Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Glenn Firebaugh

Glenn Firebaugh
Roy C. Buck Professor Emeritus in American Institutions
and Sociology and Demography

Curriculum Vitae

Glenn Firebaugh
404 Oswald Tower University Park , PA 16802
Mailroom: 430 Burrowes Building


Ph.D. in Sociology, Indiana University-Bloomington, 1976. Minors in Mathematical Models and Econometrics.

Professional Bio

Glenn Firebaugh studies three types of inequalities: income inequality, neighborhood inequality, and inequality in life expectancy. His 2003 book, The New Geography of Global Income Inequality (Harvard University Press), was designated as an "Outstanding Academic Book" by Choice Magazine. Recently he has been studying racial differences in neighborhood quality (as measured by neighborhood poverty rates and average incomes) as well as racial disparities in life expectancy. He has also contributed to social science methods, and his book The Seven Rules for Social Research (Princeton University Press) is used in graduate methods courses.

Firebaugh is an elected member of the Sociological Research Assocation. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and has been reported in the premier journals in sociology and demography. From 1997 to 2000 Firebaugh served as Editor of the American Sociological Review.

In addition to teaching at Penn State, he has served as a regular or visiting professor at Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Oxford Universities, and he has also taught in the summer program in survey methods at the University of Michigan.

Research Interests

Glenn Firebaugh studies inequality (income inequality, neighborhood inequality, and inequality in life expectancy). He is author of The New Geography of Global Inequality(Harvard University Press, 2003) and Seven Rules for Social Research (Princeton University Press, 2008) and is former Editor of the American Sociological Review.

Current Research Projects

One project, funded by the National Science Foundation, uses U.S. census data to investigate neighborhood inequality (variation in the socioeconomic quality of neighborhoods), particularly as it relates to race. A second project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, investigates the effect of the Great Recession on life expectancy in Western societies. This project uses data on cause of death to determine the sources of change in the mean and variance in life expectancy.

Recent Talks and Lectures

Oxford University and the University of Chicago (change in racial neighborhood inequality in the United States); University of Wisconsin (lifespan inequality; racial neighborhood inequality); University of Texas and Oxford University (a new method for determining why lifespans are more unequal in some populations than in others); Indiana University (on why lifespans are more unequal in the United States than in Sweden)

Research and Teaching Interests

Global Inequality, Neighborhood Segregation and Inequality, Social Stratification, Statistical Methods, Social Demography, Social Change in the United States

Professional Awards and Achievement

  • Fellow, Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford University
  • Taiwan National Science Distinguished Lecturer, Academia Sinica, Taipei, January 2005
  • Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, 2001
  • Best-Article Prize, Center for the Study of Inequality, Cornell University, 2001, for "Empirics of World Income Inequality" (American Journal of Sociology, May 1999)
  • Distinction in the Social Sciences Award, Pennsylvania State University, 2000
  • Research grants from the National Science Foundation: international trade and development (1983-85); cohort replacement effects in the U.S. (1989-92); social development in poor countries (1993-96); intercountry inequality (1996-98); global income inequality (1998-2000); income and happiness (2006-08); incarceration and neighborhood segregation (2010-12); racial neighborhood inequality (2013-15)
  • Guest instructor, ZUMA, Mannheim, Germany

Editorial and Administrative Positions

  • Head of the Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, 2001-2004
  • Editor, American Sociological Review, 1997 - 2000; Deputy Editor, American Sociological Review, 1995 - 1996
  • Editorial boards – Sociological Methods and Research (1980-1985), American Journal of Sociology (1985-1987), Social Forces (1985-1988),The Sociological Quarterly (1985-1988), ASA Rose Monograph Series (1986-1989), Sociological Methodology (1988-1992), American Sociological Review (1994-1995)



The New Geography of Global Income Inequality.  2003. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.  xiii + 257 pages. 2 maps, 28 tables, 23 figures.

Seven Rules for Social Research. 2008. Princeton University Press.

Analyzing Repeated Surveys. (1997).  Sage University Paper Series on Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences, no. 07-115.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

(Edited) Looking Forward, Looking Back: Continuity and Change at the Turn of the Millennium. Special Millennium Edition of the American Sociological Review (February, 2000).

Representative Publications (Journal Articles)

  • “Still large, but narrowing: The sizable decline in racial neighborhood inequality in metropolitan America, 1980-2010.”  Demography 53 (February 2016.): 139-164 (with Chad Farrell)
  • “Hispanic-White Differences in Lifespan Variability in the United States.” Demography 53 (February 2016): 215-239 (with J. Lariscy, C. Nau, and R. Hummer).
  • "A new method for determining why length of life is more unequal in some populations than in others." Demography 49 (November, 2012): 1207-1230 (with Claudia Nau)

  • "Does your neighbor's income affect your happiness?" American Journal of Sociology 115 (November, 2009): 805-31 (with Matthew Shroeder)

  • "Beyond the census tract: Patterns and determinants of racial segregation at multiple geographic scales." American Sociological Review (October, 2008): 766-791 (with B. Lee, S. Reardon, C. Farrell, S. Matthews, and D. O'Sullivan)
  • "Accounting for the Recent Decline in Global Income Inequality." American Journal of Sociology 110 (September, 2004): 283-312. (lead article, with Brian Goesling)
  • "The Trend in International Health Inequality." Population and Development Review 30 (March, 2004): 131-146 (with Brian Goesling).

Research Interests by Concentration


Global development, cohort analysis of social change

Quantitative Methods

Analyzing repeated surveys, measures of inequality, causal analysis

Social Inequality

Global inequalities, income inequality, racial/ ethnic segregation in the U.S., measuring inequality and segregation

Urban, Community, and Spatial Sociology

Neighborhood inequality, residential segregation, methods for studying communities