Samantha Gailey, PhD

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Assistant Professor

Samantha Gailey is an 1855 Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Equity in the Department of Forestry and Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health. She joined the faculty at MSU in 2023 after completing a T32 Population Health Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Minnesota. Her research, teaching, and outreach are informed by a commitment to environmental justice and an interdisciplinary approach that integrates theories and methods from epidemiology, psychology, and geography.

Dr. Gailey was born and raised in Columbia, Maryland: one of the nation’s first and, by some accounts, most successful modern planned cities. She later moved to Irvine, California—another major planned community—to complete her PhD in Social Ecology. Spending much of her life in carefully designed cities, Gailey could observe how easy access to parks, natural areas, healthy food, and community centers granted health benefits to some, while nearby cities (e.g., Baltimore, Santa Ana, Anaheim) experienced disinvestment, fragmentation, or social stratification that left many residents with few health-promoting opportunities. The racial, ethnic, and class lines along which healthy resources are distributed are clearly drawn—and becoming, in some places, even more entrenched.

Motivated by these experiences, Gailey’s research focuses on understanding how inequities in access to neighborhood resources contribute to, and perpetuate, health disparities—and how these place-based inequities can be redressed. Much of her work seeks to understand whether expanding green space access, in particular, can serve as a tool to advance health equity, especially when combined with access to affordable housing, healthy food, and other, more fundamental resources. She focuses her studies on the health of mothers, infants, and children: populations highly susceptible to the salutary and deleterious effects of neighborhoods.

Gailey’s methodological approach to examining neighborhood effects emphasizes causality, by leveraging natural experiments and longitudinal cohorts (over observational and cross-sectional designs) to investigate whether “exogenous” changes—like the creation of a new green space or a novel housing policy—influence local and population health. She combines this causal approach with the use of large secondary datasets and innovative primary data collection tools—including GPS tracking, ecological momentary assessments, and cortisol sampling—to understand both the overarching population health effects of place-based initiatives, and the underlying biopsychosocial mechanisms that reflect daily lived experiences. One of her most recent projects, for example, will involve assessing whether the new $36-million Flint State Park impacts physical and mental health via changes in residents’ physical activity patterns, physiological stress levels, and perceptions of environmental quality and safety.

Dr. Gailey is starting a new research group at MSU: the GREEN (Growing Environmental Equity in Neighborhoods) Lab. Interested students, community partners, and residents can learn more or get involved by emailing her at

Selected Publications:

Osypuk, T., Gailey, S., Schmidt, N., & Acevedo Garcia, D. (2024). Does poor health influence residential selection? Understanding mobility among low-income housing voucher recipients in the Moving to Opportunity Study. Housing Policy Debate.

Browning, M. H., Hanley, J. R., Bailey, C. R., Beatley, T., Gailey, S., Hipp, J. A., ... & Minson, C. T. (2024). Quantifying Nature: Introducing NatureScoreTM and NatureDoseTM as Health Analysis and Promotion Tools. American Journal of Health Promotion, 38(1), 126-134.

Gailey, S. (2023). Changes in residential greenspace and birth outcomes among siblings: Differences by maternal race. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 20(18), 6790.

Gailey, S. (2022). Moving to greener pastures: Health selection into neighborhood greenspace among a highly mobile and diverse population in California. Social Science & Medicine, 315, 115411.

Das, A. & Gailey, S. (2022). Green exercise, mental health symptoms, and state lockdown policies: A longitudinal study. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 82, 101848.

Gailey, S., Knudsen, E.S, Mortensen, L.H, & Bruckner, T.A. (2021). Birth outcomes following unexpected job loss: A matched sibling design. International Journal of Epidemiology, 51(3), 858–869.

Gailey, S., McElroy, S., Benmarhnia, T., & Bruckner, T.A. (2021). Green mobility and obesity: A longitudinal analysis of neighborhood greenness in California. Health & Place, 68, 102503.

Gailey, S., Cross, R.I., Messer, L.C., & Bruckner, T.A. (2021). Characteristics associated with downward residential mobility among birthing persons in California. Social Science & Medicine, 279, 113962.


To request a comprehensive CV summarizing Dr. Gailey’s work, please email her at

Scholarly Interests:

  • Environmental justice
  • Nature and health
  • Perinatal epidemiology
  • Neighborhood effects
  • Causal inference
  • Community-engaged research



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Department of Forestry

Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health

Department of Epidemiology, Adjunct Faculty


Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Minnesota

PhD, Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine

BA, Psychology, Gettysburg College