Jennifer Hirsch, PhD

  • Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
Profile Headshot


Jennifer Hirsch's research spans five intertwined domains: the anthropology of love; gender, sexuality and migration; sexual, reproductive and HIV risk practices; social scientific research on sexual assault and undergraduate well-being, and the intersections between anthropology and public health.She has published articles in journals such as American Journal of Public Health, Studies in Family Planning, AIDS, and Culture Health and Sexuality. Her books include A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families (University of California Press, 2003), which explores changing ideas and practices of love, sexuality and marriage among Mexicans in the U.S. and in Mexico, and the coauthored The Secret: Love, Marriage and HIV (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), which analyzes the social organization of extramarital sexual practices in Mexico, Nigeria, Uganda, Vietnam, and Papua-New Guinea and the implications of those practices for married women's HIV risk. Along with Dr. Claude Ann Mellins, Hirsch co-directed the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT), a study supported by Columbia University that examines sexual health and sexual assault among Columbia and Barnard undergraduates. She is the co-author, with sociologist Shamus Khan, of the Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, which was named an NPR best book of 2020. Hirsch has been involved in many state-level legislative advocacy campaigns. She is currently working with the Caring Majority on Fair Pay for Home Care workers, and with a statewide coalition to pass legislation ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education.


Academic Appointments

  • Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Administrative Titles

  • Director, Doctoral Program
  • Co-Director, Columbia Population Research Center
  • Steering Committee Member, Institute for Research on Women
  • Faculty Affiliate, Institute of Latin American Studies

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BA, 1988 Princeton University
  • PhD, 1998 Johns Hopkins University

Honors & Awards

Selected by Chirlaine McCray, First Lady of New York, as one of New York Cit.s 16.Heroes in the Fight Against Gender-Based Violenc. November 26, 2017

Fellow, Op-Ed Project Public Voices Fellowship, 2015

Guggenheim Fellow, 2012

Twelfth Annual George and Mary Foster Distinguished Lecture in Cultural Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, April 2011

Outstanding Young Professional Award, Population, Family Planning and Reproductive Health Section, APHA, 2002


Research Interests

  • Community Health
  • Global Health
  • LGBT health
  • Maternal and Reproductive Health

Selected Publications

Hirsch, Jennifer S., and Shamus Khan. Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power and Assault on Campus. New York: WW Norton.

Hirsch, Jennifer S., Khan, Shamus R., Wamboldt, Alexander L. and Mellins, Claude A. (2019) Social Dimensions of Sexual Consent Among Cisgender Heterosexual College Students: Insights from ethnographic research. Journal of Adolescent Health. 64:26-35

Schneider, Madeline, and Hirsch, Jennifer S. (2018) Comprehensive sexuality education as a primary prevention strategy for sexual violence perpetration. Trauma, Violence and Abuse

Mellins, C.A., Walsh, K., Sarvet, A.L., Wall, M., Gilbert, L., Santelli, J.S. Thompson, M.P., Wilson, P.A., Khan, S.R., Benson, S., Bah, K., Kaufman, K.A,. Reardon, L. and Hirsch, J.S. (2017) Sexual assault incidents among college undergraduates: Prevalence and factors associated with risk.""PloS One 12(11): e0186471. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186471

Hirsch, Jennifer S. 2015. Desire Across Borders: Markets, Migration, and Marital HIV Risk in Rural Mexico. Culture, Health and Sexuality Volume 17 (S1):20-33

Hirsch, Jennifer S. Labor migration, externalities and ethics: Theorizing the meso- level determinants of HIV vulnerability. 2014 Social Science and Medicine. 100: 38-45. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.10.021. NIHMS #536685

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Holly Wardlow Modern Loves: The Anthropology of Romantic Love and Companionate Marriage University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor, MI 2006

Hirsch, Jennifer S., Sergio Meneses, Brenda Thompson, Mirka Negroni, Blanca Pelcastre, and Carlos del Rio. The Inevitability of Infidelity: Sexual Reputation, Social Geographies, and Marital HIV Risk in Rural Mexico. American Journal of Public Health 97(6) 986-96 2007

Jennifer S. Hirsch, Holly Wardlow, Daniel Jordan Smith, Harriet M. Phinney, Shanti Parikh, and Constance A. Nathanson The Secret: Love, Marriage and HIV Vanderbilt University Press Nashville, TN 2010

Hirsch JS A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families University of California Press Berkeley 2003

Global Health Activities

Love, Marriage and HIV: This study is an NIH-funded ethnographic research project exploring the factors that put women at risk for HIV infection. Dr. Hirsch is working collaboratively with investigators from Brown University, University of Toronto, Washington University, and the University of Washington to conduct fieldwork that explores how social, cultural, and economic factors combine to shape married women's HIV risk.

Mexico-US Migration: Reproductive Health and HIV Risk: Through a series of ongoing studies in rural Mexico and a field site in the southeastern U.S., including recent support from the Guggenheim Foundation, Dr. Hirsch and colleagues are exploring how migration reshapes gender and sexuality and influences reproductive health.

Columbia-Vietnam Social Science Training and Research (STAR) Partnership: The STAR Partnership, co-led by Jennifer Hirsch and Richard G. Parker, is the continuation of a long-term NIH-funded collaborative social science and HIV research capacity building project, now representing a partnership between Columbia University, Hanoi Medical University, and the Vietnam Public Health Association. This partnership builds on earlier work creating a center of excellence for social science research in Vietnam, training Vietnamese researchers in social science approaches to HIV research, and promoting the development of research collaborations between scholars at Columbia and in Vietnam.