Fall 2013 Awards

Cohort Highlight: Institute for the Social Sciences Grants Awards

Freedom on the Move: A Database of Fugitives from North American Slavery
Edward Baptist, History
William Block, Director, CISER

Counterstories of Greater Mexico
Debra Castillo, Comparative Literature
Rafael Acosta Morales, Romance Studies
Gustavo Flores Macías, Government

Does the United States Patent and Trademark Office Grant Unnecessary Patents?: An Empirical Analysis of Certain Causes and Consequences of PTO Granting Patterns
Michael Frakes, formerly of Law, Cornell; currently Northwestern Univ.
Melissa Wasserman, Law, University of Illinois

Learning to Talk, Learning to Sing: A Comparative Approach to Discovering Mechanisms of Infant Learning from Social Interaction
Michael Goldstein, Psychology
Samantha Carouso, Psychology

Frictions in Real Asset Markets and Corporate Investment: Evidence from Ship-level Data
Hyunseob Kim, Finance, JGSM

The Effect of Globalization on Bank Operations and Borrowing Costs
Edith Liu, Finance, AEM

The Dissemination and Refutation of Rumor
Drew Margolin, Communication
Ingmar Weber, Qatar Computing Research Institute

Parents’ Time with Children and Subjective Well-Being
Kelly Musick, Policy Analysis and Management
Ann Meier, Sociology, University of Minnesota

Catholics, Gender, and the Gay Marriage Debate in France
Camille Robcis, History

Brain Network Dynamics of Goal-Directed Cognition and Behavior Across the Adult Lifespan
Nathan Spreng, Human Development

Farm Bill Dairy Title Milk Producer Survey in NY State
Joshua Woodard, Agricultural Finance and Business, AEM
Leslie Verteramo Chiu, AEM

Moving Beyond the Census Tract: Activity Space and Social Networks in Later Life
Erin York Cornwell, Sociology

Freedom on the Move: A Database of Fugitives from North American Slavery
Edward Baptist, History
William Block, Director, CISER

The Freedom on the Move project (FOTM) creates a multi-part digital resource from an estimated 100,000 runaway slave advertisements from pre-1865 U.S. newspapers. Placed by slaveowners when enslaved people attempted to escape, these ads included extensive information about fugitives. They comprise the single richest source of information about individual enslaved people in the United States, yet no comprehensive collection of them currently exists. FOTM will collect these ads and use crowdsourcing to parse their data into a database to enable sophisticated new research analyses of the history of U.S. slavery. The crowdsourcing interface will also provide a site for public engagement with a formative and enduring national trauma, supporting lessons for K-12, university, and museum education. The database will be publicly available for browsing and exportable for research and analysis. With ISS funding, we will be able to conduct the research needed to build up our primary source base. That in turn will enable us to integrate, and test fundamental elements of the project technology, and to plan next phases.

Update: In 2014 Baptist released a new book titled “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”. Discussion of the book can be found here. After a controversial review of the book by The Economist, supporters turned to twitter to offer their defense for Baptist. Edward Baptist had an article on the topic published in the New York Times Magazine on September 13, 2015. Conference examines the histories of capitalism.

Counterstories of Greater Mexico
Debra Castillo, Comparative Literature
Rafael Acosta Morales, Romance Studies
Gustavo Flores Macías, Government

This conference brings together speakers with foreign policy and culture studies credentials to focus on the particular challenges of what many people in the south, and increasingly in U.S. academic circles as well, call “el gran México” or “Greater Mexico.” This area includes the post 1848 political nation of Mexico as well as the territories conquered by the US in the Mexican-American war, which have continued to serve as one of the most important population concentrations for Latino/a people in the United States.

