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Joan Kahn Ph.D.

Joan Kahn, Ph.D.


3137 Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology
College Park , Maryland 20742
Office Phone: 301-405-6412


  1. Ph.D. - University of Michigan - Sociology, 1985
  2. M.A. - University of Michigan - Sociology, 1982
  3. B.A. - Stanford University - History, 1978


Recent Accomplishments

Kahn’s main areas of interest are in the fields of social and family demography, aging and the life course, and health. Much of her earlier work examined different aspects of fertility behavior in the United States. She has studied trends in teenage childbearing and its proximate determinants such as sexual behavior and contraceptive use. She has also studied the fertility of immigrant women, focusing on patterns of adaptation over time. Her interest in immigrants and ethnic minorities extends to work on the interplay between women’s employment and fertility as well as economic assimilation more generally. In recent years, Kahn has developed an interest in the demography of aging and the life course, with a focus on the health and well-being of older Americans. She has been working with Leonard Pearlin on an NIA-funded study of Aging, Stress and Health among older Americans. This study collects primary data from nearly 1,200 people aged 65 and older for three waves in and around the Washington DC area. Guided by the stress process conceptual framework within the life course perspective, the study considers both the potentially debilitating impact of stressors as well as the potentially protective effect of personal resources, with the goal of better understanding the persistence of health inequalities by race and social class. Kahn's interest in the project focuses on the cumulative impact of disadvantage over the life course, both in terms of financial and employment strains as well as family disruptions and dislocations. Her work on racial disparities in health appeared in the Journals of Gerontology (2005), and her work on financial strain over the life course appeared in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (2006).

Funded Research

Kahn is a co-investigator on the Aging, Stress and Health study (Leonard Pearlin, PI) funded by NIA. This project has been funded by NIA in two parts; the first covered the years 2001 to 2005 and involved three waves of interviews. The second part, currently funded by a competing continuation grant covering the years 2005-2008, provides for an additional two waves of interviews. These extensions enable a better opportunity to examine changes in health that might vary with changes in life conditions.

Future Plans

Over the next few years, Kahn’s research will continue to revolve around issues of aging and health using the Aging, Stress and Health data. Using the data from the 2005-2008 follow-up, she will address several topics related to stress and its affect on aging and health. She will focus on the impact of employment and occupational characteristics on health and functioning at older ages. She will also model determinants of mortality and sample attrition using the longitudinal follow-up data from the study. The study collects unique data on neighborhood disorder, perceived discrimination, emotions, self-concept, social relationships, as well as life course histories of family, health, work, and economic conditions. This will allow Kahn to investigate several affects on health and aging of several stressors that are rarely measured in survey data.