Evan Roberts

eroberts {at} umn.edu

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I am an Assistant Professor of Population Studies and Sociology at the University of Minnesota. From 2007-10 I was a Lecturer (equivalent to an Assistant Professor) in the History Programme at Victoria University of Wellington.

Thanks for coming to find out a little more about me. You may be procrastinating, but that's OK. Structured procrastination is an effective way to spend your time.

If you're looking for copies of papers I've presented or published, you can find them immediately to the right, along with a copy of my cv.

If you're looking for information about the projects I work on, check out the links on the far side of the page

My research interests are in the demographic, social, and economic history of Australasia and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries. My research is on the United States and New Zealand, but I try to read in Canadian and Australian scholarship for its connections and comparisons with what I study. My current research projects are about (1) health and living standards in New Zealand and the United States from the early nineteenth century to the present, and (2) married women's work and the family economy in the United States between the Civil War and World War II.

The New Zealand research is jointly with Kris Inwood (Guelph) and Les Oxley (Waikato). We are using anthropometric methods to create consistent measures of Maori (indigenous) and Pakeha (European descended) living standards. This work has been funded by the Health Research Council and Marsden Fund (equivalent of NIH and NSF for American readers).

My research on married women's work is a continuation of work I began in graduate school. I am currently digitizing state labor bureau surveys that are not available in the Historical Labor Statistics Project series. Please get in touch if you are interested in using data from this research. I plan to release public-use versions of the datasets eventually.

For a decade from 2001 I co-ordinated the North Atlantic Population Project (NAPP) at the Minnesota Population Center. NAPP is an international collaboration co-ordinated by the MPC to harmonize and distribute historical (19th and 20th century) census data for social science and historical research. I am particularly interested (and have a lot of experience) in classifying occupations in historical census data. I coded hundreds of thousands of occupations in the IPUMS-USA census samples and the 1880 U.S. census complete-count dataset.

I did my PhD in history at the University of Minnesota. My dissertation looked at married women's labor force participation in the United States between 1860 and 1940. The main data sources I used were census samples from the IPUMS and the 1880 complete count census in the North Atlantic Population Project, as well as survey data from the 1888-90, 1917-19 and 1935-36 Cost of Living surveys and surveys of consumer expenditures. I also worked extensively with interviews of workers from the Hawthorne works of the Western Electric company for insight on public opinion about married women's work in the 1920s and 1930s. Please contact me if you are interested in reading any of this work.

Before going to the University of Minnesota on a Fulbright scholarship, I did a BA(Hons) degree in Economics and History, and a BSc (BS for American readers) in Mathematics and Statistics at Victoria University of Wellington.

I wrote my Honours thesis/research essay on the history of New Zealand department store employees -- publications from this work are listed in my CV to the right.

Besides my academic pursuits I do a lot of long-distance running -- if you really are procrastinating you can find my New Zealand running results at Wellington Scottish or Minnesota results on the extremely useful Raceberry Jam. I also listen to Bob Dylan, but would like to assure you I did not move to Minnesota for this reason. To my shame I have not yet made the pilgrimage to Hibbing.


Evan Roberts' CV

Evan Roberts' Google Scholar Page with links to publications

Publications and conference papers

If you would like a copy of published articles that you do not have access to through your library, please email me using my email address on the left of the page (email links disabled as part of modern life's perennial and somewhat futile effort at reducing spam).

Health and living standards in New Zealand and the US

Please contact me if you are interested in discussing currently unpublished research.

We are currently expanding our dataset of World War I soldiers by crowd-sourcing the transcription of all New Zealand's World War I personnel files. This project, Measuring the ANZACs is a collaboration of the Minnesota Population Center, The Zooniverse, Archives New Zealand with additional organizational support from Auckland Museum. We launched in October 2015 and have the goal of a complete transcription of all 140,000 records by the end of November 2018. Please get involved in the project! We are very happy to support educational use of the site. Please contact me to discuss lesson plans, guest lectures to classes, and talks to groups in the community.

