Professor Shirley A. Hill

Professor Emerita
Primary office:


Professor Hill (PhD Kansas) teaches courses on the family, medical sociology, social inequality, and qualitative methods. Examining the implications of social inequalities for health and families has been the focus of her research in these areas. She has published research that examines family caregiving, gender and health care, access to health care, and health care policies in journals including the Journal of Poverty, Gender & Society, and the International Journal of Health Services. Her book, Managing Sickle Cell Disease in Low-Income Families (1994) also covers many of these of health care topics. More recently, she authored Inequality and African-American Health: How Racial Disparities Create Sickness (2016), which provides a comprehensive analysis of race in health and medicine. Professor Hill has also published articles and books that examine how racial inequality affects African American family life. She is the author of Black Intimacies: A Gender Perspective on Families and Relationships (2005) and African American Children: Socialization and Development in Families (1999). In Families: A Social Class Perspective (2011) she uses major theories of social inequality to explain how aspects of family life--e.g., marital relationships, fertility rates, childrearing practices--are shaped by socioeconomic position. She is also the co-author (with John Rury) of a book entitled the African American Struggle for Secondary School 1940-1980 (2011). Based on oral histories and archival research, this book explores the pre-Brown and post-Brown experiences of African Americans in their pursuit of an equal education. Areas: Medical Sociology, Social Inequalities, Family, and Qualitative Methods.


.........Families are key social institutions in reproducing, sustaining, and socializing humans for success in the social world; however, their ability to effectively perform these activities is largely shaped by their own internal structures of inequality and the inequalities they face in the broader society. In recent decades the growing demand for gender equality, the rise of the global economy, and the declining wage-earning abilities of men have undermined marriage, the stability of families and, in many cases, the welfare of children.
........Social class inequality has grown dramatically in the United States in the past few decades, sparking revolutionary families and in their ability to care for their members. My research focuses on how families are affected and cope with these inequalities. For example, as a medical sociologist, I am interested in how health policies affect poor families and their ability to manage the care of their chronically-ill members.
........I am also interested in how changes in families are affecting the educational attainment of children. In Black Intimacies I take a broader approach to studying African American families, looking at how they are shaped by the intersection of racial, class, and gender inequalities. I am especially interested in the implications of growing social class diversity among African Americans, but also the necessity of understanding how gender tensions, racial injustice, and poverty continue to adversely the quality of their family life. Indeed, these forces are restructuring families in all nations, and I am currently conducting research for a book that examines families in global perspective.


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