Spring 2008 Awards

Improving Distributed Collaboration by Understanding Interpersonal Attention
Jeremy P. Birnholtz, Department of Communication

Smoking Cessation Advertisements and Source Credibility
Sahara Byrne, Department of Communication
Alan Mathios, Department of Policy Analysis and Management
Rosemary Avery, Department of Policy Analysis and Management
Philip Sol Hart, Department of Communication

Effect of Maternal Choline Intake On Neurocognitive Development In Infants 
Marie Caudill, Division of Nutritional Sciences
Barbara Strupp, Division of Nutritional Sciences
Richard Canfield, Division of Nutritional Sciences
Eva Pressman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rochester

Schooling, Childbearing, and Work Transitions of Young Women in Africa: Understanding Determinants and Consequences
Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, Department of Development Sociology
David E. Sahn, Division of Nutritional Sciences and Department of Economics
Peter J. Glick, Division of Nutritional Sciences

Agglomeration Effects: The Role of Selection
Matthew L. Freedman, School of Industrial Labor Relations
Jason Faberman, Economist, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Give & Take: Incentive Framing in Compensation Contracts
James W. Hesford, School of Hotel Administration

Human Resources Policies and Discrimination Charges: A Multi-Industry Study
Elizabeth Hirsh, Department of Sociology
Julie A. Kmec, Department of Sociology, Washington State University

A Stitch in Time: Evaluating the Effects of an AP Incentive Program on College Outcomes
C. Kirabo Jackson, Department of Labor Economics

Beyond Diversity: Re-Situating Pluralism Conference 
Karim-Aly S. Kassam, Department of Natural Resources and American Indian Program
Christopher Andronicos, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Bernd Blossey, Department of Natural Resources
Kurt Jordan, Department of Anthropology and American Indian Program
Troy Richardson, Department of Education and American Indian Program
Susan Riha, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science

Minimum Staffing Legislation and the Quality of Health Care: Evidence on Effectiveness and Necessity From a Natural Experiment
Jordan D. Matsudaira, Department of Policy Analysis and Management

Tune in to Governance: An Experimental Investigation of Radio Campaigns in Africa
Devra Moehler, Department of Government
Archie Luyimbazi, Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University

Law Markets & Social Equity Conference 
Annelise Riles, School of Law and Department of Anthropology

Racial Disparities in Patient Care and the Role of Medical Training: An Audit Study
Brian Rubineau, Department of Organizational Behavior
Yoon Kang, Clinical Skills Center, Weill Cornell Medical College

Poverty, Equity, and State Policy: The Move Toward Universal Pre-kindergarten in New York State Rural School Districts
John W. Sipple, Department of Development Sociology
Lisa McCabe, Department of Human Development
Judith Ross-Bernstein, Department of Human Development

Improving Distributed Collaboration by Understanding Interpersonal Attention
Jeremy P. Birnholtz, Department of Communication

As geographically distributed workgroups become increasingly common and important, there is a simultaneous increase in the need for novel and effective communication technologies that enable these groups to do their work. One weakness in existing tools such as instant messaging or video conferencing is that they do not effectively support interpersonal awareness and the initiation of spontaneous informal interactions, which can be crucial to effective collaboration. Improving support for these interactions, however, requires a subtle understanding of how people attend to each other and how to leverage these behaviors in technology design. This project will purchase mobile eye-tracking equipment that will facilitate the first in a series of studies aiming to improve our understanding of interpersonal attention, and to derive direct design implications for designing and implementing novel communication technologies. It is expected that results from this first study will substantially strengthen future proposals for additional resources, and will provide opportunities for collaboration with faculty and students in the computer science and information science programs at Cornell.

