Colloquia - Winter 2014


IPR Colloquia

Brian Melzer

Assistant Professor of Finance, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

“Unemployment Insurance and Consumer Credit”

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of unemployment insurance (UI) on consumer credit markets. Exploiting heterogeneity in the generosity of unemployment insurance across U.S. states and over time, the researchers find that UI helps the unemployed avoid defaulting on their debt. Lenders respond to this decline in default risk by expanding credit access for low-income households who are at risk of being laid off. They find that such households are offered greater credit and pay lower interest rates on their borrowing. Through credit markets, the poor benefit from the insurance provided by a stronger social safety net even without experiencing a negative shock.

January 13, 2014 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Christine Percheski

Assistant Professor of Sociology and IPR Faculty Fellow, Northwestern University

“Economic Conditions and Pregnancy Rates in the United States During the Great Recession”

Abstract: The Great Recession prompted a decline in U.S. fertility rates, but it is still unclear which groups of women were most affected by the economic downturn and which economic conditions were associated with the fertility decline. Using data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, Percheski and colleagues exploit variation in local economic indicators to assess the impact of local economic conditions on the likelihood of a pregnancy for married adult women, cohabiting adult women, unpartnered adult women, and teenage girls. They found that women’s odds of pregnancy did not respond uniformly to economic conditions but varied by partnership status. Consistent with hypotheses about the fertility-suppressing effects of recessions, they found that married women had lower odds of pregnancy when local employment conditions were poor, and unpartnered women had lower odds of pregnancy when mortgage foreclosure rates were high. Cohabiting women, however, showed less variation in pregnancy rates across economic conditions. In contrast to adult women, teenage girls showed greater odds of pregnancy when local unemployment was high, though as a group they had lower pregnancy rates during the recession.

February 3, 2014 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Michael Neblo

Associate Professor of Political Science, Ohio State University and IPR Visiting Scholar, Northwestern University

“With Friends Like These... Social Influence on Politics, Religion, Work, and Health in the ‘Fellowship for Life Longitudinal Study'”

Abstract: Common wisdom holds that our friends and associates influence our beliefs and behaviors in myriad ways. Yet despite recent advances, it remains notoriously difficult to demonstrate credible causal effects from social networks. Neblo will present results from the first six years of the “Fellowship for Life Longitudinal Study” that follows cohorts of college students through their time in school and beyond. The study was designed to disaggregate specific mechanisms of social influence as a part of a strategy for more credibly inferring such influence in major domains, including health, politics, college/career, and religion. Neblo will focus primarily on political outcomes (election turnout, presidential vote choice, and ideology). The researchers find that esteem networks drive political influence, trumping the friendship and political discussant effects suggested by previous research. These findings have significant implications for theories of political persuasion, as well as the role of informal political discourse in democratic systems. The presentation will conclude with a summary of preliminary findings in other domains (health, religion, and STEM-major persistence.)

February 10, 2014 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Heather Schoenfeld

Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

"The Role of Prison Conditions Litigation in Reducing Prison Populations: Possibilities and Limitations"

Abstract: Prison conditions litigation in the 1970s is credited with creating safer and healthier prisons across the country. Yet lawyers and reformers had also hoped that litigation would compel states to reduce their prison populations. Since 1980, however, state prison populations per capita have increased by an average of 300 percent, making the United States the largest jailer in the world. Now faced with soaring corrections costs and overcrowded prisons, state policymakers are beginning to look for ways to reduce prison populations. Once again, reformers and lawyers hope that prison conditions litigation—and in particular court-ordered prison population caps—will help states decarcerate. Schoenfeld uses two case studies—prison overcrowding litigation in Florida between 1973 and 1993 and the ongoing prison conditions litigation in California—to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of this strategy. She argues that the legal context, the political context, and the capacity of the state to implement reform has changed significantly between earlier prison litigation and today’s—making it more likely that decarcerative policy reforms will have a lasting impact. Her analysis underscores that small shifts in politics can quickly undermine criminal justice reform.

February 24, 2014 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Fiona Scott Morton

Professor of Economics, Yale University School of Management; and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economic Analysis, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice

“Patent Acquisitions and Patent Trolls”

Abstract: In this paper with UC–Berkeley’s Carl Shapiro, Scott Morton reports data on patent litigation activity initiated by patent assertion entities and discusses the tactics used by these entities to monetize the patents they acquire. The co-authors develop a simple economic model to evaluate the effect of enhanced patent monetization on innovation and on consumers. Their analysis also looks at the economic effects of several different categories of patent acquisitions based on the type of seller, the type of buyer, and the patent portfolio involved.

March 10, 2014 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


IPR Seminar on Performance Measurement

Richard Arum

Professor of Sociology and Education, New York University

“College for What? Getting a Job, Social Relationships, and Civic Participation for a Recent Cohort of Emerging Adults”

Abstract: College contexts and experiences potentially have implications for an individual’s social, economic, and political outcomes, as well as for social inequality. Given that contemporary college students often focus only modest levels of effort on academic pursuits, researchers must take seriously a broader set of life-course outcomes to understand student behavior. This presentation examines the experiences of a recent cohort of college students whose collegiate learning outcomes were documented in his book with Josipa Roksa, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The students graduated in spring 2009 during a period of significant economic difficulties in the United States. What sort of post-college transitions—economically, socially, and civically—did they make as emerging adults? How did they understand their college and post-college experiences, and to what extent did their outcomes vary? Results highlight the nonacademic functions of college for contemporary students.

January 29, 2014 • Harris Hall 108, 1881 Sheridan Road • IPR/SPM


Q-Center Colloquia

J.R. Lockwood

Principal Research Scientist, Educational Testing Service

“Can You Correct a Propensity Score Analysis for Covariate Measurement Error?”

Abstract: Weighting and matching estimators using observed covariates to adjust for differences among non-equivalent groups are commonly used to estimate causal effects with observational data. The theorems supporting these approaches require error-free measurements of the covariates necessary to adjust for group differences. However, covariate measurement error is common in many applications, including education research where test scores are typically important covariates but measure latent achievement constructs with error. This presentation will review recent work on approaches that can be used to correct weighting and matching estimators for covariate measurement error. Research suggests that a general strategy exists to correct weighting estimators, but matching estimators cannot generally be fixed.

February 12, 2014 • IPR Conference Room, 617 Library Place • IPR/Joint Economics