Colloquia - Winter 2016


IPR Colloquia

Larry V. Hedges

Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and Education and Social Policy and Professor of Psychology and IPR Fellow

"Do Violent Video Games Make People More Violent?"

Abstract:  The proliferation of violent video games and interactive media raises the question of their impact on users and the broader society. In 2013, the American Psychological Association established a task force of six experts, which included Hedges, to review the relevant research and suggest a policy for the association. The task force examined previous meta-analyses and conducted their own meta-analysis of recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies. The empirical findings were reasonably consistent across all meta-analyses of older and new studies.  However, the interpretations of those empirical findings by different interest groups— which included prominent researchers—were highly discrepant. The strategies of those interest groups illustrate the problems that can occur when professional societies attempt to establish public positions based on research.

January 4, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


 Rourke O’Brien

Assistant Professor of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Medicaid and Intergenerational Economic Mobility”

Abstract: Evidence suggests economic mobility is lower in the United States than other rich democracies. At the same time, new data reveal significant subnational variation across localities and adjacent birth cohorts in levels of economic mobility. This suggests that social structures, institutions and public policies—particularly those that influence critical early life environments—play an important role in shaping mobility processes. O’Brien explores how one major public policy intervention—the Medicaid expansions of the 1980s and 1990s —affected intergenerational economic mobility outcomes for children. Using new county-level estimates of intergenerational economic mobility for children born between 1980 and 1988, O’Brien and his colleagues exploit the uneven expansions of Medicaid eligibility across states to isolate the causal effect of this policy change on mobility outcomes. Instrumental variable regression models reveal that increasing the proportion of low-income pregnant women eligible for Medicaid improved the mobility outcomes of their children in adulthood. Moreover, the researchers find evidence that Medicaid increased the probability of college attendance for children from low-income families, a key pathway to intergenerational economic mobility. This study has implications for the normative evaluation of this policy intervention, as well as understanding mobility processes in an era of rising inequality.

January 11, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


 Nicola Bianchi

Assistant Professor of Strategy and IPR Associate

“The Indirect Effects of Educational Expansions: Evidence from a Large Enrollment Increase in STEM Majors”

Abstract: Increasing access to education might have consequences that go beyond the effects on marginal students induced to enroll. It might change school quality, peer effects, and returns to skill. Bianchi will discuss the effects of an educational expansion on student learning, exploiting an Italian reform that changed the admission requirements for university STEM majors. Newly collected administrative data on 27,236 students indicate that the reform decreased learning in STEM fields due to overcrowded universities and negative peer effects. In addition, some of the best learners, who would have enrolled in STEM majors without the reform, might have chosen different programs. The analysis of long-run incomes suggests that the reform might have had a long-lasting negative effect on the returns to STEM degrees.

January 25, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


 Charles F. Manski
Board of Trustees Professor in Economics and IPR Fellow

“How Do Right-to-Carry Laws Affect Crime Rates? Coping with Ambiguity Using Bounded-Variation Assumptions”

Abstract: Research on U.S. crime has struggled to reach consensus about the impact of right-to-carry (RTC) gun laws, and empirical results are highly sensitive to seemingly minor variations. Manski and the University of Virginia’s John Pepper recommend that researchers perform inference under a spectrum of assumptions of varying identifying power, recognizing the tension between the strength of assumptions and their credibility. They formalize and apply a class of assumptions that flexibly restrict the degree to which policy outcomes may vary across time and space. Their bounded variation assumptions weaken in various respects the invariance assumptions commonly made by researchers who assume that certain features of treatment response are constant across space or time. Using these assumptions, they analyze the effect of RTC laws on violent and property crimes in Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois, finding no simple answers. With some assumptions, the data do not reveal whether RTC laws increase or decrease the crime rate. With others, RTC laws are found to increase some crimes, decrease other crimes, and have effects that vary over time for others.

February 1, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR

 Michelle Schumate
Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Director of the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact, and IPR Associate

“Debunking the Mythical Relationship Between Nonprofit Networking and Organizational Capacity”

Abstract: Over the past several decades, nonprofits have been exhorted to partner more to increase their capacity and effectiveness. Funders and nonprofit consultants alike take for granted that partnering with nonprofits, businesses, and governments breeds capacity. However, to date, no research has tested this assumption. In this presentation, Shumate describes three typical portfolios of nonprofit partnerships, based upon the number of partners, character, and duration of those partnerships—and the frequency of their communication. She then presents evidence that greater partnering does not beget greater capacity for nonprofit organizations.