Smoking Cessation Advertisements and Source Credibility
Sahara Byrne, Department of Communication, Alan Mathios, Department of Policy Analysis and Management,Rosemary Avery, Department of Policy Analysis and Management and Philip Sol Hart, Department of Communication

This project will advance interdisciplinary research on the efficacy of smoking cessation advertisements. To date, no studies have examined the influence of the identification of an advertisement sponsor on the individual processing of the advertisement. This gap in the literature is surprising because, generally, one of three types of sponsors is easily identifiable in a smoking cessation advertisement: a public health agency, a tobacco company, or a pharmaceutical company. Because sponsors tend to be faithful to a particular strategy or set of strategies, it is difficult to parse out whether the sponsor or the strategy is responsible for the success or failure of an ad campaign. When the sponsor of a smoking cessation ad is clearly identifiable, audiences may be making judgments about the sponsor during exposure and these judgments may influence the outcome regardless of strategy. A randomized, controlled experiment is proposed to test the varying effects of the content of an anti-smoking advertisement and the explicit sponsor, as well as the moderating effect of perceived credibility.

Update: Byrne press coverage includes, ISS Small Grant Award Winners Byrne and Niederdeppe Receive $3M Grant to Study Tobacco Warnings (2014).

Effect of Maternal Choline Intake On Neurocognitive Development In Infants
Marie Caudill, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Barbara Strupp, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Richard Canfield Division of Nutritional Sciences and Eva Pressman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rochester

Early nutrition may have long-term influences on learning, attention and memory; processes that affect individual achievements as well as economic imperatives. The availability of choline, an essential micronutrient, during embryogenesis and prenatal development may be especially important. Choline is the precursor for many important compounds including phospholipids and the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. The developing brain may be especially sensitive to choline availability; in rats, dietary intake of choline by the pregnant mother directly affects brain development and results in permanent changes in brain functions. In 1998, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) established its first choline recommendations for humans, based on the estimated level of choline intake required to prevent liver damage (IOM 1998). However, optimum health may require more choline than current recommendations particularly for fetal brain development. Thus, as an extension of a larger project, the objective of this grant is to provide preliminary data on the relationship between varied human maternal choline intake and indices of neurocognitive development in the infant. In turn, these data will aid in the development of larger grants specifically designed to examine the potential role of prenatal choline consumption on human neurocognitive development.

Update: This research was cited in the article entitled “Several Studies Support the Role of Choline in Fetal Development and Throughout Lifespan,” which was published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July, 2010.

Schooling, Childbearing, and Work Transitions of Young Women in Africa: Understanding Determinants and Consequences
Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, Department of Development Sociology, David E. Sahn, Division of Nutritional Sciences and Department of Economics, and Peter J. Glick, Division of Nutritional Sciences

The decisions of young women and their families about schooling, marriage, childbearing, and work can have profound implications for their own futures and for society as a whole. However, rigorous and policy-relevant quantitative research on these early life transitions in Africa remains rare. This reflects a lack of appropriate data as well as statistical issues that raise challenges for causal inference. This project is designed to improve our understanding of the determinants as well as societal impacts of the key family and economic transitions experienced by young women in Africa. The project will produce several innovative research papers that make use of unique data from Cameroon and Senegal that examine the national schooling impacts of reductions in fertility (Cameroon) and the determinants of schooling duration among young women and men (in Senegal). It will also build formal collaboration networks with African researchers on these issues. Finally, the research will be used as a basis for preparing proposals to seek external funding for follow-up surveys to capture recent family, school, and work transitions, ultimately providing detailed long term longitudinal information on cohorts of young adults.
Update: Population makeup is major factor in global resource allocation (October 2015).