Update: Counterstories of Greater Mexico Conference, Flores-Macias studies Colombian security tax on country’s elite (2015)

Does the United States Patent and Trademark Office Grant Unnecessary Patents?: An Empirical Analysis of Certain Causes and Consequences of PTO Granting Patterns
Michael Frakes, formerly of Law, Cornell; currently Northwestern University
Melissa Wasserman, Law, University of Illinois

This research project intends to shed light on a vastly important question in innovation policy: is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO or Agency) biased towards granting patents. Utilizing a rich database of previously unavailable patent data, we intend to explore various possible granting biases stemming from the Agency’s funding and cost structures. For instance, we intend to estimate whether the Agency attempts to lower processing costs during times in which it faces a substantial backlog of applications by taking a more permissive stance on its granting decisions. By granting more often in this manner, the PTO could hope to prevent applicants who would otherwise be denied patent protection from exploiting devices that allow applicants to effectively restart the examination process—devices which are especially costly to the Agency. In a second step to our analysis, we intend to verify that the marginal patents issued as a result of such biases are indeed “unnecessary” in nature through an evaluation of their associated quality (as proxied by likelihood of subsequent litigation). Finally, we hope to examine the various mechanisms by which the Agency can bias its granting behavior.

Update: Michael Frakes moved to a position in Law at Northwestern University.

Learning to Talk, Learning to Sing: A Comparative Approach to Discovering Mechanisms of Infant Learning from Social Interaction
Michael Goldstein, Psychology
Samantha Carouso, Psychology

What are the features of social interactions that facilitate infant learning? Recent work in our laboratory has shown that parental social feedback to infants’ early vocalizations (i.e. babbling) provides guidance facilitating the development of speech and language. However, controlled manipulation of social feedback across the developmental time span of language learning is unfeasible in humans, necessitating use of a suitable model organism. Songbirds are an ideal model of human communicative development, as the mechanisms by which infants learn to talk and birds learn to sing share parallels at the neural, behavioral, and social levels of organization. Zebra finches, with their socially gregarious nature, strong family structure, and gradual learning of songs from adult tutors, are especially appropriate. Just as human infants learn from parental speech, gestures, and gaze, parental zebra finch respond to the behavior of their young in ways that afford opportunities for song learning. For example, adult male zebra finches guide song learning in juvenile males by singing mature adult song immediately contingent on (i.e., immediately following) the juvenile’s production of immature, plastic song. The proposed research aims to develop a new paradigm for the study of socially guided song learning by video- and audio-recording social feedback behaviors thought to guide vocal learning, and using these recordings as interactive stimuli for juvenile finches learning to sing. This approach will allow a high degree of experimental control over the form and timing of feedback that juveniles will receive across the entire developmental period of song learning. Data from this study will provide the basis for future manipulations of parental responsiveness, family structure, and ecological effectiveness of the adult song, and will lay the foundation for neurobiological studies of the development of brain areas associated with socially guided learning of communicative skills. Advances in understanding the mechanisms of socially guided learning in the development of birdsong will have direct translation to new studies of language development.

Update:  Using ISS funds, an array of six acoustic attenuation chambers with video and audio playback apparatus were constructed. Playbacks and recordings of our initial experimental cohort (n = 20 birds) were recently completed. It was found that birds in the contingent condition, which received visual playback of a female arousal behavior immediately following their own song production, ultimately produced songs with significantly better matches to that of their tutor than did yoked controls, who received playback at the same time as the contingent birds, independent of their own song production. Additional control conditions are now being run using contingent and yoked playbacks of non-biological stimuli. The initial results will be presented at the Animal Behavior Society meeting in Columbia, Missouri this July. These data are being used to inform the structure of the lab’s Toddler Talk intervention program that promotes parental responsiveness to facilitate language development in low-SES families.

 

Frictions in Real Asset Markets and Corporate Investment: Evidence from Ship-level Data
Hyunseob Kim, Finance, JGSM

We propose to study how impediments to trading in real asset markets (i.e., trading frictions) affect corporate investment decisions. The degree of trading frictions varies across different asset markets. Preliminary evidence from our analysis suggests that firms using less redeployable assets (i.e., those assets are traded with more frictions) decrease investment more after an increase in aggregate uncertainty. This finding is consistent with the prediction that frictions in asset markets expand the “region of inaction” and thus lead firms to delay investment decisions when the prospect about future returns becomes more uncertain. However, limitations of firm‐level data in the current analysis do not permit us to examine richer dynamics of corporate investment related to asset market frictions and uncertainty. In this proposed study, we are going to use detailed asset‐level data on investment in the commercial tanker vessel markets to examine how variation in asset market frictions impacts corporate decisions to invest, disinvest, and the timing of expenditures. Furthermore, exploiting this asset‐level dataset will open to opportunities for new research projects examining financial market frictions and investment.

