2014 News Archive

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Racial Disparities in America, Part I
Given the difficult history of U.S. race relations—and the ensuing, sometimes imperceptible, effects of race on individuals and society—a significant number of IPR faculty are studying the issue across a wide spectrum of topics, from examining the black/white/Latino test score gap to tracing how the human mind reacts to a person of a different race or ethnicity. The first part of the series covers IPR research on interracial relations and racial disparities in health outcomes.

Convict Leasing and Road-Camp Prisoners in Florida
Sociologist and IPR associate Heather Schoenfeld looks to Florida as an example of why researchers should use state-by-state level data to evaluate why certain states were slower than others in adopting rehabilitative policies for prisoners.

Knowledge Polarizes Global Warming Debate
IPR political scientist James Druckman, IPR social policy professor Fay Lomax Cook, and Toby Bolsen of Georgia State University highlight challenges posed by politicization of science.


Faculty Spotlight: Edith Chen
IPR health psychologist Edith Chen looks at why health disparities exist and what could help make things better.

Paying to Increase Use of Electronic Medical Records
Healthcare economist and IPR associate David Dranove asks if it really takes $27 billion to encourage the adoption of electronic medical records.

Using Mobility Data to Track Health-Risk Factors
Professor of medical social sciences and IPR associate Brian Mustanski uses longitudinal data from the HOPE VI federal relocation program to inform the NIH's GENI study.

What Good is Wealth Without Health?
In his Hicks-Tinbergen award-winning article, IPR economist Matthew Notowidigdo uses "happiness" measures to explain how a person's health affects his or her economic decisions.

Viability of Crowdsourcing for Population Research
IPR sociologist Jeremy Freese compares traditional population survey methods with crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk.

To Understand YouTube Comments, Look at the Video's Tone and Topic
Media scholar and IPR associate Stephanie Edgerly studies link between online videos and their comments. 

Human Speech's Surprising Influence on Young Infants
IPR psychologist Sandra Waxman studies how listening to speech affects even the youngest babies.

Understanding Immigrant Sexual Citizenship
Sociologists and IPR associates Steven Epstein and Héctor Carrillo study the experiences of gay and bisexual Mexican immigrants to the U.S.


Obama Gives Major Policy Talk at Northwestern
In a major policy speech at Northwestern University before the upcoming midterm elections, President Barack Obama hit on themes of progress over the past six years that he said the country can and should be proud of—touching on many topics that are also the subject of IPR faculty research, from education and healthcare to innovation and opportunity.

Impact of Food Stamps on Long-Term Health
IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach has conducted extensive research on the evolution and impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—better known as the food stamp program. This figure illustrates one of her core findings: Being in a food-stamp county made the biggest long-term difference for babies in utero and children up to age five.

Faculty Spotlight: Quincy Thomas Stewart
While demographic data might not be the stuff of most people’s dreams, for IPR fellow Quincy Thomas Stewart, it is—and applying advanced mathematics to social science issues is what led him to become a social demographer. “I was always interested in understanding racial inequality and how it emerged, how it was maintained, and how it was sustained,” he said.

Do Political Parties Influence Participation?
Current research on political engagement tends to focus on citizens—their age, gender, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity. But in a working paper that is forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies, IPR political scientist Georgia Kernell turns her attention to political institutions themselves.

Becoming—and Staying—Rich Requires More than Winning the Lottery
When thinking about how to address the persistence of poverty, one of the big questions is: How do family traits shape wealth and well-being from one generation to the next? In two recent working papers, economist and IPR associate Joseph Ferrie is evaluating a 182-year-old experiment, Georgia’s Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, to analyze how a sudden influx of wealth affects families over time.

Possessing Spirits and Healing Selves: Embodiment and Transformation in an Afro-Brazilian Religion
Deep religious engagement can have a positive impact on a person’s physical and mental health, IPR anthropologist Rebecca Seligman demonstrates in her new book, Possessing Spirits and Healing Selves: Embodiment and Transformation in an Afro-Brazilian Religion.

Playing Against Nature: Integrating Science and Economics to Mitigate Natural Hazards in an Uncertain World
In Playing Against Nature: Integrating Science and Economics to Mitigate Natural Hazards in an Uncertain World, geophysicist and IPR associate Seth Stein and his father, economist Jerome Stein, explore our often-flawed approach to natural hazard policies. The authors suggest that current policies do not take into account the many ways that science, economics, and risk analysis play into each situation of hazard.

