James Dunn
Associate Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences

Housing, income security and societal income inequality are among the most pressing concerns in our society, and Jim Dunn’s research investigates the health and social impacts of policies and programs in these areas. His research can be described as population health intervention research, as it involves examining the effect of interventions in housing, neighbourhoods and social policies and their impact on population health. Most of his research also involves close partnerships with organizations that include governments at the municipal, provincial and federal level, as well as non-profit organizations and purpose-oriented businesses.

Dunn’s signature activity in housing is the Canadian Housing Evidence Collaborative (CHEC – www.chec-ccrl.ca), which is a knowledge mobilization and research capacity building hub funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). CHEC has been successful in building a national reputation as a trusted voice in knowledge mobilization in all areas of housing research and has been a key catalyst in bringing expertise to the key debates in housing policy and in stimulating new research and new housing data. This catalyst has been impactful in the development of the City of Hamilton’s Housing Sustainability and Investment Roadmap and in policies at the provincial and federal levels in Canada.

The relationship between housing and health has been a central feature of Dunn’s research for more than 25 years. His long-term study of the health and social impacts of the mixed-income redevelopment of Toronto’s Regent Park, a large public housing development, is the only one of its kind ever conducted in Canada. Similarly, his study of the health impacts of receiving rent-geared-to-income housing in the Greater Toronto Area West. He also has interests in supportive housing for population groups like people with developmental disabilities, people with mental illness and addictions and older adults.

Dunn also has an active research program on income security and health inequalities, examining how interventions to improve income security may affect health. From 2017-18 he was co-Principal Investigator for the evaluation of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot. Currently his research is investigating the impacts of income assistance, disability pensions, the Canada Child Benefit and rent supplements on health and health care utilization using administrative health care data.

A related aspect of his interest in the relationship between income and health concerns income polarization and its impact on population health. Previous research has shown the places with greater inequality in income distribution – a bigger gap between rich and poor – were less healthy as a population. After making important contributions in this field at the turn of the century, Dunn is now revisiting questions about income inequality and health in the United States and Canada, examining connections to social mobility, spending on public services and inequalities in income gains from property (vs. labour – the so-called ‘Piketty hypothesis’).

In addition to his housing, income security and income inequality research, Dunn has previously investigated the impact of neighbourhood-level, place-based policy on health. The City of Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy sought to redress neighbourhood-level inequalities in health and other social factors. Dunn’s research was conducted hand-in-hand with the rollout of the program and was instrumental in informing the City on its impact and on opportunities for course correction.

Dr. Dunn serves as Associate Dean, Research in the Faculty of Social Sciences, where he oversees a unit that supports faculty members in obtaining funding for their research, assists with the nominations of faculty members for awards and honours, coordinates research policy at the University with faculty-level supports, and provides strategic direction to the Faculty in matters related to research.
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