Matthews is Liberal Arts Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Demography (courtesy Geography). Matthews is the Director of the Graduate Program in Demography and the Director of the Online World Campus Certificate and MPS Programs in Applied Demography. Matthews is trained in quantitative geography (Bristol, UK) and planning (University of Cardiff, Wales) and prior to his arrival at Penn State in 1994, was an assistant professor of Geography at UCLA.
The central tenets of his teaching and research scholarship are population health and health inequality in community contexts. More specifically, he is interested in the distribution of resources, risks, and opportunities (health services, food, anchor institutions, social networks) and how accessibility and utilization of these resources, risks, and opportunities impact health and wellbeing (e.g., health status, diet and obesity-related outcomes, welfare status). A focus on race/ethnicity and income inequalities cross-cut all of his major research projects. An important part of his work is an interest in conceptual and methodological issues associated with how neighborhoods are defined and their attributes are measured, and the relevance of these definitions and measures to individual behavior and health outcomes. Matthews has a long standing interest in spatial inequality, spatial demography and the use of GIS in applied and basic research.
Matthews has published in several fields—geography, epidemiology, public health, demography and sociology—most recently on topics including residential segregation, crime, alcohol outlets, physical activity, religious landscapes, cancer screening, and health care distrust as well as on spatial analysis, the use of geospatial data on studies of social, built, and physical environments, and conceptual issues regarding both the definition and measurement of neighborhoods and neighborhood exposure.
His teaching interests are in Health, Disease & Society/Medical Sociology, Spatial Inequality Urban Sociology, Spatial Demography and GIS/Spatial Analysis. Over the next few years his goals are to publish as widely as possible in sociology, health and social science journals, and remain grant active seeking new sources of funding for his own research. Matthews is the current editor of Spatial Demography and the past co-editor of Demography (2016-2019).