2011 News Archive

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December


The Nanotechnology Challenge: Tiny Particles, Big Risks
As nanotechnology development zooms ahead, research on its effects on health and the environment lags. A new book, The Nanotechnology Challenge: Creating Legal Institutions for Uncertain Risks, edited by IPR associate and law professor David Dana with contributions from faculty James Druckman and Daniel Diermeier, explores ways to address this gap.

Are Single-Sex Schools Better at Educating Students?
IPR labor economist Kirabo Jackson has conducted one of the first studies to credibly link the effects of single-sex education to student achievement. While a select few benefit from attending single-sex schools, he finds little to no difference in achievement for most students in the sample.

The 1 Percent and the Common Good
A new Northwestern pilot study is believed to be the first representative, systematic effort to survey the opinions, attitudes and behaviors of America's wealthiest 1 percent. Led by IPR associate and political scientist Benjamin Page, and colleagues including IPR director and social policy professor Fay Lomax Cook, the study sheds light on how the 1 percent think about social and economic issues and engage in politics.


Rethinking Official Forecasts to Embrace Uncertainty
A Washington Post blog points to a need to completely rethink how we treat economic data, citing IPR economist Charles F. Manski’s research on “policy analysis with incredible certitude.” Manski calls for allowing official government forecasts to express uncertainty to more honestly portray the fragile nature of policy predictions and analysis.

Parents Help Preteens Lie About Age to Join Facebook
A new report co-authored by IPR associate and media researcher Eszter Hargittai shows that many parents are complicit in helping their preteen children lie so they can join age-restricted sites like Facebook. The study calls into question the efficacy of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Report Proposes "Energy Star" Label for Food
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report led by communications researcher and IPR associate Ellen Wartella urging that the front of all food packages display a simplified nutrition label, much like the Energy Star labels on air conditioners and washing machines. The aim of such a system is to help consumers find heathier foods when they shop.
Read the Wall Street Journal article.


Smaller Class Sizes Can Boost College Attendance
In a new working paper, IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and her colleagues examine the effects of reducing elementary school class sizes on college enrollment and getting a degree. They find smaller classes increase the probability of attending college, with the biggest gains for black and low-income students. The researchers also compare costs and impacts of a small class-size intervention with others such as Head Start and financial aid.
Read The Economist blog.

Moving Can Improve Health of Low-Income Women
A new study, co-authored by IPR developmental psychobiologist Emma Adam and IPR anthropologist Thomas McDade and their colleagues, shows that poor families who move to more affluent neighborhoods can see long-term improvements in mothers' health, notably in reductions of diabetes and extreme obesity.

Obama Taps IPR Fellow for Key Education Post
President Barack Obama has nominated Larry Hedges, an IPR education researcher and statistician, to the National Board for Education Sciences. The board advises and consults with the director of the Institute of Education Sciences on education policy and research priorities.

IPR Welcomes Three New Faculty Fellows
Three new researchers joined IPR this fall: sociologist Quincy Thomas Stewart and political scientists Georgia Kernell and Daniel Galvin. Their projects will strengthen IPR's interdisciplinary portfolio of policy-relevant research.


IPR Announces New Director for 2012
Education economist David Figlio, an IPR fellow, will become the Institute's sixth director in September 2012, taking over from current director Fay Lomax Cook. A leading scholar on education policies and interventions, Figlio came to IPR/Northwestern from the University of Florida in 2008. 

Fathers Wired to Provide Offspring Care
A new Northwestern University study, co-authored by two IPR anthropologists Christopher Kuzawa and Thomas McDade and their colleagues, provides compelling evidence that human males are biologically wired to care for their offspring, conclusively showing for the first time that fatherhood lowers a man’s testosterone levels.
Read the New York Times article.

Food Stamps Seen as Efficient, Can Improve Health
Research by IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and her colleagues provides some of the first direct evidence that poor families using food stamps can see substantial benefits, especially for newborns and their health. Their research also indicates that food stamps are an economically efficient safety net program.


IPR's Founding Director Raymond Mack Dies at 84
Sociologist and former Northwestern Provost Raymond "Ray" Mack died on August 25 in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 84. He was one of the driving forces behind the founding of the Institute for Policy Research (then known as the Center for Urban Affairs) in 1968. “It’s hard to imagine anyone who has had such enduring influence on race relations and urban policy as Ray Mack,” said IPR fellow emeritus John McKnight.

