Colloquia - Winter 2015


IPR Colloquia

Edith Chen

Professor of Psychology, Co-Director of the Foundations of Health Research Center, and IPR Fellow

"Poverty and Children’s Health: Protective Psychosocial Factors"

Abstract:  Despite the fact that low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with poor physical health outcomes across the lifespan, a subset of individuals who are considered “at-risk” because of experiencing high levels of adversity manage to maintain good health.  This talk will provide an overview of psychosocial factors at the family (e.g., parental warmth) and community (e.g., role models) levels that can protect low-SES children from poor health outcomes.  Chen will emphasize links to biological processes in youth, such as inflammation, that predict vulnerability to chronic diseases later in life.

January 12, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Kirabo Jackson

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow

"The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms"

Abstract:  Since James Coleman’s 1966 report on “Equality of Educational Opportunity,” many have questioned whether school spending affects student outcomes. The school finance reforms from the early 1970s that accelerated in the 1980s caused some of the most dramatic changes in the structure of U.S. K–12 education spending ever. To study the effect of the resulting school spending changes on long-run, adult outcomes, Jackson and his colleagues link school spending and finance reform data to detailed, nationally-representative data on children born from 1955–85 who were followed up to 2011. They use the timing of passage of court-mandated reforms—and the associated type of change in the funding formula—as an exogenous shifter of school spending. They compare the adult outcomes of cohorts that were differentially exposed to school finance reforms, depending on place and year of birth. Event-study and instrumental variable models reveal that a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school leads to 0.27 more completed years of education, 7.25 percent higher wages, and a 3.67 percentage-point reduction in the annual rate of adult poverty. The effects are much more pronounced for children from low-income families. Exogenous spending increases were associated with sizable improvements in measured school quality, including reductions in student-to-teacher ratios, increases in teacher salaries, and longer school years.

January 26, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Lauren Rivera

Associate Professor of Management and Organizations and IPR Associate

"Class Action: Socioeconomic Discrimination in Law Firm Hiring"

Abstract:  Scholars have made important theoretical and empirical headway in understanding the mechanisms that produce U.S. social class inequalities; however, research on this topic has focused primarily on class inequalities in formal schooling, neglecting those of employment. Despite non-U.S. studies showing that employers display social class biases in their hiring practices and some qualitative research showing that certain U.S. employers use class-based cultural signals to evaluate job applicants, scholars have yet to quantify whether and to what extent social class discrimination in hiring occurs in American labor markets. In this paper, Rivera and her colleagues use the correspondence audit method to investigate class discrimination in the market for new law-firm associates. Conducted among the largest American law firms, their audit study finds substantial evidence of social class discrimination in hiring: A male job applicant from a socioeconomically privileged background was approximately four times more likely to be called back for a job than the same male applicant from an underprivileged one. Interestingly, the researchers did not find parallel effects for female job applicants. They outline several possible explanations for their results, especially the gender differences, and conclude by discussing the implications of the study for research on labor market inequalities, social class, and the sociology of law.

February 2, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Traci Burch

Associate Professor of Political Science and IPR Associate

"The Civic Culture Structures: Neighborhood Organizational Presence and Voter Turnout"

Abstract:  This paper explores differences across neighborhoods with respect to organizational capacity, or the number of organizations per capita within each neighborhood. Burch hypothesizes that neighborhoods that provide residents with fewer opportunities to join social or recreational groups will experience lower voter turnout that those neighborhoods that provide a healthier civic life, even after accounting for many other qualities of neighborhoods such as median income, racial diversity, and home ownership. To test this claim, she uses 2008 election and demographic data on nearly 10,000 block groups in Georgia and North Carolina, combined with data on organizations from the 2008 IRS Master Lit of Exempt Organizations. The findings indicate that neighborhoods vary greatly in the extent to which they provide residents with opportunities to engage in social and recreational organizations. Further, the findings indicate that this variation in organizational presence matters for voter turnout. Analyzing the relationship between neighborhood voter turnout and the presence of organizations separately for each state using hierarchical linear models shows that the presence of social and recreational organizations has a big effect on turnout: in Georgia, turnout in neighborhoods with the highest number of organizations per capita is about 16 percentage points higher than turnout in neighborhoods with no organizations.  In North Carolina, this gap is about 10 percentage points.  The findings hold despite the inclusion of controls for many neighborhood-level factors, including high school completion rates, poverty rates, home ownership rates, homicide rates, racial diversity, the neighborhood median income, the presence of other institutions such as churches and colleges, and the presence of young adults

February 16, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Jonathan Guryan

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, IPR Fellow, and Chair of the IPR Research Program on Education Policy

"Not Too Late: New Evidence from Chicago on Improving Academic Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth"

Abstract:  There is growing concern that improving the academic skills of children in poverty is too difficult and costly once they reach adolescence, and so policymakers should instead focus either on vocationally oriented instruction or else on early childhood education. Yet this conclusion might be premature given that so few previous interventions have targeted a key barrier to school success: “mismatch” between what schools deliver and the needs of youth, particularly those far behind grade level. The researchers report on a randomized controlled trial of a school-based intervention that provides disadvantaged youth with intensive individualized academic instruction. The study sample consists of 2,718 male ninth and tenth graders in 12 public high schools on the south and west sides of Chicago, of whom 95 percent are either black or Hispanic and more than 90 percent are free- or reduced-price lunch eligible. Participation increased math achievement test scores by 0.19 to 0.31 standard deviations (SD)—depending on how the researchers standardized—increased math grades by 0.50 SD, and reduced course failures in math by one-half, in addition to reducing failures in nonmath courses. While some questions remain, these impacts on a per-dollar basis—with a cost per participant of around $3,800, or $2,500 if delivered at larger scale—are as large as those of almost any other educational intervention whose effectiveness has been rigorously studied.

