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Drew Halfmann

Education

  • PhD, Sociology, New York University, 2001
  • MA, Sociology, New York University, 1996
  • BA, Political Science and Economics, University of Wisconsin, 1990

About

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Drew Halfmann’s research and teaching focuses on social movements and the politics of health and social policy. His book, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada (University of Chicago Press, 2011), won best book awards from the Pacific Sociological Association and from the ASA Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements (the Charles Tilly Award).

Halfmann serves on the editorial board of the American Sociological Review. He is affiliated with the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research and the the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research. He was a fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Scholars in Health Policy Research Program (University of Michigan). He is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network and is currently working to establish a Sacramento Area chapter of the organization. He has taught at East China Normal University in Shanghai. His research has appeared in the American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Mobilization, HEALTH, Studies in American Political Development, and the Journal of Policy History. Professor Halfmann has appeared on the PBS Newshour, and has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, NBC and The Guardian. He has published op-eds and blog posts for the Sacramento Bee, Dissent, Contexts, Mobilizing Ideas, the Society Pages, and his own blog, After-Dinner Critic

Research Focus

Drew Halfmann’s research focuses on the politics of abortion and health inequality, with a focus on the ways in which political institutions shape policy-making.

Abortion Politics and Policy

Abortion is one of the most divisive political issues in the United States. In contrast, it has remained a less controversial, primarily medical issue, in Britain and Canada despite the countries’ shared heritage. Halfmann’s book, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada (University of Chicago Press, 2011), looks beyond cultural or religious explanations to find out why abortion politics and policies differ so dramatically in these otherwise similar countries.

Political institutions are crucial. In the United States, federalism, judicial review, and a private health care system contributed to the public definition of abortion as an individual right rather than a medical necessity. Meanwhile, the porous structure of American political parties gave pro-choice and pro-life groups the opportunity to move the issue onto the political agenda.

He also has conducted research on the use of grotesque imagery in abortion politics, cross-national differences in the medicalization of abortion, and the pursuit of medical allies by the abortion rights movement. 

Health Inequality

Halfmann’s book project, No Crystal Stair: the African-American Struggle for Health Equality, examines the social forces and government policies that shaped the health of African-Americans over the last 150 years: from Reconstruction to Obamacare. 

Black Americans have worse health than white Americans across most measures of morbidity and mortality, including a five-year gap in life expectancy. No Crystal Stair, shows that political institutions, such the separation of powers, federalism, and winner-take-all elections, are a major cause of this inequality. Political institutions have strongly shaped the historical construction and maintenance of the main social institutions that drive health inequality: residential segregation, the educational system, labor markets, social welfare policy and the health care system. Through its political-institutional approach, the book identifies key opportunities, constraints and strategies for addressing health inequalities through public policy.

Selected Publications

Halfmann, D. (2011) Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada. University of Chicago Press. Received best book awards from the Pacific Sociological Association and from the ASA Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements (the Charles Tilly Award).

Halfmann, D. (2011) Recognizing medicalization and demedicalization: Discourses, practices and identities, HEALTH: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine.

Halfmann, D., & Amenta, E. (2011) Opportunity knocks: The trouble with political opportunity and what you can do about It, In Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper (Eds.) Contention in Context: New Opportunities in Social Movement Research. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Halfmann, D., & Young, M. P. (2010) War pictures: The grotesque as a mobilizing tactic. Mobilization, 15(1):1-24.

Halfmann, D., Rude, J., & Ebert, K. (2005) The biomedical legacy in minority health policy-making, 1975-2002. Research in the Sociology of Health Care, 23, 245-275.

Halfmann, D. (2003) Historical priorities and the responses of doctors’ associations to abortion reforms in Britain and the United States, 1960-1973. Social Problems, 50: 567-92.

Halfmann, D., & Amenta, E. (2000) Wage wars: Institutional politics, WPA wages and the struggle for U.S. social policy, American Sociological Review, 65(4): 506-528.

Teaching

At the graduate level, Drew Halfmann teaches Comparative and Historical Methods, the Politics of the Welfare State, Political Sociology, and the Sociology of Health and Illness. At the undergraduate level, he teaches Social Policy, Health Policy and Political Sociology. 

Awards

2013 Distinguished Scholarship Award, Pacific Sociological Association, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

2012 Charles Tilly Best Book Award, Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements, American Sociological Association, Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain and Canada (University of Chicago Press, 2011).