by Sam Kealhofer, Intern on the A&S Research Support Team
A new faculty member in Mississippi State’s Department of Sociology now is researching the influence of political policy on racial and LGBTQ+ health disparities. Gabe Miller, an assistant professor of sociology, also holds a faculty position in the African American Studies program.
Miller’s work focuses on race, class and health disparities, as well as economic, medical, organizational and political sociology. According to Miller, considering all the social determinants that affect health, political policy has the greatest influence on the differences in health outcomes for varying populations. This form of emerging research is called “political epidemiology.”
COVID-19 has amplified the importance of Miller’s work as the country has seen a strain on the healthcare system amid the pandemic. As the call for healthcare reform grows, Miller has been presenting public lectures explaining the many ways politics and policy can affect health outcomes, and he is currently working on manuscripts exploring political and policy determinants of state-level differences in COVID-19 incidence and mortality as well as racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes.
His work emphasizes higher rates of pre-existing conditions, comorbidities, as well as illnesses like diabetes and HIV/AIDS in Black populations as primary examples demonstrating how politics can shape health outcomes for entire communities.
He recently published an article, “Future Trends in Marriage and Family,” in The International Handbook on the Demography of Marriage and Family, which explores the changing trends in marriage and family organization in America since the 1950s.
Among other findings, the article demonstrates that the number of people choosing to marry is decreasing and the age at which people are getting married is increasing. Married couples are also having fewer children and the percent of couples choosing to have no children rose from 48% in 1950 to 59% in 2010.
Miller suggests that these changing trends should encourage people to embrace new conceptions of families such as unmarried couples, families without children, single parents with children, co-parenting families, blended families, LGBT families and multiracial families.
Miller also coauthored a recent publication in Sociology of Race and Ethnicity entitled “Discrimination and Black Social Media Use: Sites of Oppression and Expression,” which focuses on the association between social media use and self-reported experiences of discrimination. The study demonstrates the double-edged nature of social media: While it can be a place of expression and provide a variety of coping mechanisms such as racial and ethnic identity development, social support as well as confrontation and anger expression, it can also increase exposure to racism and other forms of discrimination.
Miller has other manuscripts under review on topics such as how to create inclusive measures on the systemic level and heteronormative bias in the work place.
Miller joins MSU’s African American Studies program at a critical time and fills an important gap in research. His work finds resonance in one of the poorest states in the country as well one of the lowest life expectancies.
Miller’s research delves directly into race and LGBTQ+ health inequality, bringing understanding to the root causes of inequality which could lead to the development of research-based solutions to end social injustices such as racism and sexual discrimination.
In an effort to contribute solutions to the various challenges facing the nation, as well as insight into other points of interest, the College of Arts and Sciences will continue to highlight
faculty research in our “Research in the Headlines” series each Monday and Wednesday. For more research in the headlines, visit https://www.cas.msstate.edu/research/researchintheheadlines/; and for information about the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology or the African American Studies program visit https://www.cas.msstate.edu/, https://www.sociology.msstate.edu/ or https://www.aas.msstate.edu/.
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