Colloquia - Spring 2013


IPR Colloquia

James Druckman

Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science; Chair of IPR's Program on Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy; and IPR Associate Director and Fellow, Northwestern University

“How the Politicization of Science Shapes Public Opinion”

Abstract: Does the politicization of science influence support for emergent technologies? Can it render appeals to evidence impotent? Druckman and his co-authors, political scientist Toby Bolsen of Georgia State University and IPR social policy professor Fay Lomax Cook, study these questions by focusing on public support for an emergent energy technology, i.e., nuclear power. Using an experiment embedded within a large survey, they explore how exposure to information that primes the politicization of science affects support for using nuclear power. They find that when individuals are primed to think about the politicization of science, a frame that highlights the environmental benefits of nuclear power—with or without a reference to scientific evidence—is rendered invalid and support for using it decreases. This is a first attempt to set an agenda of research within political science that focuses on how the politicization of science shapes public opinion toward emergent technologies and trust in science. The results have implications for the future of scientific innovations in today’s politicized scientific climate.

April 15, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster St. • IPR


Kirabo Jackson

Assistant Professor of Education and Social Policy and IPR Fellow

“Non-Cognitive Ability, Test Scores, and Teacher Quality: Evidence from 9th Grade Teachers in North Carolina”

Abstract: In this project, Jackson develops a new model to measure long-term outcomes that combines student cognitive and non-cognitive ability and teacher effects to evaluate students’ long-term outcomes. Conditional on cognitive scores, an underlying non-cognitive factor associated with student absences, suspensions, grades, and grade progression is strongly correlated with long-run educational attainment, arrests, and earnings in survey data. In administrative data, teachers have meaningful causal effects on both test scores and the non-cognitive factor.  The calculations show that teacher effects based on test scores alone fail to identify many excellent teachers—and might greatly understate the importance of teachers on adult outcomes.

April 22, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster St. • IPR


Georgia Kernell

Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

“Policy Uncertainty and Voter Behavior”

Abstract: Political parties field a heterogeneous set of candidates and send a variety of messages about their policy positions. Yet most voting models maintain that office-seeking parties should enforce intraparty homogeneity and develop clear party labels and reputations. This project reconciles theory with reality by identifying a strategic rationale for parties to pursue heterogeneity. Kernell argues that party inconsistency—among candidates and leaders, as well as over time and across regions—should increase support among individuals who are ideologically distant from a party, but that heterogeneity decreases partisanship and vote share for individuals whose positions are similar to a party’s platform. In contrast, party experience in elections and government should increase partisanship, but have no independent effect on vote share. The results suggest that the consistency of party appeals in election campaigns are an important factor in informing citizens’ appraisals of political parties.

April 29, 2013 • 617 Library Place • IPR


Mary Pattillo

Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Black Picket Fences Revisited”

Abstract: The research for Black Picket Fences, Pattillo’s ethnographic study of families and adolescents in a black middle-class neighborhood in Chicago, began 20 years ago. Former President Clinton was overseeing major overhauls of welfare, immigration, and crime policy during a time of growing employment, falling poverty rates, and budget surpluses. Financial deregulation and subprime mortgage lending, in particular, were setting the stage for the near total collapse of the banking sector and the current slow recovery. In the second edition of her book, due out in summer 2013, Pattillo uses new interview data and descriptive demographics to look at the trajectories of the people and the neighborhood as a whole. She revisits topics that were discussed in the first edition—namely the economy, crime, and housing—with a particular focus on the foreclosure crisis, the impact of public housing policy, and the subjective experience of crime in a moment of economic precariousness. She also puts the book in context with research done since the first edition. She shows that recent work substantiates and bolsters the stories told, pointing to the continuing relevance of the kinds of privileges and perils portrayed in the book.

May 6, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster St. • IPR


Emma Adam

Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, and Lindsay Till Hoyt, HDSP Doctoral Student and IPR Graduate Research Assistant, Northwestern University

“Adolescent Stress and Positive Well-Being: Implications for Adult Health”

Abstract: Recent research has focused on the impact of early experience on adult health trajectories, with an emphasis on the prenatal and early childhood periods.  New theory and research, however, suggest that adolescence might be a second “sensitive period,” during which experiences have a heightened impact on adult health.  While past research on social influences on health have focused on the role of adverse exposures, stress, and negative emotion, new theory and research highlight the role of positive experience. In this talk, the researchers use data from several prospective, longitudinal studies demonstrating that adolescent stress and positive well-being play unique and interactive roles in the prediction of young adult health indicators, including stress hormones, inflammation, depression, and general health.

