David R. Williams Ph.D.

Professor of African and African American Studies
Norman Professor of Public Health
Harvard School of Public Health
Email: dwilliam@hsph.harvard.edu Discipline: Sociology Expertise: Health Care Inequalities, Mental Health

Investigator Award
Inequality and Health: Patterns and Dynamics
Award Year: 1994 Dr. Williams addresses several major unresolved issues with regard to the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and health. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, he examines the mechanisms and processes by which aspects of SES affect health status and prospectively predict mortality. Specifically, the study: 1) analyzes the extent to which SES differentials in mortality have been widening in recent decades; 2) provides understanding of the relative contribution of multiple indicators of SES to mortality; 3) identifies the health consequences of stability versus change in the history and patterning of SES over time; and 4) examines how the association between SES and mortality varies by race and gender. This information contributes significantly to understanding the health consequences of changes in the economic status of American families in recent years; the role of income relative to other SES indicators, such as occupation, education, and measures of poverty; and the most appropriate strategies for reducing inequalities in health status.


David R. Williams is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health,and professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Previously, he was the Harold W. Cruse Collegiate Professor of Sociology, senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research, professor of epidemiology, and faculty associate in the Program for Research on Black Americans and the Center for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Prior to that, he was an associate professor of sociology, Yale University, and associate professor of public health, Yale School of Medicine. His research has focused on social influences on health and he is centrally interested in the trends and determinants of socioeconomic and racial differences in mental and physical health. He is the author of more than 100 scholarly papers in scientific journals and edited collections and his research has appeared in leading journals in sociology, psychology, medicine, public health and epidemiology. He has served on the editorial board of 6 scientific journals and as a reviewer for more than 40 others. In 1995, he received an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in 2001, he was elected as a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He has served on the Department of Health and Human Services' National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (and chair of its subcommittee on Minority and Other Special Populations), and the National Science Foundation's Board of Overseers for the General Social Survey. He has also held elected and appointed positions in professional organizations, such as the American Sociological Association and the American Public Health Association. Currently, he is on the board of directors of AcademyHealth and a member of the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care and also serves on its Panel on Race, Ethnicity and Health in Later Life.