Colloquia - Winter 2013


IPR Colloquia


Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow

“Long-Run Impacts of Childhood Access to the Safety Net”

Abstract: A growing economics literature establishes a causal link between in utero shocks and health and human capital in adulthood. Most studies rely on extreme negative shocks such as famine and pandemics. Schanzenbach and her colleagues are the first to examine the impact of a positive and policy-driven change in economic resources available in utero and during childhood. In particular, the researchers focus on the introduction of a key element of the U.S. safety net, the Food Stamp Program, which was rolled out across counties in the United States between 1961 and 1975. They use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to assemble unique data linking family background and county of residence in early childhood to adult health and economic outcomes. The identification comes from variation across counties and over birth cohorts in exposure to the Food Stamp Program. Their findings indicate that the Food Stamp Program has effects decades after initial exposure. Specifically, access to food stamps in childhood leads to a significant reduction in the incidence of “metabolic syndrome” (obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes) and, for women, an increase in economic self-sufficiency. Overall, the results suggest substantial internal and external benefits of the safety net that have not previously been quantified.

January 7, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Joseph Ferrie

Professor of Economics and IPR Associate

“Grandfathers Matter(ed): Occupational Mobility Across Three Generations in the United States and Britain, 1850-1910”

Abstract: Intergenerational mobility has been a topic of persistent interest in sociology and, increasingly, in economics. Nearly all of these studies focus on fathers and sons. The possibility that intergenerational mobility is more than a simple two-generational autoregressive(1) process has been difficult to assess because of the lack of the necessary multigenerational data. Ferrie and his co-author remedy this shortcoming with new data that links grandfathers, fathers, and sons in Britain and the United States between 1850 and 1910. This permits an analysis of mobility across three generations in each country and a characterization of the differences in those patterns across two countries, for which the researchers have found substantial differences in two-generation mobility in previous work. They find that, in both countries, grandfathers mattered: Even controlling for the father’s occupation, the grandfather’s occupation significantly influenced the grandson’s occupation. Therefore, for both Britain and the United States in the second half of the 19th century, assessments of mobility based on two-generation estimates significantly overstate the true amount of mobility.

January 14, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Mercedes Carnethon

Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and IPR Associate

“Explanations for Racial/Ethnic Variation in Sleep Duration”

Abstract: Regular restorative sleep is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Prior population studies report shorter sleep duration and higher rates of Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB) among non-whites as compared with non-Hispanic whites. However, few population-based studies have included other U.S. racial/ethnic groups, namely adults of Latino and Asian ancestry. Carnethon and her team recruited a random sample of 600 adults from the Chicagoland area and captured sleep duration and quality using wrist actigraphy for seven nights to test whether sleep duration and quality varies by racial/ethnic group. To explore the reasons for previously reported observations of racial/ethnic differences in sleep duration, they measured cardiovascular disease risk factors, health behaviors, and psychological factors. They also geocoded participants’ residential addresses to determine whether the neighborhood environment could account for these differences in sleep. Their findings of racial/ethnic differences were consistent with those of previous studies and add unique data to the growing body of work in this area by exploring plausible factors to explain these differences.

January 28, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Edith Chen

Professor of Psychology and IPR Fellow

“Health-Related Resilience in Low Socioeconomic Status Children”

Abstract: Low socioeconomic status (SES) has consistently been associated with poor physical health outcomes in both childhood and adulthood. This talk will provide an overview of Chen and her team’s research investigating mechanisms, both psychosocial and psychobiological, explaining SES and health effects. In addition, research has shown that there is a subset of low-SES individuals who defy expectations by maintaining good physical health despite the adversity they face. Chen will also explore the psychosocial factors that can foster “resilience” among these individuals—that is, psychosocial factors that help buffer low-SES individuals from poor health outcomes.

