Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Fletcher leading $2 million project studying place of birth, health, and mortality

Fletcher leading $2 million project studying place of birth, health, and mortality

La Follette School Professor Jason Fletcher and four UW–Madison colleagues received a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Fletcher, who also serves as director of UW–Madison’s Center for Demography of Health and Aging, is leading the project with Emeritus Professor Alberto Palloni of the Department of Sociology.

The project, The Importance of Place of Birth in Determining Health and Mortality at Older Ages, will examine the extent to which place of birth contributes to old age health inequalities by birth cohort, race/ethnicity, gender, and educational attainment in the United States. Other researchers on the team are: Katherine Curtis, associate professor of community and environmental sociology, Michal Engelman, associate professor sociology, and Malia Jones, assistant scientist, Applied Population Laboratory.

The researchers will use newly available data on place of birth for more than 5 million U.S. residents born during the early and mid-20th century to identify the magnitude and mechanisms linking place of birth to health and mortality over the life course. Data sources include the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study at UW–Madison and the Health and Retirement Study.

Existing literature explores geographic inequality in old age health using contemporaneously measured geographic place. The researchers argue, though, that those studies misrepresent spatial health inequalities by ignoring critical early-life exposures and misattribute the importance of place during adulthood.

The multidisciplinary project merges the demography, economics, population health, and epidemiology of old age morbidity and mortality processes.

Fletcher, the author of The Genome Factor: What the Social Genomics Revolution Tells Us About Ourselves, Our History and Our Future, also is leading a cluster hiring project in social genomics at UW–Madison. He recently received two book awards for The Genome Factor from the American Sociological Association.