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Diversity, Inequality, and Human Well-Being

The concept of human diversity, its relationship with inequality, and its complex interactions with economic, political, cultural, and social institutions have profound implications for virtually all dimensions of human well-being. How do the stresses of racism affect the immune system? Or voter participation? How do environmental toxins disproportionately impact disadvantaged children? To improve understanding of the nature of diversity and the causes, character, and consequences of inequality, we will make strategic investments in faculty as well as several programs and initiatives.

Professor Annette Lareau delivers a 60-second lecture on “Unequal Life Chances”

A new interdisciplinary initiative at Penn Arts and Sciences is challenging social and life scientists to be more creative in their approaches to integrating race in their research. The Program on Race, Science and Society—established by Dorothy Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights—builds on Roberts’ extensive research in the area, which calls into question the assertion that race can be categorized biologically. The program hosts visiting scholars and engages faculty and students from fields in the humanities and social sciences, as well as the life sciences.

At the weekly Drew Cooking Club, students from the Charles R. Drew Elementary School in West Philadelphia team up with Penn undergraduates studying nutritional anthropology and students in the Graduate School of Education to learn about smart food choices.

Academically based community service (ABCS) courses such as this provide students with opportunities to learn through community service that is rooted in and intrinsically linked to teaching and research.

To provide further opportunities for service and learning in diverse communities, Penn Arts and Sciences will sponsor “Making a Difference in Diverse Communities” initiatives in which interdisciplinary teams of three or four faculty members will work with groups of 20 to 30 undergraduates in underserved communities in Philadelphia, or elsewhere in the United States, or in other countries.

Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Natural Sciences Martha Farah is a cognitive neuroscientist who works at the interface of neuroscience and society, including the effects of childhood poverty on brain development.

She and her colleagues have documented the socioeconomic disparities in areas such as working memory. Her recent research has been aimed at understanding the dimensions of childhood experience that cause these differences and the mechanisms by which they emerge.