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Stephen A. Matthews

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Stephen A. Matthews

Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Demography

Courtesy appointment in Geography

Director, Graduate Program in Demography (Dual-Degree)

507 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16802
Tel: 814-863-9721

Office Hours: General/Class - Wednesday (1.00pm-2.30pm)
Office Hours: Demography Training Program - Friday (1.00pm-2.30pm)

Office Phone: (814) 863-9721

Office Hours:

Curriculum Vitae

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  1. Ph.D., University of Wales, Cardiff (United Kingdom), 1991.

Research and Teaching Interests

My research interests focus on the connections between people and places. I have a long standing interest in spatial demography and the use of GIS and spatial analysis to study population health and health inequality in community contexts. More specifically, I am interested in the distribution of resources, risks, and opportunities and how accessibility and utilization of these resources, risks, and opportunities impact individual health and wellbeing. As a transdiciplinary scholar I have published in several fields — demography, sociology epidemiology, public health, geography — on topics including adolescent risk taking behaviors, physical activity, diet and obesity, residential segregation, neighborhood change, access to health care, health care distrust, cancer screening, infant mortality, mortality, alcohol outlets, crime, and religious landscapes. A focus on race/ethnicity and income inequalities cross-cut all of my major research projects. While most of my work is US focused I am involved in international projects, the most recent of which is a Pan-University Network for Global Health supported conference on "migration, urbanization and health in southern Africa" at the University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa (see

An important part of my 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. In regards to the latter I have developed and used methods to track individual movements across space (i.e., contexts) to try to get a better handle on actual contextual exposures during the course of daily activities (rather than solely relying on residential tracts and other convenient units of analysis). To that end I have also used new methodological approach based on the integration of GIS and ethnography (geoethnography) and in my work with physical activity researchers utilize global positioning system (GPS) units and activity logs.

Over the next few years my goals are to focus my research, publish as widely as possible in sociology, health and social science journals, and remain grant active, seeking new sources of funding for my own research.

Teaching interests are in Health, Disease & Society/Medical Sociology, Urban Sociology, Spatial Demography and GIS/Spatial Analysis. I am currently helping to develop materials for a program in Applied Demography.

Active Research Grants (as PI or Co-I)

Daniel Kifer (PI), Stephen A. Matthews, and Tse-Chuan Yang "A Utility for Private Data Sharing in Social Science.” An NS Trustworthy Computing (TWC) in the Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBES) Medium application. Awarded September 2012.

Barrett A. Lee (PI), Stephen A. Matthews, Chad Farrell, Matthew Hall, and Laura Tach. "Racial and ethnic diversity in American communities, 1980-2010." R01 NICHD. Awarded July 2013.

Shannon Zenk (PI, University of Illinois, Chicago) et al. "Environmental attributes and weight control: Study of over 1.3 million veterans." (subcontract to UIC) R01 National Institutes of Health. Awarded September 2013.(WAVES Study)

Michael Kramer (Emory University). "Spatiotemporal neighborhood dynamics and early childhood cognitive development." K01 Award NICHD (role: mentor)

Shannon Zenk/Stephen Matthews (MPI). "Activity space and measuring environmental exposure in behavioral research." R21 NCI (Awarded April, 2015).. (AScMee Study).

As of summer 2015 several internal pilot grants (as PI, co-Pi) are underway supported by the Pan-University Network on Global Health, Penn State's Sustainability Institute Reinvention Fund, the Social Science Research Institute, the Population Research Institute, and Penn State's Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

As consultant

Denis Gerstorf (PI, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany) et al. "Environmental factors that regulate terminal decline: Late-life as a natural experiment. German Research Foundation (role: consultant). Awarded October 2013. (role: consultant)

Jacqueline Kerr (PI, UC San Diego) et al. PQA4 GPS exposure to environments and relations with biomarkers of cancer risk. R01 NIH. Awarded August 2103. (role: consultant)

Applications Under review (as PI or Co-I)

As of Fall 2015 external applications are under review and in development.

Professional Awards and Achievements

I am chair of the Scientific Panel on Spatial Demography (2014-2017) created by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP).

I serve as an associate editor for Demographic Research (2012-present)

- online at

And on the editorial boards of four other journals:

American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2005-present) - online at

Demography (2010 - present) - online at

GeoJournal (2011 - present) - online at

Spatial Demography (2012 - present) - online at and now with Springer at

In 2012 I served a guest editor of a theme issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on the topic of “GIS and Childhood Obesity” (with Celeste Torio)

In 2103 I served as guest editor of a special collection on “Spatial Demography” for Demographic Research.