Rethinking Measures of Socially Sensitive Issues
Drug and alcohol use among U.S. college students, particularly student-athletes, is often the source of much attention. Yet the measures researchers typically use to estimate the issue might be biased. An IPR working paper, coauthored by IPR political scientist James Druckman and forthcoming in Social Science Quarterly, suggests that survey methods using self-reports—in which participants take a survey without any subsequent verification as to the authenticity of their responses—might fail to provide accurate measures of socially sensitive issues, such as using banned substances.

SREE Makes Strides with Journal Impact Factor, Fall Conference
The Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness (JREE) recently received its first impact factor in Thomson Reuters Web of Science. JREE—the journal of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness—garnered the third-highest ranking of 219 journals in the education and educational research category for 2013.


Training a New Generation of Education Experts
This summer, IPR and Northwestern co-hosted two workshops aimed at developing current researchers’ methodological research skills, including a new workshop specifically designed to boost the grant-seeking capacity of faculty from institutions that have historically served minority students. “Minority-serving institutions [MSIs] tend to be rather under-resourced institutions, but they have had a historic role in providing opportunities for minority students,” said IPR education researcher and statistician Larry Hedges, who co-organized the workshops.

A Long Childhood Feeds the Hungry Human Brain
A 5-year old’s brain is an energy monster. It uses twice as much glucose (the energy that fuels the brain) as that of a full-grown adult, a new study led by IPR biological anthropologist Christopher Kuzawa has found. It shows that energy funneled to the brain dominates the human body’s metabolism early in life and is likely the reason why humans grow at a pace more typical of a reptile than a mammal during childhood.

Improving Performance: Managerial Control and Performance Pay
While widely used in the business world, pay-for-performance is a much, and often hotly, debated topic in education circles. What if there was a better way to boost effort rather than, for example, simply paying teachers according to student test-score improvements? “A lot of the conversation about motivating teachers is, ‘Let’s measure teacher performance and then pay them to teach well,’” said IPR economist Kirabo Jackson. “Much less of the conversation is devoted to … ways to give them more professional development so they’ll be more productive.”

Four New Fellows Join IPR
Four new fellows joined IPR at the start of the 2014–15 academic year: social psychologist Mesmin Destin, economists Cynthia Kinnan and Matthew Notowidigdo, and health and law scholar Michael Frakes. These new scholars bring expertise in several exciting areas, said IPR Director David Figlio.

Faculty Spotlight: Laurel Harbridge
Congress vs. the President. Democrats vs. Republicans. The House vs. the Senate. These days, can any politicians get along or get anything done? Through her research, IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge seeks to bring clarity to the emotional—sometimes hostile—world of American politics, to understand how and why our leaders behave the way they do.

Undergraduates Acquire First-Hand Research Experience at IPR
As summer fades and autumn sets in, Northwestern undergraduates return to campus—many with tales from their summer spent in retail, nonprofits, or the financial sector. But 33 undergraduates will come back with an entirely different tale—one about designing, conducting, and analyzing a research experiment with top IPR researchers. Summer 2014 marked the 17th year of IPR’s Summer Undergraduate Research Assistants (SURA) program. The undergraduate research assistants were directly involved in a policy-relevant, social science research project alongside one of 28 IPR faculty mentors.


IPR-Led Multidisciplinary Training in Education Sciences Expands
Northwestern University’s Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences (MPES) received a $4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), its third since the program’s creation in 2004, to train doctoral students from different disciplines in state-of-the-art education research methods. The ninth cohort will start in the fall, and it will be the first to participate in a unique research partnership with Evanston Township High School (ETHS). “We want people to do useful and usable research,” said IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, who directs the program.

Faculty Spotlight: Larry Hedges
It’s hard to pin a label on Larry Hedges—education scholar, statistician, methodologist, social psychologist, policy researcher—all of the above would apply. The number of awards and honors he has accumulated over the course of his career, from elected fellowships to lifetime contributions, attest to his expertise and standing. In the world of education research, the times they are a’ changin’—and Hedges is leading efforts to train and build a community around a new generation of multidisciplinary education researchers.

