: Announcing the New MPC Associate Director

We are excited to announce Dr. Kathryn Grace has been appointed as the next MPC Associate Director. Dr. Grace, a former first generation college student, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Society. Dr. Grace’s education is grounded in theoretical mathematics, biostatistics and (spatial) statistics, providing her a solid quantitative research foundation. Her own experiences as a Medicaid recipient and low-income parent undergird her interests in the health challenges facing low-income women and families in unstable situations. She relies on a range of scientific approaches, including qualitative field work, to center the lived experiences of poor women in research on climate change impacts.  As an interdisciplinary scholar with a focus on building collaborative research teams, she has an extensive background in bringing alternative perspectives both to research issues and work environments. Dr. Grace has worked to establish collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects in a number of institutes around the world, including at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, the Stockholm University Demography Unit, the Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques in France, the Vienna Institute for Demography, and the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She has an impressive track record of publishing in domain specific and interdisciplinary journals, including Nature Climate Change, Demography, Population and Development Review, and Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Beginning with leading a NASA Early Career Grant in 2012, she continues to secure external funding, including awards from NIH, NASA, the Gates Foundation, and NSF, as well as international funding organizations. Please welcome Kathryn as she assumes this new leadership role!

: Measurement of Structural Racism Barnraising

Join us on March 14th and 15th for Improving the Measurement of Structural Racism Barnraising co-hosted by the Minnesota Population Center (MPC)  and Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity (CARHE) Barnraising.

Structural racism is complex and multidimensional, but too often measurements of racism are simplistic and one dimensional. This enables the continued false narrative that race, rather than racism, is the cause of racial inequities. This workshop will bring together researchers and data users from across the country to dynamic conversations on how to create and utilize multidimensional measures of structural racism. 

Learn more about the event. 

: Over-policing linked to higher odds of preterm birth

Associate Professor Rachel Hardeman found that U.S.-born Black birthing people living in areas with high police contact experienced a 100% higher chance of preterm birth compared to residents in low-contact areas. 


This article is derived from an original version posted on the School of Public Health’s website. Content was added to highlight the Minnesota Population Center’s contributions to the study. 

New research from members of the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) links the stress of living in an over-policed neighborhood with higher odds of preterm birth for both Black and white birthing people — but most severely for Black residents. Preterm birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks of gestation, raises the risk of long-term health problems for babies.

The study, led by Rachel Hardeman, MPC Member, associate professor, and director of the SPH Center for Antiracism Research and Health Equity (CARHE), was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Open Network. Hardeman is a national expert in racial reproductive health disparities, including the role of over-policing in Black birth disparities. The work was co-authored by MPC members and trainee alumni, including Tongtan Chantarat, Morrison Luke Smith, J’Mag Karbeah, and David C. Van Riper as well as Dara D. Mendez from University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

A growing body of research reveals the physiological harms of police encounters, particularly for Black people. This study adds to that research, showing how racist policing practices hurt birthing people and their babies.

“Racism is a fundamental cause of health inequity, which means we have to apply antiracism to institutions that affect the fundamentals of our lives and communities,” said Hardeman. “Our research focused on residents of Minneapolis and found that U.S.-born Black birthing people and their babies were hit the hardest by over-policing, which is a form of structural racism.”

Hardeman’s study team examined medical record data of 745 white, 121 U.S.-born Black, and 193 non–U.S.-born Black Minneapolis residents who gave birth to single babies at a large health system between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016. The researchers then looked at where the residents lived in Minneapolis and determined if they were in neighborhoods that had high police contact, defined as areas within the highest statistical quarter of police activity in the city.

The research found:

  • In high police-contact neighborhoods, all birthing people had higher odds of preterm birth, indicating that the stress of over-policing is harmful regardless of race. 
  • White birthing people living in high police contact neighborhoods experienced a 90% higher chance of preterm birth compared to residents in low-contact areas.
  • U.S.-born Black birthing people in high-contact areas experienced a 100% higher chance of preterm birth compared to residents in low-contact areas. 
  • Foreign-born Black birthing people in high-contact areas showed only a 10% higher chance for preterm birth. This is explained by what researchers call the “immigrant paradox,” which states that Black immigrants who didn’t grow up weathering structural racism have far better health outcomes than Black individuals who were born and raised in America. 
  • The researchers also found that Black neighborhoods are disproportionately over-policed compared to white neighborhoods.

