Carroll L. Estes

Policy Advocate and Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco

Carroll L. Estes, Ph.D. is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where she founded and directed the campus-wide Institute for Health & Aging (1979-1998), and chaired the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences (1981-1992) in the School of Nursing. With a career now spanning five decades, Estes continues to be one of the foremost innovative thinkers and educators on the interaction of social insurance with gender, race/ethnicity, and class issues, and she has used this work to inform policymaking in the fields of health, aging, and social insurance.


“Carroll is an unparalleled leader and pioneer,” said William Arnone, Chief Executive Officer of the Academy. “She is also a person who cares deeply about the human condition. Her rigorous scholarship is matched by her passion for improving people’s lives. She is truly deserving of this recognition with the Ball Award.”

Recognized as a founding scholar of the “political economy of aging” and “critical gerontology,” Estes is a writer and public speaker who has authored, co-authored, and co-edited 24 books including: The Aging Enterprise (1979), Social Policy and Aging (2001), Social Theory, Social Policy and Ageing (2003), Social Insurance and Social Justice: The Campaign Against Social Security and Medicare (2009), and the latest, Health Policy: Crisis and Reform (2013). Her book, The Long Term Care Crisis, was named one of 1994’s Most Important Books by Choice Magazine. Estes’ current research is on Social Security and Medicare policy, health reform, long-term services and supports, and elder women’s economic and health security. Her latest book is Aging A-Z: Concepts Toward Emancipatory Gerontology (2019).

Estes’s leadership includes serving as past president of three national organizations in aging: The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the American Society on Aging (ASA) and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE). She is immediate past-chair of the Board of Directors of The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and past Board Chair of the National Committee Foundation. She is Board Chair of the Center for Global Policy Solutions. She has served as a consultant to U.S. Commissioners of Social Security and to U. S. Senate and House Committees on Aging for more than three decades. Estes is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

In 2014, Estes received the University of California Medal, the university system’s highest recognition. The League of Women Voters named Estes, “A Woman Who Could Be President” in 1998 and The National Organization of Women (NOW) named her a “Woman of Action” (2012). Other academic honors include the UCSF Faculty Research Lecturer, the Chancellor’s Award for the Advancement of Women, and the School of Nursing’s Nahm Research and Doctoral Mentor Awards. She is an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN).

Widely recognized for her contributions and public service beyond academia, Estes was also awarded the Justice in Aging Advocacy Award in 2014. “We are proud to honor Carroll with this distinction,” says Kevin Prindiville, Academy Member and Executive Director of Justice in Aging. “Carroll’s research on Social Security, Medicare, health reform, long term care, and gender disparities, in addition to her strategic approach to partnership and advocacy, has impacted the lives of millions of older adults.”

Estes has received Distinguished Scholar Awards from the American Sociological Association, the Pacific Sociological Association, the American Public Health Association (APHA), the American Society on Aging (ASA), the Gerontological Society (GSA) and AGHE.

Estes’ research appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Health Care Financing Review, Health Affairs, Milbank Quarterly, Social Science and Medicine, The American Journal of Public Health, The American Journal of Sociology, and The Gerontologist, among other journals. Her edited volumes, The Nation’s Health (with Philip Lee) and Health Policy (with Charlene Harrington), have been adopted in 400 Schools of Medicine and Nursing.

Estes received her A.B. from Stanford University, M.A. from Southern Methodist University, Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Russell Sage College. She has been a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and at the Sorbonne in Paris. Estes’ daughter, Duskie and her two granddaughters, Brydie and Mackenzie, inspire her commitment to social insurance in gender, race and class.

Carroll Estes will receive the 2019 Robert M. Ball Award in Washington, DC. Date to be announced soon.