James S. Jackson

Research Professor, RCGD
Professor, Psychology
James S. Jackson


Dr. James S. Jackson is former Director of ISR (2005 - 2015) and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, and past national president of the Association of Black Psychologists, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Consortium of Social Science Associations. Jackson is a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute on Aging. In 2018, he was awarded the University of Michigan's inaugural Jackson Distinguished Diversity Scholar Career Award, named after him to honor his extraordinary career. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Career Contributions to Research Award, Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, American Psychological Association (APA), and the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for Distinguished Career Contributions in Applied Psychology from the Association for Psychological Sciences. He was awarded the 2019 APA Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology, and the 2019 Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award, American Association for Public Opinion Research.

Jackson's research focuses on issues of racial and ethnic influences on life course development, attitude change, reciprocity, social support, and coping and health among African Americans. Research efforts include conducting a number of national surveys and one international survey of black populations. His teaching centers on social factors in health, race and racism, and sources of misdiagnosis in black populations. Jackson is currently principal investigator of one of the most extensive social, political, economic, and mental and physical health studies of the African American and Caribbean populations ever conducted, "The National Survey of American Life" and the "The Family Survey across Generations and Nations," and the "National Study of Ethnic Pluralism and Politics."

When Jackson began his career as a first generation college student, divisions by race were overt. Through ambition and his contact with Dr. Robert Green at Michigan State University, he had the opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and other black thought leaders of the time. He overcame a number of obstacles in accepting an assistant professor role at the University of Michigan, where he remained for the next 50 years. In his scholarly research, Dr. Jackson pushed back against the comparative approach to research on black Americans, striving to innovate new methods that recognized the complex intersectionality of many social and structural factors associated with the lives of blacks, rather than placing them in a limiting black vs. white racial framework. This work led him to establish the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA), which has enriched national discussions about race and provided new opportunities for students and social scientists of color.