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Verna M. Keith

Professor and Chair This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Heritage Hall 460H
(205) 934-8677

Research and Teaching Interests: Health inequalities, Stressors and health, Social demography, Race/ethnicity

Office Hours: By appointment


  • BS, University of Central Arkansas, Sociology
  • MA, University of Kentucky, Sociology
  • PhD, University of Kentucky, Sociology

My teaching and research interests focus on social inequality and health. My interest in the general area of social inequality is a product of my early graduate training in social demography. During my doctoral studies, I worked on projects that emphasized race, social class, and gender differences in rural-urban migration, labor force participation, and attitudes toward public policy. After completing post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan in the School of Public Health, my research coalesced around inequalities in health with a particular emphasis on understanding the relationship between social hierarchies (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, SES) and health outcomes.

My work is positioned in both sociology and multidisciplinary areas such as public health, social work, and social psychology. Over the course of my career I have collaborated with researchers and students from these and other areas to investigate a broad array of topics. These include studies of health risk and protective factors associated with stressful life circumstances such as financial burden, race-based unfair treatment, and even exposure to weather disasters. Currently, I and my associates are pursuing a series of studies that evaluate the extent to which race/ethnicity disparities in health are similar or different depending on the measure of race/ethnicity used. This involves, for example, contrasting classifications based on self-identification and those based on the relative lightness and darkness of skin complexion.

I have held several administrative positions but still teach and supervise the research projects of both undergraduate and graduate students. At various universities, I have taught courses such as Social Problems, Social Demography, Medical Sociology, African Americans in U.S. Society, the Sociology of Mental Health, and Social Disparities in Health. I look forward to working with students here at UAB as we explore the social world together.

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  • Select Publications
    • Verna M. Keith, Ann W. Nguyen, Robert J. Taylor, Dawne M. Mouzon, and Linda Chatters. 2017. "Microaggressions, Discrimination, and Phenotype among African Americans: A Latent Class Analysis of the Impact of Skin Tone and BMI." Sociological Inquiry 87:2:233-55.
    • Mouzon, Dawne. M., Robert. J Taylor, Verna M. Keith, Emily J. Nicklett, and Linda. M. Chatters. 2017. "Discrimination and Psychiatric Disorders among Older African Americans." International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 32:175-82.
    • Blake, Jamilia. Verna M. Keith, Wen Luo, and Phia Salter. 2016. "The Ebony Prism: The Role of Colorism in Explaining African American Females' Suspension Risk." School Psychology Quarterly 32:1:118-130
    • Hughes, Michael, Jill Kiecolt, Verna M. Keith, and David H. Demo. "Racial Identity and Well-being among African Americans." Social Psychological Quarterly 78:1:25-48.
    • Byon Miller, Sunshine Rote, Verna M. Keith. "Poverty, Education, Racial Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms among African Americans: Testing Exposure and Vulnerability Hypotheses." Society and Mental Health 3:2:133-50.
    • Verna M. Keith, Karen Lincoln, Robert J. Taylor, and James S. Jackson. "Discriminatory Experiences and Depressive Symptoms among African American Women: Do Skin Tone and Mastery Matter?" Sex Roles 62:48-59.
    • Angela Chia-Chen Chen Verna M. Keith, Karen Leong, Wei Li, Christopher Airries, Kuo-Yi Chung, and Chung-Chen Lee. 2007. "Hurricane Katrina: Prior Trauma, Poverty and Health among Vietnamese Survivors." International Nursing Review 54:324-331.
    • Diane R. Brown and Verna M. Keith (eds.). 2003. In and Out of Our Right Minds: The Mental Health of African American Women . New York: Columbia University Press.
    • Maxine S. Thompson and Verna M. Keith. 2001. "The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy." Gender and Society 15:336-357.
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • Association of Black Sociologists, Joseph "Sandy" Himes Award for Lifetime Scholarship, 2017
    • Texas A&M University, College of Liberal Arts, Cornerstone Faculty Fellow, 2016
    • Member, 2016-2020, ICPSR Council, University of Michigan
    • Editorial Board, Society and Mental Health, 2014-2016
    • American Sociological Association
    • Association of Black Sociologists
    • Southern Sociological Society
    • Southern Demographic Association