Update: How do trading frictions in real asset markets affect corporate investment decisions such as buying, selling, and scrapping productive assets? Existing research on this question is limited by firm-level datasets which do not permit researchers to separately examine these decisions. In this project, we attempt to overcome this challenge by obtaining and analyzing detailed asset-level data on investment in commercial vessels (tankers, bulkers, and container ships) in the global market from Clarkson Research. Preliminary results suggest that when ship owners are financially constrained (e.g., have high leverage and low cash holdings), they tend to sell ships more often at a significantly lower price, suggesting “asset fire sales.” Importantly, these patterns are more pronounced when ships are less redeployable, indicating the role of asset market frictions in firms’ disinvestment decisions.

The Effect of Globalization on Bank Operations and Borrowing Costs
Edith Liu, Finance, AEM

The rise of banking activities across international borders has undoubtedly contributed to the propagation of liquidity shocks during the recent financial crisis, often with significant destabilizing effects. Yet little is known about the motivation for banks to create a complex network of subsidiaries and branches abroad, and how these decisions to expand internationally ultimately affects the lending conditions offered to customers in the home country. This project addresses this deficit by studying the determining factors that drive the decision to establish and increase global presence in certain countries. To this end, I will explore the role that cross country regulatory environment and bank specific characteristics play in affecting the bank’s decision to increase exposure in a foreign country and the channel used to pursue these expansions. In addition, this project will study the impact of the global networks on the ultimate lending activities of the bank to its domestic households and small businesses, both during normal times and during the recent financial crisis, when arguably there was an acute demand for the supply of credit and capital liquidity. This research contributes to our understanding of how banks establish and use their global networks, as well as how these global networks in turn impact the bank’s ability to function as a credit supplier to agents of the real economy.

Update: Exploiting a confidential dataset on the foreign exposure of US global banks, the project has narrowed in scope to analyze how borrower and loan characteristics of lending differ by the global exposure of the US bank that lends to them. The authors find that loans from US banks with larger global presence tend to involve a larger network of foreign banks, leading to lower lending costs for the borrower. Moreover, the authors find that rather than foreign lending coming at the expense of domestic US lending, US global banks may view these two types of lending as complementary. Their research has led to two working papers, “How Do US Global Banks Benefit the Real Economy” and “The Effect of Foreign Lending on Domestic Loans”, co-written with Jonathan Pogach of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

The Dissemination and Refutation of Rumor
Drew Margolin, Communication
Ingmar Weber, Qatar Computing Research Institute

The diffusion of misinformation poses a threat to public health, security, and deliberation. While previous research has established a variety of plausible mechanisms to explain why people communicate false rumors and how they might be deterred from doing so, little work has examined whether such principles operate in real situations in which individuals share and refute false information within their natural social contexts. We will gather data from the dissemination and refutation of actual rumors as spread through Twitter during 2012, both at the level of the rumor and the individuals involved in the conversation. We will first identify rumors by their refutations – tweets that refer to rumor debunking sites such as snopes.com and factcheck.org in replies to specific twitter users. We will then extract the twitter user histories for both rumor spreaders and rumor refuters, providing time series of individual behavior surrounding rumor confrontations. These data will allow us to address questions such as: Does “getting snoped” (receiving a tweet that refutes one’s previous claim) change behavior? If so, how? How do prior relationships and shared network structures between rumor spreaders and “snopers” change conversations around rumors?

