Colleen Heflin

Professor, Public Administration and International Affairs


Colleen Heflin is a Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs and a Senior Research Associate in the Center for Policy Research. Dr. Heflin conducts policy-relevant research that sits at the boundaries of sociology, economics, public health, public administration, and women’s studies. The broad aim of her research is to understand the processes that create systems and patterns of social stratification and, more specifically, to examine welfare policy and the well-being of vulnerable populations, with a particular emphasis on the causes and consequences of material hardship. In a recent project, Dr. Heflin analyzed how specific shocks to family stability, such as unemployment or becoming disabled, lead to particular kinds of material hardship, such as medical or housing hardship. Other recent projects have examined how the population using food stamps and unemployment insurance has changed with the Great Recession; how the experience of material hardship affects couples’ decisions to marry; how children’s participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) affects their households’ overall food insecurity; and how veterans’ well-being and social program participation compares to that of other groups. She has recently received funding from the US Department of Health and Human Services through the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin to explore how child support benefits interact with other social programs in Virginia with Dr. Len Lopoo.

Dr. Heflin’s research has appeared in leading journals such as the American Sociological ReviewSocial Problems, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and the Journal of Policy Analysis & Management. In 2014, her paper on community social capital was awarded the W. Richard Scott Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the American Sociological Association. Dr. Heflin’s research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Selected Publications

Material Hardship, Perceived Stress, and Health in Early Adulthood.” Huang, Ying, Colleen Heflin and Asiya Validova. 2020. Annals of Epidemiology. Sep 16:S1047-2797(20)30298-2. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32949721.

“Exposure to Food Insecurity during Adolescence and Educational Attainment.” Heflin, Colleen, Rajeev Darolia and Sharon Kukla-Acevedo. 2020. Social Problems

“The Effects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on Mortality." Heflin, Colleen, Samuel Ingram and James P. Ziliak. 2019.  Health Affairs. 38:11, 1807-1815.  doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.00405.

SNAP Benefits and Childhood Asthma.” Heflin, Colleen, Irma Arteaga, Leslie Hodges, Jean Felix Ndashiyme, and Matthew P Rabbitt. 2019. Social Science & Medicine. 220: 203-211.

“The Role of Social Positioning in Observed Patterns of Material Hardship: New Evidence from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation.” Heflin, Colleen. 2017.  Social Problems 64:513-531. doi: 10.1093/socpro/spw041

More Publications

Research Grants and Awards

Co-Principal Investigator. “Food insecurity and chronic diseases in low-income older Americans: The role of SNAP receipt in medication underuse,” with Irma Artega, Leslie Hodges and Chinedum Ojinnaka. Funded by University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. 2020-2022.           

Principle Investigator. "Changing patterns of eligibility and take up in SNAP and the role of out of pocket medical expenses (OOPM)." Funded by University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. 2020-2022.

Principle Investigator. "Hunger SNAPS: Food Insecurity Among Older Adults," collaboration with Madonna Harrington Meyer. Funded by Russell Sage Foundation. 2020-2022.

Principle Investigator. "Employment Instability As a Barrier to Childcare," with Co-PI Taryn Morrissey. Funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 2020-2021.

Principal Investigator. "Snap Uptake and School Readiness in Virginia," with Michah Rothbart. Funded by the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 2018-2020.

Principal Investigator. “Creating Evidence-Based Strategies to Address Administrative Churn in SNAP," with Len Lopoo, Co-Principal Investigator, and in partnership with the Maxwell X Lab. Funded by the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 2018-2020.