PRBA Faculty

James S. Jackson (1944-2020)

James JacksonFounding Director

Research Professor, Research Center for Group Dynamics
Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology

M.A., Psychology, 1970, University of Toledo
Ph.D., Social Psychology, 1972, Wayne State University

Tributes to James

More about James Jackson
Research efforts include conducting national and international surveys of black populations focusing on racial and ethnic influences on life course development, attitude change, reciprocity, social support, physical and mental health and coping. Jackson is currently principal investigator of one of the most extensive social, political, economic, and mental and physical health studies of the African American and Caribbean populations ever conducted, “The National Survey of American Life” and the “The Family Survey across Generations and Nations,” and the “National Study of Ethnic Pluralism and Politics.” Teaching centers on social factors in health, race and racism, and social exchange and social influences.

Briana Mezuk Ratcliff

Briana Mezuk RatcliffCo-Director, Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health

Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health

Faculty Affiliate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

 [email protected]

More about Briana Mezuk Ratcliff
Dr. Mezuk is the Co-Director of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH) and an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She is also a Co-Director of the Analysis Core of the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR). Her research program uses epidemiologic methods to examine the interrelationships between mental and physical health in later life, with a focus on depression and disorders of metabolism such as frailty and type 2 diabetes. She also conducts research on how stress and health behaviors intersect to shape racial/ethnic differences and disparities in mental and physical health. The goal of this work is to inform interventions that reflect an integrative approach to improve the mental health of older adults.

Deborah Robinson

Deborah RobinsonAssistant Director

International Projects
Program for Research on Black Americans

Research Investigator, Research Center for Group Dynamics

B.A., Psychology, 1978, Williams College
Ph.D., Psychology, 1987, University of Michigan
MBA, International Organizations, 2005, University of Geneva

 [email protected]

More about Deborah Robinson
Dr. Robinson is a researcher and senior program manager with more than 25 years of experience working with grassroots community groups, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, churches, government agencies, and most recently, public libraries. She has lived, worked in, or traveled to 75 countries to date and has over 15 years’ experience in survey research methodology. She is the Co-PI on the African Americans Living Abroad Project being conducted by the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA). There has not been a comprehensive study of African Americans living abroad globally because of numerous methodological challenges. Dr. Robinson is creating innovative strategies to address these challenges. In addition to the quantitative online survey, Dr. Robinson plans to conduct qualitative oral histories with African Americans currently living overseas.

Robert J. Taylor

Robert J. TaylorDirector

Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics
Harold R Johnson and Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work

B.A., Sociology, 1974, Northwestern University
M.S.W., 1976, University of Michigan
Ph.D., Social Work and Sociology, 1983, University of Michigan

 [email protected]

More about Robert J. Taylor
Robert Joseph Taylor is the Harold R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Social Work and the Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work. He is also the Director of the Program for Research on Black Americans at the Institute for Social Research. Professor Taylor has published extensively on the informal social support networks (i.e., family, friends, and church members) of adult and elderly Black Americans. An article by Thyer in Journal of Social Service Research finds that Robert Joseph Taylor is the #15 most influential social work faculty (out of 2204 faculty) based on H-index. An article by Kimberly Y. Huggins-Hoyt in the journal, Research on Social Work Practice, found that he was the #1 cited African American faculty member in the field of Social Work. Robert Joseph Taylor has been principal investigator of several grants from the National Institute on Aging that examine the role of religion in the lives of Black and White elderly adults. He has been co-principal investigator with James Jackson on several grants from the National Institute of Mental Health on the correlates of mental health and mental illness among Black Americans, including the only major national study of the prevalence of mental illness among Black Americans (The National Survey of American Life). He has edited two books, Family Life in Black America (1997) and Aging in Black America (1993) with James S. Jackson and Linda M. Chatters. He is also the lead author of the book, Religion in the Lives of African Americans: Social, Psychological, and Health Perspectives (2004) with Linda Chatters and Jeff Levin. He is the founding editor of African American Research Perspectives and has reviewed manuscripts for over 60 different journals. To date he has published over 175 peer review journal articles.

Sela V. Panapasa

Sela V. Panapasa Associate Research Scientist

Program for Research on Black Americans

M.S., 1988, Computer Education, Johnson & Wales University
M.A., 1995, Sociology, Brown University
Ph.D., 2000, Sociology, Brown University

 [email protected]

More about Sela V. Panapasa
Dr. Panapasa’s research interests are in the area of racial health disparities and population dynamics across the lifecourse. She conducts both survey driven and community-based research designs, and completed the first representative study on Pacific Islander American health and healthcare utilization. Dr. Panapasa also played a visible leadership role in raising awareness to the problems of health disparities among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders. Her work seeks to improve the health and well-being of numerically small vulnerable populations through evidence-based research and interventions, including efforts to build healthy Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in the United States and U.S. Associated Pacific Islands. In her early research she studied social support and intergenerational exchanges among aged Pacific Peoples living in the U.S. and Pacific region. Dr. Panapasa currently serves as a member on the U.S. Census Bureau National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Minority Health and she recently completed her term as chair of the Census Advisory Committee on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.