May 13, 2013 • Annenberg Hall, Room 303 • IPR


Frank Penedo

Roswell Park Professor of Medical Social Sciences; Program Leader, Cancer Control and Survivorship Research Program, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center; and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

“Psychosocial Interventions in Prostate Cancer Survivorship: Considering Biobehavioral and Sociocultural Processes”

Abstract: Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death among U.S. men. Most prostate cancer cases are diagnosed at the early stages of the disease, with five-year survival rates approaching 100 percent—but treatment side effects are chronic and can significantly compromise quality of life.  Among men diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease, five-year survival rates drop to about 30 percent, and treatments for advanced prostate cancer are associated with chronic and debilitating symptoms. Penedo will present research documenting the efficacy of group-based, psychosocial interventions for localized and advanced prostate cancer to improve quality of life among multi-ethnic survivors. He will also discuss work to adapt the intervention linguistically and culturally, as well as current studies focused on technology-based delivery of these interventions, which evaluate whether intervention-associated changes in inflammation have an impact on symptom improvements.

May 20, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster St. • IPR


Q-Center Colloquia

Guanglei Hong

Associate Professor of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago

“Ratio-of-Mediator-Probability Weighting for Causal Mediation Analysis”

Abstract: In social science research as well as in policy evaluations, decomposition of the total effect into a direct effect and an indirect effect is challenging when the mediator-outcome relationship depends on the treatment condition. The research introduces an innovative ratio-of-mediator-probability-weighting (RMPW) approach and its non-parametric counterpart that allows one to decompose the total effect in the presence of treatment-by-mediator interaction. The new weighting strategies greatly simplify outcome model specification while minimizing reliance on assumptions with regard to the outcome’s distribution, the mediator’s distribution, and the outcome model’s functional form. Simulation results reveal satisfactory performance of the parametric and non-parametric weighting methods under the identification assumptions. To illustrate, Hong analyzes the impact of a welfare-to-work program on maternal depression mediated by employment experience when there is evidence that employment (the mediator) affects depression (the outcome) differently under different policy conditions (the treatment).

April 18, 2013 • 617 Library Place • Q-Center


Peter Steiner

Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Matching Designs for Observational Studies with Multilevel Data”

Abstract: Whenever randomized experiments cannot be conducted in practice, propensity score (PS) techniques for matching treated and control units are frequently used for estimating causal treatment effects. Despite the popularity of PS techniques, they are not yet well studied for matching multilevel data where selection into treatment takes place at the lowest for instance, students selecting into treatment within schools. Steiner and his colleagues investigate two different strategies for matching level-one units (i.e., students): within-cluster matching where matches are only allowed within clusters (schools), and between-cluster matching where treatment and control units can be matched across clusters. Using a simulation study, the authors show that both matching strategies are able to produce consistent estimates of the average treatment effect for the overall study population. They also demonstrate that a lack of overlap between treated and control units within clusters cannot be directly compensated for by switching to a between-cluster matching strategy

May 21, 2013 • 617 Library Place • Q-Center


IPR Seminar on Performance Measurement

Mark Iris

Lecturer, Political Science and Mathematical Models in the Social Sciences, Northwestern University

“Your Tax Dollars at Work! Chicago Police Lawsuit Payments: How Much, and for What?”

Abstract: Payments for judgments and settlements in lawsuits alleging police misconduct are one means for measuring police performance. Data are often shrouded in secrecy in many places, Freedom of Information laws notwithstanding. Chicago remarkably posts all these data online. In this project, more than 2,600 cases spread over six years, covering all payments in police-related lawsuits, were analyzed. The six-year total was more than $282 million. Iris examines patterns and trends for specific subsets of litigation, including wrongful conviction cases, civil rights violations, and police pursuit cases. Reasons for the limited ability of these costs to modify police behavior are discussed. Finally, Iris explores ways in which Chicago’s experiences might or might not be typical of other cities.

April 23, 2013 • 617 Library Place • IPR/SPM


David Hyman

H. Ross and Helen Workman Chair in Law and Director of the Epstein Program in Health Law and Policy, College of Law, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Public Reporting of Hospital Infection Rates: Ranking the States on Report and Website Content, Credibility, and Usability”

Abstract: Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are mostly preventable but kill about 100,000 people annually, making them a major public health issue. Hyman will present two related papers on HAI public reporting. The first looks at the public reporting required by 25 states for hospital infection rates for some types of infections. The researchers assess the efficacy of these efforts, scoring individual states on the content, credibility, and usability of their public reports and websites, finding considerable diversity in the information each state presents. In the second paper, Hyman and his colleagues focus on three states—California, Pennsylvania, and Washington—that have made substantial changes in their HAI public reports, websites, or both in the short period since they began disclosing HAI rates. Again, they find wide variation in websites and the information they contain. They identify ways to improve key areas, suggesting that the model of “one website (and report format) fits all” may not work well to deliver such complex information to different users.