IPR Economist Elected to British Academy
IPR economist Charles F. Manski was one of 59 distinguished scholars and honorary members elected to the British Academy at its annual meeting on July 17. Manski was named to the economics and economic history section and cited for his pioneering work in “the modern analysis of partially identifying models." Founded in 1899, the academy counts more than 900 members in Britain and around the world.

Parenting Skills Tied to Reduced Inflammation in Low-Income Children
A new study led by IPR health psychologist Greg Miller suggests that an intervention focused on strengthening families can reduce inflammation, a chronic overactivation of parts of the immune system that is important for long-term health. He and colleagues, including IPR health psychologist Edith Chen, studied families in small, rural areas in Georgia. Most of the families were from low-income backgrounds.

Mobile Media Use in the Middle East
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others have played an undeniable role in shaping the current sociopolitical landscape of the Middle East, yet most mobile media research to date has focused on the business aspects of its use—not, for example, how its content might influence public education and engagement. IPR media scholar Rachel Davis Mersey is helping to launch a new study that will seek to understand the development and diffusion of mobile media content in the Arab world.

What's in a (Hurricane) Name?
Recently, a lot of media attention was focused on a study supposedly showing that “female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes.” The idea is that people do not take hurricanes named after women as seriously, and so do less to protect themselves when warned about a hurricane named (say) “Bonnie” versus one named “Andrew.” IPR sociologist Jeremy Freese identifies four key problems with the study.


Faculty Changes: Goings and Comings
IPR bids farewell to two faculty and welomes three new fellows. IPR associate Sarah Mangelsdorf will become provost of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and IPR associate Daniel Diermeier will become the new dean of the Harris School at the University of Chicago. In the fall, IPR will welcome three new fellows, social psychologist Mesmin Destin, economist Cynthia Kinnan, both at Northwestern, and health and law scholar Michael Frakes, who just arrived from Cornell University. 

Promoting Interdisciplinary Connections and Exchange
More than 100 faculty and graduate students gathered at Northwestern on May 9 for a political and social behavior workshop that featured talks by some of the nation’s leading social scientists. Organized by IPR political scientist and associate director James Druckman, the eighth annual workshop featured talks by Tali Mendelberg of Princeton University on how to increase the political influence of women and IPR economist Charles F. Manski on probabilistic polling.

The C-Suite or the Sandbox: Has Anything Changed for Women as Leaders?
Recently several high-profile women leaders from GM’s Mary Barra to the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and Jill Abramson, formerly of The New York Times, have been in the news, leading to a wave of discussion about women in the executive suite. At a spring colloquium, IPR social psychologist Alice Eagly presented an ongoing project that reveals good news, bad news, and mixed results for what researchers are finding, what people are thinking, and what pundits are saying about women and leadership.

Faculty Spotlight: Celeste Watkins-Hayes
From the pages of social science journals to some of the Internet’s most widely respected news sources, IPR sociologist and African American studies researcher Celeste Watkins-Hayes works to further the conversation about social and economic inequality.

Improving College Access and Success
Only about half of low-income high school seniors go to college the fall after they graduate, compared with nearly 85 percent of high-income seniors. When they do, more than half enroll in two-year colleges, even though better outcomes are more often associated with four-year degrees. Many do not apply to four-year colleges, as recent research shows, often stumped by seemingly negligible barriers, such as a lack of information. At an IPR May 6 policy research briefing, IPR Director David Figlio moderated a panel on practical solutions featuring IPR education researcher James Rosenbaum, and economists Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia and Harvard’s Bridget Terry Long.


Faculty Spotlight: Anthony Chen
The latest Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action has brought IPR sociologist Anthony Chen's research into focus. Chen studies the historical origins of affirmative action policies and programs, with the hope that his research can interject “more clarity and sober-mindedness” into public discourse. He is currently working on a book about the origins of affirmative action in college admissions that has revealed some surprising findings.

Chicago Forum Focuses on Police and Public
IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan, an expert on crime and policing, hosted the Chicago Forum on Procedural Justice and Legitimacy in Policing on March 21–22. The conference focused on the internal operations of police organizations and the relationships between the police and the public.

