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Sociology Doctoral Student Received Dissertation Grant to Study Mortality in Rural Areas

By Richard LeComte 

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Cameron McAlister, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences, has received a National Institute of Social Science 2022 Dissertation Grant. The grant is for $5,000.  

McAlister’s research examines how uneven development affects rural opportunity structures and outcomes for health and mortality. His dissertation, “Deaths of Deaths of Despair, Rurality, and Spatial Inequality: Emplacing Violent Death,” examines elevated rates of suicides and drug- and alcohol-related mortalities among working class residents of rural areas.  

"This project seeks to understand how ‘deaths of despair’ are cultivated in place as a result of historical patterns of economic turbulence and resource deprivation,” McAlister said. “The analyses will use exploratory spatial data analysis and multilevel growth curve modeling across spatial categorization schemes. A more granular picture of deaths of despair across heterogeneous rural areas will highlight and advocate for place-specific interventions in contrast to one-size-fits-all approach to policy.” 

The grant will support his dissertation, including attendance at workshops and conferences on spatiotemporal data analysis. McAlister’s adviser is Julie Zimmerman. 

The National Institute of Social Sciences, charted by the U.S. Congress, is a nonprofit association of social scientists, educators, business professionals, philanthropists, academics and others who believe the social sciences offer broad and valuable insights into issues of urgent and lasting concern.