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Recreate Race in the 21st Century
A decade after the Human Genome Project proved that human beings are not naturally divided by race, the emerging fields of personalized medicine, reproductive technologies, genetic genealogy, and DNA databanks are attempting to resuscitate race as a biological category written in our genes. IPR law professor Dorothy Roberts provides a provocative analysis of the social effects of race-based science at a time when America claims to be post-racial.
Listen to her interview with Tavis Smiley.


Positive Teens Become Healthier Adults
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) on more than 10,000 adolescents, a team of IPR/C2S researchers finds that adolescents with a sunny outlook on life might have better health as adults and a reduced risk for problem behaviors such as smoking and drug use. The study was co-authored by Lindsay Till Hoyt, with Emma Adam, Lindsay-Chase Lansdale, and Thomas McDade.

Do Women Have What It Takes?
A new study shows that even though culturally masculine stereotypes of leadership have been weakening over the years, they still pose barriers to women’s advancement. The meta-analysis, or a compilation of studies on the same research topic, was co-authored by IPR social psychologist Alice Eagly.


After-School Program Reduces Problem Behavior
The first randomized study of a high school after-school program since the 1980s has shown that the Chicago program After School Matters helps to reduce high school teens involvement with drugs and gangs. The study was led by social policy professor and IPR associate Barton Hirsch with IPR statistician and education researcher Larry V. Hedges.

Clues to Why "They" All Look Alike
Three Northwestern University researchers, including neuroscientist and IPR associate Joan Chiao, have provided new biological evidence suggesting that the brain works differently when memorizing the face of a person from one’s own race than when memorizing a face from another race.


21st-Century Justice: Current Research
Three of the nation’s leading experts in crime-related studies presented some of their latest research at a recent IPR forum: IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan on innovations in policing; sociologist, law professor, and IPR associate John Hagan on changes in punishment and prison funding; and University of Chicago economist Jens Ludwig on gun violence and policy.

Census Director Compares Use, Quality of Statistical Frameworks
On May 2, Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke about his journey from academia to his current post as the nation’s top statistician. He spoke about the 2010 Census and described how his new job has helped to reshape his thinking on the use and quality of statistics in government and in the social sciences.

Policymakers Need More Doubt, Less Certitude
Why do policymakers seem so certain in assessing possible policy outcomes, when far too often their analyses rely on flawed assumptions or leaps of logic? IPR economist Charles F. Manski reviewed his typology of “incredible” analytical practices in a lecture that was covered recently by the Financial Times.
Read Manski’s related IPR working paper, “Policy Analysis with Incredible Certitude."

Chase-Lansdale Honored for Pioneering Contributions
IPR developmental psychologist Lindsay Chase-Lansdale received the 2011 award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children from the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). Recognized for her research, policy outreach, and mentoring, she joins a prestigious roster that includes Nobel economist James Heckman and Head Start cofounder and child development pioneer Edward Zigler.


IPR Research Briefing to Examine Early Environments (PDF)
On May 23 in Chicago, faculty experts Lauren Wakschlag, Jonathan Guryan, and Michael Greenstone will discuss their recent research on the effects of early-life environments on topics related to preschoolers' behavior, race, and climate. This noontime IPR policy research briefing is free and open to the public, with registration required.

Economy to be major issue in 2012 elections
Political scientist and IPR associate Benjamin Page speaks to Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight about the economy's role in the 2012 elections. “Deficits are the major obsession in Washington right now,” Page says. “But the average voter is much less concerned about them than about jobs, about medical care, about retirement security, and so forth."


Rising Wealth Inequality: Should We Care?
In her essay “Americans Aren't Naive” for the New York Times’ Room for Debate, IPR sociologist Leslie McCall points out that Americans are not just naive believers in the American Dream; they get that income inequality exists, even though they might underestimate how much of it there is. “What we are missing,” she continues, “is an understanding of why Americans desire less inequality.”

IPR to Welcome Census Director Robert Groves, May 2
In democracies, government statistics are key tools for an informed citizenry to evaluate its government. Yet government use of statistical information is typically broader than in the social sciences. Taking the 2010 U.S. Census as a case study, Groves will compare quality frameworks in the social sciences with those of government. The event is free and open to the public.

How to Improve No Child Left Behind? IPR Researchers Offer Ideas 
President Obama recently called for an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's signature 2002 education reform law. At a Capitol Hill policy research briefing last year, three IPR fellows presented some of their current research with recommendations for improving the law.

Conference Explains Educational Mechanisms
The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) will hold its largest conference to date, welcoming more than 500 participants on March 3-5 in Washington, D.C.

Seed Grants Seek to "Grow" Policy-Relevant Research Projects
IPR's seed grants support innovative, multidisciplinary projects in their early stages. So far the Institute has awarded six grants, for projects ranging from examining the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation, to using empirical research to protect juvenile due process rights, to improving an education/training intervention program for low-income mothers and their children.


