Alicia R. Riley

About Me

I'm an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Core Faculty in Global and Community Health at University of California, Santa Cruz (here is my profile). As a sociologist, I study how the health effects of structural inequality can be modified through policy. I have methodological expertise in complex survey analysis and substantive knowledge in older adult health, life course theory, racialization, Critical Race Theory, and health inequality theory. In addition to my research and teaching on health inequality, I have a longstanding interest in border health and migration.

I completed my postdoctoral training at UCSF, my PhD and MA in Sociology at University of Chicago, my MPH in Epidemiology/Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and my MA in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.

Current Research

In my research, I use health as an entry point for studying social inequality. Currently, my research is organized around four lines of inquiry: 1) structural disparities in COVID-19 mortality and related consequences; 2) structural racism and the health consequences of racialization, 3) state policy and health inequality in the U.S., and 4) migration and health over the life course.

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

In my dissertation, I examined why low education is worse for health in some states than others by considering the specific case of cigarette taxes. I also study the effects of regional context on health over the life course. My research indicates that to improve social disparities in health and mortality, we must understand the influence of state policies, institutions and macro-social forces. By exposing the extent to which social disparities in health do indeed vary over place in response to policy, I aim to provide evidence that health inequality is not an intractable problem, but rather something that we produce and maintain through local policy and social structures.

Recent Projects

Check out my recent publication on how to study structural racism as a system of exposure: Advancing the study of health inequality: Fundamental causes as systems of exposure

Check out other writing on how to better study structural racism and health: 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 helped to launch the new Border Health Humanitarian Initiative a multi-sectoral, multi-national coalition to convened to address the humanitarian health needs of migrants in transit and residing in the border regions from Central America to the US. Learn more here.

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 are some examples of my past work.

Here is my Google Scholar page (or email me for an up-to-date version of my CV).

Connect with me!

twitter: @aliciacita