Sangeetha Madhavan is a Professor in the Departments of Sociology and African-American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park. She currently serves as the Chair of the Department of African American Studies. She received her MA and PHD in Sociology and Demography from the University of Pennsylvania. She has a wide range of research interests including family demography, children's well-being, parenting, household and family change, the social context of HIV/AIDS and health in the context of sub-Saharan Africa, the Global South and the US. Her recent publications appear in Population and Development Review, Teaching Sociology and Urban Studies. She is currently the principal investigator of a five year NICHD R01 grant to study kinship, marriage and child health in low income urban  communities in Nairobi, Kenya . She teaches courses on Social Inequalities and Health, HIV/AIDS in Global Perspective and African Development. She has mentored a number of Sociology PHD students who have gone onto post-doctoral positions at Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Population Council. She has also mentored many undergraduates on research involving social disparities in health, intersectionality and health and social inequalities in global perspective. She is also a Faculty Associate of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland.

Areas of Interest

  • Family Demography
  • Parenting
  • Kinship
  • Children's Well-being
  • Sub Saharan Africa
  • African Diaspora
  • Mobility and Migration
  • Social Determinants of Health


  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Sociology and Demography University of Pennsylvania
I believe that the best way to engage students is to enable them to contribute to their own learning, that of their peers and my own through class participation and discussion about readings. Therefore, even during the “lecture” component of my courses, I solicit reactions, refutations and comments to what I am saying. Thanks to technology which enables me to post the lecture slides on Blackboard, students need not focus their effort on taking notes during class. Instead, they can listen to what is being said and respond. My emphasis on class participation is made clear by the equal weighting on participation, exams and papers that is given in most of my classes. Students take turns leading the discussion of the weekly readings by developing a set of critical questions that they pose to the rest of the class.For the latter, I emphasize the collegial nature of this endeavor and make them appreciate their own bodies of knowledge that they bring with them.

My research seeks to answer two key questions: 1) how are people connected? and 2) which relationships matter for children and young adults and why? Through systematic examination of the household, extended family systems and kinship in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa more generally, I have been working towards the development of an innovative model of “social connectivity” that extends beyond co-residence to incorporate biological and non-biological connections across time and space. Specific outcomes of interest include children’s nutritional status, school progress, adolescent childbearing and young people’s parenting roles. My research has been influenced by anthropology which has made a valuable contribution to understanding how demographic processes are, in large part, a function of cultural and sociopolitical norms. It has also inspired me to challenge assumptions often made about certain categories or contexts based on aggregate level demographic data. I view family structure and family functioning as dynamic, conditioned by cultural norms and socioeconomic circumstances and marked by cooperation and conflict. Social inequality underpins most of my research given that much of it has been conducted in South Africa which ranks as the most unequal society in the world. Therefore, any research conducted in urban or rural contexts must address inequalities on a number of interrelated dimensions including race, class, gender and location.

Principal Investigator (NICHD R01):

  • Professional
    Reviewer for Demography, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Social Science and Medicine
  • Campus
    Scholarships Committee
  • Professional
    Reviewer for National Institutes of Health Study Panels

Current Students

Former Students

  • Sangeeta Parashar
    Assistant Professor from Montclair State University
  • Tyler Myroniuk
    Post Doctoral Fellow from Brown University
  • Mark Gross
    Doctoral Student from the University of Maryland, College Park Department of Sociology
  • Diane Gardsbane
    Doctoral Student from The University of Maryland, College Park Department of Anthropology
S Madhavan
1123E Taliaferro Hall
African American Studies Department
smadhava [at]