Update: This research finds evidence that social relationships are critical to the effectiveness of attempts to correct rumors and other misinformation online. Researchers gathered information about several thousand misinformation interventions or “snopes” on Twitter, in which an individual (A) sent a tweet to which another individual (B) responded with a tweet containing a link to a fact-checking website such as snopes.com or factcheck.org.  Each case was analyzed in terms of whether 1) The kind of “snope”– whether B was correcting A or challenging A’s factual claims; 2) A’s response–did they respond, did they accept the correction; and 3) the social relationship between A and B — did they follow one another? Results show that, first, individuals are significantly more likely to pay attention to and respond to corrections that come from friends as opposed to strangers. This finding was published in the Proceedings of the Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media. Second, when they do respond, they are significantly more likely to accept the correction when it come from a friend. A paper on this will be presented at the International Conference on Computational Social Science 2015 conference.  “Social media affords users the unique ability to send hateful speech…,” says Drew Margolin in the Christian Science Monitor.

Parents’ Time with Children and Subjective Well-Being
Kelly Musick, Policy Analysis and Management
Ann Meier, Sociology, University of Minnesota

Recent media attention highlights the exceptional nature of intensive parenting in the U.S. and raises questions about implications for parental well-being. This project assesses the multidimensional nature of subjective well-being associated with having a child in the home and time spent in activities with children. We use a new well-being module in the 2010 and 2012 American Time Use Surveys (ATUS) that includes respondent reports of momentary well-being in three randomly selected activities throughout the day. We examine differences in happiness, meaning, sadness, stress, and fatigue by parenthood status and parenting activities, and we use random and fixed effects models to leverage within-person variation in reported well-being across activities. We further explore how the link between parenthood and well-being differs by gender, social class, and family structure. This work moves beyond past studies on parenthood and happiness by focusing on a broad range of feelings—positive and negative—tied specifically to activities with children. Broadly, it informs our understanding of how the context of parenting contributes to the joys and strains of raising children.

Update: Results from this project were presented at professional conferences in the U.S. and Europe, and two papers on parenting and subjective well-being on U.S. data are currently under review for publication. Key findings show that although parents consistently report more positive affect in time with children than without, mothers report less happiness, more stress, and greater fatigue than fathers. Differences can largely be traced to the ways in which mothers and fathers spend time with children and the quality and quantity of their sleep and leisure. Results point further to important variation among mothers, particularly between partnered and single mothers. Comparable data sources in Europe were also investigated over the grant period, providing the basis for extending the project cross-nationally. In 2015, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare awarded a grant for “His and Her Earnings Following Parenthood and Implications for Social Inequality: Cohort and Cross-National Comparisons.” Premarital births no longer predict breakups. (October 2015)

Catholics, Gender, and the Gay Marriage Debate in France
Camille Robcis, History

This project seeks to explain why so many anti-gay-marriage activists in France have blamed “the theory of gender” for the 2013 gay marriage law and why they argued that this would necessarily lead to the legalization of surrogacy and the expansion of medically assisted reproduction. Furthermore, it tries to understand why they have proposed a return to “the human” (in the form of humanism and of anthropology) to counter this “theory of gender” imported from the United States.

Update: The research for this project resulted in two articles to be published in December 2015: “Liberté, Egalité, Hétérosexualité: Race and Reproduction in the French Gay Marriage Debates” (forthcoming in Constellations) and “Catholics, the ‘Theory of Gender,’ and the Turn to the Human in France: A ‘New Dreyfus Affair’?” (forthcoming in The Journal of Modern History).  Professor Robcis hopes to develop this project into a book on gender and political Catholicism in the coming years.

Brain Network Dynamics of Goal-Directed Cognition and Behavior Across the Adult Lifespan
Nathan Spreng, Human Development

A core facet of human experience is our ability to plan, sacrifice, contextualize and ultimately organize our behaviors to achieve our desired goals. This capacity emerges from complex cognitive functions – and their interactions – in the service of goal-attainment. While these complex cognitive functions are known to decline with age, little is known about how these declines interact with the accrual of experience across time into more integrative, goal-directed behaviors. The goal of this proposal is to develop and pilot a comprehensive assessment protocol to investigate changes in goal-directed cognition and behavior from younger to older adulthood. This protocol will represent the most comprehensive assessment of goal direction to date, comprising gold-standard metrics of complex cognition and experiential assessments of goal-directed behavior. Second, the assessment battery will be coupled with a standardized structural and functional neuroimaging protocol being implemented in my laboratory and by participating researchers in the Cornell MRI Facility. If successful, this proposal will provide critical pilot funding to initiate the first large-scale study of brain network dynamics subserving goal-directed cognition and behavior across the lifespan.