Agglomeration Effects: The Role of Selection
Matthew L. Freedman, School of Industrial Labor Relations
Jason Faberman, Economist, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

We will investigate the extent to which firm learning and selection account for observed geographic agglomeration effects. A vast literature documents positive relationships between the wages and productivity of firms and various measures of agglomeration, effects that persist even after controlling for a broad array of worker, firm, and other local area characteristics. In many cases, researchers attribute the positive observed effects of spatial agglomeration on different outcome variables as evidence of agglomeration economies, suggesting that there may be knowledge spillovers or externalities associated with the geographic clustering of economic activity. However, if one considers a standard model of firm learning and selection (e.g., Jovanovic 1982) and believes that local factors, such as different competitive environments, might affect the parameters of such a model (including the speed of learning, reflected in the variance of signal noise), then it could be the case that observed agglomeration effects are merely the result of firm selection. This project aims to explore the role of selection in explaining observed agglomeration effects using the U.S. Census Bureaus Longitudinal Business Database (LBD). These longitudinally linked micro-data contain information for nearly all non-farm private establishments in the U.S. from 1976 to 2005. The LBD not only contains basic information on firm age, industry, payroll, and employment, but it also provides detailed geographic classifications that will permit us to construct measures of agglomeration at fine geographic levels. This research is not only of broad academic interest, but also has wide-ranging practical and policy implications, as it will shed light on the sources of observed agglomeration effects, the drivers behind differential rates of firm turnover and economic growth across geographic areas, and the potential ramifications of policies aimed at encouraging or discouraging clustered business activity.

Give & Take: Incentive Framing in Compensation Contracts
James W. Hesford, School of Hotel Administration

This research project will examine how the framing of a compensation contract impacts upon managerial work attitudes, performance and dysfunctional behavior (fraudulent financial reporting & the excessive consumption of perquisites). We will also examine how cuing of ethics impacts dysfunctional behavior. Performance contingent pay has increased dramatically since the 1980s and the accounting and practitioner literatures have documented many examples of accounting manipulations by executives seeking to increase their compensation. We will test our hypotheses using a laboratory experiment.

Update: In 2009 this project was highlighted in the Discovery Olin journal in an article entitled “New Study Links Performance Pay to Fraudulent Behavior.”

Human Resources Policies and Discrimination Charges: A Multi-Industry Study
Elizabeth Hirsh, Department of Sociology
Julie A. Kmec, Department of Sociology, Washington State University

In an effort to comply with federal antidiscrimination laws, employers have adopted a host of diversity oriented human resource (HR) policies including diversity training, equal employment offices, affirmative action programs, and grievance procedures. Despite the proliferation of these policies, studies analyzing their impact on employment discrimination, legal compliance, and sex and race equity at work are inconclusive. Some researchers report that diversity-oriented policies facilitate nondiscrimination while others argue that such policies are simply symbolic structures adopted by organizations to minimize legal liability. To address this debate, this project provides a multi-industry study of the adoption and consequences of diversity-oriented HR policies in U.S. work establishments. We will conduct a mail survey of employers HR polices and link the completed survey data to corresponding information on workers charges of discrimination filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. With these data, we will examine the conditions that lead employers to adopt HR policies, the effect of HR policies on the prevalence of discrimination complaints, how employers use HR policies in defending discrimination charges, and evaluate whether diversity-oriented HR policies actually promote gender and race equality at work. This project will be the first to explore how HR policies affect discrimination-charge filings in multiple industries and will shed light on the effectiveness of HR policies for improving workplace opportunities for disadvantaged groups.

A Stitch in Time: Evaluating the Effects of an AP Incentive Program on
College Outcomes
C. Kirabo Jackson, Department of Labor Economics

Across the United States, college matriculation and completion rates for low-income and minority students are much lower than those for non-poor whites. I will analyze a program that was implemented in schools serving underprivileged populations in Texas that pays both students and teachers for passing grades on Advanced Placement examinations with an aim to improving college readiness. The program has been found to increase Advanced Placement participation, improve the SAT and ACT performance and increase the college matriculation rates of affected graduating cohorts at these schools [ Jackson (2007)]. While these findings are encouraging, it is unclear that the program has a persistent and meaningful positive effect on the educational outcomes of affected students. Given the growing popularity of student incentive programs, it is important to determine the long-run effects of such interventions. I will conduct the first evaluation of these types of programs by analyzing the Texas Advanced Placement Incentive Program and estimating its effect on medium-run outcomes such as success at college and college completion for these historically low-performing students.

