Seminar Series

Seth Pollak, Bascom-Vaughan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, presents, "Re-thinking Adversity: Early Life Stress from the Child's Perspective"

Discovering the processes through which early life experiences affect children’s development is critically important for developing prevention and interventions for youth exposed to adversity, and also for understanding the basic science of human development and learning. Nearly all research on early experience and socio-emotional development has been anchored on specific events that have (or have not) occurred in a child’s life. Yet, there is increasing evidence that children’s perceptions of their own experiences and the meaning they construe from what has happened to them can deepen our understanding of their behavioral, health, and learning outcomes. How can we better embrace this real, albeit messy, complexity of human development? This presentation aims to serve as a catalyst for thinking about these kinds of new future research directions.

Brittany Street, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Missouri, presents, "Convictions, Incarceration, and Earnings in an Event Studies Framework"

There is compelling evidence that convictions and incarceration have negative impacts on labor market outcomes. But research also shows that offenders have relatively low levels of human capital even before any contact with the justice system. Thus, accurately characterizing an offender’s employment profile and the plausible impact of the justice system has been challenging due to this population’s non-trivial involvement in both formal and informal sectors and the non-linear relationship between criminal justice involvement and economic outcomes (e.g. the first criminal record playing a critical role in life-long employment outcomes). We use high-quality longitudinal criminal justice records through CJARS integrated with extensive labor market data (IRS W-2s and ACS self-reported work) to examine the effect of criminal justice interactions on labor market outcomes in an event study framework. Employment and earnings are tracked in both formal administrative as well as self-reported employment status in survey responses, providing an opportunity to identify informality and its implications. In this research, we highlight the importance of periodicity of criminal justice events and the role of shifts to informal employment, particularly when using event studies and administrative data.

Sarah Font, Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, Pennsylvania State University, presents, "Is Less Better? Revisiting the Role of Child Protection and Justice Systems within Vulnerable Families"

Over the past few decades, the U.S. has experienced significant declines in involuntary interventions within three major systems that have the power to separate children and parents. Foster care placements in the child welfare system have plummeted in recent years, following longer term declines in juvenile detentions and arrests. Group homes and institutions for children are closing at a rapid pace. Adult prison and criminal justice supervision populations have declined, and states have begun to decriminalize drugs and reduce the use of cash bail. Yet, more recently, there are emerging signals of another pendulum swing, as states struggle to ameliorate social problems through more voluntary or rehabilitative means. Using various state and national data sources, this talk will explore the interconnectedness of child welfare, juvenile justice, and adult criminal justice systems, describe recent and historical system trends, and revisit assumptions about the nature and impacts of involuntary system interventions on children.

Emilio Zagheni, Director, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, presents, "Global Improvements in the Representation of Women in Science Have Stalled"

Women in science continuously face disadvantages that span across different stages of career, including limited opportunities for academic positions, shorter career longevity and lower international mobility. Previous research has suggested a trend towards more gender equality in science, but with considerable heterogeneity in pace across fields and countries. This study challenges the commonly-held view of slow but consistent progress in gender equality by assessing recent trends in representation of women in the population of published scholars using a demographic framework based on the entry, exit and migration rates of scholars, by gender.  We analyzed one of the most prominent abstract and citation databases, Scopus, which includes over 33 million publications from 1996 to 2020. We estimated that the Gender Parity Index (i.e., the number of female scholars per male scholar) increased significantly, on a global scale, until around 2011. However, since then the trend towards higher representation of women has stagnated across the large majority of countries worldwide. Our projections indicate that, if current trends persist, gender gaps are likely to increase or stabilize over the next decade. We identified three demographic determinants of observed trends. First, the rate at which women enter academia has decreased relative to men; second, the rate at which women exit academia, relative to men, has been fairly stable over time; third, even within a context of enhancement of gender parity in academia, the career length of female scholars has not notably increased.

Laura Tozer, Assistant Professor of Physical & Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto, presents, "Addressing Energy Poverty with Climate Action"

Energy inequity is an urgent public health issue and climate issue. Energy poverty - broadly understood as the lack of adequate energy services to provide basic needs - has a range of social and health impacts and has been linked to health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and respiratory conditions. Energy retrofits for homes can address energy poverty by reducing energy waste, reducing monthly household bills, and improving thermal comfort while, at the same time, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, energy retrofits can also worsen energy poverty if they are implemented solely to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions without considering energy inequities. This talk will focus on Dr. Tozer's recent work on how to catalyze equity-oriented energy transitions. She will present qualitative community-based and policy-engaged research on how energy retrofit programs can play a role in effectively addressing energy poverty in Canada and on using a vulnerability-based approach to address the determinants of energy poverty while working towards a livable climate.