“Our results show that over-policing is bad for everyone, but that the burden is not shared equally,” said Hardeman. “The difference between U.S.-born and non-U.S.-born Black birthing people also reveals that racism — and not race — creates health inequities between Black people and their white counterparts.”

If the cause of higher preterm birth rates among U.S. and non-U.S.-born Black birthing people was purely biological due to their race, both groups would have had similar results. Instead, the research shows that non-U.S.–born Black birthing people have far healthier pregnancies and babies than their U.S.-born counterparts, proving that the difference is whether or not they experienced long-term exposure to over-policing structural racism. 

“Racism is a fixable problem,” said Hardeman. “Community health needs to be a priority for public safety reform, and the voices and needs of Black, Indigenous, and people of color need to be prioritized.”

Funding for this study was provided from the Institute for Diversity, Equity, and Advocacy at the University of Minnesota. Additional support by the Minnesota Population Center, which is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant No: P2C HD041023). Medical record data was provided by the University of Minnesota’s Best Practices Informatics Consulting Group.

This work benefited from the MPC Short-Term Research Assistant program, which provides the services of a qualified research assistant to MPC members free of charge. One of the co-authors, Morrison Luke Smith, started on the project while serving as the short-term research assistant. Learn more about the program and how to become an MPC member

About the Center for Antiracist Research for and Health Equity

The SPH Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity (CARHE), supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, uses revolutionary antiracist research techniques to explore how systems, policies, social structures and historical influences create the conditions for health inequities. In its pursuit to address and uproot structural racism’s impact on health and healthcare, CARHE produces antiracist research findings, changes the narrative around race and racism, produces equitable policy solutions, and influences community interventions.

In the News: 

: MPC Population Dynamics Barn-raising

Please hold the date for our first-ever biannual MPC Population Dynamics Barn-raising (PDB) to be held from 12:15pm to 5pm on Monday, November 8. The theme for this half-day event is "Building Interdisciplinary Collaborations for Population Dynamics COVID Research." Please invite any and all colleagues you know who might be interested. Share with your networks!

Due to COVID safety concerns, this event will be held in a hybrid format. Join us for the full PDB or for one or more of the sessions:

Virtual Panel Discussion: From 12:15pm to 1:30pm join us virtually for a moderated panel discussion on "Population Causes and Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic."  |  Zoom Link

  • Marc Bellemare, Applied Economics, University of Minnesota
  • Susan Marshall Mason, Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota
  • Alyssa Morris, Psychology, University of Southern California
  • Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, Sociology, University of Minnesota
  • Moderator: Claire Kamp Dush, Sociology, University of Minnesota

In-Person Poster Session: From 2:00pm to 3:30pm we invite you to participate in an in-person, low pressure poster session in the wide-open expanse of 120 Anderson Library (masks will be required). We invite you to present a poster* (we'll even print it for you!): learn more and sign up here. Posters should be brief presentations of ongoing or planned COVID-related research projects and/or presentations of COVID-related data resources suitable for population-level research. Our goal is to help connect researchers with each other and with the data they need to conduct their research.

In-Person Research Mixer: From 3:45 to 5:00 we'll head outside of 29 Willey Hall--just down the outdoor steps from Anderson Library--to mix and mingle and discuss COVID-related research and how MPC can support your ongoing or planned work. Food and drinks will be served. RSVP requested.

: MPC Leadership Transition

Exciting news for the Minnesota Population Center! After 5+ years of leading the MPC, Director Rob Warren will be stepping down at the end of this calendar year. Thank you to Rob for all of your many years of service and leading the MPC through such a time of growth and excellence.

We are excited to announce Theresa Osypuk will be stepping up into the role of MPC Director. Theresa is Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health, in the School of Public Health. She is a social epidemiologist, demographer, and population health scientist. Theresa has served as the Associate Director of the MPC for over 2 years, and she is also co-Director (along with Rob Warren) of the NICHD-funded T32 training program in Population Health, which is housed at MPC. Theresa has cultivated a record as a Principal Investigator of NIH grants since 2010, focused on housing policy, neighborhood environment, racial residential segregation, and health equity. During these next few months, Theresa and Rob will be working together to make this transition as seamless as possible.