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Hui Liu - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Hui Liu

Assistant Professor of Sociology | Michigan State University


Hui Liu is an expert in the relationship between health and relationships, including marriage, divorce, and ethnic minorities.





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Hui Liu



Hui Liu's current research interests include population health and mortality, family and marriage, bio-demography of aging and the life course, LGBT population, sexuality, and quantitative methodology. Specifically, Liu has focused on using innovative quantitative methods to develop, test, and promote scientific understanding of marriage and family processes related to population health and well-being. Her interests in marriage also extend to other “marriage-like” intimate relationships such as same-sex cohabitation and sexual relationships, and how they are linked to population health and well-being. Liu’s research has been published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, Demography, Social Science and Medicine, Social Science Research, Population Research and Policy Review, and Structural Equation Modeling. Liu received an NIH Career Award (Mentored Research Scientist Development Award) to investigate the biological links between marriage and health using interdisciplinary approaches. Her other current work includes an NIH-funded project that examines child health disparities of same-sex families at the population level. She was the 2013 winner of the Outstanding Professional Paper Award from the National Council on Family Relations. She was also a Butler-Williams Scholar of 2014 supported by the National Institute on Aging. The relevance and timeliness of Liu’s research is reflected in the media attention it has received. Her research has been widely reported in prominent national and international news outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, USA Today, US News and World Report, TIME, ABC News, CBS News, Los Angeles Times, Daily Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, The Times of India, China Daily and Iran Daily.

Areas of Expertise (6)







Education (4)

The University of Texas at Austin: Ph.D., Sociology and Demography 2008

Nankai University: B.A., Economics 1999

The University of Texas at Austin: M.S., Statistics 2007

Nankai University: M.A., Economics 2002

News (3)

Disparities are worse for LGB millennials than boomers

Futurity  online


Mental and physical health disparities are worse among younger generations of queer Americans, according to a new study comparing lesbian, gay, and bisexual millennials and their older peers to those of their straight counterparts. In the first-ever population-based national study comparing mental and physical health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) Americans to their straight counterparts, Michigan State University sociologist Hui Liu and research partner Rin Reczek, professor of sociology from Ohio State University, find that when compared to their straight counterparts, LGB millennials have worse health disadvantages than their older peers, though disparities persist throughout older generations as well.

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Marriage Could Offer More Protections to Transgender Couples

Brides  online


Because of depressing statistics like these, it’s so important for researchers to continue their work in shedding light on what marginalized communities have to deal with. That’s part of the reason why Hui Liu, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University, started investigating how marital status impacts transgender individuals. Her findings were published in the Journal of Marriage and Family earlier this summer...

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Is sex in later life good for your health? It depends

WTOP  online


“Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive,” said Michigan State professor Hui Liu, a co-author of the study...

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Journal Articles (6)

Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases and Cancer in Later Life: The Role of Age at First Marriage


2018 The objective of this study was to examine how age at first marriage is related to the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and cancer in later life. We analyzed longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of 2129 older adults (born in the 1940s or earlier) in the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. We found that for men in this cohort, the age at first marriage that was related to the lowest risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and cancer in later life was the early 30s; men who first married at either younger or older ages had significantly higher odds of experiencing CVD and cancer. Interestingly, for women in this cohort, the age at first marriage was not related to the risk of either CVD or cancer.

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Educational attainment of transgender adults: Does the timing of transgender identity milestones matter?

Social Science Research

2018 Adolescence is a difficult life stage in which to navigate a transgender identity, yet adolescence plays a key role in shaping educational trajectories. While transgender-related stigma and victimization within secondary schools persists, the social climate in which transgender adolescents navigate their identity has changed over time. Analyzing data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a national, non-probability sample of U.S. transgender adults, we address the following research questions: 1) Is experiencing transgender identity milestones in adolescence associated with educational attainment?; 2) Does this association vary by birth cohort? We find that those who first experienced transgender identity milestones in adolescence attained less education than those who first experienced milestones in other life stages. This association is larger among younger birth cohorts, pointing to the adolescent years as a particularly difficult time to navigate a transgender identity, even in the midst of increased transgender awareness and resources within schools and society.

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The Promise and Perils of Population Research on Same-Sex Families


2017 As a follow-up to our 2016 study, this article presents new findings examining the relationship between same-sex family structure and child health using the 2008-2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). After discussing NIHS data problems, we examine the relationship between family structure and a broad range of child well-being outcomes, including school days lost, behavior, parent-rated health, emotional difficulties, and activity limitations. We find both similarities (school days lost, behavior, parent-rated health) and differences (emotional difficulties and activity limitations) across our two studies using different survey years, but our overall conclusions are robust. We further discuss the implications of our findings for future research on this topic, including how to account for biological relatedness in a study on child health in same-sex families.

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Family Relationships and Well-Being

Innovation in Aging

2017 Family relationships are enduring and consequential for well-being across the life course. We discuss several types of family relationships—marital, intergenerational, and sibling ties—that have an important influence on well-being. We highlight the quality of family relationships as well as diversity of family relationships in explaining their impact on well-being across the adult life course. We discuss directions for future research, such as better understanding the complexities of these relationships with greater attention to diverse family structures, unexpected benefits of relationship strain, and unique intersections of social statuses.

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Marital Status and Perceived Discrimination among Transgender People

Journal of Marriage and Family

2017 Despite calls for increased attention to the experiences of transgender people, scientific understanding of the stigma and discrimination this population experiences is limited. We integrate minority stress and marital advantage perspectives to assess marital status differences in transgender-related perceived discrimination among transgender people in multiple life domains: the workplace, family, health care, and public accommodations. We analyze one of the first and most comprehensive large-scale samples of transgender people in the U.S. (N = 4,286), the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. We find that married transgender respondents tend to report lower levels of perceived discrimination than their cohabiting and previously married transgender counterparts. Married transgender respondents do not, however, report lower levels of perceived discrimination than their never married counterparts, once all covariates are accounted for. These marital status differences appear primarily among transwomen but not transmen. Economic resources account for some, but not all, of these differences.

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Death of Family Members as an Overlooked Source of Racial Disadvantage in the United States

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

2017 Due to historical racial inequalities in the United States, including poverty, inadequate health care, and criminal victimization, black Americans die at much higher rates than white Americans. How the consequences of these elevated rates reverberate across family networks warrants attention. If blacks die at higher rates and earlier in the life course than whites, then blacks lose more loved ones from childhood through adulthood. Through the damaging effects of grief and other mechanisms, such losses are likely to undermine multiple life course outcomes. By analyzing nationally representative datasets to compare black and white Americans on the likelihood of losing family members over the life course, this study documents an intergenerational process with corrosive effects on black families and communities.

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