From 1919 through 1953, the U.S. Department of Agriculture housed the Division of Farm Population and Rural Life—the first unit within the federal government established specifically for sociological research. Distinguished sociologists Charles Galpin and Carl Taylor provided key leadership for 32 of its 34 years as the Division sought to understand the social structure of rural America and to do public policy-oriented research. It reached the height of its influence during the New Deal and World War II as it helped implement modern liberal policies in America's farming sector, attempting to counteract the harsh effects of modern industrialism on the rural economy. In addition, the Division devoted resources to studying both the history and the contemporary state of rural social life.
Sociology in Government offers the first detailed historical account and systematic documentation of this remarkable federal office. The Division of Farm Population and Rural Life was an archetypal New Deal governmental body, deeply engaged in research on agricultural planning and action programs for the disadvantaged in rural areas. Its work continued during World War II with farm labor and community organization work. Larson and Zimmerman emphasize the Division's pioneering practices, presenting it as one model for applying the discipline of sociology in the government setting. Published in cooperation with the American Sociological Association, Sociology in Government preserves the history of this pathbreaking research unit whose impact is still felt today.