Professor Emeritus of Sociology, and Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute
My major research interests focus on patterns of inequality across the life span, with a special interest in the temporal diversity of life transitions, their consequences for later life, and the impact of institutions on these transitions over time. Over forty years I have examined workplace policies related to wage and benefit structures and the impact of workers' educational, work and family histories on socioeconomic outcomes. The changing employment relationship and the re-organization of retirement institutions (especially pensions) have been other central concerns of my research. Most recently, I have turned to the cumulative impact of economic adversity on early-, mid- and later-life health risks, such as heart attack. This research has uncovered the persistent effects of childhood adversity on adult heart attack risk, especially among women. I am expanding this focus over the next few years to examine the more general question of "life course risks" and increased economic and social inequalities in life course trajectories of health and wealth across birth cohorts and race-ethnic groups (including the role of debt as a stressor). And, from 2014-2020 I was the Principle Investigator on Duke's NIH P30 Center grant in the Demography and Economics of Aging awarded to the “Center for Population Health and Aging;” Scott Lynch is the current PI appointed for 2020-25. Over the same period I was the Director of the Duke University Population Research Institute.