Melissa A. Hardy

Melissa A. Hardy

Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Demography

502 Oswald Tower
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 867-4337


  1. B.A., Sociology, Albright College
  2. M.A., Sociology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
  3. Ph.D. Sociology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN


Research Interests

In my research, I study how sequences of positions or outcomes (such as jobs, health, or program entitlement) are structured by historical circumstances and social status. I look at differences across birth cohorts to see how the timing of events, such as economic downturns, war (civilian exposure and military service), and policy realignment shape race, gender, and cohort differences in attainment processes, health, and social positions.

I also study patterns of attitudes and beliefs as elements of social change, with a focus on attitudes toward civil liberties; people as defined by gender, race, religion, or nativity; policies that affect rights, both positive and negative, that bound our decision-making (e.g., end-of-life care and death; privacy).

Research Projects

Two current projects focus on birth cohorts born in the first part of the 20th century in the U.S. and in Europe.  I am using data from the Survey of Health and Retirement in Europe supplemented by information that matches retrospective information on place to accounts of military campaigns during WWII.  These data allow me to study long term effects of early life war experiences on health and economic status later in life.  In a second project, I use 35 years of data on transitional birth cohorts of women born before and after WWII to test cohort and generational differences in the life course and family structures.   

Research and Teaching Interests

Life Course; Stratification and Social Change; Cohorts and Generations; Health Disparities; Economic Inequality; Cross-National Research; Work and Employment Policy; Quantitative Methodology

Ongoing Projects

Longitudinal studies of careers and career inequality; linking historical events and conditions with population inequalities and individual patterns of achievement and development.

Comparative study of social policies that protect 'negative rights,' particularly in terms of health care utilization, later life, and the end of life.

National Longitudinal Surveys:  Adding supplemental administrative data to decades of survey data collected on cohorts of men and women.  Ongoing research on these cohorts includes:  studies of mortality, identifying differences by nativity, race, gender, early childhood and adult socioeconomic status, and family structure; tracing how young adulthood experiences shape health, family, and financial trajectories.

Using General Social Surveys and various international data sets to study changes in social and political attitudes; age, period, and cohort structure of change; attitude change in relation to changing composition of populations and social institutions.

Studies of disparities in mental health, chronic illness, and mortality.

Selected Publications

          • Hardy, Melissa and Alan Bryman (Editors).  2004.   Handbook of Data Analysis. London:  Sage, Inc. (2010 paperback).
          • Hardy, Melissa A. (Editor).  1997.  Studying Aging and Social Change:  Conceptual and Methodological Issues.  Beverly Hills and London:  Sage Publications.
          • Hardy, Melissa A.  1993.   Regression With Dummy Variables.  Sage University Paper Series on Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences.  Beverly Hills and London:  Sage Publications.

            Articles and Chapters

            • Hardy, Melissa and Adriana Reyes. (2016).  “Theories of work and retirement:  Culture, Trust and the Social Contract.” In Handbook of Theories of Aging (3rd ed), edited by Vern Bengtson and Richard Settersten. New York: Springer.
            • Hardy, Melissa. (2016). “Societal Legacies of Risk and Protection in the Reproduction of Health Disparities.”  Public Policy and Aging Report
            • Hardy, Melissa and Adriana Reyes (2015).  "The Longevity Legacy of WWII: Exploring the Intersection of GI Status and Mortality."  The Gerontologist doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv04
            • Reyes, Adriana and Melissa Hardy (2015). “Older Immigrants and Health Insurance in the U.S.: Differences by Region-of-Origin in Gaining and Losing Coverage.”  Journal of Gerontology:  Social Sciences, 70(2):303-13.
            • Hardy, Melissa, Francecso Acciai, and Adriana M. Reyes. (2014) "How Health Conditions Translate into Self-Ratings:  A Comparative Study of Older Adults Across Europe."  Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 55(3): 320-341.
            • Reyes, Adriana and Melissa Hardy. (2014). "Another health insurance gap:  Gaining and Losing coverage among natives and immigrants at older ages."  Social Science Research 43:145-156.
            • Hardy, Melissa and Vegard Skirbekk (2013). “Research Opportunities in the Demography of Aging.” The Future of the Sociology of Aging.  Washington, DC:  National Academies Press.
            • Hardy, Melissa. (2011).  “Rethinking Retirement.”  Handbook of the Sociology Aging and the Life Course, 213-227.   Richard Settersten and Jacqui Angel (Eds.).   New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
            • Warner, David, Mark Hayward and Melissa Hardy.  (2010)  The Retirement Life Course in America at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century.  Population Research and Policy Review.
                • Danigelis, N.L., Hardy, M. and Cutler, S.  2007.  Population Aging, Intracohort Aging and Sociopolitical Attitudes.  American Sociological Review 72 (5): 812-830.
                • Willson, Andrea and Melissa Hardy. 2002. "Racial Disparities in Income Security for a Cohort of Aging American Women." Social Forces.

                Research Interests:

                Life Course, Stratification Processes, Social Change, Cohort and Generations, Health Disparities, Economic Inequality, Cross-National Research, Work and Employment Policy, Quantitative Methodology

                Research Interests:

                Families, Relationships, and Interpersonal Networks:

                generational family structure


                Aging, labor force and older workers, retirement economics

                Social Inequality:

                intergenerational mobility, economic inequality, pensions 

                Quantitative Methods:

                Statistical distributions, analysis of discrete and continuous data

                Social Institutions and Culture:

                attitudes and beliefs, cohorts and social change, social policy

                Health and Life Course:

                health & aging, health disparities, mortality, chronic illness