Affiliate Professor, Department of Health Sciences and Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Sharon L. Harlan, PhD

Health Sciences


PhD, Sociology, Cornell University
MA, Sociology, Cornell University
BA, Sociology, Northeastern University


Dr. Harlan’s research explores the human impacts of climate change that are dependent upon people’s positions in social hierarchies, places in built environments of unequal quality, and policies that improve or impede human adaptive capabilities. Focusing on excessive heat and urban water systems as significant and increasingly critical threats to human health and well-being in cities, she studies social systems and landscapes that produce unequal risks for people in neighborhoods divided by social class and race/ethnicity. She has led multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research and community engagement projects that integrate social theories about the historical production of environmental injustices with data and models from the ecological, geospatial, and health sciences. Her social-ecological research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) on urban vulnerability to climate change, concurrent heat waves and electrical grid failures, and water sustainability. At Arizona State University (ASU, 1998-2015), Dr. Harlan founded the Phoenix Area Social Survey (PASS) in 2001 and directed its transition to a panel study conducted every five years on environmental experiences, values, and perceptions in the metropolitan area. PASS is a foundational activity of ASU’s Central Arizona – Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project, of which she was a co-Principal Investigator. She is currently conducting research on vulnerability to water unaffordability and accessibility in environmental justice communities across selected cities in the United States. She has served as an advisor on climate justice and social vulnerability to organizations such as the American Sociological Association, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Social Science Coordinating Committee of the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program. Dr. Harlan was Professor of Health Sciences and Sociology at Northeastern University (2016-2022) and Chair of the Department of Health Sciences (2018-2022). She is Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University.

Northeastern Centers and Institutes

Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute

Institutional Affiliations and Appointments

Affiliate Global Futures Scholar, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, Arizona State University

Research Interests

Environmental health, environmental sociology, environmental justice, social impacts of climate change

Recent Publications

Stone Jr., B.J., C.J. Gronlund, E. Mallen, D. Hondula, M. O’Neill, *M. Rajput, S. Grijalva, K. Lanza, S. Harlan, L. Larsen, G. Augenbroe, E.S. Krayenhoff, A. Broadbent, M. Georgescu (online May 23, 2023) “How Blackouts during Heat Waves Amplify Mortality and Morbidity Risk.” Environmental Science and Technology 2023, .

Sarango, M., L. Senier, S.L. Harlan (2023) “The High Health Risks of Unaffordable Water: An In-depth Exploration of Pathways from Water Bill Hardship to Poor Health.” PLOS Water 2(3): e0000077.

Furman, K.L., S.L. Harlan, L. Barbieri, S.B. Scyphers (2023) “Social Equity in Shore-based Fisheries: Identifying and Understanding Barriers to Access.” Marine Policy 148: 105355.

Broadbent, A.M., J.H. Declet-Barreto, E.S. Krayenhoff, S.L. Harlan, M. Georgescu (2022) “Targeted Implementation of Cool Roofs for Equitable Urban Adaptation to Extreme Heat.” Science of the Total Environment 811: 151326.

Harlan, S.L., M.J. Sarango, E.A. Mack, T.A. Stephens (2019) “A Survey-Based Assessment of Perceived Flood Risk in Urban Areas of the United States.” Anthropocene 28: 100217.

Harlan, S.L., P. Chakalian, J. Declet-Barreto, D.M. Hondula, G.D. Jenerette (2019) “Pathways to Climate Justice in a Desert Metropolis.” In People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Social Justice, L.M. Reyes and J. Rigg (eds.) Oxford University Press.

Selected Public Service

Boston University School of Public Health, Climate and Health: What Can We Do Today? Webinar. Presenter, Climate Action for Equitable, Healthy, and Resilient Communities. March 18, 2022.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Climate and Health Science Webinar Series. Presenter, Panelist, Climate Change, Extreme Heat, and Health, August 2021.

Teaching Climate Change, Inspiring Action. Public symposium co-sponsored with Boston Civic Media, Emerson College Engagement Lab and collaborator Sara Wylie. Northeastern University in March 2017

“People and Environment: Our Heat Habitat.” Chain Reaction, Volume 7, September 2012. A science magazine in print and online for students in grades 4-8 published by the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University. Features the work of scientists on my National Science Foundation Urban Vulnerability to Climate Change project. (pdf)

In the News

The New York Times. Heat Wave and Blackout Would Send Half of Phoenix to E.R., Study Says. May 23, 2023.

Contact Information


[email protected]

Curriculum Vitae