Stephen A. Matthews

Stephen A. Matthews

Liberal Arts Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, Demography, and Geography
Courtesy School of International Affairs
Director, Graduate Program in Demography
507 Oswald Tower University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-9721
Stephen A. Matthews

Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., University of Wales, Cardiff (United Kingdom), 1991

Professional Bio

Professional Bio

Research Activities and Interests:

My research interests focus on the connections between people and places. An important part of my work is an interest in conceptual and methodological issues associated with how neighborhoods are defined and their attributes are measured, and the relevance of these definitions and measures to individual behavior and demographic and health outcomes. I have a longstanding interest in spatial demography and the use of spatial concepts, measures and methods to study population health and spatial inequality. Recent publications have focused on physical activity, diet and obesity, residential segregation, neighborhood change, access to health care, health care distrust, cancer screening, infant mortality, mortality, alcohol outlets, crime/victimization and religious landscapes.

Current Research Projects

I have several ongoing research collaborations. Externally funded projects include an NCI project on Activity Space Contexts and Measuring Environmental Exposure (ASCMEE Project); an NIH/Veterans Affairs project titled Weight and Veterans' Environments Study (WAVES); an NSF project on spatial data privacy; an NICHD study on racial and ethnic diversity. Unfunded projects focus on spatial inequality in urban environments, the use of resources in both residential neighborhoods and activity spaces among low-income mothers, food environment research, the relationship between income inequality and mortality, and geospatial approaches to health outcomes, health services and to cancer epidemiology.

Research and Teaching Interests

An important part of my work is an interest in conceptual and methodological issues associated with how neighborhoods are defined and their attributes are measured, and the relevance of these definitions and measures to individual behavior and health outcomes. In regards to the latter I have developed and used methods to track individual movements across space (i.e., contexts) to try to get a better handle on actual contextual exposures during the course of daily activities (rather than solely relying on residential tracts and other convenient units of analysis). To that end I have also used new methodological approach based on the integration of GIS and ethnography (geoethnography) and in my work with physical activity researchers utilize global positioning system (GPS) units and activity logs.

While most of my work is US focused I am increasingly involved in international projects, the most recent of which was related to a Pan-University Network for Global Health supported conference on "migration, urbanization and health in southern Africa" at the University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa (see Also I am collaborating with a team of scientists from across Penn State on project development at the intersection of food/nutrition, water, health, demographic and environmental change focusing on West Africa.

Over the next few years my goals are to focus my research, publish as widely as possible in demography, sociology, and health science journals, and remain grant active, seeking new sources of funding for my own research.

Teaching interests are in Health, Disease & Society/Medical Sociology, Spatial Inequality, Spatial Demography and GIS/Spatial Analysis. I am currently helping to develop materials for a the new Certificate and Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) programs in Applied Demography.

Active Research Grants

As a PI or Co-I

  • Daniel Kifer (PI), Stephen A. Matthews, and Tse-Chuan Yang "A Utility for Private Data Sharing in Social Science.” An NS Trustworthy Computing (TWC) in the Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBES) Medium application. Awarded September 2012.
  • Barrett A. Lee (PI), Stephen A. Matthews, Chad Farrell, Matthew Hall, and Laura Tach. "Racial and ethnic diversity in American communities, 1980-2010." R01 NICHD. Awarded July 2013.
  • Shannon Zenk and Elizabeth Tarlov (PIs, University of Illinois, Chicago) et al. "Environmental attributes and weight control: Study of over 1.3 million veterans." (subcontract to UIC) R01 National Institutes of Health. Awarded September 2013.(WAVES Study) & Veteran's Affairs.
  • Michael Kramer (Emory University). "Spatiotemporal neighborhood dynamics and early childhood cognitive development." K01 Award NICHD (role: mentor)
  • Shannon Zenk/Stephen Matthews (MPI). "Activity space contexts and measuring environmental exposure in behavioral research." R21 NCI (Awarded April, 2015). (ASCMEE Study).