Urban vs rural residency and allergy prevalence among adult women. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 2018. (With Nita Patel, Anna Prizment, Bharat Thyagarajan, Heather Nelson, DeAnn Lazovich, and Timothy Church).
Casual abstract: Growing up on a farm reduces your chances of asthma and allergies later in life (by quite a lot).

Family structure and childhood anthropometry in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1918, History of the Family, 2017. (PMC link)
Casual abstract: Most of the pre-school children in Saint Paul were below average (modern averages, to be clear). But children from richer families and families with fewer children were not as short. Growth faltering was evident in a way similar to modern developing countries.

Household budget studies in the British dominions, 1873-1939. Historical Household Budgets Working Paper No. 2. Now available in Rivista di Storia Economica in August 2016.
Casual abstract: Household budget studies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa were conducted less frequently than in the U.S., U.K. or Scandinavia before WWII. The budget studies in the dominions are of comparable quality, and are an under-utilised resource for studying social and economic change in these countries.

Physical growth and ethnic inequality in New Zealand prisons, 1840-1975, History of the Family, 2015.
Casual abstract: Inequality in stature between Maori and Pakeha was at its greatest in the early twentieth century before narrowing rapidly, giving a new picture of ethnic inequality in twentieth century New Zealand.

Chapters on the early history of New Zealand family budget studies, and the history of the New Zealand consumer price index, in The New Zealand CPI at 100: History and Interpretation (buy the book, Christmas is coming)
Casual abstract: The New Zealand consumer price index weights were based on what seem like remarkably small surveys of consumers, but this wasn't out of line with experience in comparable countries. Working with a limited budget the New Zealand statistics department was innovative to try and obtain decent data.

Birth weight and adult health in historical perspective: Evidence from a New Zealand cohort, 1907-1922, Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 107, April 2014.
Casual abstract: Provides the earliest ever evidence on the fetal origins hypothesis in young adults, with birth weight having a slightly greater impact on adult health in the past. However, New Zealand babies in the early twentieth century were robust at birth weighing about the same as babies in the late 1990s.

Height, weight and mortality in the past: New evidence from a nineteenth century New Zealand cohort. Presented at 2011 Social Science History and 2013 Population Association and Cliometrics meetings (with Kris Inwood and Les Oxley).
Casual abstract: We provide new historical evidence on the mortality risk of being overweight in early adulthood. Our results suggest that the mortality risk of being overweight begins to rise sharply when people are moderately overweight.

Longitudinal studies of human growth and health: A review of recent historical research, November 2010. Journal of Economic Surveys (with Kris Inwood).
Abstract: This paper reviews recent literature using stature and weight as measures of human welfare with a particular interest in cliometric or historical research. We begin with an overview of anthropometric evidence of living standards and the new but fast growing field of anthropometric history. This literature is always implicitly and often explicitly longitudinal in nature. We then discuss (i) systematic empirical research into the relationship between conditions in early life and later life health and mortality and (ii) historical evidence on the relationship between body mass, morbidity and mortality. We conclude with a discussion of the importance of historical sources and understandings to health economics and population health.

Physical stature and its interpretation in nineteenth century New Zealand, November 2010. Australian Economic History Review (with Kris Inwood).

Please contact me to discuss recent work from our research on anthropometric history in New Zealand.

Married women's work

You are welcome to download and cite these papers on married women's work. However, I am working on revised versions of all these papers. Please email me if you are interested in reading this research.

Moving Around the City: Residential and Economic Mobility in Chicago, 1925-30 in Lives in Transition, McGill-Queens University Press, 2015.
Casual abstract: Working class families in inter-war Chicago were highly mobile, but didn't make significant economic progress.
buy the book, Christmas is coming! (this is technically true at any time of the year, so this is static text)

Rosie the Riveter's Job Market: Advertising for Women Workers in World War II Los Angeles, Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, Fall 2012.
Casual abstract: Studying classified advertising shows the limits of World War II era changes in women's labor market opportunities.

