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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Profile: Rob Santos

santos-robert_4.jpgRobert Santos described himself in his 2014 Presidential Address as “a mathematical statistician who was lured into the world of survey sampling, project management, survey operations, and social science research.” As chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, he now conducts sociopolitical analysis with pragmatism, passion and scientific rigor. An expert in quantitative and qualitative studies, he has a deep understanding of both the statistical issues and scientific purpose of his research.

Santos has researched and written extensively on topics ranging from American driving practices to housing discrimination, health insurance coverage and immigration reform. He began his career in academic research, managing the sampling department at the Temple University Institute for Survey Research. He was the first Director of Survey Operations at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. After working as Vice President of Statistics and Methodology for NORC at the University of Chicago and then as a partner of NuStats, LLC, he joined the Urban Institute to direct its Statistical Methods Group. There, he his published work includes “Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children,” an in-depth study of the impact of immigration enforcement efforts in three communities, and “Housing Discrimination against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012,” a study conducted in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Since joining the Urban Institute, Santos has been active in the public sector. “My six-year stint as a study section member for the Agency for Health Research and Quality was perhaps the richest educational experience on research in my life,” he says. As a statistical advisor on the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, he studied long-distance travel methods for the Federal Highway Administration. This year, he joined the Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and National Center for Health Statistics on statistical and epidemiological research.

In addition to his term as AAPOR president, Santos has served AAPOR in numerous executive and committee roles, including as a member of the editorial board for Public Opinion Quarterly, 2011 Annual Conference Program Chair and 2003-2004 Bylaws Committee Chair. He has also contributed to various awards committees, including the Innovators-, Policy Impact- and Student Paper Awards Committees. He is also involved with American Statistical Association (ASA), and he has worked on the Transportation Research Board and several Committee on National Statistics panels for the National Academies. In 2006, Santos received the ASA Founder’s Award for excellence in survey statistics and contributions to the statistical community.

In his long history with AAPOR, Santos has evolved from “a practitioner, a mathematical statistician” to an advocate for the value of qualitative and nonprobability research methods. “You can bet that the first telephone or web surveys conducted decades ago were not perfect,” he advised in his 2014 Presidential Address. “The same holds here.”