Alicia R. Riley

About Me

I'm a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Chicago. I specialize in the sociology of health inequalities, social demography, and Critical Race Theory. I study the fundamental causes of health inequality as "systems of exposure" that vary across local contexts in how they shape population distributions of health and mortality. I am especially interested in the ways that the health effects of structural racism and socioeconomic inequality can be exacerbated or disrupted through policy.

Dissertation: The Social Production of Health Inequality Across State and Regional Contexts

My dissertation tests the potential for specific state policies to moderate the educational gradient in mortality. I draw on nationally representative data from two longitudinal surveys (PSID and NSHAP) and combine it with data on state and local policy environments to answer questions about the modifiability of social gradients in health. I consider the specific cases of state cigarette taxes and state unemployment insurance, as well as a more holistic state policy index. I use these empirical cases to propose a system of typologies for understanding how and why different state policies moderate the SES gradient in mortality.

Recent Projects

Check out my latest publication: Neighborhood Disadvantage, Residential Segregation and Beyond - Lessons for Studying Structural Racism and Health

As a Predoctoral Trainee at the Center on Demography and Economics of Aging, and in collaboration with Louise Hawkley and Kathleen Cagney, I used data from the National Social Life Health and Aging Project to measure the impact of living in a disadvantaged neighborhood on residential relocation in later life and how this varies by race. Here is a link to our paper.

In collaboration with Forrest Stuart, Grant Buhr and partners at the YMCA Youth Safety and Violence Prevention Program, I studied how adolescents navigate neighborhood violence in the digital age and if/how activity on social media turns into real-life violence. This project was made possible through funding from the University of Chicago Urban Health Initiative.

Broader Interests

I have a background in social epidemiology and community health, and much of my past work focused on health issues facing Latino communities in the U.S. and Mexico.

Growing up in a community along the U.S. Mexico border- a region marked by stark inequality and contradiction - alerted me to the ways that health can make visible the social divisions and inequities most deeply naturalized in our society. This view of population health research as a tool in the struggle for equity and inclusion continues to motivate my work.

I am also interested in computational methods for analysis of new data sources, as well as the ethical considerations of novel computational approaches to social science.

Here is my CV.

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