Seminar Series

Kasey Buckles, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame, presents, “Family Trees and Falling Apples: Intergenerational Mobility Estimates from U.S. Genealogy Data”

We use an innovative strategy for linking parents to their adult children in the United States census to produce estimates of the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status from 1850 to 1940. We begin with data from a large, online, crowd- sourced genealogy platform (, which includes millions of users who personally link records to the profiles of their family members. We include the links created by these users in our data set, but also use information from the links they create to inform other supervised and unsupervised matching methods. Our completed data set, which we call the Census Tree, contains hundreds of millions of links among the 1850-1940 censuses. This data set is beyond the current frontier in terms of the precision, recall, and representativeness of the included links. We use these data to produce estimates of the intergenerational transmission of characteristics including occupation score, literacy, and fertility. Because family members do the linking and often know the maiden names of women in their family, we are able to include women in our analysis where previous research has omitted them.

Kenneth Ferraro, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Purdue University, presents, “Early Social Origins and Mediators of Biological Risks in Later Life”

Recent breakthrough discoveries in the science of aging are transforming the way we think about growing older and stimulating cross-disciplinary research to optimize the aging process. In this lecture, Professor Ferraro reviews recent discoveries regarding the early origins of adult health and his research to identify resources that mitigate the influence of early misfortune on later life health, especially among Black and Hispanic populations.

Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, Harvard University, presents, “Financial institutions, neighborhoods, and racial inequality”

Research has made clear that racial inequality is affected by neighborhood conditions. One important condition is the accessibility of financial establishments. We examine how living in minority neighborhoods affects ease of access to conventional banks vs. to alternative financial institutions (AFIs) such as check cashers and payday lenders. Based on more than 6 million queries, we compute the difference in the time required to walk, drive, or take public transit to the nearest bank vs. the nearest AFI from the middle of every block in each of 19 of the nation’s largest cities. Results suggest that race is strikingly more important than class: even after numerous economic, demographic, and structural conditions are accounted for, the AFI is more often closer than the bank in well-off minority neighborhoods than in poor white ones. I discuss implications.

Demography of Health and Aging Student Seminar features Lindsay Xu, Predoctoral student, Department of Sociology, “Mate Preferences in Online Dating: Evidence from a Chinese Online Dating Website”

Online dating sites have become a prominent method for Chinese young people to find romantic partners, edging out traditional means for pursuing marriage. Using data from the popular online dating site Huatian, which targets highly educated white-collar workers in urban China, I investigate whether online dating preferences still draw on traditional Chinese dating values such as homogamy and hypergamy; I also investigate gender differences in assortative mate preferences by educational attainment and income. The findings suggest that the marriage tradition of homogamy is still salient in the educational and income assortative mating of the young generation. However, educational hypergamy and hypogamy are also prevalent among people holding bachelor or higher education degrees regardless of gender. In fact, when it comes to income, people, especially male love-seekers, are more likely to be hypergamous rather than resemble one another. In addition, I find little evidence of diminishing status hypergamy in age and height.

Herbert Smith, Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, presents, “Population Aging: On the Future of a Delusion”

Demography has a lot of great tools for peering into the future.  We knew that declining fertility was going to make societies older.  Throw in declines in mortality, especially at older ages, and the aging and aged societies that so many of us live in were always in the cards.  But does the fact that aged societies are not unexpected make them any less revolutionary?  I have wondered for some time whether the gradualism and continuity in the demographic process that has gotten us to this point has blinded us to the oddity of where we are.  Whereas most talks feature a speaker trying to convince an audience that he or she knows something that they do not, here the speaker would like to know what everyone else knows about the future of aging and aged societies that he does not.  This being 2021, Covid-19 will be mentioned.

Emily Hannum, Professor of Sociology and Education, University of Pennsylvania, presents, “The Case of China’s Rural School Closure Initiative”

Global trends of fertility decline, population aging, and rural outmigration are creating pressures to consolidate school systems, with the rationale that economies of scale will enable higher quality education to be delivered in an efficient manner, despite longer travel distances for students. Yet, few studies have considered the implications of system consolidation for educational access and inequality, outside of the context of developed countries. This talk will consider the impact of educational infrastructure consolidation on educational attainment using the case of China's rural primary school closure policies in the early 2000s. The talk will share findings related to gender and ethnic disparities in the implications of consolidation for educational attainment.

Noreen Goldman, Hughes-Rogers Professor of Demography and Public Affairs, Princeton University and Theresa Andrasfay, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Southern California, present, “Racial and Ethnic Differentials in COVID-19 Mortality”

COVID-19 has resulted in a staggering death toll in the US: almost 300,000 deaths by mid-December 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black, Latino, and Native Americans have experienced a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, reflecting persistent structural inequalities that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19 and mortality risk for those infected. We present results from two studies that seek to quantify the racial and ethnic disparities in the mortality impact of COVID-19 and understand the determinants of these disparities. First, we estimate the impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy at birth and at age 65 for 2020, for the total US population and by race and ethnicity. Second, we estimate standardized relative deaths rates for Native Americans compared with other racial and ethnic groups and examine risk factors that provide insight into the huge geographical variation and high rates of COVID-19 mortality for Native Americans. We briefly examine the potential role of high-risk occupational exposure to account for high rates of COVID-19 mortality among Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans.

Allison Aiello, Professor of Epidemiology, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, presents, “Stressors, immunity, and infection: New pathways to cognitive impairment and dementia?"

This presentation will discuss research on the influence of stressors, with a focus on socioeconomic disad-vantage, on both immune and infectious biomarkers. The presentation will also discuss the links between infection, immunity and cognitive health outcomes in aging populations. Zoom Seminar. Please contact to obtain Seminar Link.

Avshalom Caspi, Edward M. Arnett Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, presents, “Charting mental disorders from childhood to midlife”

The practice of diagnosing mental disorders is at a crossroads. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides guidelines for diagnostic practice, is being questioned, not just by the “anti-psychiatry” movement, but by detractors within the discipline itself. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, a major funder of mental health research internationally, has called for a new approach to studying mental illness, to be shaped by investigating research domains rather than by investigating traditional categorical diagnoses. And the public is confused about what constitutes a mental disorder, a confusion resulting in “diagnosis shopping”. My thesis is that progress in conceptualizing mental disorders has been delayed by the field’s limiting focus on cross-sectional information. Mental-health professionals typically encounter a patient at one point in his or her life. This cross-sectional view fosters a focus on the current presenting disorder(s), on the assumption that diagnosis informs about etiology and prognosis.

V. Joseph Hotz, Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Economics, Duke University, presents, “The Add Health Parent Study: Overview & Initial Findings”

This presentation  will provide an overview to the data in the Add Health Parent Study (AHPS). The AHPS contains new data on the parents of a subsample of the participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The presentation will describe the structure of the sample and measures collected. We also will present some initial findings from the AHPS covering such topics as intergenerational health, economic status, and other outcomes.