Kathleen Cagney named Institute for Social Research director


Kathleen A. Cagney, a professor of sociology and former deputy dean at the University of Chicago, has been named director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

Her appointment, effective Sept. 1, was approved May 20 by the Board of Regents. Cagney succeeds David Lam, who will step down Aug. 31 and return to the faculty.

Kathleen Cagney
Kathleen Cagney

“Dr. Cagney has a longstanding commitment to social science that is rigorous, path-breaking, and serves the public interest,” said Susan M. Collins, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Taking a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to the examination of social inequality, she has provided critical insights into the role of social context in health and aging. A thoughtful adopter of new research techniques and an experienced administrator committed to diversity and inclusion, Dr. Cagney will be an effective leader for ISR.”

Cagney also has been appointed a professor of sociology, with tenure, and will hold research professorships in ISR’s Survey Research Center and Population Studies Center.

Cagney’s research examines social inequality and its relationship to health with a focus on neighborhood, race, and aging and the life course. She has focused on bringing together researchers from many scientific disciplines and examining diverse datasets to create a more holistic view of the social environment and its impact on health and well-being. Her work has provided a clearer view of how physical and social factors in surrounding neighborhoods and communities affect individual behavior and outcomes.

“It is an honor to join ISR and a community of scholars who have shaped social science inquiry for over 70 years. My work has certainly benefited from the research and insights generated by ISR,” Cagney said. “I look forward to continuing the initiatives of David Lam, engaging in and amplifying the research programs I have long admired and developing new collaborations across the university.”

Cagney, who grew up in Michigan, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and political science from Western Michigan University. She earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins University.

Currently, she is working on two Chicago-based studies of neighborhood context and older adult health and is examining the role of the social and physical environment in older adult well-being with the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.

From 1997-99, she had a postdoctoral fellowship, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, in the Population Research Center at NORC, University of Chicago. In August 1999, she joined the Department of Health Studies at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor and rose to associate professor. In July 2011, Cagney joined the Department of Sociology where she rose to professor.

At the University of Chicago, Cagney currently holds the following positions: faculty director of the Yuen Campus, Hong Kong; director of the Population Research Center; director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Training Program; co-director of the Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging; and faculty associate in the Department of Comparative Human Development. From September 2017 to June 2020, she served as deputy dean in the Division of Social Sciences.

Since 1996, Cagney has been the principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or co-investigator on 35 grants sponsored by agencies including the National Institute on Aging, the National Science Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Her grants promote sustained research and infrastructure development programs that leverage longitudinal data to examine how demographic and economic factors facilitate or suppress individual healthy aging behaviors. One of her projects, conducted in partnership with the city of Chicago, developed and deployed a persistent, flexible instrument that supports embedded sensing and cyberinfrastructure research, development, and evaluation.

Cagney recently served as the president of the Association of Population Centers, as a member of the Government and Public Affairs Committee of the APC, on the advisory board of the Network on Life Course Health Dynamics and Health Disparities, and on several NIH review panels. At the University of Chicago, she has served as member or chair of advisory committees ranging from the development of a sexual misconduct climate survey to urban architecture and design to president and dean search committees.


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