As a consultant (including)

  • Denis Gerstorf (PI, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany) et al. "Environmental factors that regulate terminal decline: Late-life as a natural experiment. German Research Foundation (role: consultant). Awarded October 2013. (role: consultant)
  • Jacqueline Kerr (PI, UC San Diego) et al. PQA4 GPS exposure to environments and relations with biomarkers of cancer risk. R01 NIH. Awarded August 2103. (role: consultant)


Professional Awards and Achievements


2017 - Recognized by the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State for having received external funding (training and research grants) for 19 consecutive years.


Service to Academic Journals

I currently serve as a co-editor for Demography (2016-2019) and have served on the journal's editorial board since 2010. Demography's Springer home page is:

Also I recently served as an associate editor for Demographic Research (2012-2016) (available online at and served on the editorial boards of several other journals:

Guest Editor:

  • 1995 Journal of Geography in Higher Education on “Teaching Medical Geography” Vol. 19 (3) (w/Mark Rosenberg)
  • 1995 Geoforum on “Geographies of Women’s Health” Vol. 26 (3)
  • 2012 American Journal of Preventive Medicine on “GIS and Childhood Obesity” (with Celeste Torio)
  • 2013 Demographic Research on "Spatial Demography"
  • 2015 The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Vol. 660 on "Residential Inequality in American Neighborhoods and Communities." July 2015 (with Barrett Lee, Glenn Firebaugh and John Iceland).
  • 2017-2018 Coordinating a special issue of Mathematical Population Studies on spatial mathematical demography, issue planned for 2017-2018

Publications since 2005

ORCID identifier #: 0000-0002-1645-4854

Google Scholar:

Google Scholar total (as of 08/01/17) = 2,618 (since 2012 = 2,013) --- h-index total = 26 (since 2012 = 24) --- i10-index total = 46 (since 2012 = 38)

Scopus ID: 7201477376


Burton LM, Kemp S, Leung M*, Matthews SA and Takeuchi D (editors) (2011) Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place (Springer: ISBN: 978-1-441-97481-5).

Zelinsky W, Matthews SA. (2011) The Place of Religion in Chicago (Center for American Places/University of Chicago Press; Chicago, Illinois). ISBN: 978-1-935-19515-3

Howell, FM, Porter JR, and Matthews SA (editors) (2016) Recapturing Space: New Middle-Range Theory in Spatial Demography. Springer.

Journal Articles

* = Graduate Student at time of project

Forthcoming (incl. Published Online)

Rabiei-Dastjerdi H, Matthews SA, Ardalan A. (Published Online) Measuring spatial accessibility to urban facilities and services in Tehran. Spatial Demography

Martin MJR*, Matthews, SA, Lee BA. (Published Online) The spatial diffusion of racial and ethnic diversity across US counties. Spatial Demography

Graif C, Matthews SA. (Published Online)  The long arm of poverty: Extended and relational geographies of child victimization and neighborhood violence exposures. Justice Quarterly

Bopp M, Sims D*, Matthews SA, Rovniak L, Poole E, Colgan J. (Published Online) Development, implementation and evaluation of Active Lions: A campaign to promote active travel to a university campus.  American Journal of Health Promotion 

Zenk SN, Tarlov E, Powell LM, Wing C, Matthews SA, Slater S, Gordon HS, Berbaum M, Fitzgibbon ML. (Published Online) Weight And Veterans' Environments Studies (WAVES) I and II: Rationale, Methods, and Cohort Characteristics. American Journal of Health Promotion 

Tarlov E, Zenk S, Matthews SA, Powell LM, Jones KK, Slater S, Wing C. Availability of neighborhood resources to support healthy diet and physical activity among U.S. military veterans compared to the general population  Preventing Chronic Disease.