Two-Generation Initiatives Seek to Create Opportunities
At its first policy research briefing held at Evanston Township High School on April 16, IPR Director and Fellow David Figlio welcomed nearly 130 parents, students, faculty, and community members, including Evanston’s mayor and a state lawmaker. They came to hear IPR experts Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Mesmin Destin, and Teresa Eckrich Sommer, along with Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, broach a topic of great concern to Evanston and communities across the nation: how to provide greater opportunities for low-income families by furthering education for parents and their children. 

Young Dads at High Risk of Depression, Too
In a new study, IPR associate Craig Garfield and colleagues find depressive symptoms increased by 68 percent on average over the first five years of fatherhood for young men in the study. The participants were around 25 years old when they became fathers, and they lived with their children.


The Road to Higher Education
College affordability and accessibility have been in the news lately with articles that discuss a variety of issues from rising levels of student debt to various initiatives, such as President Obama's recent launch of a program to increase college access for low-income students. IPR faculty examine these and other issues related to college access, affordability, and persistence and outcomes.

Cook to Lead National Science Foundation Directorate
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected Fay Lomax Cook, IPR social policy expert and the Institute’s former director, as an NSF Assistant Director to head its Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), effective in September.  Cook will become a key member of NSF’s senior management and policy team, while leading SBE and its staff of 119 and managing a budget of approximately $250 million.

A Successful Summer
Last summer, 34 Northwestern undergraduate students eschewed more traditional summer jobs of lifeguarding or waiting tables in favor of developing surveys and running regressions. As participants in IPR’s Summer Undergraduate Research Assistant (RA) Program, they worked on a social science research project, mentored by one of 23 IPR faculty members. Summer 2014 will mark the program's 17th year, making it one of the oldest and longest-running undergraduate research opportunities at Northwestern.

Faculty Spotlight: Lincoln Quillian
IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian's research examines the complex issues of race, ethnicity, social stratification, and segregation, with a distinct emphasis on looking at how these often intertwined matters can influence people’s perceptions and prejudices. Along the way, his work has begun to shed new light on how we think about race and segregation.

Partisan Bias and Policy Outcomes
A recent analysis of U.S. budgetary changes by IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge explores how and why party control, congressional turnover, and budgetary constraints affect spending, including the start or elimination of programs and year-to-year funding changes. Her research reveals that Democrats actually make larger spending cuts than Republicans, and this occurs even when they have unified control of government. This puzzling pattern can be explained by what Harbridge refers to as “motivated information processing," causing the parties to make corrective actions after pursuing their partisan goals. 


The Great Recession: Over But Not Gone
Though the Great Recession officially ended more than four years ago, how has the biggest U.S. downturn since the Great Depression affected—and continued to affect—Americans' lives? Several IPR faculty are mining data from this period (roughly December 2007 to June 2009) in a variety of areas, including food insecurity, unemployment, housing, and income inequality. They are detailing its short- and longer-term effects, with an eye towards policy prescriptions.

Two Generations, One Future
On April 16, IPR will hold a policy research briefing to examine evidence supporting two-generation programs. These provide workforce development training to parents while their children are engaged in quality education programs. Panelists are Northwestern/IPR researchers Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Teresa Eckrich Sommer, and Mesmin Destin, with Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Targeted Tutoring Can Reduce 'Achievement Gap' for CPS Students
High school students at risk for dropping out greatly improved their math scores and school attendance with the help of intensive tutoring and mentoring, according to a randomized study. It was conducted by the Urban Education Lab at the University of Chicago and co-authored by IPR economist Jonathan Guryan.

Comparing French and U.S. Socioeconomic Segregation
IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian and Hugues Lagrange of Sciences Po find that socioeconomic segregation in large U.S. cities is much higher than in large French ones. The researchers also reveal that half or more of the difference between the two could be due to greater levels of U.S. income inequality.

Can Upward Mobility Cost You Your Health?
In a New York Times opinion piece, IPR clinical psychologists Greg Miller, Edith Chen, and their co-author discuss how pursuit of the American Dream can come at the cost of good health for low-income Americans who manage to climb the ladder to success.

Faculty Spotlight: Christopher Kuzawa
“You are what you eat,” the old adage goes. But IPR biological anthropologist Christopher Kuzawa shows that it is not just about what you eat, but what your mother ate, and what your mother’s mother ate, that more completely defines your weight at birth, your development as a child, and your health as an adult.