Kathleen Harris

Kathleen Mullan Harris is the James Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, and Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Harris is the Principal Investigator and Director of Add Health (The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health), a national longitudinal study of 20,000+ adolescents followed into adulthood with comprehensive and in-depth data on the social environment, behavioral trajectories, biological processes, and health. She developed the integrative design in Add Health that links social, behavioral, and biological sciences in the conceptual model, data collection, and analysis for studying developmental and health trajectories across the early life course.  She leads the research team of scholars from sociology, epidemiology, nutrition, economics, cardiology, genetics, and survey methodology in analysis of the multidisciplinary, multilevel Add Health data.

Harris’s research focuses on social inequality and health with particular interests in health disparities, biodemography, social science genomics, and life course processes. Much of her research examines health among young people who are often ignored in most health research because they are presumed to be healthy. Yet it is in these early life stages that socioeconomic disadvantage, health shocks, and environmental exposures that lead to future disease can be identified to inform policy and improve population health. Her recent scientific contributions have identified physical health detriments associated with social mobility among American minorities during the transition to adulthood, and a silent epidemic of hypertension among young adults. Other work has traced the important causal role of social relationships in protecting physical health across the life course from early adolescence through old age.

Dr. Harris was awarded the Golden Goose Award from the US Congress for federally funded research that leads to major breakthroughs in medicine, social behavior, and technological research and the Irene Taeuber Award from the Population Association of America in recognition of original and important contributions to the scientific study of population. She is Chair of the Committee on Population at the National Academies of Sciences, Chair of the Social Science and Population Study Section, and a former member of the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations of the U.S. Census Bureau. Dr. Harris is past president of the Population Association of America and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in demography from the University of Pennsylvania.