Kramer MR, Black NC, Matthews SA, James S. (Accepted) The legacy of slavery and contemporary heart disease trends: what does place encode? SSM - Population Health

Yang TC, Matthews SA, Park K. (Accepted) Looking through a different lens: Examining the inequality-mortality association in U.S. counties using spatial panel models. Applied Geography 

Zenk SN, Tarlov E, Powell LM, Wing C, Jones KK, Tong H, Matthews, SA. (Accepted) Geographic accessibility of food outlets not associated with body mass index change among veterans, 2009-2014. Health Affairs 


Matthews SA. (2017) Uncertain Geographic Context Problem. In the International Encyclopedia of Geography. Douglas Richardson (Editor). Malden, Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Clary C, Matthews SA, Kestens Y. (2017) Between exposure, access and use: Reconsidering foodscape influences on dietary behaviors. Health and Place 44:1-7.

Jones KK*, Zenk SN, Tarlov E, Powell LM, Matthews SA, Horoi I*. (2017) A Step-by-Step Approach to Improve Data Quality When Using Commercial Business Lists to Characterize Retail Food Environments. BMC Research Notes 10:35

Fowler CS, Lee BA, Matthew SA (2016) The contributions of places to metropolitan ethnoracial diversity and segregation: decomposing change across time and over time. Demography 53(6):1955-1977.

Kramer MR, Raskind I, Vandyke M, Matthews SA, Cook J. (2016) The geography of adolescent obesity in the United States, 2007-2011. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 51(6):898-909.

Rovniak LS, Kong L, Hovell MF, Ding D, Sallis JF, Ray CA, Krashnewski JL, Matthews SA, Kiser E, Chinchilli VM, George DR, Sciamanna CN (2016) Engineering online and in-person social networks for physical activity: A randomized trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine  50(6):885-897

Short PF, Moran JR, Yang TC, Camacho F, Gusani NJ, Mackley HB, Matthews SA, Anderson RT. (2016) Effects of hospital type and distance on lymph node assessment for colon cancer patients in metropolitan and non-metropolitan Appalachian counties. Medical Care Research and Review 73(5):546-564.

Haley D, Matthews SA,Cooper HL, Haardorfer R, Adimora AA, Wingood GM, Kramer MR (2016) Confidentiality considerations for use of socio-spatial data on the social determinants of health: Sexual and reproductive health case study. Social Science and Medicine 166:49-56.

Bopp M, Sims D*, Matthews SA, Rovniak LS, Poole E, Colgan J. (Published Online) There is a app for that: Development of a smartphone app to promote active travel to a college campus. Journal of Transport and Health 3(3):305-314.

Bopp M, Sims D*, Coglan J, Rovniak LS, Matthews SA, Poole E (2016) Workplace influences on active communting in university employees. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice 22(4):387-391.

Winchester M, Belue R, Oni T, Wittwer-Backofen U, Deobagkar D, Onya H, Samuels TA, Matthews SA, Stone C*, Airhihenbuwa C. The Pan University Netowrk for Global Health: Framework for collaboration and review of global health needs. Globalization and Health.12:13

Fleming ST, Mackley HB, Camacho F,Yao N, Gusani NJ, Seiber EE, Matthews SA, Yang T-C, Hwang W. (2016) Patterns of care for metastatic colorectal cancer in Appalachia, and the clinical, sociodemographic, and service provider determinants. Journal of Rural Health 32 (2): 113-124.

Wilson D*, Bopp M, Colgan J, Sims D*, Matthews SA, Rovniak LS, Poole E. (2016) A social media campaign for promoting active travel to a university campus. Journal of Healthcare Communication. 1(2):11

Yang T-C, Matthews SA (2015) Death by segregation: Does the dimension of segregation matter? PLOS ONE 10(9): e0138489

Parker DM, Matthews SA, Yan G, Zhou G, Lee M-C, Sirichaisinthop J, Kiattibutr K, Sattabongkot J, Cui L. (2015) Microgeography and molecular epidemiology of malaria at the Thailand-Myanmar border in the malaria pre-elimination phase. Malaria Journal 14(1):198. Abstract available online at:

Matthews SA, Logan ES*, Bacon R*. (2015) Spatial analysis. Oxford Bibliographies Online – Sociology. Ed. J. Baxter, New York: Oxford University Press.

