quantitative statistical methods to social science research and teaching. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Chicago.

In 1972, while Professor Davis was Director of the National Opinion Research Center, he founded the National Data Program for the Social Sciences and developed the General Social Survey (GSS). He later co-founded the International Social Survey Program (ISSP).

GSS is the biennial national survey that has been tracking social change in America continuously since 1972. The GSS provides scholars, policy makers, students, and the interested general public with data on Americans’ attitudes, and continues to document changes in Americans’ behavior and attitudes. The GSS is the second-most frequently used dataset in sociology, after the US Census.

In addition to teaching at the University of Chicago, Davis taught at Yale University (1956 to 1957), Dartmouth College (1967 to 1972 and 1976 to 1977), and Harvard University 1977 to 1994), where he and his wife, Martha Davis, were co-masters of Winthrop House beginning in 1979. Since 1977, he has been an Instructor in the ECPR Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis and Collection, at the University of Essex, U.K.

Davis received his B.S. from Northwestern University in 1950, his M.S. from the University of Wisconsin in 1952, and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1955.


  • 2010 Mitofsky Award for Excellence in Public Opinion Research, Roper Center, University of Connecticut
  • 1997 Warren E. Miller Award for Meritorious Services to the Social Sciences,Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR)
  • 1997 Levinson Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Senior Faculty Member, Harvard University
  • 1994 AAPOR Award, American Association for Public Opinion Research
  • 1992 Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, American Sociological Association, 1989

Selected publications[edit]