What if you lived in urban neighborhood with no grocery store nearby? What if that same neighborhood lacked a pharmacy and a park? What effect would this have on your health and well-being? These are the kinds of questions explored by Lacee Satcher, a new assistant professor in the Sociology Department and Environmental Studies program.

Satcher’s research centers on the intersection of inequality, environment, and health, specifically in neighborhoods in urban areas. Her dissertation was on “(Un)Just Deserts: Examining the Consequences of Economic, Social and Environmental Disinvestment in the Urban South.” She studied the concept of compounded disadvantages—a series of adverse circumstances, particularly in an urban area, that have a negative cumulative effect on those living in the area.

While the negative effects of food deserts—defined as urban areas where it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food—have been documented, Satcher wondered about the impact on health and well-being if there were additional resource scarcities in same area. What if the urban neighborhood that was in a food desert also lacked green space and/or a pharmacy?

She developed the term multiply-deserted areas (MDAs) to describe neighborhoods that have a shortage of multiple social, economic, and health-related resources.

The first step in her research was to confirm that MDAs actually existed in the cities across the South and how demographics like race and class predict which neighborhoods are MDAs. Once she established the existence of MDAs, Satcher examined their impact on health, looking at issues such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity. Then she did a critical reflection on these studies where she interviewed people who lived in MDAs to get their perceptions.

Satcher was born and raised in Jackson, Miss., a place she is proud to call home. “I love Mississippi!” she said. She called growing up in Mississippi “a wonderful and formative experience,” adding that the state capital has “a rich history of civil rights, activism, and greatness in music, education, and everything else.”

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College and a master’s degree from Jackson State University; she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from Vanderbilt University.

This past semester she taught Research Methods in Environmental Studies. In the spring, she will teach Urban Sociology.

As an urban sociologist, Satcher was drawn to BC because of the University’s proximity to Boston. Most of her work has been in the urban South, but she is excited to turn an analytical eye toward Boston. “Boston is a great place to be,” she said, to study topics of interest to her such as urban space and urban health.

Satcher is also looking to do research in Boston related to environmental racism and the built environment. “As someone who studies race and ethnicity, the diversity of Boston is something that is really attractive.”

Satcher considers herself a scholar, educator, and activist. She has been exploring ideas of building partnerships with organizations in Boston that address environmental injustice.

“Activism has been part of my identity since high school,” said Satcher. “I want my research to have a higher purpose, and practical implications for policy. I want my research to have impact on the neighborhoods I love and live in.”

Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | December 2021