"Women's rights and women's labor: Married women’s property laws and labor force participation, 1860-1900. Economic History Association meetings, September 2006. (More recent version available on request. Please email me if you are interested)

"Give the single girls a chance!": Employees’ Views on Preference for Service and Layoffs at Western Electric in the Depression. Business History Conference, May 2005.

"Married women's work in war and depression, 1917-1940" European Social Science History paper, March 2004

"Labor Force Participation by Married Women in the United States: Results from the 1917/19 Cost-of-Living Survey and the 1920 PUMS", Social Science History Association conference, Baltimore, November 2003

Dissertation proposal (revised and extended, March 2005)

New Zealand history

The Whangaroa Incident, 16 July 1824: A European-Maori Encounter and its Many Incarnations. Journal of Pacific History, 49(1): 50-75. (with Alexander Maxwell)
Casual abstract: Europeans distorted a slightly scary encounter with Maori in a series of re-tellings in the nineteenth century.

The peripatetic career of Wherahiko Rawei: Maori culture on the global Chautauqua circuit, 1893-1927 in Tom Wright (ed) The Cosmpolitican Lyceum (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013): 203-222. (buy the book, Christmas is coming)
Casual abstract: Wherahiko Rawei performed a Maori act around the world for thirty years. His career was quite interesting.

Historical statistics

"Historical Census Record Linkage" (With Steven Ruggles and Catherine Fitch). Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 44, 2018.

"Big Data in Economic History" (With Myron Gutmann and Emily Merchant). Journal of Economic History. Vol. 78, 2018.

"Longitudinal and cross-sectional historical data: intersections and opportunities" (With Lisa Y. Dillon) History & Computing 14(1/2), 2006.

Health economics

Tables from 2005 Medical Care Research and Review article, "A Review of Economic Evaluations of Community Mental Health Care."
Casual abstract: Economic evaluations of community mental health care could be a lot better.

Two articles about anti-depressant prescribing in New Zealand from the New Zealand Medical Journal.
Casual abstract: Antidepressant prescribing grew quickly and cost a lot more, because people switched to more expensive SSRIs.

Department stores

"Gender in Store: Salespeople’s Working Hours and Union Organisation in New Zealand and the United States, 1930-60" Labour History, Issue 83, November 2002, pp.107-130. (JSTOR: May not be accessible to non-subscribers).
Casual abstract: The organization of the firm, and the relationship of workers to consumers restricted the effectiveness of retail workers' unions in both New Zealand and the United States. Firm and industry similarities were more important than differences in industrial relations laws.

"Don't Sell Things, Sell Effects": Overseas Influences in New Zealand Department Stores, 1909-1956. Business History Review, Volume 77, Summer 2003, pp.265-289. (JSTOR)
Casual abstract: New Zealand department stores looked to America for sales advice well before America supplied goods to New Zealand stores.

Other writing

I do some writing for the fantastic local website streets.mn because I care about cities today (and especially my city).

Patient social reformers: Concordance between method and vision in the work of Richard T. Ely, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb (MA research paper, 2003).


Run Wellington's fantastic Skyline trail

Running Times article on how to run for a long time (2 to 3 hours) in cold (below 10°F) weather.
Casual abstract: Bring fresh hats! See the article for details.

coffee grounds: some past musings on the world

how to serve coffee

census data


North Atlantic Population Project


Fall 2018: SOC4246, Sociology of Health and Illness

Spring 2019: SOC3801, Research Methods

May 2019: Understanding New Zealand: Culture, Society, and Environment. Three week global seminar in New Zealand.

About the images at the top of the page
(left to right): Seward and Prospect Park neighborhoods in Minneapolis with the I-94 and Franklin Avenue bridges; Wellington from a long way up; me running my marathon PR in Philadelphia in 2005; Wellington again; A 1918 article from Factory and Industrial Management on nurseries for mothers working in factories during World War I; the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington (MN).