Kathleen Cagney's work examines social inequality and its relationship to health with a focus on neighborhood, race, and aging and the life course. Prof. Cagney has focused on bringing together researchers from many scientific disciplines and examining diverse datasets to create a more holistic view of the social environment and its impact on health and well-being. She has developed a series of papers on neighborhood social capital and its relationship to outcomes such as self-rated health, asthma prevalence, physical activity and mortality during the 1995 Chicago heat wave. She also focuses on the validity of such measures and the development of new neighborhood-based metrics that reflect the perceptions and experiences of older residents.
Currently she works on two Chicago-based studies of neighborhood context and older adult health and is examining the role of the social and physical environment in older adult well-being with the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project.