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Robert Hummer, PhD, Howard W. Odum Distinguished Professor, Sociology

Robert A. Hummer's research program is focused on the accurate description and more complete understanding of population health patterns and trends in the United States. He is currently Co-Director, with Kathleen Mullan Harris, of the long-running National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a nationally-representative longitudinal study of over 20,000 American adults who are now around 40 years old and have been followed since they were adolescents. Dr. Hummer is particularly interested in understanding how and why the physical, mental, and cognitive health of individuals in the Add Health study differs across racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic subgroups of the population.

Dr. Hummer has published more than 150 journal articles, book chapters, and books in his areas of interest, with attention to health disparities both during infancy/childhood as well as across the adult life course. He has developed conceptual models to better understand disparities in health/mortality and specializes in the creative and effective use of very large data sets to study US health/mortality patterns and trends. His latest book, Population Health in America (with Erin R. Hamilton, published in 2019 by the University of California Press), weaves together demographic data with social theory to provide an in-depth historical and contemporary portrait of US population health and challenges readers to examine current health policy priorities and to ask whether major shifts are needed.

Hummer spent most of his academic career at the University of Texas-Austin before moving to UNC in 2015. His move to UNC was made to become centrally involved in Add Health. He is Director of Wave VI of Add Health, which is funded by the National Institute on Aging and five other co-funding NIH institutes and offices. Collecting Wave VI data will allow Hummer and population health researchers around the nation to more fully understand the multi-level (biological to contextual) and life course factors that contribute to health, health behavior, and health disparities in US midlife adults.

Hummer's other current work also include projects that accurately document and provide a more complete understanding of racial/ethnic, educational, and gender disparities in U.S. health and mortality. He is also working with Debra Umberson and colleagues at the University of Texas-Austin on an NIA-funded project that is examining racial/ethnic disparities in life course exposure to death and its implications for the physical and mental health of US adults. He is also Co-PI of an NIA-funded grant (with Jennifer Karas Montez, Sarah Burgard, and Jennifer Ailshire) that is developing a research network to understand how and why the United States is falling behind most other developed/wealthy nations, and even some developing nations, on major indicators of population health. Finally, in collaboration with Allison Aiello, he has developed a new training program for both predoctoral and postdoctoral researchers, funded by NICHD and housed in the Carolina Population Center, on the integration of the biological and social sciences for the more holistic understanding of life course processes of health and health disparities in the United States.

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