Malia Jones

Position title: Assistant Professor, Community and Environmental Sociology


316 Agricultural Hall
1450 Linden Drive

Personal Website


Curriculum Vitae

My research agenda centers on spatially explicit approaches to the relationship between people and their environments, and how spatial exposures lead to health disparities. My work focuses on describing how the dynamical, interpersonal interactions of everyday life can produce large-scale population health patterns through the application of geospatial analysis and computational simulation methods. I am driven to understand how spatial patterns lead to health disparities, and how clustering processes may be exploited to reduce health disparities.

As the co-director of the health geography research program at the Applied Population Laboratory, I jointly lead an interdisciplinary team focused on spatial approaches to population health outcomes, along with co-director William Buckingham, PhD. Our mission is to make sense of geospatial data in population health research. As such, our unit provides collaborative support for researchers across our campus and at other universities engaged in public health work involving spatially explicit data. In addition, academic members of our team have independent, extramurally-funded research agendas.

Our team includes content expertise in geography, public health, demography and sociology. We bring together a wide range of methodological approaches that span the research cycle, from idea generation to dissemination. We are practiced in spatial approaches to quantitative and qualitative data collection and handling, spatial data processing, geocoding, spatial data analysis, cartography, web design, translational research writing, data science and data visualization. Our approach to spatially explicit data is truly integrative and unique. Our methodological and content expertise in spatial data can be applied to a broad range of health outcomes. We are able to bring content expertise and spatial skills to bear on a practically limitless array of research questions, and deliver results in web-ready, stylishly illustrated, academic and public-facing formats. Ongoing and recent projects in health geography research at the Applied Population Laboratory include work in spatial dimensions of Alzheimer’s disease, childhood vaccinations, health care access, homicide, obesity, and father involvement in parenting.

My independent research agenda focuses on how geographic distribution of people creates and replicates health disparities across time, including over the life course and across generations. I investigate the social and physical aspects of human environments, particularly poverty and the distribution of resources in the environment. My expertise is as a methodologist, focused mainly on quantitative spatial analytic methods and measurement of place-based exposures.

The neighborhood effects literature in public health has yielded inconclusive findings about the importance of context for health, in part due to lack of clarity about how best to operationalize context itself. Health-relevant exposures in the physical and social environment have critical temporal dimensions. For example, to the extent that people routinely move around in space each day, they are exposed to many different places which may have implications for their health. When we measure place-based exposures using only home address at a single time point, we miss variation in the range of exposures, potentially obscuring important spatial effects on health outcomes. Temporality in exposure is also important over longer periods. For example, although it is clear that characteristics of neighborhood have important health implications for children, such contemporaneous measurement doesn’t capture the possible long-run consequences of childhood exposures much later in life. As an affiliate of the Center for Demography and Ecology (CDE), my research is most relevant to the Demography and Inequality, Health and the Life Course, and Spatial and Environmental Demography; I have served as a co-organizer (with Katherine Curtis) of the CDE Spatial and Environmental Working Group over the past few years.

CDE research theme area affiliations

Demography of Inequality; Health and the Life Course; Spatial and Environmental Demography

Selected Publications

Jones, Malia, Caitlin Mccown, Daniel Salmon, Alison Buttenheim, and Saad Omer. “Conditional Admission, Religious Exemption Type, and Nonmedical Vaccine Exemptions in California before and after a State Policy Change.” Vaccine 36, no. 26 (2018): 3789-93.

Gee, Gilbert, and Malia Jones. “A Critical Race Theory Analysis of Public Park Features in Latino Immigrant Neighborhoods.” Du Bois review: Social Science Research on Race 13, no. 2 (2016): 397-411.

Jones, Malia, and Jimi Huh. “Relationship between Smoking Behavior and Activity Space in Korean American Young Adults.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 49 (2015).

Shah, Anuja, Malia Jones, Mary Ann Pentz, and Yue Liao. “Toward a Better Understanding of the Link between Parent and Child Physical Activity Levels: The Moderating Role of Parental Encouragement.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, no. 9 (2015): 1238-44.

Choi, Todd, Malia Jones, and Jimi Huh. “The Effects of Neighborhood Contexts on Perceived Smoking Norms among Young Korean Americans.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 47, no. S87-S87 (2014).

Jones, Malia. “Potential Effects of California’s New Vaccine Exemption Law on the Prevalence and Clustering of Exemptions.” American Journal of Public Health 104, no. 9 (2014): S3-S6.

Jones, Malia. “Redefining Neighborhoods Using Common Destinations: Social Characteristics of Activity Spaces and Home Census Tracts Compared.” Demography 51, no. 3 (2014): 727-52. PubMed

Jones, Malia. “Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Residential Neighborhood: A Latent Profile Analysis of Los Angeles Neighborhoods and Longitudinal Adult Excess Weight.” Health and place 27 (2014): 134-41.