One of four editors (with Barrett Lee, Glenn Firebaugh and John Iceland) for an issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science vol. 660 on "Residential Inequality in American Neighborhoods and Communities." July 2015 (see below).

Publications since 2005

ORCID identifier #: 0000-0002-1645-4854

Scopus ID: 7201477376


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

Howell, FM, Porter JR, and Matthews SA (editors) (2016) Recapturing Space: New Middle-Range Theory in Spatial Demography. Springer.

Journal Articles


Matthews, SA, (2016) Uncertain Geographic Context Problem. In the International Encyclopedia of Geography. Douglas Richardson (Editor). Malden, Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Short PF, Moran JR, Yang TC, Camacho F, Gusani NJ, Mackley HB, Matthews SA, Anderson RT. Effects of hospital type and distance on lymph node assessment for colon cancer patients in metropolitan and non-metropolitan Appalachian counties. Medical Care Research and Review.

Fleming S, Mackley HB, Camacho F, Yao N, Seiber E, Matthews SA, Yang TC, Hwang W. Patterns of care for metastatic colorectal cancer, and the clinical, sociodemographic and service provider determinants in four Appalachian states. Journal of Rural Health.

Bopp M, Sims D, Colgan J, Rovniak L, Matthews SA, Poole E. An examination of workplace influences on active commuting in a sample of university employees. Journal of Public Health Management Practice.


Yang TC, Matthews SA (2015) Death by segregation: Does the dimension of segregation matter? PLOS ONE 10(9): e0138489

Parker DM, Matthews SA, Yan G, Zhou G, Lee M-C, Sirichaisinthop J, Kiattibutr K, Sattabongkot J, Cui L. (2015) Microgeography and molecular epidemiology of malaria at the Thailand-Myanmar border in the malaria pre-elimination phase. Malaria Journal 14(1):198. Abstract available online at:

Matthews SA, Logan ES, Bacon R. (2015) Spatial analysis. Oxford Bibliographies Online – Sociology. Ed. J. Baxter, New York: Oxford University Press.

Lee BA, Matthews SA, Firebaugh G, and Iceland J. (2015) Residential inequality: Overview and orientation. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 660:8-16 (July 2015).

Firebaugh G, Iceland J. Matthews SA, and Lee BA (2015) Residential inequality: Significant findings and policy implications. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 660:360-366 (July 2015).

Kimmick GG, Camacho F, Mackley HB, Kern T, Yao N, Matthews SA, Fleming S, Lipscomb J, Liao J, Hwang W, and Anderson RT (2015) Individual, area, and provider characteristics associated with care received for Stage I-III breast cancer in a multisite region of Appalachia. Journal of Oncology Practice 11(1):e9-e18.

Graif C, Gladfelter AS, Matthews SA (2014) Urban poverty and neighborhood effects on crime: Incorporating spatial and network perspectives. Sociological Compass 8/9:1140-1155.

Anderson RT, Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Camacho F, Kern T, Mackley HB, Kimmick G, Louis C, Lengerich E, Yao N (2014) Breast cancer screening rates and percentage of late stage tumors: Does geography matter? Health Services Research 49(2):546-567.

Yang, T-C, Matthews SA, Chen VY-J (2014) Stochastic variability in stress, sleep duration and sleep quality across the distribution of body mass index: insights from quantile regression. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21(2):282-291.

Cummins S, Flint E, Matthews SA (2014) New neighborhood grocery store increased awareness of food access but did not alter dietary habits or obesity. Health Affairs 33(2): 281-291.

Cummins S, Flint E, Matthews SA (2014) Grocery store and obesity: The authors reply. Health Affairs 33(5):907.

Fleming ST, Mackley HB, Camacho F, Seibert EE, Gusani NJ, Matthews SA, Liao J, Yang T-C, Hwang W, Yao N. (2014) Clinical, sociodemographic and service provider determinants of guideline concordant colorectal cancer care in Appalachia. Journal of Rural Health 30(1):27-39.

Duncan DT, Kawachi I, Kum S, Aldstadt J, Piras G, Matthews SA, Arbia G, Castro MC, White K, Williams DR. (2014) A spatially explicit approach to the study of socio-demographic inequality in the spatial distribution of trees across Boston neighborhoods. Spatial Demography 2(1):1-29.