May 7, 2013 • 617 Library Place • IPR/SPM


Joint IPR/Economics Education & Labor Seminars

David Figlio

Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy and of Economics, and IPR Director and Fellow

“The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Cognitive Development”

Abstract: Several recent studies show that poor neonatal health (proxied by low birth weight) has persistent effects into adulthood, reducing both an individual’s level of educational attainment as well as adult earnings, but little is known about its effects before the age of 18. This paper uses a large, new data set of twins from Florida to study this question. Figlio and his co-authors find that the effects of poor neonatal health on student outcomes are remarkably invariant. The estimates are virtually identical from third grade through tenth grade. They are the same regardless of whether a student attended a “better” school or a “worse” school, across racial and ethnic groups, and across maternal education levels. The effects, however, grow in magnitude between the start of kindergarten and the end of third grade. These results suggest an important potential role for early childhood and early elementary investments in remediating this persistent condition.

April 4, 2013 • 617 Library Place • IPR/Joint Economics


John Friedman

Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

“Active Versus Passive Decisions and Crowd-Out in Retirement Savings Accounts: Evidence from Denmark”

Abstract: Do retirement savings policies, such as tax subsidies or employer-provided pension plans, increase total saving for retirement or simply induce shifting across accounts? Friedman and his co-authors revisit this classic question using 45 million observations on wealth for the population of Denmark. They find that a policy’s impact on wealth accumulation depends on whether it changes savings rates by active or by passive choice. Tax subsidies, which rely on individuals to take an action to raise savings, have small impacts on total wealth. In contrast, policies that raise retirement contributions even if individuals take no action, such as automatic employer contributions to retirement accounts, increase wealth accumulation substantially. Price subsidies only affect the behavior of active savers who respond to incentives—whereas automatic contributions increase the savings of passive individuals who do not re-optimize. The authors estimate that approximately 85 percent of individuals are passive savers. They conclude that automatic contributions are more effective at increasing savings rates than price subsidies for three reasons: Subsidies induce relatively few individuals to respond, they generate substantial crowd-out conditional on response, and they do not influence the savings behavior of passive individuals, who are least prepared for retirement.

May 2, 2013 • 3245 Andersen Hall • IPR/Joint Economics


Rucker Johnson

Associate Professor; Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

“Desegregation and (Un)Equal Opportunity: The Long March from Brown to the Mobility of Brown's Grandchildren

Abstract: Court-ordered school desegregation has been described as the most controversial and ambitious social experiment of the past 50 years. Yet despite the unprecedented changes that accompanied desegregation, no large-scale data collection effort was undertaken to investigate school desegregation program effects, particularly on longer-run outcomes. In this project, Johnson attempts to quantify the progress made fulfilling policy expectations and evaluate the impact of legal actions during the Civil Rights era. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, he analyzes the life trajectories of children born between 1950 and 1975 who have been followed through 2009. He then links this data to a comprehensive desegregation case inventory for the years between 1954 and 1990 that contains detailed information for every U.S. school district that implemented a court-ordered desegregation plan. By examining life-course effects of school desegregation across a broad range of subsequent outcomes, Johnson attempts to shed light on the mechanisms through which differences in school quality translate into differences in adult outcomes.

May 23, 2013 • 3245 Andersen Hall • IPR/Joint Economics


Sarah Reber

Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Luskin School Affairs, UCLA

“Survey Incentives for Teenagers”

Abstract: Reber and her colleagues test alternative strategies for encouraging response to an online survey of adolescents as part of an ongoing study of two college-access interventions. They randomly assign participants to one of three survey incentive treatments: payment on completion of the survey, an early completion bonus (declining payment), and advance payment (“in-the-envelope”). Participants were also randomly assigned to one of two merchants for the incentive payment. Both the advance payment and declining payment treatments had slightly lower response rates, though response rates were relatively high in all three groups. The advance payment treatment reduced early response and the declining payment treatment reduced later response, compared to payment on completion. Response rates for the less popular merchant were also somewhat lower. They conclude that cost effectiveness of the alternative approaches depends on whether the researcher can reclaim unused gift card balances.

May 30, 2013 • 3245 Andersen Hall • IPR/Joint Economics