Destroying Research: Act Now Before It’s Too Late!

For the past year, policymakers have been stirring about whether to cut funds for various government research entities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Longitudinal Survey (NLS) was on the chopping block not too long ago. Rachel Lovell, the SSRC’s senior research methodologist, wrote a brief blog post about the potential consequences of cutting NLS funds. Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics restored NLS funding for fiscal year 2012. This was the result of efforts by supporters of the NLS to prevent threatened cuts. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics still may cut NLS funding for fiscal year 2013. Supporters will have to continue their efforts to prevent this potential cutback too.

Two other very important research entities have recently faced elimination: the American Community Survey (ACS) and the political science research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Continue reading “Destroying Research: Act Now Before It’s Too Late!”

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Today’s Youth: Race, Violence, Juvenile Justice, and Research

Handcuffs, Omagh. Google Images.

At a moment when the country is facing one of the most controversial cases of violence against young black men and women in recent history—Trayvon Martin and his death being the most heated topic among several recent violent killings, including that of Rekia Boyd and the  Tulsa shooting—scholars, social scientists, and the wider public find themselves grappling with complicated questions about the state of the criminal justice system and its relationship to youth delinquency, detention, violence, and justice.

The past two months have produced a slew of news reports, articles, Facebook statuses, tweets, and formal and informal conversations in which Trayvon Martin’s death has served as a symbol of outrage and vehemence concerning racism, racial profiling, and the criminal justice system. At this momentous juncture—a time when youth of color are repeatedly depicted on nightly crime reports as the perpetrators or victims of violence—I’m particularly interested in examining some of these issues with empirical research and hard data to expand the dialogue now engrossing many of us. In moments like this social scientists turn to sound empirical research to help frame the discussion, provide a more meaningful and nuanced understanding of the situation, ground arguments in substantiated claims, and take the opportunity to either mitigate or amplify this fervor—for justifiable reasons, of course. Continue reading “Today’s Youth: Race, Violence, Juvenile Justice, and Research”

Race & Ethnicity: Data Snapshots

By Lars Plougmann@Flickr.com

Following the release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census, several demographers and research institutes are worth noting for the helpful graphs and maps they have created to highlight changes in the racial and ethnic landscape of America. These data snapshots, based on the 2010 U.S. Census and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, offer a quick and easy overview of the country’s racial and ethnic make-up in terms of residential segregation, income segregation, population changes, and other demographic shifts over the past few decades.

Continue reading “Race & Ethnicity: Data Snapshots”

Scholar-vision

Photo via James Vaughn

I recently stumbled upon one of the most ingenious resources available on the internet and want to share it with you. Personally, I don’t think any post is worth more than one that allows the public to access something so marvelous, so productive, so stimulating, and so superbly edifying. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but truth be told, having an online lecture course by some of the most renowned scholars at your fingertips is quite impressive. While you may not be able to attend their classes, you can certainly sit quietly at your computer, plug in your headphones, and watch lecturers talk about a particular subject or listen to their lectures over iTunes. Is that great or what? And it is all free.

Continue reading “Scholar-vision”

Immigration Detention and Deportation

As researchers we are faced with increasing challenges when it comes to immigration. Today, we are witnessing stricter state policies against undocumented immigration—in states like Alabama, Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah—while detention and deportation rates increase dramatically and border control efforts are magnified. Those concerned about immigration—or migration—regardless of our political bent on the matter, can recognize this as a historic moment ripe for research.

For starters, immigration detention and deportation have reached levels never before seen in American history. In fiscal year 2010, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) reported deporting nearly 400,000 immigrants. Daily detainment rates of immigrants have grown exponentially over the past 30 years, increasing from a daily average of 54 detainees in 1981 to roughly 32,000 in 2011 (see Frontline Timeline). Some blame Obama for continuing Bush’s policies and not honoring his campaign promise of immigration reform—having deported an estimated one million immigrants since his presidency began. Others applaud improved mobilization of our enforcement efforts for the remarkable deportation level of undocumented immigrants. Still others are not impressed; they want even stricter regulations and swifter enforcement. As social scientists we recognize the urge not only to examine these arguments in relation to lived phenomena, but also to quantitatively and qualitatively unearth and illuminate the not-so-obvious consequences of these positions. Continue reading “Immigration Detention and Deportation”

re/release Unequal Childhoods

In 2003 Annette Lareau, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, published her famous book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Hailed as a hallmark ethnographic study on family life, the study explored parenting dynamics and parenting differences between middle-class families and that of the working-class and poor. Lareau and several of her graduate assistants set out to examine how the different socioeconomic status of 88 families determined the fate of children and prepared them (or not) for work, professionalism, independence, and the market, irrespective of race. While highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of child-rearing practices in all classes, Lareau nonetheless posited that “concerted cultivation” — the middle-class parenting approach — paid off in the long run while working class parenting styles — accomplishment by natural growth — helped less in developing children’s verbal and time management skills, professionalism, and independence, all of which facilitate employment and advancement in the market.

Recently, she released an updated edition of her book that includes a follow-up with several children from the original study. For any researcher studying child development, family life, child-rearing practices, or something similar, this book is a valuable examination that highlights the importance of class when thinking about children’s outcomes. Although Lareau readily admits there is nothing new about her argument, the ethnographic approach she uses to study class-based parenting styles is relatively new. See the Chronicle of Higher Education article for more information on the new edition.

Re/visiting the Stanford Prison Experiment

In other news, an oral history project reveals new ethical issues in a well-known research study. Forty years ago the renowned psychologist and professor, Philip Zimbardo, developed one of the most memorable and controversial experiments in the 20th century. A psychologist whose primary research interest hinged on how people respond and adapt to situations in which their agency is restricted—that ever-present research question of how different power dynamics affect individual behaviors—he set out to construct a mock prison at Stanford University.  The Stanford Prison Experiment became a key study that reshaped the ethics of human subjects research. While the study was approved by the Stanford Human Subjects Research Committee and subsequently found to meet human subjects research standards by the American Psychological Association, it nonetheless led to restrictions on research involving human subjects in simulated prison settings. The merit and ethics of the study remain as controversial today as they did 40 years ago.

To better understand the controversy, a recent article in Stanford Magazine contains oral accounts of the experience by several of the experiment’s key participants. Each participant, whether researcher or subject, had a different view of the experiment and took away a different experience. This begs the question of whether research is accomplishing what it sets out to do and whether we, as researchers, ever accurately assess how our research will impact our participants. Perhaps that is why Zimardo’s experiment continues to be a source of contention.

Read more to hear from the “horse’s mouth” what the Stanford Prison Experiment meant to those most familiar with it.