Nick Graetz

Nick Graetz

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton University

Eviction Lab

climate + community project

Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative

Biography

I’m a demographer/sociologist studying the political economy of housing and population health. My interdisciplinary quantitative research is organized around two central tenets of sociology: context and explanation. Contemporary contexts and outcomes are the function of cumulative, historical exposures. I use relational sociology to inform quantitative analyses of place, race, and class, focusing on the entangled, reciprocal systems of social and economic reproduction. My research is driven by a commitment to applying theory-driven quantitative methods to real-world problems in a way that is transparent, reproducible, and motivated by a need to address the fundamental causes of social and health inequity in the United States.

My dissertation work uses causal mediation analysis to answer relational questions about the role of place in producing racialized inequality across the life-course, including the long-run consequences of racist housing policies on outcomes related to household wealth and individual health. Quantitative methods must meet the nuance and detail of theory-driven research questions. I believe that hypotheses about complex social exposures, expanded by critical theorists and qualitative scholars, are often flattened by conventional quantitative methods. These dissertation projects involve developing new observational methods in g-computation for multiple dependent mediators, which I’m in the process of publishing as a public R package.

I’m also working on a set of simulation and data fusion methods for creating robust small-area estimates in the United States, combining ACS data with other national surveys such as the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. This includes funded collaborations with Data for Progress, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the EPA. I co-authored several policy briefs using this work for the Data for Progress Green New Deal platform, Senator Nikil Saval’s COVID-19 platform, and Congressman Jamaal Bowman’s Green New Deal for Schools platform.

At Princeton’s Eviction Lab, I’m working on several projects related to the rental housing market, displacement, social programs, and health outcomes. Many of these projects are in close collaboration with the Census Bureau, where we are linking individual eviction records to restricted-use data on welfare enrollment, employment, and mortality. This work situates racialized housing inequality as a fundamental cause of population health disparities, focusing on profiteering, exploitation, and power relations between specific actors (e.g., landlords and tenants).

My academic work in these areas is published or forthcoming in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Forces, Nature, Spatial Demography, Sociological Methodology, the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, the New England Journal of Medicine, and elsewhere.

Download my CV.

Interests

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

Education

  • 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

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.

Rent-seeking, eviction, and the production of premature death

In Progress. In contrast to common individualized determinants of health such as income and education, the political economy of housing is an understudied but fundamental cause of premature death in the United States. Within the private rental market, where the majority of low-income adults must turn for housing, eviction is a traumatizing and prevalent event that likely widens health and mortality disparities between renters and owners – though this has been difficult to study given data limitations. We describe a novel administrative linkage project connecting formal eviction records to all-cause mortality data from the Census Numident file, resulting in xx.x million linked records from 2000-2016. We estimate cumulative mortality risk by race, gender, cohort, and poverty status, demonstrating significant disparities within these groups between homeowners vs. renters. The cumulative risk of eviction is highest for Black renters as they age from 30-50, especially for low-income Black women (xx-xx%). We estimate the effects of an eviction on all-cause mortality, finding acute and chronic impacts across the life course conditional on a large set of baseline renter characteristics. Last, we link an additional xxx,xxx eviction records for a subset of cities in 2020-2021, demonstrating that mortality increased exponentially within the evicted population during this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss implications for housing policy during the pandemic, while also contextualizing these debates within the broader, durable ecology of eviction and mortality that has been entrenched for decades.

Public and policy writing

*

A Green New Deal for Public Housing to Deliver Racial, Economic, and Climate Justice

A Green New Deal for Public Housing to Deliver Racial, Economic, and Climate Justice

COVID-19 in Philadelphia

COVID-19 in Philadelphia for Nikil Saval 2020.

Report: A Green New Deal for American Public Housing Communities

National report for DfP on GND for public housing with interactive maps.

Report: A Green New Deal for NYCHA Communities

Report for DfP on a Green New Deal for NYCHA communities.

Report: A Green New Deal for Suburban Transportation

National report for DfP on GND for suburban transportation.