Kent Jason Cheng, Ph.D.

I am an NIA-funded T32 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Healthy Aging at the Pennsylvania State University. I am a social gerontologist and population health scientist who studies life course determinants of health in the United States, Philippines, and across the globe. I have written over 25 peer-reviewed articles and have received recognition for my productivity. I served as co-investigator for Philippine health research projects collectively valued at $180,000. My focus is on the health implications of family characteristics and social welfare policy. 

Contact: kgcheng@psu.edu 

The rapidly aging world and increasing human longevity have caused many individuals to coexist with three to five generations – making families and intergenerational relations a mainstay in one’s life course. In my work, I focus on intergenerational exchanges of tangible resources such as informal caregiving, money, and co-residence for three main reasons. 

First, the exchange of resources within families is an avenue in which social reproduction of affluence or lack thereof ensues. Extant literature has linked disparities in socioeconomic status with negative societal consequences like declining population health. Therefore, by extension, intergenerational transfers which shape socioeconomic disparities are potent social determinants of health and health disparities

Second, there is a burgeoning literature on informal caregiving burden, yet other forms of practical support such as money assistance remain absent in this line of inquiry. Various intergenerational transfer types can either substitute or complement one another, and ignoring one or more elements would grossly understate the true health implications of providing assistance intergenerationally. Additionally, there is heterogeneity in transfer types and provision levels by identities. Marginalized groups such as racial and sexual minorities (communities to which I belong to) often provide more involved caregiving whereas their more advantaged counterparts have the means to provide money. By incorporating the diversity of transfer types, my research program offers a new vantage point in the understanding of the complexity of kinship connections. 

Third, private actions, including family transfers, are influenced by the social policy environment, and this relationship is reciprocal. According to social exchange theories, there are two major competing arguments surrounding this interplay: public transfers can either substitute or complement intergenerational transfers. While this debate is largely unsettled, little work has simultaneously linked family and public transfers to subjective and objective health outcomes. In other words, my research attempts to answer this question: would the family step in to provide essential safety nets for its older adult members who are more at risk of experiencing health shocks when government support is limited? My line of inquiry acknowledges social welfare policy as a fundamental cause of health disparities while unraveling the mediating role of family exchanges in this causal chain.

Selected Research

On families and health

Cheng, Kent Jason G., Alexis Rául Santos-Lozada. 2024. “Mental and Physical Health Among ‘Sandwich’ Generation Working Age Adults in the United States: Not All Sandwiches are Made Equal.” SSM – Population Health. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2024.101650.

Cheng, Kent Jason G. “Is it Better to Give than to Receive? Intergenerational Transfers and Mental Health Among Older Adults with Functional Limitations in the United States.” In preparation.

On contextual factors of health

Montez, Jennifer Karas, Kent Jason G. Cheng, & Jacob M. Grumbach. 2023. “Electoral Democracy and Working‐Age Mortality.” The Milbank Quarterly. doi: 10.1111/1468-0009.12658.

Montez, Jennifer Karas, and Kent Jason G. Cheng. 2022. “Educational Disparities in Adult Health across U.S. States: Larger Disparities Reflect Economic Factors.” Frontiers in Public Health 10:966434. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.966434.

Cheng, Kent Jason G., Yue Sun, and Shannon M. Monnat. 2020. “COVID‐19 Death Rates Are Higher in Rural Counties with Larger Shares of Blacks and Hispanics.” The Journal of Rural Health 36(4):602–8. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12511.

On the determinants of intergenerational transfers

Cheng, Kent Jason G. “Passing on the Silver Spoon: The Role of Early Life Circumstances on Downward Intergenerational Transfers.” Under Review.

Cheng, Kent Jason G. “From the Rainbow to the Sunset: Availability of Informal Care for Older Sexual Minorities in the United States.” Under Review.

Cheng, Kent Jason G., Janet M. Wilmoth. “The Role of State-Level Welfare Generosity and Intergenerational Transfers Among US Older Adults.” In Preparation.

On health policy in the Philippines

Estrada, Miguel Antonio G., Rutcher M. Lacaza, and Kent Jason G. Cheng. “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services and Women’s Unmet Needs for Contraceptives: Evidence from a Landmark Law in the Philippines.” Under Review at the Bulletin of the WHO after Revise and Resubmit.

Cheng, Kent Jason G. and Miguel Antonio G. Estrada. 2022. “A Dichotomy of Smokers in the Philippines following Sin Tax Reform: Distinguishing Potential Quitters from those Unlikely to Quit.” PLoS One 17(10): e0275840. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0275840.

Cheng, Kent Jason G., Adovich S. Rivera, Red Thaddeus D. P. Miguel, and Hilton Y. Lam. 2021. “A Cross-Sectional Study on the Determinants of Health-Related Quality of Life in the Philippines Using the EQ-5D-5L.” Quality of Life Research 30(8):2137–47. doi: 10.1007/s11136-021-02799-0

Cheng, Kent Jason G., and Miguel Antonio G. Estrada. 2021. “Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the 2019 Cigarette Excise Tax Reform in the Philippines.” Preventive Medicine 145:106431. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106431.

Cheng, Kent Jason G., and Miguel Antonio Garcia Estrada. 2020. “Price Elasticity of Cigarette Smoking Demand in the Philippines after the 2012 Sin Tax Reform Act.” Preventive Medicine 134:106042. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106042.

Teaching

Summer 2022

Instructor on record for Undergraduate Sociology of Families, online, asynchronous


2021

Guest lecturer for Undergraduate Sociology Research Methods

Topic: Quantitative Research Using Secondary Data 

2016 – 2017

Guest lecturer for the MSc Clinical Epidemiology Program for health policy and health economics related topics