He arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, as a graduate student in 1961. There, he met Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian graduate student his age, who was pursuing a Ph.D. in nutrition and endocrinology.
Ms. Harris, their eldest daughter, has written that the two “fell in love at Berkeley while participating in the civil rights movement,” and described learning about protests from a “stroller’s-eye view.” When the children were very young, Dr. Harris got a series of teaching jobs at colleges in Illinois and Wisconsin, moving the family repeatedly. The couple separated in 1969, when Ms. Harris was 5, and divorced two years later.
In “The Truths We Hold,” her 2018 memoir, Ms. Harris wrote that “had they been a little older, a little more emotionally mature, maybe the marriage could have survived. But they were so young. My father was my mother’s first boyfriend.”
The divorce was bitter. Ms. Harris recalls inviting both her parents to her high school graduation, “even though I knew they wouldn’t speak to each other,” and initially fearing that her mother would not show up. (She did, in a “very bright red dress and heels,” Ms. Harris wrote.)
Dr. Harris, in his 2018 essay, said his early, close contact with his daughters “came to an abrupt halt” after a contentious custody battle. He said the divorce settlement had been “based on the false assumption by the State of California that fathers cannot handle parenting (especially in the case of this father, ‘a neegroe from da eyelans,’ was the Yankee stereotype, who might just end up eating his children for breakfast!) Nevertheless I persisted, never giving up on my love for my children.”
This friction did not slow Dr. Harris’s professional rise, and he was granted tenure first at the University of Wisconsin and then at Stanford University. Dr. Harris’s 1978 book, “Capital Accumulation and Income Distribution,” is dedicated “to Kamala and Maya.”
His work was followed closely in Jamaica, said Renee Anne Shirley, who was an adviser to Jamaica’s prime minister in the early 2000s, a period when Dr. Harris served as an economic consultant to the government.