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New IPR Research: December 2020

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Medical Appointment

This month's new research from IPR faculty covers the connection between mortality effects and health insurance choice, monitoring children's internet use, the punishment of Black girls in school, the influence of the economy on President Trump's 2016 victory, opportunities in local news networks, and racial discrimination in hiring across the globe. 

Social Disparities and Health

Mortality Effects and Choice Across Private Health Insurance Plans

Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans are worried about their individual healthcare plans. In a new working paper, strategy professor and IPR associate Amanda Starc and her co-authors examine these issues by exploring how different Medicare Advantage (MA) insurance plans affect enrollee rates of death. Using data gathered from Medicare beneficiaries in all 50 states from 2006–11, the researchers analyzed findings from over 30 million patients and controlled for differences in characteristics amongst those MA enrollees. Starc and her colleagues found large disparities in death rates across the MA plans. They also found that generally the more expensive and higher spending the plan, the lower the enrollee mortality rate was. They note that by moving beneficiaries from just the cheapest 5% of plans, tens of thousands of elderly lives could be saved each year. However, current MA rating systems fail to report adequate information regarding each plan’s mortality rate, so seniors do not know which plans have lower rates of mortality. From a policy perspective, this research highlights the importance of increased access to information to incentivize older Americans to opt into higher quality plans.

Education Policy

Parental Monitoring and Children's Internet Use

Middle school student on internetHow well can parents monitor their children’s actions, especially when they are not together? IPR economist Ofer Malamud and his co-authors investigate this age-old question in the contemporary context of children’s internet usage in a Journal of Public Economics study. They conducted a randomized experiment in Chile among 7,700 parents of seventh and eighth graders. Parents received weekly texts about their children’s internet usage and/or received an offer of assistance for installing parental control software. A control group received a generic text about their child’s laptop. In families where parents received usage information, children’s internet use dropped by 6–10% in comparison to the control group. The findings suggested that the usage information had larger impacts for parents who were more likely to become involved in their children’s lives, and for working parents who otherwise may have found it difficult to monitor their children while being away from home. The strength and timing of the reminders were important: Decreased usage followed on the days immediately after the texts were received, and households who received messages on a random day of the week had larger reductions in internet usage than those who got messages on the same day each week. There were no significant effects on internet usage among families where parents received offers of software assistance.

Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy

Public Perceptions of Girls and Their Punitive Consequences

Black women and girls are punished—through suspension, arrests, and incarceration—at alarmingly higher rates in the United States. In an IPR working paper, social policy expert Sally Nuamah investigates the public perceptions shaping the punitive experiences of Black women and girls. In a survey experiment of 1,466 adults conducted in March 2020, she presented participants with a scenario in which a student violated the school’s dress code policy by wearing shorts. They were randomly presented with one of four names common among particular racial and gender groups—Keisha (Black girl), Emily (White girl) Jamal (Black boy), and Jake (White boy)—as the violator of the dress code. The participants were then asked a series of questions about their perception of the student. The findings show participants perceived Emily and Keisha as older than the male students, but Keisha was viewed as significantly more dangerous, experienced with sex, and appropriately punished for violating the dress code by being suspended. The results reveal that Black girls suffer from more severe forms of punishment because of their gender and race. This work has serious implications on research related to the impacts of Black women and girls’ punishment for democracy at large.

The Roots of Right-Wing Populism in the 2016 Election 

Trump rally 2016Many experts have tried to explain Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 presidential election by emphasizing his appeals to voters’ social anxieties, such as racial resentment, sexism, and fear of immigrants. In a study published in the International Journal of Political Economy, political scientist and IPR associate Benjamin Page and his colleagues explore the importance of economic factors to Trump voters and try to resolve tensions between sociologists and economists who tend to offer different explanation of Trump’s victory. Using both aggregate data and survey data from the American National Election Study (ANES), they examine the primary and general 2016 elections  and find that both racial resentment and sexism were important factors in voting for Trump, but so were economic concerns. Desires to limit imports, in particular, were important to those who voted for Obama in 2012 and switched to Trump or abstained from voting in 2016. The aggregate data on economic and social characteristics of Congressional districts show strong connections between various measures of economic distress and voting for Trump. Overall, the findings indicate that while social anxieties and resentments were important, economic factors were also central to Trump’s success. Moreover, the social and the economic were intertwined, both in Trump’s rhetoric and in the minds of many voters, especially concerning immigration. Indeed, economic distress may have been an important cause of social resentments. This research suggests that right-wing populism might be combated by focusing on progressive economic policies.

Opportunities in Local News Networks

Local news organizations have experienced challenges over the last 15–20 years due to significant cuts and closures, leaving many communities without a local newspaper. Media scholar and IPR associate Stephanie Edgerly, IPR faculty adjunct Rachel Davis Mersey, and faculty emeritus of journalism at Northwestern Owen Youngman wrote an IPR working paper examining local news not as a ”one-size-fits-all” market, but as serving unique communities that may also have similarities to other parts of the country. Using data from a Pew Research survey in 2019 of over 35,000 adults, they show differences in the way various communities are exposed to local news and differences in the topics they care about most. They also examine the typology of communities created by the American Communities Project in 2018, showing the similarities of various communities, such as aging farmlands or big cites, around the United States due to a variety of demographic and lifestyle factors. The researchers find that by accounting for these variations and developing a typology of local news markets, more specific strategies for innovation can be recommended, tested, and shared among news organizations. As an example, they highlight the success the news startup BoiseDev had in Boise, Idaho—a growing tech community—by providing exclusive content and relying on advertisers and predict similar communities such as Saratoga, New York, could benefit from its approach. They conclude that local news providers may have more in common with distant but similar markets than nearby but different neighbors.

Poverty, Race, and Inequality 

Racial Discrimination in Hiring Across the Globe 

job interviewWhat role do race and ethnicity play in hiring discrimination? In a new working paper, IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian and Arnfinn Midtbøen of the University of Oslo examine over 140 field experimental studies of discrimination in the hiring of various racial and ethnic groups across 30 countries. All studies compare fictitious job applicants who have similar resumes, except that one applicant appears to be White and the other appears to be a member of another racial or ethnic group. The researchers summarize seventeen key conclusions regarding hiring discrimination across the globe. Findings include that White ethnic groups experience hiring discrimination but much less than Non-White ethnoracial groups, discrimination in hiring against racial and ethnic minorities is a worldwide phenomenon, larger employers and public-sector employers tend to have lower rates of discrimination, and over the last 25 years, discrimination rates in the United States and the United Kingdom have not changed. Additionally, first- and second-generation immigrants experience similar levels of discrimination. This paper is forthcoming in the Annual Review of Sociology 2021.

Photo credits: Pexels, Pixabay, and Flickr: G. Skidmore

Published: December 16, 2020.