Lee BA, Matthews SA, Firebaugh G, and Iceland J. (2015) Residential inequality: Overview and orientation. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 660:8-16 (July 2015).

Firebaugh G, Iceland J. Matthews SA, and Lee BA (2015) Residential inequality: Significant findings and policy implications. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 660:360-366 (July 2015).

Kimmick GG, Camacho F, Mackley HB, Kern T, Yao N, Matthews SA, Fleming S, Lipscomb J, Liao J, Hwang W, and Anderson RT (2015) Individual, area, and provider characteristics associated with care received for Stage I-III breast cancer in a multisite region of Appalachia. Journal of Oncology Practice 11(1):e9-e18.

Graif C, Gladfelter AS*, Matthews SA (2014) Urban poverty and neighborhood effects on crime: Incorporating spatial and network perspectives. Sociological Compass 8/9:1140-1155.

Anderson RT, Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Camacho F, Kern T, Mackley HB, Kimmick G, Louis C*, Lengerich E, Yao N (2014) Breast cancer screening rates and percentage of late stage tumors: Does geography matter? Health Services Research 49(2):546-567.

Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Chen VY-J (2014) Stochastic variability in stress, sleep duration and sleep quality across the distribution of body mass index: insights from quantile regression. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21(2):282-291.

Cummins S, Flint E, Matthews SA (2014) New neighborhood grocery store increased awareness of food access but did not alter dietary habits or obesity. Health Affairs 33(2): 281-291.

Cummins S, Flint E, Matthews SA (2014) Grocery store and obesity: The authors reply. Health Affairs 33(5):907.

Fleming ST, Mackley HB, Camacho F, Seibert EE, Gusani NJ, Matthews SA, Liao J, Yang T-C, Hwang W, Yao N. (2014) Clinical, sociodemographic and service provider determinants of guideline concordant colorectal cancer care in Appalachia. Journal of Rural Health 30(1):27-39.

Duncan DT, Kawachi I, Kum S, Aldstadt J, Piras G, Matthews SA, Arbia G, Castro MC, White K, Williams DR. (2014) A spatially explicit approach to the study of socio-demographic inequality in the spatial distribution of trees across Boston neighborhoods. Spatial Demography 2(1):1-29.

Li N, Parker DM*, Yang Z, Fan Q, Zhou G, Ai G, Duan J, Lee M-C, Yan G, Matthews SA, Cui L, Wang Y. (2013) Risk factors associated with slide positivity among febrile patients in a conflict zone of north-eastern Myanmar along the China-Myanmar border. Malaria Journal. 12:361. Available online at

Rovniak LS, Sallis JF, Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Kiser EJ, Ray CA, Chinchill V, Ding D, Matthews SA, Bopp M, George DR, Hovell MF (2013) Engineering online and in-person social networks to sustain physical activity: Applications of a conceptual model. BMC Public Health 13:753. Available online at

Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Anderson RT (2013) Prostate cancer screening and health care system distrust in Philadelphia. Journal of Aging and Health 25(5): 737-757.

Flint E, Cummins S, Matthews SA. (2013) Do perceptions of the neighborhood food environment predict fruit and vegetable intake in low-income neighborhoods? Health and Place 24:11-15

Matthews SA, Yang T-C (2013) Spatial Polygamy And Contextual Exposures (SPACEs): Promoting activity space approaches in research on place and health. American Behavioral Scientist 57(8):1057-1081.