Li N, Parker DM, Yang Z, Fan Q, Zhou G, Ai G, Duan J, Lee M-C, Yan G, Matthews SA, Cui L, Wang Y. (2013) Risk factors associated with slide positivity among febrile patients in a conflict zone of north-eastern Myanmar along the China-Myanmar border. Malaria Journal. 12:361. Available online at

Rovniak, LS, Sallis JF, Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Kiser EJ, Ray CA, Chinchill V, Ding D, Matthews SA, Bopp M, George DR, Hovell MF (2013) Engineering online and in-person social networks to sustain physical activity: Applications of a conceptual model. BMC Public Health 13:753. Available online at

Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Anderson RT (2013) Prostate cancer screening and health care system distrust in Philadelphia. Journal of Aging and Health 25(5): 737-757.

Flint E, Cummins S, Matthews SA. (2013) Do perceptions of the neighborhood food environment predict fruit and vegetable intake in low-income neighborhoods? Health and Place 24:11-15

Matthews SA, Yang T-C (2013) Spatial Polygamy And Contextual Exposures (SPACEs): Promoting activity space approaches in research on place and health. American Behavioral Scientist 57(8):1057-1081.

Yao N, Matthews SA, Hillemeier MM, Anderson RT (2013) Radiation therapy resources and guideline-concordant radiotherapy for early-stage breast cancer patients in an underserved region. Health Services Research 48(4):1433-1449.

Zhang C, Mosa AJ, Hayward AS, Matthews SA (2013) Promoting clean hands among Uganda’s children: A school-based intervention using tippy-taps. Public Health 127(6):586-589.

Matthews SA, Parker DM (2013) Progress in spatial demography. Demographic Research Volume 28, Article 10, 271-312.

Fuller D, Cummins S, Matthews SA (2013) Does transportation mode modify associations between distance to food store, fruit and vegetable consumption and BMI in low income neighborhoods? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97(1):167-172.

Yang TC, Shoff C, Matthews SA. (2013) Examining the spatially non-stationary associations between the second demographic transition and infant mortality: A Poisson GWR approach. Spatial Demography 1 (1):18-41.

Zenk SN, Schulz AJ, Odoms-Young A, Wilbur J, Matthews SA, Gamboa C, Wegrzyn L, Hobson S, Stokes C. (2012). Feasibility of using global positioning systems (GPS) with diverse urban adults: Before and after data on perceived acceptability, wear-related concerns, and ease of use. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 9 (7):924-934.

Yao N, Matthews SA, Hillemeier, MM. (2012) White infant mortality in Appalachian states, 1976-1980 and 1996-2000: changing patterns and persistent disparities. Journal of Rural Health 28(2):174-182.

Shoff C, Yang TC, Matthews SA. (2012) What has geography got to do with it? Using GWR to explore place-specific associations with prenatal care utilization. GeoJournal 77 (3):331-341.

Matthews SA. (2012) Thinking about place, spatial behavior, and spatial processes in childhood obesity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 42 (5):516-520.

Yang TC, Chen VY-J, Shoff C, Matthews SA (2012) Using quantile regression to examine the effects of inequality across the mortality distribution in the US counties. Social Science and Medicine 74, 1900-1910.

Chen VY-J,Deng W-S, Yang TC, Matthews SA. (2012) A geographically weighted quantile regression approach for spatial data analysis: an application to county-level U.S. mortality data. Geographical Analysis 44 (2):134-150.

Gilreath TD, Chaix B, King G, Matthews SA, Flisher, AJ (2012) Multi-level influence of school norms on tobacco use in South Africa: An ecometric consideration of group differences. Cancer Causes and Control 23:27-36.

Yang TC, Matthews SA (2012) Understanding the non-stationary associations between distrust of the health care system, health conditions, and self-rated health in the elderly: A geographically weighted regression approach. Health and Place 18:576-585.

Matthews, SA, Yang TC (2012) Mapping the results of local statistics: Using geographically weighted regression. Demographic Research Volume 26, Article 6, 151-166.

Yang TC, Matthews SA, Shoff C. (2011) Individual health care system distrust and neighborhood social environment; how are they jointly associated with self-rated health? Journal of Urban Health 88 (5):945-958.

Zenk SN, Schulz AJ, Matthews SA, Odoms-Young A, Wilbur J, Wegrzyn L, Gibbs K, Braunschweig C, Stokes C. (2011) Activity space environment and eating and physical activity behaviors: a pilot study. Health and Place 17:1150-1161.

Matthews SA. (2011) Spatial analysis. Oxford Bibliographies Online – Sociology

Yang TC, Matthews SA, Hillemeier M. (2011) Effect of health care system distrust on breast and cervical cancer screening in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. American Journal of Public Health 101 (7):1297-1305.

