homeprev issuesexecpublic affairsSTAFFASA home

Williams Receives “Decade of Behavior” Award

by Johanna Ebner, Public Information Office

ASA member David R. Williams was awarded the inaugural Decade of Behavior’s 2004 Annual Research Award late last year and will be given a plaque at the 2004 ASA Annual Meeting to commemorate the achievement. This award recognizes a record of high-caliber research that has had a demonstrated impact on policy or society at large, has contributed to the use of social and behavioral science knowledge in policy settings, or has enhanced public understanding of behavioral or social science principles. Williams was one of two 2004 awardees, the other being sleep deprivation researcher David Dinges, who is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine where he is Chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology. Both will participate in Decade of Behavior briefings on Capitol Hill.

Among other positions, Williams is a senior research scientist at the Institute for Social Research and holds the Harold W. Cruse Collegiate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He was recognized by the Decade of Behavior National Advisory Committee because of his contributions to enhancing our understanding of why higher rates of disease, disability, and death persist for economically disadvantaged persons and specifically for racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. His research has focused on the social influences on health and more centrally on the trends and determinants of socioeconomic and racial differences in mental and physical health. According to Williams’ nomination for the award, his research provides “theoretically informed descriptions and empirical illustrations of the ways in which multiple and dynamic dimensions of socioeconomic status can affect the incidence, prevalence, and course of disease. With clarity and sensitivity to the complex issues related to social class, race, and health, he has made classic contributions to our understanding of the complex ways in which race, racism, and socioeconomic status can affect … health over the life course.”

Williams also holds a position as Professor of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health and is a Faculty Associate in the Center for Afro-American and African Studies. His previous academic appointment was at Yale University. He earned his MA in Public Health from Loma Linda University and his PhD in sociology from the University of Michigan. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and has served on several significant policy-making committees, including as a member of the committee that developed the IOM’s Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care report (see July/August 2003 Footnotes, p. 1). One of his most recent papers, “The Health of Men: Structured Inequalities and Opportunities” (American Journal of Public Health, 2003), received extensive national media coverage (e.g., CNN, Time, Newsweek).

The Research Award is given annually to up to five people within the year’s Decade of Behavior theme; the 2004 theme was health. The 70 or so organizations, including the ASA, that support and endorse the Decade of Behavior are responsible for nominating the awardees for the Research Award. Endorsing organizations are the “steam” that keeps the Decade running in each respective discipline. ASA’s role is to help develop activities relating to the themes, draw relevant ASA projects under the Decade of Behavior umbrella, and collaborate in ongoing programs. The Decade of Behavior also sponsors a Distinguished Lecturer Program to promote cross-organizational dissemination of noteworthy research by distinguished members of the social and behavioral science communities.

The Decade of Behavior, which was launched in September 2000 and ends in 2010, is a multidisciplinary initiative focusing on publicizing the talents, energy, and creativity of the behavioral and social sciences in meeting many of society’s most significant challenges. The rationale behind the Decade is that social and behavioral science research tackles major national challenges, and this initiative encourages behavioral and social scientists to bring their research results forward to help inform the public and the public policy development process. For more information on the Decade of Behavior, see