Yao N*, Matthews SA, Hillemeier MM, Anderson RT (2013) Radiation therapy resources and guideline-concordant radiotherapy for early-stage breast cancer patients in an underserved region. Health Services Research 48(4):1433-1449.

Zhang C, Mosa AJ, Hayward AS, Matthews SA (2013) Promoting clean hands among Uganda’s children: A school-based intervention using tippy-taps. Public Health 127(6):586-589.

Matthews SA, Parker DM* (2013) Progress in spatial demography. Demographic Research Volume 28, Article 10, 271-312.

Fuller D, Cummins S, Matthews SA (2013) Does transportation mode modify associations between distance to food store, fruit and vegetable consumption and BMI in low income neighborhoods? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97(1):167-172.

Yang T-C, Shoff C*, Matthews SA. (2013) Examining the spatially non-stationary associations between the second demographic transition and infant mortality: A Poisson GWR approach. Spatial Demography 1 (1):18-41.

Zenk SN, Schulz AJ, Odoms-Young A, Wilbur J, Matthews SA, Gamboa C, Wegrzyn L, Hobson S, Stokes C. (2012). Feasibility of using global positioning systems (GPS) with diverse urban adults: Before and after data on perceived acceptability, wear-related concerns, and ease of use. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 9 (7):924-934.

Yao N*, Matthews SA, Hillemeier, MM. (2012) White infant mortality in Appalachian states, 1976-1980 and 1996-2000: changing patterns and persistent disparities. Journal of Rural Health 28(2):174-182.

Shoff C*, Yang T-C, Matthews SA. (2012) What has geography got to do with it? Using GWR to explore place-specific associations with prenatal care utilization. GeoJournal 77 (3):331-341.

Matthews SA. (2012) Thinking about place, spatial behavior, and spatial processes in childhood obesity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 42 (5):516-520.

Yang T-C, Chen VY-J, Shoff C*, Matthews SA (2012) Using quantile regression to examine the effects of inequality across the mortality distribution in the US counties. Social Science and Medicine 74, 1900-1910.

Chen VY-J, Deng W-S, Yang TC, Matthews SA. (2012) A geographically weighted quantile regression approach for spatial data analysis: an application to county-level U.S. mortality data. Geographical Analysis 44 (2):134-150.

Gilreath TD, Chaix B, King G, Matthews SA, Flisher, AJ (2012) Multi-level influence of school norms on tobacco use in South Africa: An ecometric consideration of group differences. Cancer Causes and Control 23:27-36.

Yang TC, Matthews SA (2012) Understanding the non-stationary associations between distrust of the health care system, health conditions, and self-rated health in the elderly: A geographically weighted regression approach. Health and Place 18:576-585.

Matthews SA, Yang T-C (2012) Mapping the results of local statistics: Using geographically weighted regression. Demographic Research Volume 26, Article 6, 151-166.

Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Shoff C.* (2011) Individual health care system distrust and neighborhood social environment; how are they jointly associated with self-rated health? Journal of Urban Health 88 (5):945-958.

Zenk SN, Schulz AJ, Matthews SA, Odoms-Young A, Wilbur J, Wegrzyn L, Gibbs K, Braunschweig C, Stokes C. (2011) Activity space environment and eating and physical activity behaviors: a pilot study. Health and Place 17:1150-1161.

Matthews SA. (2011) Spatial analysis. Oxford Bibliographies Online – Sociology

Yang T-C, Matthews SA, Hillemeier M. (2011) Effect of health care system distrust on breast and cervical cancer screening in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. American Journal of Public Health 101 (7):1297-1305.

Matthews SA. McCarthy JD, Rafail PS*. (2011) Using ZIP Code Business Pattern data to measure alcohol outlet density. Addictive Behaviors 36:777-780.

Matthews SA, Yang T-C*. (2010) Exploring the role of built and social neighborhood environments in moderating stress and health. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 39:170-183.

