Naa Oyo Kwate

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline Public Health
Associate Professor, jointly appointed in Department of Human Ecology and Department of Africana Studies. Also Associate Director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Research project

Reading the Street: Subjective and Objective Assessments of Neighborhood Charm and Disorder


Research on the social determinants of health has brought into bold relief the importance of social context and material resources.  Studies on neighborhood context and health have shown that physical disorder (e.g., litter and graffiti) is associated with feelings of personal powerlessness and psychological distress, poor self-rated health, psychological distress and impaired physical function.  These findings are particularly important for African Americans, who suffer from a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from a wide spectrum of conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and who often live in neighborhoods marred by disinvestment.  Perceived charm and disorder are more than simple visual assessments of objective cues. Researchers tend to use an essentialist framework in which visual cues are construed as unambiguous and natural in meaning, but responses to those visual cues are informed by individual experiences and freighted by racial and socioeconomic inequality.  Research is needed to advance understandings of the processes by which individuals are more or less likely to perceive built environment characteristics as emblematic of physical disorder.  As well, standard operationalizations of physical disorder need to be expanded, to move beyond relatively discrete instances of disarray or decay that belie the overall infrastructure in the neighborhood.


In this project, drawing on secondary data derived from research studies conducted in New York City and Boston, I examine how aspects of the physical and social environment intersect, and interrogate notions of disorder and charm as unambiguous and deterministic.  The data include systematic social observation of neighborhood streets, census and municipal data, and qualitative and quantitative interview responses.  The project will culminate in a set of journal articles targeting a diverse disciplinary audience.  





Naa Oyo A. Kwate, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at Rutgers University - New Brunswick.  A psychologist by training, she has wide ranging interests in racial inequality and African American


Her research has centered primarily on the ways in which urban built environments reflect racial inequalities in the United States, and how racism directly and indirectly affects African

American health.  Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Department of Defense.  She has also held fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium.


Selected publications


'Does learning about race prevent substance abuse? Racial discrimination, racial socialization and substance use among African Americans', with A.B. Thompson & M.S. Goodman, Addictive Behaviors, vol. 61, 2016, pp. 1-7.

'Fast food and liquor store density, co-tenancy, and turnover: Vice store operations in Chicago, 1995-2008', with J.M. Loh, Applied Geography, vol. 67, 2016, 1-13.


'Racism at the intersections: Gender and socioeconomic differences in the experience of racism among African Americans', with M.S. Goodman, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 85, no. 5, 2015, pp. 397-408.

'Perceiving the Black female body: Race and gender in police constructions of body weight', with S. Threadcraft, Race and Social Problems, vol. 7, no. 3, 2015, pp. 213-226.

'Cross-sectional and longitudinal effects of racism on the mental health of urban African Americans', with M.S. Goodman, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, 2015, pp. 711-718.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Literature
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Linguistics
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
IMéRA, Aix-Marseille Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Archaeology