Rosanne L. Higgins grew up in Buffalo, New York. Her experiences traveling in both the United States and in Europe as a child resulted in a love of history and cultural diversity from an early age. She entered graduate school in 1990 as an anthropology student and studied the relationship between biology and poverty during the nineteenth century. Her main interest was the institutionalized poor. In 1998 she earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University at Buffalo.