Jay Pearson


  • Assistant Professor of Public Policy
  • Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research (CHPIR) and Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI)


Jay A. Pearson’s research examines how various forms of structural inequality influence social determination of health. A native of Hertford County in northeastern North Carolina, Pearson’s early experiences in the rural agricultural south shaped his academic interests and inform his research agenda.

Pearson began his public health career as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras where he worked on child survival. He trained and evaluated midwives and village health workers in nutritional counseling, growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy and prevention of acute respiratory infections. Upon returning to the U.S. he worked as a health educator with the East Coast Migrant Health Project, later designing and implementing health and safety training for Spanish speaking factory workers, pesticide safety training with a multi-ethnic farm worker population, and lead poisoning prevention in an impoverished urban community. Pearson served as assistant project director of an NIH-funded research study in which he was responsible for primary data collection in an ethnically diverse Detroit community.


  • Ph.D. in Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, 2006
    • Doctoral Dissertation: The Color of Money: Race-Ethnicity, Socioeconomics, Culture and Discrimination: What Really Matters for Health?
    • Committee: Arline T. Geronimus (Chair), Harold Neighbors, Gilbert Gee, John Bound
  • MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1996
  • BS, Community Health Education, North Carolina Central University, 1991


  • Pearson, JA, Geronimus, AT (2011) Race/ethnicity, Socioeconomic Characteristics, Co-ethnic Social Ties and Health: Evidence from the National Jewish Population Survey American Journal of Public Health. Volume 101 (7)
  • Geronimus AT, Hicken MT, Pearson JA, Seashols SJ, Brown KL and Dawson-Cruz T. (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
  • Kaestner R, Pearson JA, Keene D, Geronimus AT. (2009). Stress, Allostatic Load, and Health of Mexican Immigrants. Social Science Quarterly. Volume 9 (5): 1090-1111
  • Pearson JA (2008). Can’t Buy Me Whiteness: New Lessons from the Titanic on Race, Ethnicity & Health. DuBois  Review: Social Science Research on Race, Volume 5(1): 27-47. 

Faculty Page at Sanford School of Public Policy


email: jay.pearson@duke.edu

Mail: 310 Trent Drive, Durham, NC 27710