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Kathleen Cagney

Pronouns: She/Her

Senior Fellow
Kate’s work examines social inequality and health, focusing on neighborhood, race, aging, and the life course.

Kate is a senior fellow at NORC and the director of the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan. Her general aim is to bring insights from urban sociological theory and methods to research on health. In her neighborhood-based research, she has worked with both structural and social process indicators of neighborhood context, including survey-based assessments, metrics of the built environment derived from systematic social observations, measures constructed from the Census, and sensors that assess air quality and street activity. Her experience working with secondary sources of neighborhood assessments was essential to more recent work in which she has collected primary assessments of context, validating measures of social cohesion and disorder, and constructing measures of the built environment, including commercial conditions.

She is currently fielding a study (NIA R01 AG050605) that examines the social and spatial environments that older adults inhabit (their “activity space”), using smartphones to both geolocate respondents and implement brief Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) surveys. In related work, she is a co-investigator on the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) where she has identified data linkage opportunities to round out NSHAP’s ability to speak to the social and physical context of respondents and the impact of historical events (e.g., foreclosure crisis) on well-being. In addition, she is collaborating on the development of the Great Smoky Mountains Study of Rural Aging (GSMS-RA) – the study of early determinants of the aging experience in rural context. One component will gather data on everyday life via GPS monitoring and an EMA design coupled with actigraphy and rural context profiles.



Johns Hopkins University


University of Chicago


Western Michigan University

Appointments & Affiliations

Director of the Institute for Social Research and Professor of Sociology

University of Michigan

Honors & Awards

President | 2019

Association of Population Centers

Visiting Fellow | 2016

University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center

Project Contributions

National Social Life, Health & Aging Project

A pioneering nationally representative study of the intersection between social and intimate relationships and healthy aging


National Institute on Aging