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Dr. Sarah Burgard: Revealing How Systems of Stratification and Inequality Impact Health


  • Dr. Sarah Burgard (MS ’03, PhD ’03) is an associate professor of epidemiology and associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan. She is also a research associate professor at the Population Studies Center in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
  • Dr. Burgard's work focuses on the way systems of stratification and inequality impact the health of people and populations, with the long-term goal of understanding how policy and intervention could reduce social disparities in health. Her current research focuses on the various conditions that characterize "bad jobs" and how these influence health.
  • Other ongoing projects include work on racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic differences in infant and child health in South Africa, Brazil, and China, and on the social stratification of sleep in the United States.
  • One of her recent studies published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that the sum of total adverse working conditions explains a substantial portion of the risk of depression in working-age adults.



  • Using new measuring and modeling strategies, Dr. Burgard and her colleagues at the Institute of Social Research found a strong correlation between one’s overall working condition score and his or her depressive symptoms, even after controlling for things like age, race, educational achievement, occupational status, number of work hours, family income, chronic health conditions, and neuroticism. It adds to the growing body of evidence that employment is an important source of divergence in mental health across midlife.
  • Dr. Burgard also helped lead survey projects at the University of Michigan, including the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study (MRRS) as well as the Americans’ Changing Lives Study. Using the data gathered from these projects, more evidence about insecurity (in employment, working conditions, finances, asset, debt, and housing) and its association with health are becoming available. Reports about these factors and their links with physical and mental health as well as health behaviors have been and are continuing to be published.

“Understanding how instability in all of these forms is unequally distributed, and whether and how it is linked to health, is important for a better assessment of health disparities and their remediation,” says Dr. Burgard.