Skip to main content

New IPR Research: April 2022

Get all our news

Subscribe to newsletter


This month’s new research from IPR faculty explores trends in gun violence in Cook County, Illinois, between 2018–20, whether social relationships can improve students' academic achievements, and who gathered socially during the early months of the pandemic. It also investigates motivations behind belief in climate change, the financial stability of families of children with special healthcare needs, and how colorism shows up in the way Black girls make sense of their identities. 

Social Disparities & Health

Trends in Gun Violence in Cook County Between 2018–20

In 2020, Chicago had one of the largest annual increases in the number of gun homicides of any U.S. city. In the American Journal of Public Health, community health scholar and IPR associate Joe Feinglass and his colleagues investigate the rise in gun violence by looking at hospital emergency department (ED) visits by Chicago and suburban Cook County residents  for intentional assault gunshots wounds (IGWs). The researchers examine IGW-coded records from the Illinois Hospital Association’s Comparative Health Care and Hospital Data Reporting Services database between January 2018 and December 2020. There were 7,122 hospital IGW-coded visits at 89 Illinois hospitals, and 6.5% resulted in deaths. IGW ED visits doubled over the 36-month study period, and unlike summer spikes in pre-pandemic years, IGW visits continued their 2020 summer spike into the fall and winter months of 2020. ZIP code areas with the largest increases in IGW visits included Chicago South and West Side neighborhoods and a number of Cook County suburbs. IGW ED visits accumulated $342 million in hospital charges and 24,894 inpatient days, although this represents only a fraction of the healthcare costs of many patients’ lifetime disability and the long-term costs of community trauma. Comparing hospital coded records to Chicago Police Department non-fatal gunshot victimization data for the same period indicates that study data are an undercount of IGW injuries. Better data are needed to assist hospital EDs in violence prevention outreach as part of major investments in community development and public safety workforce able to affect gun violence.

Education Policy

Encouraging Students to Link Educational Goals to Social Connections

students socializingPeople tend to value their social connections with friends and family, but schools often conceptualize academic goals and success as separate from important relationships, missing out on a strong route to support student engagement and motivation. In the Journal of Adolescence, IPR psychologist Mesmin Destin and his colleagues test whether an opportunity guiding students to connect their educational aspirations to valued relationships improves academic experiences and outcomes. The researchers used a randomized-controlled experiment and split 39 ninth-grade students into two programs. Both received the same content, but the students in the “healthy achievement” program also explored the importance of linking their social support, such as teachers, family, and friends, to their achievement and success. Participants were invited 16–18 months after the program to complete five daily surveys via text message asking them about their experiences with academic difficulty. The results reveal that students in the “healthy achievement” group reported more productive responses to academic challenges and were more likely to reach out for support with their schoolwork. Additionally, a greater sense of support was associated with earning higher grades. The results suggest that educators can sustain student engagement and learning by helping adolescents connect their schoolwork and achievement to meaningful social relationships. 

Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy

The Relation Between Demographics and Gathering Socially During the Pandemic

 During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials encouraged people to limit social gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus. In Nature Scientific Reports, IPR statistician Elizabeth Tipton and her colleagues explore which demographic groups are the most likely to attend social gatherings during the pandemic. They examined a dataset of 87,169 individuals from 41 countries, which accounted for 73% of the world’s population in 2020. These individuals all answered a survey between March–April 2020 asking whether the statement ”I did not attend social gatherings” described their behavior over the last week, and they indicated their age, gender, education, and household income. In a machine-learning analysis of the data, the researchers show that people who socialized were more male than female in 95% of the countries, low-income than high-income in 80%, younger than older in 78%, and lower educated than higher educated in 66%. The researchers conclude that while there are patterns among those who socialize—who are more likely to be young men with lower income and less education—public health officials should not generalize this behavior from one country to another because countries differed. For example, wealthier individuals were more prone to attend social gatherings in one-third of countries. They suggest that targeting demographic subgroups within countries could help save public health resources and make public health messages more specific to the attitudes and behaviors of each group.