Update: This project was recently cited in the article “Weighing AP Science,” which was published by the National Science Teachers Association in September, 2011. More on this research can be found in the NSTA Report.

Beyond Diversity: Re-Situating Pluralism Conference
Karim-Aly S. Kassam, Department of Natural Resources and American Indian Program, Christopher Andronicos Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Bernd Blossey, Department of Natural Resources
Kurt Jordan, Department of Anthropology and American Indian Program, Troy Richardson, Department of Education and American Indian Program, Susan Riha, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science

Because both ecological and cultural diversity are necessary for the survival of life on this planet, a new concept of pluralism is not an option, it is a necessity. In the context of dramatic socio-cultural and environmental change, where the so called clash of civilizations must contend with climatic change, global economic uncertainty, and the battle over energy resources; our notion of pluralism must be expanded and enriched. After preliminary discussions with scholars at Cornell and across the nation, we will develop a workshop to explore how our understanding of pluralism can be enriched by adding and integrating perspectives drawn from ecological systems into the socio-cultural context that now defines pluralism. Thus, the notion of pluralism enriched by ecological and cultural diversity will intellectually moor meaningful conversations between applied scholars and practitioners. This project will engage a multi-disciplinary group of Cornell faculty, scholars from Harvard’s Pluralism Project, Fellows of the MacArthur Foundation recognized for cross-disciplinary leadership in environmental sustainability, bio-cultural diversity foundation CEOs, and others. They will participate in a three day workshop that explores the intersections of heretofore discrete conceptualizations of socio-cultural, ecological, and bio-physical approaches to pluralism and diversity. The objectives of the Beyond Diversity: Re-Situating Pluralism workshop include: (1) articulation of an enriched concept of pluralism; (2) identification of new and integrated areas of research; and (3) development of a strategy for further research.

Update: This project concluded in a conference entitled “Beyond Diversity: Re-situating Pluralism” in 2010. More information about this research can be found at the Conference Webpage, which was launched on May 1, 2012. Beyond Diversity: Re-Situating Pluralism presents the work of a group of scholars, practitioners and civil society leaders committed to understanding, promoting and conserving cultural and biological diversity. The group is led by Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam of Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, with members working globally on a broad range of projects in scholarship, policy and practice. The group works across sectors, scales, disciplines and ways of knowing to develop pluralistic solutions to contemporary sociocultural and ecological challenges.

Minimum Staffing Legislation and the Quality of Health Care: Evidence on Effectiveness and Necessity From a Natural Experiment
Jordan D. Matsudaira, Department of Policy Analysis and Management

There has long been a worry in the U.S. that nursing shortages and low nurse staffing levels in nursing homes and acute care hospitals are compromising the quality of medical care that patients receive. Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987, requiring that nursing homes employ above a minimum level of licensed nurses per day. Since then, a number of state governments have experimented with stricter standards with California becoming the first state to mandate a specific number of hours per resident day in 2000. While these laws have been informed by a growing body of literature linking staffing levels to patient outcomes, the causal relationship between staffing levels and patient outcomes has yet to be conclusively documented. Moreover, it is unknown whether government regulation is effective or necessary in boosting the nurse employment levels of health care providers. Indeed, market forces may be sufficient or even more effective in forcing hospitals and nursing homes to make optimal nurse staffing decisions. In this project I plan on investigating these issues through the lens of a policy experiment in California that required a minimum number of nursing hours per patient among nursing homes.

