Current work at the University of Chicago builds on a long tradition of interest in the sociology of health and medicine here. Indeed, faculty in the Sociology Department at the University of Chicago were among the founders of the field of Medical Sociology. Thus, Howard Becker, Blanche Geer, Everett C. Hughes, and Anselm Strauss built on the University's traditional interest in the sociology of work and the professions, publishing a classic study of medical student socialization and culture, Boys in White, in 1961. These scholars were joined in their pioneering work by such prominent alumni as Andrew Abbott (The System of Professions), Charles Bosk (Forgive and Remember: Managing Medical Failure), Fred Davis (Passage Through Crisis: Polio Victims and Their Families), Eliot Freidson (Profession of Medicine), and Erving Goffman (Asylums). This work developed in parallel with the University of Chicago's long-standing expertise in the demography of marriage, mortality, and fertility as well as related, pioneering data collection efforts.

In 2004, an interdivisional committee recommended the creation of a University-wide Center for Health and the Social Sciences(CHeSS), which will involve the Health Studies Department, the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, and other faculty in the clinical departments in the Biological Sciences Division as well as faculty in the School of Public Policy, the School of Social Service Administration, and the Social Sciences Division (Sociology, Economics, History, and Anthropology). This center opened its doors in the fall of 2005. The Department is actively pursuing faculty in the sociology of health and society.

Present departmental faculty are already involved in several types of research related to health and society, including work by Andrew Abbott on the professions and health, by Edward Laumann on national health policy formulation and human sexuality, by Linda Waite on social relationship, biology, and aging, by Ross Stolzenberg on the relation between employment and health, and by Kathleen Cagney on neighborhood effects and race and ethnic differences in health.


Andrew Abbott

Edward Laumann

Linda Waite

Ross Stolzenberg

Kathleen Cagney

Faculty Contact:

Edward Laumann

For students interested in the study of the sociology of health and medicine, and in the medical social sciences more generally, there are substantial resources at the University of Chicago, as follows:

For those interested in field work, close, bilateral relationships exist between the Department and the Medical School and Hospital as well as with a variety of health care institutions throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, thus facilitating, for example, field placements of those interested in studying anything from home care to intensive care, from neighborhood health clinics to tertiary care hospitals, and from freestanding midwifery centers to hospice programs.

The Department of Health Studies (which emphasizes epidemiology and health services research), the Department of Economics, the Department of Anthropology, the Harris School of Public Policy, the School of Social Services Administration, and the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethicsalso support interested faculty and scholarship of relevance to sociology students interested in the sociology of health and medicine. These departments are closely interwoven through personal collaboration and a long tradition of joint workshops.

The Population Research Center (directed by Professor Robert Michael) and the Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging (directed by Professor Linda Waite and Professor Kate Cagney) also have ongoing foci of interest in the determinants of morbidity and mortality, as well as in the impact of health policy. Of particular relevance to students and other investigators, these two centers support an extraordinarily deep data library (with extremely large holding of public use data and talented support staff) and ample and secure computing environments.

Affiliated with the University is also the National Opinion Research Center that conducts many of the key studies in health-related fields, including the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the Second Longitudinal Study of Aging (LSOA 11), the National Immunization Survey, the National Health, Social Life, and Aging Project and numerous other surveys of substance abuse, health care quality, disability, and the like.

The University of Chicago's rich tradition of urban sociology of Chicago, with the city's enormous variety of ethnic and racial groups, allow the convenient exploration of many cultural traditions and institutional arrangements.

Finally, students interested in the study of the medical social sciences at the University of Chicago can partake in the University's distinctive workshop system, where local and international scholars present their work on a weekly basis in an intentionally interdisciplinary environment. Some relevant workshops (from among the dozens held on campus) include the Demography Workshop, the Health Economics / Center for Health Administration Studies Workshop, and the Economics of Health Promotion Workshop.