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Barbara Entwisle, Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor, Sociology

Barbara Entwisle focuses on social, natural, and built environments and their consequences for demographic and health outcomes. Her work ranges from the study of migration, residential change and health from a life course perspective in the US to agent-based modeling of migration and other responses to environmental stress in Northeast Thailand.

Barbara Entwisle is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Fellow of the Carolina Population Center (CPC). She also holds adjunct and affiliate faculty positions in Geography and the Environment, Energy, and Ecology Program. Between August 2010 and June 2016, she served as Vice Chancellor for Research at UNC-Chapel Hill, leading a campus-wide research program with nearly $1billion in annual research expenditures; overseeing 10 research development, support, and compliance offices, and responsible for 15 pan-university research centers and institutes, including the CPC. Prior to her service as Vice Chancellor, for eight years, Dr. Entwisle was CPC's Director and Training Director. Since returning to the full-time faculty, Dr. Entwisle has focused her efforts in two areas: population-environment interactions; and migration and the life course. With respect to population-environment interactions, she is currently engaged in research on climate change, social networks, and migration, leveraging data and tools assembled as part of the Nang Rong (Thailand) project. She has also started an NSF-funded project investigating migration and land use in the context of energy poverty challenges in Southern Africa. With respect to migration and the life course, Dr. Entwisle has launched a study of life course events and statuses and their consequences for mobility in the US. These projects reflect her longstanding interests in social, natural, and built environments and their interrelations with demographic and health outcomes.

Over her career, Dr. Entwisle has led the development of and early application of new methodological tools, including statistical methods for estimating multilevel models, the integration of social and spatial data, and the development of spatially explicit agent-based modeling approaches. She has contributed to the design of innovative surveys around the world, including the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the China Health and Nutrition Survey, the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey, and the Nang Rong (Thailand) Surveys of Social and Demographic Change. Between 2005 and 2013, she was PI for the North Carolina components of the National Children's Study (NCS). In addition to her research activities, Dr. Entwisle has led advisory and review panels for the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), NSF, and NIH and engaged in policy discussions of the future of social and behavioral research in those venues as well as in her role as chair of the Board of Directors for the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP) and at-large member of the Consortium for Social Science Associations (COSSA). Dr. Entwisle serves as Series Editor for Sage's Quantitative Applications in Social Science. She currently co-chairs a PhenX Social Determinants of Health Working Group. Her research contributions have been recognized by her election as President of the Sociological Research Association (2015), President of the Population Association of America (2007), and Fellow of the AAAS (2003).

Dr. Entwisle is also an engaged mentor with a track record of successfully preparing predocs and postdocs for research careers. To date, she has supervised 17 PhD students to completion and served as advisor for 7 postdoctoral scholars (including three currently). Her former advisees have gone on to tenure-track appointments at major R1 universities (e.g., Washington-Seattle, Brown, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Arizona). Dr. Entwisle has received an NIH MENTOR award, a UNC Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award, a UNC Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction, and six awards for teaching and mentoring from the graduate students in her home department of sociology.

Entwisle studies social context and demographic and health behavior and outcomes. Her recent research has focused on two sets of projects. The first examines the demographic responses to rapid social change, migration and social networks, and the interrelationships between population and environment in Northeast Thailand. With Rindfuss and Walsh, she has explored population growth (mainly through migration) and land use change in a variety of ways. With Rindfuss and others, she has described and demonstrated the importance of variability in the structure of village-based networks. She has synthesized these and other results to build agent-based models of household dynamics and land use change. These models are innovative in that they incorporate social ties and networks as fully endogenous elements. They provide considerable insight into the interconnectedness of demographic processes.

The other major project Entwisle led in the past several years was two North Carolina Vanguard locations of the National Children's Study (NCS), a large longitudinal study of how social, behavioral, community, and environmental factors affect human health and development. Entwisle's activities included significant contributions to the sampling strategies for this study, protocol development, and leadership in field operations involving evaluating recruitment strategies, multiple surveys, and collection of biological specimens and environmental samples. Her work on the NCS continued a long history of engagement in major data infrastructure projects, including the design and implementation of innovative social surveys around the world, including landmark studies of the CPC such as Add Health, the China Health and Nutrition Survey, the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey, and the Nang Rong Surveys, and which has now evolved into an interest in "social observatories" (e.g., see article she co-authored with Dalton Conley and others in the February 2, 2015 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education). In the next several years, she will pursue this interest in the context of studies of population, health, and environment.

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Last Updated: 2020-06-08