Vanderbilt University’s new center will study causes and consequences of health-related inequalities


Shane Ersland


Nashville’s Vanderbilt University will create a new center that will study the causes and consequences of health-related inequalities.

The Vanderbilt Center for Research on Inequality and Health will represent a collaboration of the university’s College of Arts and Science and the School of Nursing. The center will convene the university’s leading researchers with expertise in economic and social inequality, population health science, LGBTQ+ health policy, and gun violence to explore the health impacts of those interrelated areas of study.

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Economist Christopher “Kitt” Carpenter, E. Bronson Ingram College chair and Vanderbilt economics and health policy professor, will lead the center as its founding director. He discussed researchers’ goals during an introductory presentation for the center.

“Our center has assembled the best and brightest minds from across Vanderbilt to conduct scientific explorations into the causes of, and solutions to, health inequality,” Carpenter said. “Our research focuses on three key areas—LGBTQ+ populations, gun violence, and economic and social inequality. It engages researchers across disciplines in radical collaboration to make progress on these complex issues.”

The center’s goal will be to conduct transformative research and propose data-driven solutions to understand health-related inequality, Carpenter said.

“One of the greatest threats to population health in this country is unknown to the majority of Amercians. It’s not disease, environmental pollution, or drug overdose. It’s inequality. And it can have significant effects on the physical and mental health of millions of Americans every year. 

For example, did you know that one in three LGBTQ+ high schoolers report being bullied? Or that they’re four times more likely to die by suicide than their peers? That’s about one attempt every 45 seconds.”

— Carpenter

The center is part of the Office of the Provost’s Discovery Vanderbilt, an initiative in the university’s Dare to Grow campaign aiming to support and extend the resources underpinning Vanderbilt’s most innovative research and education. Its research will inform potential solutions to health inequity challenges through advocacy, intervention, and public policy.

Carpenter discussed data that shows racial inequalities as well. 

“Black men are 14 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than white men. Social and economic disparities are also linked to poor health. Under-resourced communities and communities of color have less access to healthy foods, and they face more diet-related health issues, including obesity and diabetes. Which further exacerbates economic problems. These are human issues that transcend discussions of politics. And they’re complex problems that don’t have one simple solution.”

— Carpenter

The center will host seminars, workshops, and symposia in the coming months. Students, researchers, and community members can visit the center’s website to learn more about its programming.