February 8, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Christopher Kuzawa
Professor of Anthropology and IPR Fellow

“The Long Reach of History: Intergenerational Pathways to Plasticity in Health and Human Capital”

Abstract: An extensive literature points to a lasting impact of early life experience on adult health and human capital. While this framework has received considerable support from policy-oriented social science research, recent biological work has shown that some effects of early environments not only linger into adult life, but also might be transmitted to multiple generations of offspring operating through several biological inheritance pathways. This work implies that a full understanding of the determinants of health and human capital will require investigating not only the role of early life environments, but also historical environments experienced by ancestors, potentially extending back multiple generations. This talk will survey emerging evidence for the multi-generational transmission of environmental effects in humans and other mammals, discuss current understandings of epigenetic mechanisms, and consider policy implications of these findings.

February 15, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Darius Tandon
Associate Professor of Medical Social Sciences, and Director of the Center for Community Health, Feinberg

“Assessing Perinatal Depression in Low Income Women”

Abstract: Perinatal depression is one of the most common forms of maternal morbidity after delivery, and disproportionately affects low-income women of all racial and ethnic groups. Home-visiting programs serving pregnant women and new mothers offer a unique setting to conduct intervention research aimed at addressing perinatal depression. Low-income women receive home visits in all 50 states with an influx of funding provided in recent years through the Affordable Care Act’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) initiative. This talk will highlight work aimed at preventing perinatal depression among low-income women. Dr. Tandon will present studies conducted in collaboration with home-visiting programs in Illinois and Maryland, as well as a survey of future intervention and policy directions.

February 22, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


 Elizabeth Ananat
Associate Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics, Duke University, and IPR/SESP Visiting Scholar

“The Effects of Local Downturns on Children and Youth”

Abstract: Recent economic upheavals—including both the dramatic events of the Great Recession and ongoing job losses resulting from globalization and technological change—have highlighted the importance of understanding the implications of economic crises for society. Ananat will present evidence on the effects of economic downturns on an area’s children and youth, including their academic achievement, mental health, risk behaviors, and investment in the future.

February 29, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Emma Adam
Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow

“Race-Related Stress and Health and Academic Disparities: New Models and Mechanisms”

Abstract: Substantial racial-ethnic disparities remain in educational outcomes; these gaps are not fully explained by known mechanisms. In this talk, Adam presents a new theoretical model proposing that psychological stress associated with being a member of a racial/ethnic minority group and the psychological and biological responses elicited by that stress might be a factor contributing to the black-white achievement gap. She presents initial evidence from a 20-year longitudinal study showing that developmental histories of exposure to racial discrimination are associated both with dysregulated stress hormone patterns, and with lower academic attainment in adulthood. She also investigates factors that help to reduce the impact of histories of discrimination on adult outcomes.

March 7, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR


Q-Center Colloquia

 Jill Constantine

Vice President and Director, NJ Human Services Research, Mathematica Policy Research

“Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Impacts of Pay-for Performance After Two Years”

Abstract: In 2006, Congress established the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which provides grants to support performance-based compensation systems for teachers and principals in high-need schools. The TIF grants have two goals: (1) reform compensation systems to reward educators for improving student achievement and (2) increase the number of high-performing teachers in high-need schools and hard-to-staff subject areas. This is the second of four planned reports from a multiyear study for the U.S. Department of Education focusing on the TIF grants awarded in 2010. This report examines grantees’ implementation experiences and educators’ understanding of, and attitudes toward, the program near the end of the second year of program implementation, as well as changes in educators’ understanding and attitudes. This report also examines the impacts of pay-for-performance bonuses on educator effectiveness and student achievement after one and two years of TIF implementation. The report focuses on a subset of 2010 TIF grantees, including 10 districts participating in a random assignment evaluation that had completed two years of TIF implementations in 2011–12 and 2012–13.

January 27, 2016 • Chambers Hall, 600 Foster Street • IPR