Research Assistant Professor, Survey Research Center, and Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research and Research Investigator, Internal Medicine, Medical School
Broadly speaking, I examine the ways in which social forces link racial group membership to the risk of poor health, particularly those conditions related to cardiovascular and renal diseases. In the US, despite tremendous resources devoted to the elimination of health inequalities, evidence suggests that they are growing. I would argue that our inability to eliminate (or even reduce) these inequalities is due to a lack of truly interdisciplinary approaches. Throughout my research program, I ground my approach to the study of race in the social sciences while integrating the biological sciences to ensure that the mechanisms I examine are both socially- and biologically-plausible. Under this broad umbrella of social determinants of health inequalities, I maintain two distinct research themes.
Research Theme 1: Vigilance. Within the first research theme, I draw from traditions in sociology, cultural anthropology, and psychology to study the notion of “racism-related vigilance” or “vigilant coping style” and its relation to the health of Black Americans. Many hypothesize that stress plays an important role in health inequalities. However, the empirical literature is remarkably small with mixed results. I would argue that this is because we have not adequately conceptualized the types of social stress that are salient to Black Americans. Ethnographers and qualitative sociologists have long-documented thoughts and behaviors of their Black study participants in which they mentally prepare to negotiate social spaces in American society. Psychologists argue that this type of anticipatory and ruminative stress – or vigilance – is particularly toxic for health.
Research Theme 2: Social & Physical Environment. In my second research program, I examine the social and physical environment as drivers of racial health inequalities. My earlier work focused on the intersection of social adversity and environmental toxicants, supporting the notion that social adversity increases vulnerability to the health effects of environmental hazards. Over the past two years, I have begun to focus more on residential neighborhoods, particularly on racial segregation, as drivers of the racial health inequalities. Furthermore, I integrate social science information on segregation and neighborhood characteristics with biomedical information on genetics and molecular pathways that may link the social exposures to disease risk. Specifically, I examine gene-environment interactions that may drive racial inequalities in kidney disease, through the differences in gene expression of inflammation pathways, hypothesizing that inequities in neighborhood characteristics enhance genetic risk to result in disease inequalities.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Adar,Sara D.; Hajat,Anjum; Kershaw,Kiarri N.; Do,D. P.; Barr,R. G.; Kaufman,Joel D. and Diez Roux,Ana V. (2016). Air Pollution, Cardiovascular Outcomes, and Social Disadvantage the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Epidemiology, 27(1), 42-50.
- Lee,Hedwig; McCormick,Tyler; Hicken,Margaret T. and Wildeman,Christopher (2015). Racial Inequalities in Connectedness to Imprisoned Individuals in the United States. Du Bois Review-Social Science Research on Race, 12(2), 269-282.
- Hicken,Margaret T. and Gipson,Debbie S. (2015). Matching the Genotype in Resolution: Innovative Ways of Phenotype Capture. Seminars in Nephrology, 35(3), 279-290.
- Hicken,Margaret T. (2015). Invited Commentary: Fundamental Causes, Social Context, and Modifiable Risk Factors in the Racial/Ethnic Inequalities in Blood Pressure and Hypertension. American Journal of Epidemiology, 182(4), 354-357.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Lee,H.; Morenoff,Jeffrey D.; House,James S. and Williams,D. R. (2014). Racial/ethnic Disparities in Hypertension Prevalence: Reconsidering the Role of Chronic Stress. American Journal of Public Health, 104(1), 117-123.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Dvonch,J. T.; Schulz,Amy J.; Mentz,Graciela and Max,Paul (2014). Fine Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Blood Pressure: The Modifying Role of Psychosocial Stress. Environmental Research, 133, 195-203.
- Hunte,H. E.; King,K.; Hicken,Margaret T.; Lee,H. and Lewis,T. T. (2013). Interpersonal Discrimination and Depressive Symptomatology: Examination of several Personality-Related Characteristics as Potential Confounders in a racial/ethnic Heterogeneous Adult Sample. BMC Public Health, 13, 1084-1093.
- Lee,H. and Hicken,Margaret T. (2013). Cumulative Social Risk and racial/ethnic Disparities in Obesity during the Transition to Adulthood. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 24(2), 907-927.
- Lee,H.; Kershaw,K. N.; Hicken,Margaret T.; Abdou,C. M.; Williams,E. S.; Rivera-O'Reilly,N. and Jackson,J. S. (2013). Cardiovascular Disease among Black Americans: Comparisons between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the 50 U.S. States. Public Health Reports (Washington, D.C.: 1974), 128(3), 170-178.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Adar,S. D.; Diez Roux,A. V.; O'Neill,M. S.; Magzamen,S.; Auchincloss,A. H. and Kaufman,J. D. (2013). Do Psychosocial Stress and Social Disadvantage Modify the Association between Air Pollution and Blood Pressure?: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 178(10), 1550-1562.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Gee,G. C.; Connell,C.; Snow,R. C.; Morenoff,Jeffrey D. and Hu,H. (2013). Black-White Blood Pressure Disparities: Depressive Symptoms and Differential Vulnerability to Blood Lead. Environmental Health Perspectives, 121(2), 205-209.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Lee,H.; Ailshire,J.; Burgard,S. A. and Williams,D. R. (2013). Every Shut Eye, Ain’t Sleep: The Role of Racism-Related Vigilance in racial/ethnic Disparities in Sleep Difficulty. Race and Social Problems, 5(2), 100-112.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Lee,H.; Mezuk,B.; Kershaw,K. N.; Rafferty,J. and Jackson,J. S. (2013). Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Association between Obesity and Depression in Women. Journal of Women's Health (2002), 22(5), 445-452.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Gee,G. C.; Morenoff,Jeffrey D.; Connell,C. M.; Snow,R. C. and Hu,H. (2012). A Novel Look at Racial Health Disparities: The Interaction between Social Disadvantage and Environmental Health. American Journal of Public Health, 102(12), 2344-2351.
- Hicken,Margaret T.; Gragg,R. and Hu,H. (2011). How Cumulative Risks Warrant a Shift in our Approach to Racial Health Disparities: The Case of Lead, Stress, and Hypertension. Health Affairs, 30(10), 1895-1901.
- Geronimus,A. T.; Hicken,Margaret T.; Pearson,J. A.; Seashols,S. J.; Brown,K. L. and Cruz,T. D. (2010). Do US Black Women Experience Stress-Related Accelerated Biological Aging?: A Novel Theory and First Population-Based Test of Black-White Differences in Telomere Length. Human Nature, 21(1), 19-38.
- Geronimus,A. T.; Bound,J.; Keene,D. and Hicken,Margaret T. (2007). Black-White Differences in Age Trajectories of Hypertension Prevalence among Adult Women and Men, 1999-2002. Ethnicity & Disease, 17(1), 40-48.