Tune in to Governance: An Experimental Investigation of Radio Campaigns in Africa
Devra Moehler, Department of Government and Archie Luyimbazi, Department of Mass Communication, Makerere University

Can private media help improve government performance by motivating and assisting citizens to hold officials accountable? This research project investigates the influence of private media on individual citizens and local governments in Uganda. Specifically, we are conducting a randomized controlled field experiment whereby private FM radio stations broadcast information about the past performance and current projects of some local governments but not others. Pre- and post-treatment surveys will allow us to compare the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of otherwise similar citizens who do and do not have access to specific information about their local government officials. We will assess which individual-level traits make citizens more susceptible to media influences, and in which ways. We will also compare the subsequent performance of officials who were exposed to the media spotlight and those that were not. Additionally the research will reveal the differential effects of providing information through news bulletins versus talk shows that provide for dialogue between citizens and officials. Finally we will investigate whether the tone of talk show discussions matters more or less than the information content delivered during the shows.

Law Markets & Social Equity Conference 
Annelise Riles, School of Law and Department of Anthropology

The Cornell Law School Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture will host and organize an April 2008 conference entitled Law Markets & Social Equity. Leading scholars from Japan, China, Israel, and the United States, representing a range of disciplines, from law, economics, political science, history, sociology and anthropology, will come to Ithaca for the three-day conference to explore a broad range of new approaches to markets and their regulation. The Law Schools annual Clarke Lecture will kick off the conference on April 24, followed by intensive workshop-style presentations focusing on projects at the intersection of law and the social sciences on April 25 and 26.  The objective of the conference is to take stock of rapid changes in the regulation of national markets in Asia and beyond, and to begin to define new parameters for evaluating and responding to these changes. In particular, we are interested in how new regulatory forms may create new forms of market equality and inequality.

Update: This conference, “Law, Markets, and Social Equity,” was successfully held at the Cornell Law School in April, 2008.

Racial Disparities in Patient Care and the Role of Medical Training: An Audit Study
Brian Rubineau, Department of Organizational Behavior and Yoon Kang, Clinical Skills Center, Weill Cornell Medical College

To mitigate racial disparities in patient care by physicians, medical schools are changing their curricula. These interventions assume knowledge of a currently unanswered question: What is the association between medical training and racial disparities in patient care? We answer this question using data from a natural experiment conforming to a quasi-audit-study design actors of varying racial/ethnic backgrounds trained to present identical clinical cases to medical students. At our research site, medical students have annual encounters with these standardized patients (SPs) during medical school. Thus, we can identify trends in racial disparities in patient care over the course of medical training. Each possible association an increasing trend, a decreasing trend, or no trend has a distinct implication for how these disparities arise, how medical schools should intervene, and which mechanisms merit further research.

Update: This project led to the development of the article entitled “Bias in White: A Longitudinal Natural Experiment Measuring Changes in Discrimination,” which was published in Management Science in November, 2010.

Poverty, Equity, and State Policy: The Move Toward Universal Pre-kindergarten in New York State Rural School Districts
John W. Sipple, Department of Development Sociology, Lisa McCabe, Department of Human Development, and Judith Ross-Bernstein, Department of Human Development

This interdisciplinary project examines the considerable expansion of New York States prekindergarten (pre-K) policy from a targeted (e.g., limited) program to a universal state-wide program (UPK). Specifically, this project examines the incidence and implementation of formal child care and pre-school availability in rural areas during a time of significant policy change (e.g. increased funding and expansion of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs) in New York State. We pay special attention to the rural portions of NYS as very little empirical research has been conducted on early child care and little is known about the impact of universal school-based pre-K programming in rural areas. To address this issue, the project involves two, inter-related streams of research: 1) quantitative data analyses of state-wide early education data bases and census data and 2) case studies of pre-kindergarten implementation in rural school districts. This ISS Small Grant expands the case studies to a fourth school district, and supplements funding already in place to continue the larger project (of 3 case studies and analyses of state-wide data)

Update: This project has designed and implemented a set of financial, demographic, and programmatic tools for school districts in New York State, and are now widely used by school personnel. More information concerning these tools can be found at the New York School Districts Data website. Press coverage of Sipple’s work includes: “ISS’ Small Grant Awardee, John Sipple, Analyzes Sharing of Services Between NYS Schools” (2014), Stemming the outflow of upstate New York’s young people (2014).