Matthews SA, Yang T-C*, Hayslett KL*, Ruback RB. (2010) Built environment and property crime in Seattle, 1998-2000: A Bayesian analysis. Environment and Planning A 42:1403-1420.

Yang T-C*, Matthews SA (2010) The role of social and built environments in predicting self-rated stress: A multilevel analysis in Philadelphia. Health and Place 16:803-810.

Gubhaju B*, Matthews SA. (2009) Women’s empowerment, sociocultural context, and reproductive behavior in Nepal. Asia-Pacific Population Journal 24 (2): 25-50.

Matthews SA, Moudon AV, Daniel M. (2009) Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for enhancing research relevant to policy on diet, physical activity, and weight. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 36 (4S): 171-176.

Reardon SF, Farrell CR, Matthews SA, O’Sullivan D, Bischoff K*, Firebaugh G. (2009) Race and space in the 1990s: changes in the geographic scale of racial residential segregation, 1990-2000. Social Science Research 38:55-70.

Lee BA, Reardon SF, Firebaugh G, Farrell CR, Matthews SA, O’Sullivan D. (2008). Beyond the census tract: patterns and determinants of racial segregation at multiple geographic scales. American Sociological Review 73:766-791.

Reardon SF, Matthews SA, O’Sullivan D, Lee BA, Firebaugh G, Farrell CR, Bischoff K.* (2008) The geographic scale of metropolitan racial segregation. Demography 45 (3):489-514.

Matthews SA. (2008) The salience of neighborhoods: lessons from early Sociology? American Journal of Preventive Medicine 34 (3):257-259.

Matthews SA, Detwiler J, Burton LM. (2005) Geoethnography: coupling geographic information analysis techniques with ethnography methods in urban research. Cartographica 40 (4):75-90.

Kaduri P, Gilreath T*, Kilonza G, King G, Flisher A, Matthews SA. (2005) The influence of social networks on adolescent smoking in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Promotion and Education 12 (2):10-14.

Book Chapters

Howell FM, Porter J, Matthews SA, (2016) Introduction: Recapturing spatial approaches in social science problems. Pp. 1-8, Chapter 1 in Howell FM, Porter JR, Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Siordia C, Matthews SA (2016) Extending the boundaries of place. Pp. 37-56, Chapter 3 in Howell FM, Porter JR, Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Matthews SA (2016) Instruction in spatial demography. Pp.  355-369, Chapter 17 in Howell FM, Porter JR, and Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Howell, FR, Porter, JR, Matthews SA (2016) Concluding remarks: Developing spatial demography. Pp. 371-379, Chapter 18 in Howell FR, Porter JR, Matthews SA (eds) Recapturing Space. Springer.

Matthews SA (2011) Spatial polygamy and the heterogeneity of place: studying people and place via egocentric methods. Pp. 35-55, Chapter 3 in L Burton, S Kemp, M Leung, SA Matthews and D Takeuchi (editors) Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. Springer, New York, NY.

Burton L, Kemp S, Leung M, Matthews SA, and Takeuchi D (2011) Introduction – Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. Pp. vii-xii, Preface in L Burton, S Kemp, M Leung, SA Matthews and D Takeuchi (editors) Communities, Neighborhoods, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place. Springer, New York, NY.

Martin D, Rees P, Durham H, Matthews SA. (2009) “Census and population analysis” Pp. 53-75, Chapter 4 in Rees P, Mackay L, Martin D, Durham H (Editors) E-Learning for Geographers: Online Materials, Resources and Repositories. Idea Group, Inc, Hershey, PA.

Skinner D, Matthews SA, Burton LM. (2005) Combining ethnography and GIS technology to examine constructions of developmental opportunities in contexts of poverty and disability. Pp. 223-239, Chapter 7 in Weisner T (Ed.). Discovering Successful Pathways in Children's Development: Mixed Methods in the Study of Childhood and Family Life. MacArthur Foundation: University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.