View in Browser/Mobile February 2015

IPR enews



Redefining Biomedical Research and Healthcare Spending

If you want to extend your life by the longest time possible, should you a) get a pap smear every year, as opposed to every third year, b) strive to keep “bad” cholesterol (LDP or low-density lipoprotein) under control, or c) get a graduate degree? The best answer is c, according to Chief Science Officer Robert Kaplan at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Kaplan, who delivered IPR’s Winter 2015 Distinguished Public Policy Lecture on February 9, has devoted his career to assessing the impact of medical treatments on patients’ longevity and quality of life, with thought-provoking results. MORE

Infographic: Can Breastfeeding Reduce Chronic Inflammation?

IPR anthropologist Thomas McDade, IPR psychobiologist Emma Adam, pediatrician and IPR associate Craig Garfield, and their research team studied birth weight, the length of time an infant was breastfed, and levels of C-reactive protein—a biomarker of inflammation and indicator of disease risk—in young adults to examine how early-life influences can affect adult health. MORE

Faculty in the Media
The Washington Post

Are efforts to limit presidential power in Africa working?
On the Post's Monkey Cage blog, IPR associate and political scientist Rachel Beatty Riedl writes about moves by several African leaders, including Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, seeking to repeal their offices' term limits. Her research shows that they are most often repealed and lead to ongoing "authoritarian stability," so these cases bear careful watching.

The New York Times

Closing the math gap for boys
A randomized study by IPR economist Jonathan Guryan and his colleagues at the Urban Education Lab is profiled. It shows that a program combining daily math tutoring "on steroids” and mentoring leads disadvantaged high schoolers to perform substantially better on a standardized math test. The program reduced the black-white test score gap by a third, and improved participants' performance in other classes.


Why black Americans can't sleep at night: racism
IPR psychobiologist Emma Adam describes her research on how "everyday discrimination" affects health. She finds that young adults from racial and ethnic minority groups who report higher levels of discrimination have more dysregulated stress hormones and disrupted sleep. These can lead to a host of negative health outcomes.

The Atlantic
Is ending segregation the key to ending poverty?
IPR education researcher James Rosenbaum spoke to The Atlantic about his extensive research on public housing relocation and how families' moves to suburban neighborhoods helped unlock “unseen potential” in low-income children.

The magic question
An article discussing how juries are selected and juror self-bias features research from law professor and IPR associate Shari Seidman Diamond. Her study finds that judges had more faith in jurors who expressed confidence they could be fair. Yet she and her colleagues worry that reflexive confidence in one's ability to be fair is not necessarily a good indicator of a juror's ability to be fair.


Kids' brains and bodies are stunted by the use of gadgets
A column about the potential consequences of too much screen time features findings by communication studies researcher and IPR associate Ellen Wartella on how modern parents, who have grown up with technology, worry less about their children's use of it.

Find these and other clips HERE.
News & Research

Faculty Spotlight: Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
Econ 101 at Wellesley was where Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach set on her career path. The professor teaching the course, Karl “Chip” Case, “talked about how you can use math and microeconomics to help poor people,” she recalled. “I’ve been fortunate in my career to be able to look at important questions, and use that math to try to make policies better for poor kids,” Schanzenbach said. MORE


When Should Vaccines Be Mandated?
When faced with an outbreak of a communicable disease, such as the current outbreak of measles that started in California, should federal and state governments require vaccinations to protect the health of their citizens—or should such decisions be voluntary? Deciding on the right course of action when it comes to vaccines is difficult because officials are working in an environment of “partial knowledge”—that is, they can point to some of a vaccine’s effects, but not all. IPR economist Charles F. Manski addresses this topic in a recent IPR working paper. MORE

Can Microfinance Save the Poor?
Microfinance institutions—which extend small loans to impove-rished households in developing countries—have exploded over the past decade. Poor families with a microloan grew from nearly 8 million to over 137 million between 1997 and 2010. Yet do the loans actually spur business growth, empower women, and lift families out of poverty? A team of researchers including IPR economist Cynthia Kinnan undertook the first randomized evaluation of a microcredit lending model, overturning some widely held notions. MORE

The Bright Side of Aging
In the United States, the number of people over the age of 65 has more than tripled since 1950, and declining birth rates and rising life expectancies mean populations will continue to gray worldwide. Such news has worried some, explained IPR associate and developmental psychologist Claudia Haase, due to patterns of decline in functioning. Though one might assume that such patterns hold for all aspects of age-related functioning, Haase and her colleagues have uncovered “a bright side” to aging.

