Robert K. Merton was one of the most influential sociologists of the 20th Century. His writing on the principles and importance of middle-range theory as well as his own theories of self-fulfilling prophecies and Matthew effects have been important sources of inspiration for the emergence of analytical sociology. Merton attended the first analytical-sociology/social mechanism conference held at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm in 1996, and he remained a strong supporter of analytical sociology throughout the rest of his career.

The Robert K. Merton Award for the best paper in analytical sociology is an annual award announced at the annual INAS conference. The award is based on a thorough selection process. Nominations are sought from the international scholarly community and the decision is made by a committee of leading scholars appointed at the INAS meeting.

René D. Flores, María Vignau Loría, and Regina Martínez Casas receive the 2024 Robert K. Merton Award. We congratulate them for their excellent paper on "Transitory versus durable boundary crossing: what explains the indigenous population boom in Mexico?".

Here is what the Award Committee (Neha Gondal, Christopher Muller, Daniel Schrage, and Clemens Kroneberg) said:

Flores et al. take on an intriguing and compelling yet simple sociological puzzle: what accounts for a sudden rise in the self-identified indigenous population in Mexico. The authors draw on multiple methods, rigorous data collection, innovating research design, and close attention to underlying mechanisms to investigate this puzzle.
Challenging the popular explanation that the rise of indigenous persons in Mexico is attributable to natural demographic processes, the authors draw on a demographic projection model and a series of clever survey-based experiments to show that natural processes account for only twelve percent of this change. The remaining change, they find is linked to phrasing switches in the 2010 census identification question. The authors run three survey experiments using different versions of the self-reported ethnicity question among nationally representative samples of Mexicans. They isolate two types of changes in self-identification: what they call transitory crossing, a short-lived and reversible change which was induced via word changes that presented ethnicity in ways that made it more appealing to a broader segment of the population. They also find durable crossing, which they argue is a longer-lasting, gradual process motivated by macro-political forces such as social movements and government policies. This second form of boundary crossing is activated by Mexico’s embrace of multiculturalism.
Overall, the Flores et al. paper, makes for compelling analytical sociology. Congratulations to the winners for this well-deserved recognition of their work!

The 2024 Award Committee

Previous winners of the Robert K. Merton Award