Stephen A Matthews


Matthews is Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Demography (courtesy Geography) and the Director of the Demography Program (a graduate dual degree program – see Matthews is trained in quantitative geography (Bristol, UK) and planning (University of Cardiff, Wales) and prior to his arrival at Penn State in 1994, was an assistant professor of Geography at UCLA.

The central tenets of his teaching and research scholarship are population health and health inequality in community contexts. More specifically, he is interested in the distribution of resources, risks, and opportunities (health services, food, anchor institutions, social networks) and how accessibility and utilization of these resources, risks, and opportunities impact health and wellbeing (e.g., health status, diet and obesity-related outcomes, welfare status). A focus on race/ethnicity and income inequalities cross-cut all of his major research projects. An important part of his work is an interest in conceptual and methodological issues associated with how neighborhoods are defined and their attributes are measured, and the relevance of these definitions and measures to individual behavior and health outcomes. Matthews has a long standing interest in spatial inequality, spatial demography and the use of GIS in applied and basic research.

Matthews has published in several fields—geography, epidemiology, public health, demography and sociology—most recently on topics including residential segregation, crime, alcohol outlets, physical activity, religious landscapes, cancer screening, and health care distrust as well as on spatial analysis, the use of geospatial data on studies of social, built, and physical environments, and conceptual issues regarding both the definition and measurement of neighborhoods and neighborhood exposure.

His teaching interests are in Health, Disease & Society/Medical Sociology, Spatial Inequality Urban Sociology, Spatial Demography and GIS/Spatial Analysis. Over the next few years his goals are to publish as widely as possible in sociology, health and social science journals, and remain grant active seeking new sources of funding for his own research. Click here for a full CV with current grants.


Matthews is co-editor of Demography (2016-2019) and has served as an associate editor of Demographic Research and on the editorial boards of five other journals: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Demography, Health and Place, GeoJournal, and Spatial Demography.


He recently served as guest editor for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May 2012) on GIS and Childhood Obesity, as guest editor of a special collection on ‘Spatial Demography’ for Demographic Research and as a co-editor of a special issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on 'Residential Inequality.'

He has served as a regular reviewer for federal agencies including on the Social Sciences and Population Studies (SSPS-A) study section for NIH and is involved in the Scientific Panel on Spatial Demography (2014-2017) of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). He will coordinate sessions on spatial demography at the IUSSP meetings in Cape Town, South Africa (October, 2017).


Research Interests

  • geographic information systems
  • demography
  • health and well-being
  • multi-method research


  • Ph.D., University of Wales, College of Cardiff


Recent publications (2010 onwards) have appeared in social science and health journals such as: Addictive Behaviors, American Behavioral Scientist, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Cancer Causes and Control, Demography, Demographic Research, Environment and Planning A, Geographical Analysis, GeoJournal, Globalization and Health, Health Affairs, Health and Place, Health Services Research, International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Aging and Health, Journal of Oncology Practice, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Journal of Rural Health, Journal of Urban Health, Malaria Journal, Medical Care Research and Review, Public Health, Sociology Compass, Spatial Demography and Social Science and Medicine. He also contributed an entry on the “Uncertain Geographic Context Problem” to the Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography (forthcoming) and entries on “Spatial Analysis” for Oxford Bibliographies Online.

Two books were published in 2011

Burton LM, Kemp S, Leung M, Matthews SA and Takeuchi D (editors) (2011) Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place (Springer: ISBN: 978-1-441-97481-5).  

Zelinsky W, Matthews SA. (2011) The Place of Religion in Chicago (Center for American Places/University of Chicago Press; Chicago, Illinois). ISBN: 978-1-935-19515-3.

A co-edited book with Frank Howell and Jeremy Porter on “Recapturing Space: Middle-range Theory in Spatial Demography” was published in early 2016 (Springer).