February 11, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow

Terri Sabol

IPR Postdoctoral Fellow

“The Influence of Low-Income Children's Participation in Head Start on Their Parent's Educational Attainment”

Abstract: In 1998, Congress mandated a national study on the impact of Head Start, the federal preschool program that began in 1968. The Head Start Impact Study is the most ambitious evaluation to date, and includes 4,000 newly entering 3- and 4-year-old children who were randomly assigned to Head Start or to a control group. Findings indicate that Head Start had less of an impact on children’s academic and social development than expected. Although participating in Head Start led to short-term improvements in development, these began fading by kindergarten, continuing through the third grade. In this project, Chase-Lansdale and Sabol take a family systems perspective and ask whether children’s participation in Head Start might encourage parents to advance their own education. They use the exogenous variation generated by random assignment to examine this hypothesis. Among the 3-year-old cohort, parents whose children participated in Head Start had steeper increases in their own educational attainment compared with parents of the control-group children. Findings are especially strong for parents with at least some college but no degree at baseline, as well as for African American parents. Results are discussed in the context of using high-quality early childhood education as a platform for improving both child and parent outcomes.

February 18, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Simone Ipsa-Landa

Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Associate

“Gendered Risk Structures and Adolescents' Accounts of Parental Peer and Place Mentoring”

Abstract: While studying parental monitoring, scholars typically analyze neighborhood, family, and peer influences. However, parental monitoring involves more than just external influences; it is also a fundamentally interpretive process. To identify the social processes that frame teens’ interpretations of parents’ rules, Ispa-Landa draws on in-depth interviews with urban, African American adolescents. In contrast to previous studies of adolescents, she finds that participants largely legitimized parents’ rules as reasonable—as appropriately attuned to the risks they faced. Ispa-Landa demonstrates that sharing parents’ goals for future upward mobility allows urban adolescents to legitimize their parents’ rules. She concludes by explaining how the view of parental monitoring emerging from this study complements current views and suggests ways in which scholars could reconceptualize parental monitoring to address adolescents’ subjectivity and awareness of their own social position.

February 25, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Yanna Krupnikov

Assistant Professor of Political Science and IPR Associate

“The Rise of Independents: How News Coverage Decreases Individual Partisanship”

Abstract: Scholars, journalists, politicians, and ordinary citizens have argued that  American politics has grown more divisive in recent decades. Not only do Democrats and Republicans disagree on most critical issues, but they also display animosity for the opposing party. Researchers suggest that this animosity has polarized ordinary Americans, deepening the gulf of disagreement. In this project, Krupnikov and IPR graduate research assistant Samara Klar offer a different argument. They contend that the animosity and disagreement in Washington have pushed ordinary voters away from identifying with either party, leading them to identify as “Independents,” even when their ideological positions clearly align with one of the two parties. They show that the media—both news and entertainment—present partisan disagreement as insurmountable, vilifying partisans and framing political moderation as an aspiration. This leads individuals to perceive political “independence” as highly socially desirable. In turn, this “rise of Independents” holds tremendous consequences for political participation and American democracy.

March 4, 2013 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • 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).

February 12, 2013 • IPR Conference Room, 617 Library Place • Q-Center


Joint Economics/IPR Seminar Events

Daniel Nagin

Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University; and Chair, Committee on Deterrence and the Death Penalty, National Research Council 

“Deterrence and the Death Penalty: Report of the National Research Council”

Abstract: In April 2012, the National Research Council released the report from its Committee on Deterrence and the Death Penalty. In it, the committee concluded that “research to date on the effect of the death penalty on homicides is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates.” The committee went on to recommend that this research “should not influence policy judgments about the death penalty.” Daniel Nagin, chair of the committee, will elaborate on the basis for the committee’s conclusion and discuss its recommendation for research that might prove informative about the deterrent effect of capital punishment. He will also discuss the importance of this research agenda as part of efforts to better understand the crime prevention effects of noncapital sanctions.

January 10, 2013 • 3245 Andersen Hall • IPR/Joint Economics


Jonathan Gruber

Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Healthcare Program Director, National Bureau of Economic Research 

“Evolving Choice Inconsistencies in Selection of Prescription Drug Insurance: Do Choices Improve Over Time?”

Abstract: While standard economic theory suggests that allowing a wide variety of health insurance plan choices would increase welfare, a recent body of work suggests that such “choice overload” can actually lead to inferior decision making. Using administrative data, Gruber and his co-authors extend a previous analysis and confirm their earlier finding that seniors make inconsistent choices over their prescription drug plans. In addition, they find that these choices are not improving over time. The researchers develop a structural model demonstrating that there is very little learning in plan choice at the individual or cohort level.

March 7, 2013 • 3245 Andersen Hall • IPR/Joint Economics