Social Sciences

Angela Dixon, PhD


The Hidden Cost of Bereavement: Collateral Consequences of Black-White Disparities in Mortality

Recent media coverage highlights declining life expectancy among Whites, yet Blacks still live 4 years less than Whites on average and are dying from COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate. Blacks are more likely than whites to experience the deaths of multiple family members and experience them at earlier ages. Elevated rates of mortality experienced by Black families and communities consequently lead to mass bereavement. Though research indicates that experiencing death within one’s family shapes survivors’ health, little research has analyzed how network death contributes to health or socioeconomic inequities. This project investigates the ripple or “spillover” effects of Black–White disparities in mortality by taking a network-based approach to understanding intergenerational consequences of deaths for survivors’ health and socioeconomic wellbeing. We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to quantify the relationship between Black-White disparities in familial and household exposure to death and racial disparities in SES and health. This project is innovative in its focus on: 1) racial disparities in death from broader social network ties, and 2) how the impact of network deaths may “spillover” and contribute to racial inequities.

Emily Kalah Gade, PhD


Ideology, Pro-government Militia and State Repression

Why do governments roiled in civil conflicts ally with some anti-rebel or pro-state paramilitary groups and prohibit others? “Pro-government militias” (PGMs)—here, militias who have an antirebel or pro-state agenda—compromise the safety of U.S. military personnel, prolong conflicts globally, and project violence in consolidated democracies like the United States. Yet much remains unknown about PGMs, the factors that shape a state’s response to various PGMs. I suggest that a virtually un-examined aspect of PGM groups—their ideology—may influence government choices to align with, distance from, or even disband different PGM groups. Recently declassified archives documenting the British Government’s internal correspondence during the early years of Britain’s Troubles in Northern Ireland (1969–1974) show at least twenty active, distinct PGMs; Britain partnered with some of these violent PGMs and outlawed others. This project will qualitatively analyze and computationally cross-validate British government archives to identify the factors that shaped Britain’s varied and shifting treatment of PGMs active during the Troubles— including ideology. In doing so, this project provides a rare, in-depth, deductive evaluation of why a state allies with some PGMs and prohibits others; creates a theoretical framework for considering and evaluating PGM ideology; advances historical knowledge about PGMs during the Troubles, with relevance to contemporary politics; provides funds for undergraduate and graduate students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in the academy; and sets up an early career research—Dr. Gade—to re-apply for an NSF grant on PGM groups in August, 2021.

Mi Luo, PhD


The Evolution of Wealth Distribution and Social Mobility in the U.S.

We propose to study factors contributing to the changes in the wealth inequality and intergenerational mobility in wealth from 1962 to 2016 in the U.S. We focus on four factors and their interactions: 1) skewed income distribution and its evolution over these five decades; 2) differential saving rates across wealth levels; 3) stochastic idiosyncratic returns to wealth plus the evolution of aggregate returns; 4) policy changes in the tax rates, distinguishing taxes on labor earnings and taxes on capital income. We build a simple consumption savings model but relax the stationarity assumption in the estimation to allow for nonstationary distribution of wealth. Preliminary results indicate that the model is able to match the rapid increase in wealth inequality in a short period of time, which is notoriously difficult to match in the literature. The interaction between the stochastic returns to wealth and paths for taxes on capital income is also crucial on explaining the evolution of wealth distribution.

Stephen D. O'Connell, PhD


Ethnic Diversity, Economic Integration of Refugees, and Firm Behavior: Insights from a field study in Southeastern Turkey

This project aims to understand the role played by firms in the economic integration of refugees to the host community. To do this, we propose to scale up a census survey of firms -- which we have been piloting throughout 2020 -- in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, a major industrial province in Turkey that hosts more than 450,000 Syrian and 2 million Turkish citizens, and Syrian-owned formal businesses have grown in recent years to comprise approximately 10% of all businesses in the city. The data collection will allow us to (a) characterize the nature of differences in production, growth, and owner/manager characteristics of Syrian-owned versus Turkish-owned firms, (b) test hypotheses regarding whether immigrant businesses are complements, substitutes, or a separate dual market from, existing firms, and (c) construct a baseline sample of firms that can be followed over time in future stages of the project to introduce interventions. The project relates to two strands of development economics literature that investigate (i) small-scale entrepreneurship in developing countries, and (ii) the impact of migration on market structures in the host country.

Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, PhD


Toward an Anthropology of Loneliness, Resilience and Happiness

This project completes and draws together ethnographic studies I have already begun into a multifaceted investigation of the relationship between happiness and loneliness among specific populations in Japan and the U.S. Specifically, these populations include women seeking help for domestic violence, women who are incarcerated, and individuals participating in therapeutic interventions for healing and social connection. Primary research questions are: how do these women conceptualize the role social connection and relationships in their happiness, and how do cultural and social factors influence their subjectivity around loneliness and happiness? In exploring these questions, this research intends to explore the connections between perceived happiness and conceptions of agency, freedom, and autonomy in their relationships, as well as the role of resilience as a factor in supporting happiness and dealing with challenges such as loneliness. Freedom and autonomy are largely seen positive and crucial constituents of well-being in the US, whereas in Japan they often seen as morally ambiguous and even illusory. Yet both countries have high rates of domestic violence, a situation that often involves constrictions of autonomy, agency and freedom for the women involved. Research suggests that both loneliness and happiness, despite being universal human experiences, are inherently social and culturally shaped, yet both are still predominantly approached at the level of individual mental and subjective states, and research methodologies lack clear ways of examining how social and cultural conditions may be impacting subjective appraisals of loneliness and happiness (Russell 1996; Austin 1983; McWhirter 1990; Shevlin, Murphy, and Murphy 2015).