Social Sciences

Wen Wei Loh, PhD


Causal mediation analysis of multiple longitudinal mediators with unknown causal structures

Mediation analysis is widely used in behavioral, psychological, and social science research to investigate causal mechanisms. But substantive applications in many realistic settings are limited by two crucial restrictions. First, prevailing conventional methods are saddled with the strict - and often implicit - assumptions that the mediators' causal structure is completely known with no unmeasured confounding among them. These assumptions impede extensions to longitudinal designs - a standard and essential setting in social science research - when complex but unknown confounding patterns among multiple repeatedly-measured mediators must be carefully accounted for to achieve valid inference. Second, prevalent software for mediation analysis permits only linear and additive regression models. More flexible causal inferential-based methods allowing for non-linear models have thus far been limited to a single mediator. In this project, I seek to address both shortcomings, focusing on mediation analysis with multiple longitudinal mediators whose causal structures are unknown. I will extend my current research on causal mediation analysis for multiple mediators in cross-sectional designs to longitudinal designs. I will propose novel definitions unencumbered by these causal restrictions and develop estimators that permit more flexible non-linear regression models. These cutting-edge estimation procedures will be implemented using publicly and freely available software. The software will emphasize accessibility and practical guidance for substantive researchers with little to no computer programming experience.

Alix Olson, PhD

Assistant Professor, Oxford College

The Promise(s) of Resilience? Pessimism in Crisis

Politicians, scientists, business executives, philanthropist organizations, social workers, psychologists, university administrators, and military officials tout resilience as the savior of contemporary life. The Promise of Resilience? Pessimism in Crisis explores its proliferation as ethical injunction, policy-making mantra, democratic project, and, most vitally, aspirational value through which people appraise not only themselves, one another, and the world around them, but which political interventions are possible and desirable. This book argues that resilience is central to a neoliberal rationality that I term “promising pessimism” – the idea that the only credible promise of governance is to facilitate adaption to (and even thriving through) crisis. Through this logic, resilience becomes an immunizing practice, whereby vulnerable bodies/populations are encouraged to fold the naturalized “shocks” of advanced capitalism into their lives as “resilience capital.” This way of thinking is organized around the biopolitical vision of a “homo resilient infrastructure” –from individual to human species- that sustains and extends exploitative ways of life. While demonstrating these disturbing effects, the book argues that resilience is not reducible to a neoliberal technology of power. Indeed, contemporary social movements have adopted resilience as a generative way of thinking about liberatory praxis. As such, my critical evaluation of resilience reveals a fundamental struggle over how to be governed- and to govern ourselves- in a shared context of escalating disaster. My book proposal is under review at Columbia University Press. The URC grant will allow me time to write the final two chapters of the manuscript, and to finalize the earlier chapters.