Deborah Carr

Professor and Department Chair of Sociology

PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1997)

Sociology Room 260



Deborah Carr is Professor and Chair in the Sociology department at Boston University. She earned her PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997.  Dr. Carr has held faculty positions at University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and most recently at Rutgers University, where she was acting director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy & Aging Research. Her research interests include aging and the life course, psychosocial factors influences on health over the life course, and end-of-life issues. Her book Golden Years: Social Inequalities in Later Life (2019, Russell Sage) received the 2020 Kalish Innovative Publication Award from the Gerontological Society of America. The book delves into the ways that persistent race, class, and gender inequalities shape experiences of old age in the United States. She is co-editor (with Kenneth Ferraro) of the  Handbook of Aging & the Social Sciences, 9th ed. (2021, Elsevier).

One area of her research focuses on how family roles and relationships affect health and well-being, with an emphasis on stressors like divorce, caregiving, and marital strain. This work has appeared in journals including Journal of Gerontology: Social SciencesJournal of Health and Social BehaviorJournal of Marriage and Family, and several edited volumes. She co-authored a trade book on the ways that generational differences in women’s work and family roles shape mother-daughter relationships: Making Up with Mom: Why Mothers and Daughters Disagree about Kids, Careers, and Casseroles (and What to Do about it) (2008, St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne). She explores linkages between stress and health in Worried Sick: How Stress Hurts Us and How to Bounce Back (2014, Rutgers University Press).

A second area of her research focuses on bereavement and end-of-life decision-making among older adults. She is interested in how demographic, technological, and social/political changes affect the experiences of the dying and their families. This research has appeared in journals including The ANNALSAnnual Review of Sociology, Journal of Aging & Social Policy, Journal of Gerontology: Social SciencesJournal of Health and Social BehaviorJournal of Marriage and Family, Social Science & Medicine, The Gerontologist, and several edited volumes. She is co-editor of Spousal Bereavement in Late Life (2006, Springer Publishing). She has served as principal investigator on several NIA-funded studies of end-of-life issues, including the New Jersey End of Life study and Wisconsin Study of Families and Loss (WISTFL), a follow up to Wisconsin Longitudinal Study.

Her third area of research explores the social, psychological, and interpersonal consequences of health-related stigma, with emphases on obesity and disability. This work has appeared in journals including Annals of Behavioral MedicineBMC Medicine, Journal of Health and Social BehaviorObesitySocial Psychology Quarterly, and Social Science & Medicine.

Carr is an enthusiastic teacher, and has co-authored two popular introductory sociology textbooks (with A. Giddens, M. Duneier, & R. Applebaum), and a research methods textbook The Art and Science of Social Research (with E. Boyle, B. Cornwell, S. Correll, R. Crosnoe, J. Freese, and & M. Waters), all with W. W. Norton.

Carr is a member of the honorary organization Sociological Research Association and is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. She has served as deputy editor of Social Psychology Quarterly and Journal of Marriage and Family, and as trends editor of Contexts (an American Sociological Association publication). She was editor-in-chief of Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences for the 2015-2020 term. Dr. Carr has held offices in the American Sociological Association including chair of the Aging & Life Course section, immediate past chair of the Medical Sociology section, and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Population Association of America. She served for two terms as Chair of the Board of Overseers of the General Social Survey, and is a co-investigator on the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) and Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS).  She is principal investigator of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), and recently completed a four-year term (2015-19) on the National Institutes of Health’s Social Sciences and Population Studies B (SSPB) study section. Her research has been funded by National Institutes of Health and the Borchard Foundation.

Dr. Carr is a strong proponent of public sociology, and enjoys speaking to the general public about issues related to aging, health, stress and families.  Recent media appearances include the New York Times,  ABC Nightly NewsBusiness Insider, PBS,  Next Avenue, and Forbes. Recent essays have been published in The Hill, Psychology Today, and elsewhere.

Selected Recent Articles:

Carr, Deborah, Lucie Kalousova, Katherine Lin, and Sarah Burgard. In Press. “Occupational Differences in Advance Care Planning: Are Medical Professionals More Likely to Plan? Social Science & Medicine.

Featured in Medical Ethics Advisor

Moorman, Sara, Kathrin Boerner, and Deborah Carr.  In Press. “Rethinking the Role of Advance Care Planning in the Context of Infectious DiseaseJournal of Aging & Social Policy.

Carr, Deborah. 2020 “COVID-19 and the Long-Standing Vulnerabilities of Older AdultsCurrent History 119: 323-325.

Carr, Deborah, Kathrin Boerner, and Sara Moorman. 2020. “Bereavement in the Time of Coronavirus Unprecedented Challenges Demand Novel Interventions.” Journal of Aging & Social Policy 32(4-5): 425-31.

Reprinted in: Miller, Edward Alan, Pamela Nadash, and Michael K. Gusmano (Eds.).  2020. Aging Policy and Politics in the Trump Era: Implications for Older Americans. New York: Routledge.

Carr, Deborah. 2020. ”Families in Later Life: A Consequence and Engine of Social Inequalities Pp. 43-68 in Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 40: 43-68.

Namkung, Eun Ha and Deborah Carr. 2020. “Mental Health Consequences of Physical Disabilities: The Mediating Role of Perceived Discrimination.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 61(2): 190-207.

Carr, Deborah and Rebecca Utz. 2020. “Families in Later in Life: Decade in Review.” Journal of Marriage and Family 82(1): 346-363.

Carr, Deborah and Elizabeth Luth. 2019. “Well-Being at the End of Life.” Annual Review of Sociology 45: 515-534. (For related Q&A, see interview in Knowable magazine).

Carr, Deborah, Jennifer C. Cornman, and Vicki A. Freedman. 2019. Do Family Relationships Buffer the Impact of Disability on Older Adults’ Daily Mood? An Exploration of Gender and Marital Status Differences. Journal of Marriage and Family 81: 729-746.

Carr, Deborah, and Elizabeth A. Luth. 2017. “Advance Care Planning: Contemporary Issues and Future Directions.” Innovation in Aging.

Carr, Deborah, Jennifer C. Cornman and Vicki A. Freedman.  2017. “Disability and Activity-related Well-Being in Later Life: Are Effects Buffered by Intimate Relationship Support and Strain?” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 58 (3), 387-403.

Carr, Deborah. 2016. “Is Death ‘The Great Equalizer’? The Social Stratification of Death Quality in the Contemporary United States.” The ANNALS: American Academy of Political and Social Research 663: 331-354.

Carr, Deborah, Vicki A. Freedman, Jennifer C. Cornman, and Norbert Schwarz. 2014. “Happy Marriage, Happy Life? Marital Quality and Subjective Well-Being in Later Life.” Journal of Marriage and Family 76: 930-948.

Carr, Deborah. 2012.“’I Don’t Want to Die Like That…’: The Impact of Significant Others’ Death Quality on Advance Care Planning.” The Gerontologist 52: 770-781.

Carr, Deborah and Kristen Springer. 2010.“Advances in Families and Health Research in the 21st Century.” Journal of Marriage and Family (Decade in Review Special Issue) 72: 744-762.