J. Tom Mueller joined the faculty in 2020 and holds a PhD in Rural Sociology and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment from Penn State. As a rural sociologist and demographer, his research program focuses on spatial inequality, well-being, and natural resource development in the United States. Using a variety of quantitative methods, his research focuses on understanding why some places are persistently worse off than others, and what needs to be done to remedy these inequalities.
Dr. Mueller’s research approaches issues of spatial inequality and well-being from two main directions. The first body of work focuses on economic well-being and material hardship in rural America. By assessing both individual attitudes and economic impacts, he theorizes and tests resident support for various forms of natural resource development—ranging from rural tourism to oil and gas development—as well as the impacts those forms of development have on the material economic well-being of rural residents.
The second major focus of Dr. Mueller’s research is on the relationship between natural resource development and physical well-being. By testing the impacts of different uses of the natural environment on public health and mortality, his research provides policy relevant information to improve public health across both rural and urban areas in the United States.
Dr. Mueller’s work appears in journals including Rural Sociology, Preventive Medicine Reports, Society & Natural Resources, Population, Space, and Place, Energy Research & Social Science, and the Journal of Agromedicine, among others.