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Margaret T. Hicken

Research Associate Professor, Survey Research Center, University of Michigan
Chapter Member: Michigan SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Margaret

Hicken’s research discusses the ways in which structural racism results in racial inequalities in health. Specifically, she examines the intersection of social stress and environmental exposures. Her work supports the idea that non-white racial/ethnic groups are at a greater risk of exposure to environmental toxicants and that social circumstances make them more vulnerable to the toxic effects of these exposures as well. Hicken also studies the excess risk for poor health due to racial residential segregation (and the accompanying unequal neighborhood quality) and broader cultural racism whereby white social values are taken as the norm. In addition to her research, she also works to change the racial balance of researchers, who produce the knowledge on racism, through student and faculty recruitment efforts and organizations that facilitate progress through graduate school for students of color.


Measuring the Social Impact of Mass Imprisonment on America's Black and White Families and Communities

  • Hedwig Lee
  • Tyler McCormick
  • Christopher Wildeman

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Quoted by Sara Harrison in "Police Shootings May Be Causing Black Infants Long-Term Harm," Wired, December 6, 2019.
Research discussed by Molly Norris, in "University Researcher Links Obesity to Individual Effects of Discrimination," The Michigan Daily, April 3, 2018.


"Structural Racism: The Rules and Relations of Inequity" (with Gilbert C. Gee). Ethnicity and Disease 31, no. 21 (2021).

Provides an analogy of a “buckyball” (Buckminster­fullerene) to distinguish the two concepts. Shows structural racism is a system of intercon­nected institutions operating with racialized rules that maintain White supremacy.

"Linking History to Contemporary State-Sanctioned Slow Violence through Cultural and Structural Racism" (with Michael Esposito, Lewis Miles, and Solome Haile). The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 694, no. 1 (2021): 48–58.

Discusses the meaning of cultural racism as it pertains to the hierarchy of groups of people whose lives are valued unequally and its link to structural racism. Offers in order to remedy this environmental racial violence, we propose shifts in the empirical research on environmental inequities that are built upon, either implicitly or explicitly, the interconnected concepts of cultural and structural racism that link historical to contemporary forms of racial violence.

"Matching the Genotype in Resolution: Innovative Ways of Phenotype Capture" (with Deb Gipson). Seminars in Nephrology 35, no. 3 (2015): 279-290.

Introduces the importance of the social environment to population patterns of kidney disease for clinicians and epidemiologists; an important piece because it discusses the importance of social science frameworks on race and neighborhood to epidemiology and medicine. 

"How Cumulative Risks Warrant a Shift in Our Approach to Racial Health Disparities: The Case of Lead, Stress, and Hypertension" (with Richard Gragg and Howard Hu). Health Affairs 30, no. 10 (2011): 1895-1901.

Examines the intersection of social exposures, environmental toxicants, and health inequalities, drawing from multiple scientific disciplines. Recommends a fundamental shift in approaches to health disparities to focus on these sorts of cumulative risks and health effects.

"Fundamental Causes, Social Context, and Modifiable Risk Factors in the Racial/Ethnic Inequalities in Blood Pressure and Hypertension" American Journal of Epidemiology 184, no. 4 (2015): 354-357.

Questions the focus on modifiable risk factors as the remedy for racial inequalities in health. Draws from sociology and social psychology to argue that, without changing the fundamental social environment, the health inequalities will not change as new modifiable risk factors emerge to maintain the link between racial group membership and health inequalities.

"Black-White Disparities in Hypertension: Reconsidering the Role of Chronic Stress" (with Hedwig Lee, Jeff Morenoff, James House, and David Williams). American Journal of Public Health 104, no. 1 (2013): 117-123.

Examines the notion of “vigilance” or the psychological burden of racism on health inequalities. Proposes that, in addition to the measureable risks that stem from structural racism (poor neighborhood quality, mass incarceration, high unemployment), there is a toxicity stemming from the stigma of non-White racial group membership that is driving health inequalities.