Lindsey Bullinger, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Georgia Tech University, presents, "Effects of Universal and Unconditional Cash Transfers on Child Abuse and Neglect"

We estimate the effects of cash transfers on a severe measure of child welfare: maltreatment. To do so, we leverage year-to-year household variation from a universal and unconditional cash transfer, the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). Using linked individual-level administrative data on PFD payments and child maltreatment referrals, we show that an additional $1,000 to families in the first few months of a child’s life reduces the likelihood that a child is referred to Child Protective Services by age three by 2.0 percentage points, or 10 percent, on average. Effects persist through early childhood and are unlikely to be driven by birth seasonality or reporting.

John MacDonald, Professor of Criminology and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, presents, "Lessons Learned From a Citywide Abandoned Housing Experiment"

The negative impact of vacant and abandoned housing in city neighborhoods is extreme, affecting health and quality of life, promoting violence, and leading to further abandonment. One approach to addressing abandoned housing is to intervene with low-cost interventions that provide a visual sense of ownership. We tested whether a low-cost remediation of abandoned and vacant houses or a trash cleanup intervention would make a noticeable difference in the levels of nearby disrepair, disorder, and public safety. The abandoned housing remediation and trash cleanup interventions were a test of compliance with municipal ordinances. We used an experimental design to test the causal effects of the ordinances and because the scale of abandonment was too large to provide treatment to all abandoned houses in the city. We used systematic social observation methods to rate changes in disrepair, disorder, and litter at housing sites and on the city blocks they were located and police-reported data on gun violence and illegal substance use. Our experimental design allowed us to see whether observed disrepair, disorder, and public safety improved after working windows and doors were installed on abandoned houses compared with a trash cleanup around properties or a no-intervention control condition. Our results showed significant changes in observed disrepair, disorder, and gun violence and illustrate the benefits of experimental evaluations of place-based changes to the built environment.

Lucie Schmidt, Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics, Smith College, presents, "The Impact of Expanding Public Health Insurance on Safety Net Program Participation: Evidence from the ACA Medicaid Expansion"

The increase in public insurance eligibility caused by the Affordable Care Act (ACA ) Medicaid expansions may have had spillover effects to other public assistance programs. We explore the impact of the ACA on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Our research design uses variation in Medicaid eligibility that occurs on either side of state borders: we examine county-level administrative measures of EITC and SNAP participation in contiguous county pairs that cross state lines and individual data on program participation from the American Community Survey (ACS) in contiguous sub-state geographic units. This approach allows us to focus narrowly on differences arising from the ACA Medicaid expansion choice, implicitly controlling for local economic trends that could affect safety net participation. Our results suggest that the Medicaid expansion increased participation in SNAP and TANF, and possibly in the EITC. The ACS analysis suggests that safety net impacts are mainly due to participation conditional on eligibility rather than from eligibility changes stemming from labor supply responses. It appears that ACA Medicaid eligibility reduced the marginal cost of applying in SNAP, particularly facilitating enrollment in places with low 2013 SNAP take-up rates. Our results demonstrate the potential for spillovers across safety net programs.

Melissa Kearney, Professor of Economics, University of Maryland, presents, "The Cyclicality of Births and Babies' Health, Revisited: Evidence from Unemployment Insurance"

This paper revisits the cyclical nature of births and infant health and investigates to what extent the relationship between aggregate labor market conditions and birth outcomes is mitigated by unemployment insurance (UI). We introduce a novel empirical test of standard neoclassical models of fertility that directly tests the prediction of opposite-signed income and intertemporal substitution effects of business cycles by examining the interaction of the aggregate unemployment rate with a measure of potential income replacement from UI. Our results show that as UI benefit generosity reaches 100 percent income replacement, there is no effect of the unemployment rate on births. This implies that the well-documented cyclical nature of births is about access to liquidity. We also provide novel evidence that infant health is countercyclical based on timing of conception, but procyclical based on time in utero. The negative relationship between the in utero aggregate unemployment rate and infant health also disappears when potential UI replacement rates reach 100 percent. Our results imply that the social insurance provided by UI has a pro-natalist effect and improves the health and economic well-being of the next generation.