J Michael Oakes PhD » Sociology

Research Interests:Quantitative Methods, Social Epidemiology, Research Ethics

Professor, Epidemiology & Community Health

Address Division of Epidemiology & Community Health 1300 South Second Street Suite 300 Minneapolis MN 55454 Work Phone: 612-624-6855 Work Phone: For appts: Libby Fortner, 612-624-2369
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Michael Oakes received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts. His research and teaching interests include quantitative methodology, social epidemiology, and research ethics. He is author of many research papers addressing the intersection of social science and health and the highly acclaimed 2006 text, Methods in Social Epidemiology (now in revision).

In 2007 he was a named a McKnight Presidential Fellow, an award given to a select group of the University’s most promising new associate professors. In 2010 he was awarded the Schuman award for excellence in graduate teaching, the School of Public Health’s highest teaching honor. In 2011, he was awarded the school’s highest award for advising and mentoring. Dr. Oakes teaches two courses in statistical programming and doctoral-level seminars in group randomized trials, advanced epidemiologic methodology, and social epidemiology. In 2015 he became Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) program.

Among other things, Dr. Oakes serves as Director of Graduate Studies, overseeing the Epidemiology PhD program. He has also served as Co-Chair of the Faculty Senate’s executive consultative committee and Co-Chair of UMN’s human research protections program. He also served as Chair of UMN’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the protection of human research subjects and Vice-Chair of UMN’s conflict of interest (COI) committee.

  • Ph.D. in Sociology (methodology), University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • B.B.A. in Management Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Behavior & Health, Causal Inference, Child / Adolescent Health, Community Intervention, Community-Based Research, Epidemiology, Epidemiology: Social, Ethics, Obesity: Child, Physical Activity, Policy / Politics, Research Methods, Sociology, Statistics Education


Professional Experience:

Current Research Projects
A major research interest is the impact of social systems on health outcomes. Dr. Oakes is conducting several studies within this broad program and refining methodologies for the same.

  • Establishing, leading the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s new Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) and working with the RWJF Change Leadership Programs.
  • Working with Dr. Cari Clark (PI) to evaluate the impact of a domestic violence prevention program in Nepal. This is a community-randomized trial.
  • Working with Dr. Lisa Harnack (PI) to evaluate the impact of incentive changes to a model SNAP (i.e., food stamps) program on food purchasing behavior. This is a randomized controlled experiment.
  • Evaluating the magnitude of panel conditioning in an internet-based study to reduce HIV risk in men who have sex with men. This is a randomized controlled experiment embedded in a rather typical internet RCT to assess an intervention.
  • Establishing an easy to use, publicly available, geo-spatial contextual data resource for multilevel health and social science research.

Prior work includes

  • Estimating the effect of residential neighborhoods on health outcomes: The Twin Cities Walking Study
  • A fruitful collaboration with Dr. Ross Macmillan (UMN Sociology) that considers immigrant health and demographic trends in obesity.
  • Work with Drs. Moen and Kelly (UMN Sociology) on a large-scale group-randomized trial evaluating flexible work schedules on health outcomes.
  • A study, with Dr. Harlow, on the prevalence and etiology of vulvodynia.
  • Several studies with Dr. Fitch (MPC) on the effect of socioeconomic contexts on marriage formation

Finally, Dr. Oakes is interested in various aspects of the faculty governance and the responsible conduct of research. He served the University’s Faculty Senate for five years and the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC) for three years, one of which as Vice Chair. Additionally, he has been a chair of the University’s institutional review board for the protection of human research subjects (IRB) for over ten years and has served as Vice-Chair of the University’s Conflict of Interest Committee from 2010-2015.

Current Appointments

Current Editorial Boards

Prior Appointments

  • 2000-2007 Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
  • 1997-2001 Research Scientist, New England Research Institutes
  • 1996-1997 Methodologist/Statistician, The Gallup Organization


  • 2012: School of Public Health Award for Excellence in Advising
  • 2011: School of Public Health Excellence in Advising & Mentoring Award
  • 2010: Leonard A. Schuman Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 2009-Present: Senior Advisor, RWJF Healthy Eating Research initiative
  • 2007-2010: McKnight Presidential Fellow, UMN
  • 2003: Elected to Delta Omega, National Public Health Honor Society
  • 2000: Fellow. 26th Ten-day Post-Doctoral Seminar on Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Tahoe, CA, AHA/NHLBI.

Related Links:

Selected Publications:

  • Oakes, JM, K Andrade, I Biyoow, L Cowan. In Press. “Twenty years of neighborhood effects research: An Assessment” Current Epidemiology Reports
  • Oakes, JM, HK Whitham, AB Spaulding, LA Zentner, SR Beccard. In Press. “How should doctors disclose conflicts of interest to patients? A focus group investigation” Minnesota Medicine. 98: 38-41.
  • Oakes, JM, Andrade K. 2014. Methodological advances and innovations in social epidemiology. Current Epidemiology Reports. 1:38-44
  • Oakes JM. 2013. Paths and pathologies of social epidemiology. Invited Commentary. American Journal of Epidemiology. 178:850-851
  • Oakes JM. 2012. Identification issues in comparative effectiveness research. eGEMs (Generating Evidence & Methods to improve patient outcomes). 1:1, Article 4.
  • Oakes JM. 2012. The Measurement of SES. NIH OBSSR Online Textbook Research Methods for Health Research  http://www.esourceresearch.org/
  • Macmillan R. Duke N,  Oakes JM, Liao W. 2011. Trends in the association of obesity and self-reported health in 30 years of the integrated health interview series. Obesity (Silver Spring). 19:1103-1105.
  • Messer LC, Oakes JM, Mason S. 2010. Effects of socioeconomic and racial residential segregation effects on preterm birth: A cautionary tale of structural confounding. American Journal of Epidemiology. (with discussion) 171:664-673.
  • Oakes, J. Michael. 2009. The effect of media on children: A methodological assessment from a social epidemiologist. American Behavioral Scientist. 52:1136-1151.
  • Oakes JM , Forsyth A, Schmitz K, Hearst MO. 2009. Recruiting participants for neighborhood effects research: Strategies and outcomes of the Twin Cities Walking Study. Environment and Behavior. 41:787-805.
  • Oakes JM, Forsyth A, Schmitz K. 2007 . The effects of neighborhood density and street connectivity on walking behavior: the Twin Cities Walking Study. Epidemiologic Perspectives and Innovations. 4:16.
  • Oakes JM, Kaufman JS, eds. 2006. Methods in Social Epidemiology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Oakes JM. 2005. An analysis of AJE citations, with special reference to statistics and social science. American Journal of Epidemiology. 161:494-500.
  • Oakes JM. 2004. The (mis)estimation of neighborhood effects: causal inference for a practicable social epidemiology. Social Science & Medicine (with discussion). 58(10):1929-1952.
  • Oakes JM. 2002. Risks and wrongs in social science research: an evaluator’s guide to the IRB. Evaluation Review. 25(5):443-479.