Are Most Published Research Findings False?
Since the articles that make a researcher’s career and boost a journal’s popularity feature studies with statistically significant results, this can motivate researchers to tweak their data, thereby creating “false positives” in the scientific literature. The Anti-False-Positives (AFP) movement arose in response to this issue and demands more stringent guidelines for researchers and journals to minimize false positives in scientific data. But in their race to rectify the issue, the AFP movement has “overreached,” argues social psychologist and IPR associate Eli Finkel.

New IPR Working Papers

Find all IPR working papers HERE.

“State Legislative Institutions, Party Leaders, and Legislators' Weighted Preferences” (WP-14-24)

Sarah Anderson, Daniel Butler, and Laurel Harbridge

How, if at all, do parties and their leaders influence the behavior of legislators? Many scholars argue that institutions affect party leaders’ power to influence rank-and-file members. The researchers assess one way this could happen, by changing the weight that members put on their leaders’ positions. Leveraging variation in state-level institutions, they use original data on state legislators’ preferences to test how term limits, legislative professionalism, and majority agenda control predict changes in the weights that legislators put on leaders’ positions when forming their policy preferences.

“The Influence of Race on Attitudes About College Athletics” (WP-14-23)

James Druckman and Andrew Rodheim

The questions of whether college student-athletes should be paid and/or allowed to unionize have generated a wide-ranging national debate. Public opinion on these issues is starkly divided along racial lines with African Americans being dramatically more supportive than non-African Americans. Druckman and Rodheim posit that the race gap stems from fundamentally distinct mindsets, and they present results from a nationally representative survey experiment that supports their expectations.

“Does Reading During the Summer Build Reading Skills? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in 463 Classrooms” (WP-14-22)

Jonathan Guryan, James Kim, and David Quinn

There are large gaps in reading skills by family income among school-aged children in the United States. Correlational evidence suggests that reading skills are strongly related to the amount of reading students do outside of school, but experimental evidence testing whether this relationship is causal is lacking. Results from a randomized evaluation of a program that mails one book per week to participants over summer break suggest that the program increased reading during the summer. They show significant effects on reading comprehension test scores in the fall for third grade girls but not for third grade boys or second graders of either gender. Additional analyses show evidence that reading more books generates increases in reading comprehension skills, particularly when students read carefully enough to be able to answer basic questions about the books they read, and particularly for girls.

“Legislative Holdouts” (WP-14-21)

Sarah Anderson, Daniel Butler, and Laurel Harbridge

Why do legislators "hold out," or vote against policies they ought to prefer to current ones? Harbridge and colleagues' original survey of state legislators shows that over a quarter indicate that they would vote against a proposal even though it is closer to their ideal policy than the status quo. Following their pre-analysis plan, the researchers examine a number of possible factors that could explain why these legislators hold out. Their data indicate that Republicans, legislators in the majority, and those who fear that their constituents will punish compromise are most likely to hold out. The results show one way legislative gridlock can occur even when a supermajority of legislators could be made better off by policy change.

Upcoming Events

2/23/15 - “Not Too Late: New Evidence from Chicago on Improving Academic Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth” by Jonathan Guryan (IPR/HDSP)

2/25/15 - "School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement” by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach (IPR/HDSP)

3/2/15 - "Research Opportunities at the Chicago Census Research Data Center" by Bhash Mazumder (Federal Reserve/Chicago Census Research Data Center) and Frank Limehouse (Chicago Census Research Data Center)

3/9/15 -"Making Sense of Mental Healthcare: Interpretive, Cultural, and Psychosocial Dimensions of Mexican-American Adolescent Experiences with Psychiatry" by Rebecca Seligman (IPR/Anthropology)

3/10/15 -"Revisiting the Impacts of Teachers" by Jesse Rothstein (Berkeley)

Find the complete calendar HERE.

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