Climate Change Beliefs and People’s Motivations Behind Them

Despite scientific evidence of human-caused climate change, Americans hold opposite viewpoints about it.Ice melting in the Arctic Researchers’ explanation for the divide is a psychological process called directional motivated reasoning—when people process information to fit a pre-existing desired conclusion, such as whether climate change is real or not occurring. In Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, IPR graduate assistant Robin Bayes and IPR political scientist James Druckman challenge prior research about motivated reasoning and outline why people are motivated by accuracy and personal issues, too. They also argue that understanding which motivation is at work, and when, will help persuade climate change skeptics. First, Bayes and Druckman explain that current research does not go far enough to separate directional motivated reasoning from accuracy motivation—when people want to be correct and form a concise opinion. For example, Republicans may strive for accurate views, and in doing so, they follow trusted party leaders, who often express skepticism about climate change. This suggests a trusted leader who believes in climate change may be a good liaison for reaching skeptics. Additionally, Bayes and Druckman show how personal issues can invoke accuracy and shift an individual’s climate change perspective. For instance, regardless of their political affiliation, people who live near shorelines have a greater belief in climate change and perceive its effects accurately. Bayes and Druckman show why distinguishing people’s motivations is necessary to counteract their pre-existing opinions and why it is helpful for policymakers communicating about climate change. Druckman is the Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science.

Child, Adolescent & Family Studies

Supporting the Economic Stability of Families of Children with Special Healthcare Needs 

Having a child with special healthcare needs can be challenging with more time-consuming childcare and doctors’ visits. The child’s caregiver may cut hours at work or stop working, undercutting their economic stability. In Pediatrics, IPR associates Anna Chorniy, a health economist, and Nia Heard-Garris, a pediatrician, and their colleagues evaluate how earnings drop when family members stop working or reduce hours to care for their child’s health, as well as common characteristics among families who report forgone work. The researchers used the 2016–2017 National Survey of Children’s Health to study 14,050 children with special healthcare needs with caregivers previously employed, supplemented with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to estimate lost earnings. They find that 14.5% of families reported forgone employment, and each family’s average estimated lost income was $18,000 per year. Families with disproportionately high forgone employment were more likely to be Hispanic, have public insurance, and have a child five years or younger. The caregivers were mostly younger, female, living in poverty, participating in a government assistance program, and spent more than $5,000 a year in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. The researchers discuss several policies to support the economic stability of families of children with special healthcare needs, including expanding paid family leave for chronic health conditions, diverse childcare options, and improving funding for pediatric home healthcare services. 

Poverty, Race & Inequality

Black Girls' Identities and Resistance to Colorism

high school studentColorism, or prejudice against individuals with dark skin or physical features associated with Black people such as broader noses, is pervasive in the U.S., yet is understudied in adolescent research. In the Journal of Adolescent Research, IPR developmental psychologist Onnie Rogers and her colleagues investigate how colorism shows up in the ways Black girls make sense of their own identities and wellbeing. During the 2017­–18 school year, the researchers asked 59 Black girls, who were on average 16-years-old and enrolled in a predominantly Black all-girls school, to complete a survey about their identity and wellbeing. They interviewed the girls later that academic year about school, their racial and gender identity, and intersectionality. They find that the girls were acutely aware of colorism, and those who resisted notions of White beauty standards had higher self-esteem. Of the girls interviewed, 44, or 75%, mentioned colorism without being prompted in relation to their skin color, hair, attractiveness, and body type, but nearly 75% of those conversations mentioned resistance to colorism. These results show that Black girls were able to engage with and resist colorism, specifically in a school where they were represented among the administration and in the majority of the student body. The researchers suggest colorism should be integrated into the study of racial identity among Black girls in research that is centered on their voices and experiences. 

Photo credits: Pexels and Unsplash

Published: April 18, 2022.