Update: The aim of the ISS proposal was to support protocol development for the study of brain network dynamics subserving goal-directed cognition across the lifespan. The funds facilitated data collection on a comprehensive assessment battery, including measures of cognitive (e.g. memory, executive functioning) social (e.g. loneliness, social network size, social support), lifestyle (physical fitness, nutrition) and functional (e.g. financial competence and vulnerability to fraud) abilities in younger and older adults. Data has now been collected from 100 participants. Dr. Spreng recently presented preliminary findings from this initiative in a talk entitled “Understanding why older adults are vulnerable to financial exploitation and abuse) at a conference on Aging with Financial Security held at the University of Pennsylvania.

Farm Bill Dairy Title Milk Producer Survey in NY State
Joshua Woodard, Agricultural Finance and Business, AEM
Leslie Verteramo Chiu, AEM

The requested funding is to support the implementation of a milk producers’ survey in NY State in order to analyze producers’ preferences for milk price margin insurance and supply controls. This type of insurance and market controls have been debated extensively in the current Farm Bill as the Dairy Security and the Dairy Freedom Acts, and historically has been a recurring theme. However, despite the importance of these types of policy interventions, the welfare implications, regional effects, impacts on producer behavior, and producer preferences and perceptions are not well understood. This initial survey effort will provide the foundation for conducting a broader survey on milk producers to further investigate the behavioral implications of such programs. A broader objective of this research is to better understand the complex behavior ramifications of supply control and insurance programs on producer behavior related to investments, risk management activities, and general financial decision-making. In doing so this project promotes the sustainability, stability, and development of small and medium-sized farms by enhancing knowledge of firm decision-making and business strategies under varying policy regimes. Of particular interest is discovery of the presence of systematic decision-making “biases” occurring during the investment decision stage and their interaction with changes in market conditions, government policy, and use of risk management tools.

Update: The survey is designed and ready to be conducted, but we are awaiting an implementation agreement.

Moving Beyond the Census Tract: Activity Space and Social Networks in Later Life
Erin York Cornwell, Sociology

A large body of research emphasizes the effects of neighborhood context on health and well-­‐being,  particularly among older adults – but this work has been limited by conventional approaches to  identifying relevant social space, especially the use of census tracts. This approach does not  capture the full range of individuals’ exposure to physical spaces and social contexts to the  extent that individuals move beyond their census tracts for daily activities and social  interactions. The study proposed here takes a bottom-­‐up approach to this problem by tracking  individuals’ activity spaces, delineated by the actual locations of their everyday activities.  A diverse group of older adults in New York City will be given smartphones to carry for seven days.  At several points during the day, the smartphone will capture respondents’ GPS locations and prompt  them to complete a brief ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to capture characteristics of their surroundings, social interactions and activities, and real-­‐time fluctuations in health and well-­‐being (e.g., stress and fear). Analyses of these data will shed light on fundamental questions regarding the extent to which neighborhoods represent relevant social space, how social ties and activities expand access to non-­‐local resources and/or confine residents to risky environments, and how social interactions in everyday life – and the spaces within which they occur – affect health and well-­‐being.

Update:
Funds were used to conduct a pilot study from September-November 2014. GPS and survey data were collected via iPhones carried by older adults in four New York City neighborhoods. In total, 61 respondents participated. Each respondent completed a baseline survey, attended two training sessions, and carried a study iPhone for seven days. The iPhones captured GPS locations at five-minute intervals and respondents used the iPhones to complete short surveys four times per day. The study demonstrated the feasibility and potential of this method. More than 96 percent of the iPhone-based surveys were completed and GPS locations had good accuracy with very little missing data. Plans are underway to analyze the data and develop a larger grant proposal seeking funding for a longitudinal, neighborhood-based study in Chicago utilizing smartphones for data collection among older adults. The National Institute on Aging awarded $3 million to the project,  Activity Space, Social Interaction, and Health Trajectories in Later Life. York Cornwell is a co-investigator on this award running 2016-19.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(UA-85278795-1)