Nick Graetz

Nick Graetz

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton University

Eviction Lab

Climate and Community Project

Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative


I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University where I lead a collaboration between Princeton’s Eviction Lab and the U.S. Census Bureau. I hold a joint PhD in demography and sociology from the University of Pennsylvania (2021). I work at the intersection of population health, urban sociology, and political economy.

My primary research focus has been revealing the mechanisms through which the housing market entrenches racial inequalities in health. While it’s well known that structural inequalities shape population health, I’ve developed new data and tools to isolate and quantify specifically how factors like redlining, eviction, and housing costs create cumulative disadvantage—and the ways in which different actors profit from these arrangements. Throughout all my work, I use relational sociology to inform analyses of place, race, and class, aligning cutting-edge quantitative methods with careful attention to historical scholarship and causal inference debates. My academic work in these areas is published or forthcoming in Social Forces, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, Spatial Demography, Sociological Methodology, the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, the New England Journal of Medicine, and elsewhere.

I’m also an active member of the Climate and Community Project, a progressive climate policy think tank developing research on the climate and inequality nexus. This work includes collaborations with housing and labor organizers, policymakers, and federal agencies. I’m interested in communicating sociological perspectives to external audiences and building coalitions across academics, policymakers, journalists, and the public.

Download my CV.


  • Structural racism
  • Housing policy
  • Causal mediation analysis
  • Population health
  • Political economy
  • Stratification
  • Life-course modeling
  • Bayesian small area estimation
  • Data visualization


  • Ph.D., Demography and Sociology, 2021

    University of Pennsylvania

  • M.A., Demography, 2018

    University of Pennsylvania

  • M.P.H., Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2016

    University of Washington

  • B.S., Psychology and Political Science, 2013

    University of Wisconsin-Madison

Select publications

Current projects and working papers

American Eco-Apartheid: Mapping racial disparities in longevity driven by political economy, state violence, and environmental exposure

Under Review. We still lack a unifying theoretical framework—complete with parsimonious empirical tools—to describe interconnected, spatialized, racialized inequalities in the US, a framework that synthesizes socioeconomic and environmental relations and emphasizes mechanisms amenable to policy change. Common quantitative indices tend to be atheoretical, lack explicit causal accounts, and cannot offer policy guidance. In this study, we propose the eco-apartheid framework and index to fill this gap. We develop our index in dialogue with two research traditions with complimentary strengths—American apartheid/redlining and environmental justice mapping. Our index is consistent with those frameworks’ historical, causal narratives, and clarifies the role of structural racism in contemporary U.S. inequalities. In keeping with a South African apartheid analogy, we place greater emphasis on state violence and labor market inequalities than many analogies to apartheid. By aggregating just 6 measures—covering political economy, state violence, and socio-environmental exposures—each amenable to direct policy action, the eco-apartheid index predicts life expectancy differences of over 5 years between census tracts at the top vs. bottom of the index, in the 20 largest US metropolitan areas. It predicts 2 to 3 times higher Covid mortality rates between top vs. bottom zip codes in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, in the period before vaccination. The index predicts neighborhood life expectancy better than maps of redlining and air toxin exposure. It performs as well as the Area Depravation and Social Vulnerability indices, with far fewer variables, stronger theory, and clearer policy implications. By demonstrating the empirical validity of the eco-apartheid theoretical framework, we hope to spark research and debate on the spatial intersections of racialized, environmental, and economic inequalities in the United States and around the world.

Historical mechanisms connecting home values over three generations to contemporary Black-white disparities in wealth

Under Review. The Black-white wealth gap in the United States has persisted and widened since the 1960s. Analyses have identified many mechanisms underlying wealth correlations across successive generations, but few studies have quantified the relative contributions of these interconnected and racialized systems of reproduction to the total gap we observe today. Using linked data from the PSID (N=2,977), I define a wealth gap in 2015-17 between three generations racialized as Black and three generations racialized as white since 1968-70. I use a fully interacted counterfactual mediation framework to decompose this disparity into the historical, racialized contributions from grandparent home value, parent educational attainment, parent home value, grandchild educational attainment, and grandchild home value. I demonstrate how these relations become structurally embedded in the distributions of subsequent home values and educational attainment over each generation, such that the contemporary wealth gap can be decomposed into a system of contemporary discrimination and compositional differences predicated on historical discrimination. Findings from this study contribute to our understanding of the dynamic, racialized process of multigenerational place-based wealth accumulation and support the importance of historically contingent social policy centered on reparative justice.

The scars of legal violence: Immigration enforcement, policy, and population health inequality

In Progress. The sociopolitical environments where immigrants in the U.S. live have changed drastically in recent decades, with substantial variation across and within states. Yet there is limited empirical investigation of the consequences of these changes for population health. Linking panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (2004-2016) to data on county-level immigration enforcement and state-level immigrant policy, this study estimates three-way fixed effects models to examine how within county changes in immigration enforcement and within state changes in immigrant policy shape within person changes in health. We pay particular attention to racial-ethnic and nativity variation in these links. Results show that as local immigration enforcement intensifies and state policy contexts become more restrictive, foreign-born adults—especially Latinx immigrants—experience accelerated health decline, including increases in functional limitations and physiological dysregulation. Like episodes of physical violence that can leave lacerations and damage—both visible and more hidden—our results provide evidence of the health harms of state sanctioned legal violence - what we call scars of legal violence. Findings highlight how policies governing immigrants not only shape structures of racial domination and immigrant exclusion but the embodied health inequities that flow from them, with implications for understanding and redressing population health disparities.