New Working Papers on Bipartisan Cooperation in Congress and Experimental Bias
Two political scientists have recently added their work to the IPR working paper series. Laurel Harbridge's paper investigates divergent patterns of bipartisan cooperation in Congress, explaining why bill co-sponsorships remain high even as bipartisanship has declined in roll call votes since the 1970s. James Druckman adds to his work on experimental methodology in political science with a paper on the effects of "pretreatment events"—helping to reconcile the findings of micro-level opinion studies and macro-level research on public opinion.

Study to Examine Effects of Foreclosure Crisis on Kids
Education researcher David Figlio is one of the lead investigators on a new study of home foreclosures and how the resulting housing instability affects children's school performance. The study is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s $25-million initiative to examine the long-term implications of housing programs and policies. It aims to give policymakers better information for deciding how to allocate limited public housing resources.

Bipartisanship, Healthcare Reform, and the Tea Party
An IPR forum examined some potential consequences of the 2010 midterm elections. IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge found little reason to hope for more bipartisanship despite recent calls to the contrary in the wake of the Arizona shootings. Political scientist Kenneth Janda discussed the tea party movement, finding no evidence of a cohesive national movement. With House Republicans voting to repeal healthcare reform, economist and IPR associate David Dranove enumerated what might remain of the legislation.

Rise and Shine? It's Easier for Kids When a Parent Works Part-Time
Children who have a stay-at-home parent sleep on average about 20 minutes less—and children whose parents work overtime sleep about a half hour less—compared to those with a parent who works part-time, according to new research by IPR graduate research assistant Cassandra Hart, IPR psychobiologist Emma Adam, and Emily Snell of MDRC.

The Family Plan: Better Health When One Insurance Plan Covers All
One of the main goals of the healthcare reform law was to increase the number of insured Americans, including children. But insurance coverage alone, whether public or private, is not enough to ensure that children will receive timely, quality care, according to new findings by IPR sociologist Christine Percheski.

Crime Down in Chicago, but Challenges Ahead
Police data show that Chicago's overall crime rate fell in 2010, and its homicide rate reached a 45-year low. Yet research by IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan shows that some African American neighborhoods did not enjoy the same decline in crime as the city's white and Hispanic neighborhoods. In several news stories, Skogan discusses the factors behind the crime drop and the challenges that lie ahead.
 Read the news stories and more about police research at IPR.

New Paper: Genes, Eyeglasses, and Social Policy
The IPR working paper, "Genes, Eyeglasses, and Social Policy" (WP-10-09), examines the body of empirical research relating human genetics to personal outcomes, classifying studies under one of two categories, heritability or genes as covariates. It then discusses which of the two is better suited to inform social policy decision making.

Live Fast, Die Young: Violent Death Among High-Risk Youth (pdf)
As part of the Northwestern Juvenile Project, behavioral scientist and IPR associate Linda Teplin and her colleagues began following 1,829 high-risk youth in juvenile detention between 1995 and 1998. In October, 102 were dead, with 62 of them losing their lives to a bullet—a rate that is four times higher than normal for 15- to 19-year-olds.


The Party Brand: Perk or Poison? (pdf)
In a recent study, IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge examines how party popularity affects legislative behavior. She finds that members of Congress add up the costs of party loyalty, and for some, the tally can lead to short-term, bipartisan behavior.

Can Quotas Raise the Number of Women Legislators? (pdf)
Today, more than 100 countries have enacted affirmative action policies to boost female representation in government. Taking the case of West Bengal in India, IPR economist Lori Beaman and her colleagues provide some of the first evidence of how well such policies work and their impact on voter attitudes.

Prestigious National Academies Recognize Faculty
Two IPR faculty. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and sociologist John Hagan, were inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Read IPR economist Charles F. Manski's new member profile, written following his induction into the National Academy of Sciences.

Six New Fellows Join IPR (pdf)
IPR welcomes three economists, two sociologists, and a mass media researcher to its interdisciplinary roster. These six new faculty fellows will strengthen the Institute in key research areas—in particular, its programs on education policy and social disparities and health.

Using Lotteries to Increase Savings 

Around the world, lottery-like savings programs are used to encourage low-income earners to put away cash in accounts that also give them a chance to win big payouts. IPR economist Jonathan Guryan and his colleagues explore whether such programs could prove popular in the United States, encouraging low- and moderate-income earners to save—perhaps more successfully than via traditional vehicles like 401(k)s or IRAs. 
Read the Wall Street Journal and SmartMoney postings