Deborah Carr is Professor of Sociology at Boston University, and the inaugural director of BU’s Center for Innovation in Social Science, launched in September 2021. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997. Dr. Carr has held faculty positions at University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and most recently at Rutgers University, where she was acting director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy & Aging Research. Her research interests include aging and the life course, psychosocial factors influences on health over the life course, and end-of-life issues. Her book Golden Years: Social Inequalities in Later Life (2019, Russell Sage) received the 2020 Kalish Innovative Publication Award from the Gerontological Society of America. The book shows how persistent race, class, and gender inequalities shape experiences of old age in the United States. She is co-editor (with Kenneth Ferraro) of the Handbook of Aging & the Social Sciences, 9th ed. (2021, Elsevier). Her latest book, Aging in America, will be published by University of California Press in 2023.
One strand of her research focuses on how family roles and relationships affect health and well-being, with an emphasis on stressors like divorce, caregiving, functional impairment, and marital strain. This work has appeared in journals including Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, and several edited volumes. She co-authored a trade book on the ways that generational differences in women’s work and family roles shape mother-daughter relationships: Making Up with Mom: Why Mothers and Daughters Disagree about Kids, Careers, and Casseroles (and What to Do about it) (2008, St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne). She explores linkages between stress and health in Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back (2014, Rutgers University Press).
A second strand of her research focuses on bereavement and end-of-life decision-making among older adults. She is interested in how demographic, technological, and social/political changes affect the experiences of the dying and their families. This research has appeared in journals including Annual Review of Sociology, The ANNALS, Journal of Aging & Social Policy, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Forces, Social Science & Medicine, The Gerontologist, and several edited volumes. She is co-editor of Spousal Bereavement in Late Life (2006, Springer Publishing). She has served as principal investigator on several NIA-funded studies of end-of-life issues, including the New Jersey End of Life study and Wisconsin Study of Families and Loss (WISTFL), a follow up to Wisconsin Longitudinal Study.
Her third area of research explores the social, psychological, and interpersonal consequences of health-related stigma, with emphases on disability and obesity. This work has appeared in journals including Annals of Behavioral Medicine, BMC Medicine, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Obesity, Social Psychology Quarterly, and Social Science & Medicine.
Carr is an enthusiastic teacher, and has co-authored two popular introductory sociology textbooks (with A. Giddens, M. Duneier, & R. Applebaum): Introduction to Sociology and Essentials of Sociology. She also is lead author of the methods textbook The Art and Science of Social Research now in it’s second edition(with E. Boyle, B. Cornwell, S. Correll, R. Crosnoe, J. Freese, and & M. Waters), all with W. W. Norton.
Carr is a member of the honorary organization Sociological Research Association and is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. She received the 2022 Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Sociological Association’s section on Aging & Life Course. She has served as deputy editor of Social Psychology Quarterly and Journal of Marriage and Family, and as trends editor of Contexts (an American Sociological Association publication). She was editor-in-chief of Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences for the 2015-2020 term, and will be editor-in-chief of Journal of Health & Social Behavior for the 2023-25 term. . Dr. Carr has held offices in the American Sociological Association including chair of the Aging & Life Course and Medical Sociology sections. She served as Chair of the Board of Overseers of the General Social Survey, and is a co-investigator on the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) and Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS). She is principal investigator of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), and recently completed a four-year term (2015-19) on the National Institutes of Health’s Social Sciences and Population Studies B (SSPB) study section. Her research has been funded by National Institutes of Health, RRF Foundation on Aging, and Borchard Foundation.
Dr. Carr is a strong proponent of public sociology, and enjoys speaking to the general public about issues related to aging, health, stress and families. Recent media appearances include the New York Times, ABC Nightly News, Next Avenue, Business Insider, PBS, and Forbes. Recent essays have been published in The Hill, Psychology Today, and elsewhere.