Arline T. Geronimus, Sc.D.

Associate Director of the Population Studies Center
Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education
University of Michigan School of Public Health
Email: arline@umich.edu Discipline: Behavioral Science Expertise: Health Care Inequalities

Investigator Award
Weathering Among African Americans in Persistent Poverty: Implications for Health Policy
Award Year: 1997 Rates of early health deterioration and excess mortality among African Americans in poverty can be staggering and are primarily attributable to chronic disease. Dr. Geronimus coined the term weathering to suggest that cumulative experience with social inequality and stressful environments contributes to this rapid health decline. She further hypothesizes that relatively early fertility timing in poor, African American communities may be directly related to pervasive health uncertainty and accelerated lifecourse timetables. This project explores the connection between racial inequalities in health and high rates of teen childbearing in poor, African American communities and opens debate on policy implications. The study challenges the prevailing policy perspective that changing health or fertility behavior especially among teenagers alone will result in social improvements. Dr. Geronimus seeks to use the analytic framework of weathering to bridge disciplinary divides and inform the policy debate about how best to construe and address problems of poverty.

Background

Arline T. Geronimus is anassociate director and research professor in the Population Studies Center in the Institute for Social Research. She is also a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. Dr. Geronimus received her undergraduate degree in political theory from Princeton University, her doctorate in behavior sciences from the Harvard School of Public Health, and did post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Geronimus developed an analytic framework, "weathering" that posits that the health of African Americans is subject to early health deterioration as a consequence of social exclusion; much of her scholarly work is related to developing and testing this framework. Her general research interests include structural and cultural influences on population variation in family structure and age-at-first birth; the effects of poverty, institutionalized discrimination, and aspects of residential areas on health; the collective strategies marginalized communities employ to mitigate, resist, or undo the harmful effects of poverty and structural racism on their health; and the perturbations public policies sometimes cause in these autonomous protections. Dr. Geronimus chairs the HBHE Doctoral Committee and directs doctoral training in Public Health Demography at the Population Studies Center. She has worked with the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Aspen Institute's Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives to revitalize American cities.

Honor Description
Member, Institute of Medicine, 2013