February 23, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Bhash Mazumder and Frank Limehouse

Director, Chicago Census Research Data Center (CRDC), and Senior Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; U.S. Census Bureau, Economist and CRDC Administrator

"Research Opportunities at the Chicago Census Research Data Center"

Abstract:  Mazumder and Limehouse will discuss current research projects and the various data sets available through the Chicago Census Research Data Center (CRDC), which provides researchers a way to access confidential Census Bureau microdata, including: economic data for business establishments and firms, such as the Economic Census, Longitudinal Business Database (LBD), and Annual Survey of Manufacturers (ASM); demographic data for individuals and households, such as the Decennial Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and Current Population Survey (CPS); longitudinal employer-household dynamics data, including the Employment History File (EHF) and Employer Characteristics File (ECF); and health data from partnering agencies, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the National Center for Healthcare Statistics (NCHS). One of only 18 such sites in the nation, CRDC was launched in 2002 as a collaborative effort between the U.S. Census Bureau and a consortium of Chicago-area institutions. This consortium currently consists of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois.

March 2, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Rebecca Seligman

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and IPR Fellow

"Making Sense of Mental Healthcare: Cultural, Political, and Social Dimensions of Psychiatric Treatment Among Mexican-American Youth"

Abstract:  Mounting evidence suggests that Mexican-American youth in the United States are suffering disproportionately from symptoms of depression, anxiety, and suicidality—and yet they seek and receive psychiatric care less frequently than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. For Mexican-American youth who do end up receiving mental healthcare, little is known about their pathways to treatment or their experiences of psychiatric patienthood. Seligman’s talk describes ethnographic research in a clinical setting that investigates how mainstream psychiatric discourses and practices interact with the needs and expectations of distressed Mexican-American youth. Specifically, the study explores the fit between what happens in the clinic and the socially, culturally, and developmentally informed understandings and experiences of Mexican adolescents and their parents.

March 9, 2015 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


IPR Seminar on Performance Measurement

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy; IPR Fellow and Chair of IPR’s Research Program on Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies

"School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement"

Abstract:   Over the last four decades, a number of states have reformed their school finance systems—some under court order, some without—to redirect funding from wealthy to poor school districts. These reforms have proceeded in several waves; the most recent wave, which began in 1998, shifts the argument from “equity” to “adequacy” of school funding. A literature in the 1990s and early 2000s established that early reforms indeed led to increases in the relative and absolute funding of low-income students’ school districts, though there are some exceptions. But there has been relatively little evidence about the effects of later reforms on funding, or about the effects of any of the reforms on student outcomes. Schanzenbach and her colleagues address both limitations in a recent project. First, using a new database of finance reforms, the researchers document the effects of adequacy on the level of school funding and on rich-poor inequality in funding. Second, they investigate the effects of reforms on low-income students’ academic achievement, both in absolute terms and relative to higher-income students in the same state. This investigation relies on a new database of student test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), administered to large, nationally representative samples of students since the early 1990s and that have been merged with school finance information and with state policy measures.

February 25, 2015 • IPR Conference Room, 617 Library Place • IPR/SPM


Q-Center Colloquia

William Winkler

Principal Researcher, U.S. Census Bureau

"Quality and Statistical Analysis of Sets of National Files"

Abstract:  The goal of various data clean-up methods is to improve the quality of files to make them suitable for economic and statistical analyses. To fill in missing data and “correct” fields, researchers need generalized software that implements the Fellegi-Holt model (Journal of the American Statistical Association, 1976) to preserve joint distributions and assure that records satisfy edits. To identify/correct duplicates within and across files, researchers need generalized software that implements the Fellegi-Sunter model (JASA, 1969). The goal of the clean-up procedures is to reduce the error in files to at most 1 percent—not currently attainable in many situations. In this presentation, Winkler covers methods of modeling/edit/imputation and record linkage that naturally morph into methods of adjusting statistical analyses in files to linkage error. The modeling/edit/imputation software has four algorithms that might be each 100 times as fast as algorithms in commercial or experimental university software. The record linkage software used in the 2010 decennial census matches 10^17 pairs (300 million x 300 million) in 30 hours using 40 CPUs on an SGI Linux machine. It is 50 times as fast as recent parallel software developed at Stanford by Kawai et al. in 2006—and 500 times as fast as software used in some statistical agencies. With skilled individuals and this fast software, a group of national files can be cleaned up and used in preliminary analyses within 3–6 months.

February 11, 2015 • IPR Conference Room, 617 Library Place • IPR/Q-Center


Jesse Rothstein

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics, University of California, Berkeley

"Revisiting the Impacts of Teachers"

Abstract:  In the American Economic Review (2014), Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff use teacher switching as a quasi-experiment and find that value-added estimates of teacher effectiveness are not meaningfully biased by student sorting and are strongly correlated with students’ later outcomes. Rothstein successfully replicates the researchers’ key results in a new sample. Further investigation, however, reveals that the quasi-experiment is invalid: Teacher switching is correlated with changes in student preparedness. Estimates that adjust for this indicate moderate bias in value-added scores. The association between value-added and long-run outcomes is not robust and quite sensitive to controls.

March 10, 2015 • IPR Conference Room, 617 Library Place • IPR/Q-Center