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Lehigh University's Linderman Library in the fall
Kelly Austin portrait

Kelly Austin


0031 - Williams Hall

Ph.D. – Sociology, North Carolina State University, 2012

M.S. – Sociology, North Carolina State University, 2008

B.A. – Sociology, Oregon State University, 2006

B.S. – Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University, 2006

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Research Areas

Additional Interests

  • International Development
  • Political Economy
  • Global Health
  • The Environment

Research Statement

Kelly Austin’s work in comparative sociology is centered on exploring global inequalities, principally through the lens of health and environmental well-being. Her current research mainly focuses on exploring health outcomes in developing countries, drawing on macro-comparative perspectives nested in political-economy to focus on the larger, upstream causes of disease. Austin’s scholarship illuminates how large-scale international processes, such as trade dependency, privatization, structural adjustment, and environmental change cause some societies to face a higher disease burden than others. Although much of her published work employs quantitative, macro-comparative methods, Austin also conducts qualitative field research related to coffee, climate change, and malaria in Bududa, Uganda.


Kelly Austin grew up outside of Santa Cruz, California. She attended college at Oregon State University, and went to earn her PhD in Sociology at North Carolina State University. Kelly arrived at Lehigh University in 2012, and in addition to being a member of the Sociology and Anthropology department, has also served as Director of the Health, Medicine and Society program, Director of the Global Studies Program, and is currently Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs for the College of Arts and Sciences. Kelly lives in Fountain Hill and spends summers in Bududa, Uganda working with Lehigh undergraduates and local community groups. 

Select Recent Publications: 

Austin, Kelly F. 2021. “Degradation and Disease: Ecologically Unequal Exchanges Cultivate Emerging Pandemics.” World Development 137(1): 105163. 

Burndt, Virginia and Kelly F. Austin. 2021. “Drought and Disproportionate Disease: An Investigation of the Percentage of HIV Cases among Women in Less-Developed Nations.” Population & Environment 42(3): 379-405

Austin, Kelly F., Mark D. Noble, and Virginia Burndt. 2021. “Drying Climates, Food Insecurity and Unequal Vulnerabilities to HIV: A Cross-National Analysis of Women’s HIV in Less-Developed Nations.” Social Indicators Research 154(1): 313-334. 

Austin, Kelly F. 2020. “Opposing Observations and the Political-Economy of Malaria Vulnerability: A Community-Based Study in Bududa, Uganda.” Journal of World-Systems Research 26(1): 9-39. 

Austin, Kelly F., Mark D. Noble, and Laura A. McKinney. 2020. “Climate Disasters Contaminate Women: Investigating Cross-National Linkages between Disasters, Hunger, and Women’s HIV in Less-Developed Nations.” Global Health Governance 10(1): 86-102. 

Austin, Kelly F. and Maria Theresa Mejia. 2019. “The Political-Economy of Landslides and International Aid Relief: A Qualitative Investigation in Rural Uganda.” Journal of Political Ecology 26(1): 720-737. 

Austin, Kelly F. 2019. “Felling Trees, Furthering Malaria: Links Between Deforestation and Disease in Developing Nations.” Journal of Population and Sustainability 3(2): 13-32.


Kelly Austin regularly teaches courses on Global Health, The Political Economy of Globalization, and Research Methods.