Matthews SA. McCarthy JD, Rafail PS. (2011) Using ZIP Code Business Pattern data to measure alcohol outlet density. Addictive Behaviors 36:777-780.

Matthews SA, Yang TC. (2010) Exploring the role of built and social neighborhood environments in moderating stress and health. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 39:170-183.

Matthews SA, Yang TC, Hayslett KL, Ruback RB. (2010) Built environment and property crime in Seattle, 1998-2000: A Bayesian analysis. Environment and Planning A 42:1403-1420.

Yang, TC, Matthews SA (2010) The role of social and built environments in predicting self-rated stress: A multilevel analysis in Philadelphia. Health and Place 16:803-810.

Gubhaju B, Matthews SA. (2009) Women’s empowerment, sociocultural context, and reproductive behavior in Nepal. Asia-Pacific Population Journal 24 (2): 25-50.

Matthews SA, Moudon AV, Daniel M. (2009) Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for enhancing research relevant to policy on diet, physical activity, and weight. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 36 (4S): 171-176.

Reardon SF, Farrell CR, Matthews SA, O’Sullivan D, Bischoff K, Firebaugh G. (2009) Race and space in the 1990s: changes in the geographic scale of racial residential segregation, 1990-2000. Social Science Research 38:55-70.

Lee BA, Reardon SF, Firebaugh G, Farrell CR, Matthews SA, O’Sullivan D. (2008). Beyond the census tract: patterns and determinants of racial segregation at multiple geographic scales. American Sociological Review 73:766-791.

Reardon SF, Matthews SA, O’Sullivan D, Lee BA, Firebaugh G, Farrell CR, Bischoff K. (2008) The geographic scale of metropolitan racial segregation. Demography 45 (3):489-514.

Matthews SA. (2008) The salience of neighborhoods: lessons from early Sociology? American Journal of Preventive Medicine 34 (3):257-259.

Matthews SA, Detwiler J, Burton LM. (2005) Geoethnography: coupling geographic information analysis techniques with ethnography methods in urban research. Cartographica 40 (4):75-90.

Kaduri P, Gilreath T, Kilonza G, King G, Flisher A, Matthews SA. (2005) The influence of social networks on adolescent smoking in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Promotion and Education 12 (2):10-14.

Book Chapters

Howell FM, Porter J, Matthews SA, (2016) Introduction: Recapturing spatial approaches in social science problems. Pp. 1-8, Chapter 1 in Howell FM, Porter JR, Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Siordia C, Matthews SA (2016) Extending the boundaries of place. Pp. 37-56, Chapter 3 in Howell FM, Porter JR, Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Matthews SA (2016) Instruction in spatial demography. Pp.  355-369, Chapter 17 in Howell FM, Porter JR, and Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Howell, FR, Porter, JR, Matthews SA (2016) Concluding remarks: Developing spatial demography. Pp. 371-379, Chapter 18 in Howell FR, Porter JR, Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Matthews SA (2011) Spatial polygamy and the heterogeneity of place: studying people and place via egocentric methods. Pp. 35-55, Chapter 3 in L Burton, S Kemp, M Leung, SA Matthews and D Takeuchi (editors) Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. Springer, New York, NY.

Burton L, Kemp S, Leung M, Matthews SA, and Takeuchi D (2011) Introduction – Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. Pp. vii-xii, Preface in L Burton, S Kemp, M Leung, SA Matthews and D Takeuchi (editors) Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. Springer, New York, NY.

Martin D, Rees P, Durham H, Matthews SA. (2009) “Census and population analysis” Pp. 53-75, Chapter 4 in Rees P, Mackay L, Martin D, Durham H (Editors) E-Learning for Geographers: Online Materials, Resources and Repositories. Idea Group, Inc, Hershey, PA.

Skinner D, Matthews SA, Burton LM. (2005) Combining ethnography and GIS technology to examine constructions of developmental opportunities in contexts of poverty and disability. Pp. 223-239, Chapter 7 in Weisner T (Ed.). Discovering Successful Pathways in Children's Development: Mixed Methods in the Study of Childhood and Family Life. MacArthur Foundation: University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Termination details:

Research Interests:


Spatial demography, population and environment, neighborhoods and families

Urban and Community Sociology Specialization:

Communities, neighborhoods, health, spatial inequality, built environment, human spatial behavior, racial/ethnic residential segregation

The Stratification and Race/Ethnic/Gender Inequality Specialization in Sociology:

Spatial demography, population and environment, neighborhoods and families

The Quantitative Methods Specialization in Sociology:

Spatial analysis, GIS

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