May 19, 2011

The Institute for Policy Research (IPR) is an interdisciplinary public policy research institute founded in 1968-69 at Northwestern University. Our mission is to stimulate and support excellent social science research on significant public policy issues and to disseminate the findings widely—
to students, scholars, policymakers, and the public.

>> Upcoming Events

> Research Briefing on Early Environments: Behavior, Achievement, and Health
IPR clinical and developmental psychologist Lauren Wakschlag, IPR economist Jonathan Guryan, and MIT environmental economist Michael Greenstone will come together for an IPR policy research briefing on May 23, in Chicago. The panelists will share their recent research on the impact of early health and climate change on child and adult outcomes. The event is free, but registration is required.

>> News and Research

>308,745,538 and Counting: Census Director Talks Statistics and Usage
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.

> 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.

>> How the Foreclosure Crisis Affects Kids
IPR education economist 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. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the study aims to give policymakers better information about possible interventions for housing markets and better estimates of the benefits of stable housing.

> 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 by the Financial Times.
Read the related IPR working paper here.

> 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.”

> What Do the Top 1% Want?
A recent blog posting on the Economist’s website highlights a new survey by political scientists Benjamin Page, an IPR associate, and Larry Bartels of Princeton. The project seeks to understand more about how the wealthy think about the nation’s social and political issues and what they see as their role in addressing them.

> R U on Twitter? Race, Interests, and Internet Skills Are Factors
Communication studies researcher and IPR associate Eszter Hargittai is lead author of a new study showing that Internet savvy and interest in celebrity and entertainment news all factor into use of Twitter among young adults, with African American students in the study using Twitter more due to such interests.
See the published study in New Media & Society.

>> Recent Publications

> Book: "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.

> Book: "Who Are the Criminals? The Politics of Crime Policy from the Age of Roosevelt to the Age of Reagan"
Sociologist, law professor, and IPR associate John Hagan argues that the recent history of American criminal justice can be divided into two eras—the age of Roosevelt (roughly 1933 to 1973) and the age of Reagan (1974 to 2008). He tracks the politicization of crime in the 20th century and describes how it has transformed and distorted crime policymaking, leading Americans to fear street crime too much and corporate crime too little.

> Book: "Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement"
Drawing on 10 years of empirical study, education researcher and IPR associate James Spillane and his co-author argue that school leaders and managers cannot simply adopt and implement pre-packaged reforms in their efforts to improve student learning. Rather, effective reforms are based on an understanding of the organizational structure of the individual school, which serves as a basis for mindful “design and redesign” of classroom policy and practice.

> Book: "A Behavioral Theory of Elections"
Daniel Diermeier, professor of managerial economics and decisions sciences and an IPR associate, and his co-authors provide a behavioral theory of elections based on the idea that politicians as well as voters are only boundedly rational and learn via trial and error. From this theory of adaptation, the authors construct formal models of party competition, turnout, and voters' choices of candidates.

>> Faculty Awards and Honors

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 on March 31 in Montreal. Previous recipients have included Nobel economist James Heckman and child development and policy pioneer Edward Zigler.

Psychologist and IPR associate Sandra Waxman was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on February 19. She joins 11 of her IPR colleagues who are counted among a body that includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

For these and other faculty awards and honors, please visit

>> Faculty in the Media

IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach comments on the high price of mandatory lunches at a local school in the Chicago Tribune. IPR education economist David Figlio talks to the New York Times about school reforms in Florida. At top universities, psychological pressure to perform could be especially taxing for students from lower-class backgrounds, according to a new study by social psychologists Jennifer Richeson, an IPR fellow, and Eli Finkel, a n IPR associate, and their colleague, reports the Boston Globe. IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian talks about Chicago’s third-place ranking in a article on the 10 most segregated urban areas in America.

>> Keep Up with IPR!

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