Spring 2011 Awards

Cohort Highlight: ISS Awards Grants to Social Scientists

Clean Water, Health and the Market Mechanism: How Effective is the Market at Allocating Health Goods?
James Berry, Economics

Can Subjects Play Equilibria of Purified Games?
Aaron Bodoh-Creed, Economics

The State of Upstate New York Conference: Resiliency, Partnerships and Innovation
David Brown, Development Sociology
Rod Howe, Development Sociology
John Sipple, Development Sociology

Psychobiology of the Formation of Social Bonds
Richard Depue, Human Ecology

Refiguring Village Studies: New Approaches to Agrarian Change in South Asia
Shelley Feldman, Development Sociology

Rice and Language Across Asia: Crops, Movement, and Social Change
Magnus Fiskesjö, Anthropology

Developing Computational Supports for Frame Reflection
Geri Gay, Communication

Family Dynamics and Song Learning in the Zebra Finch: A New Model for Understanding Social Influences on the Development of Communication
Michael Goldstein, Psychology

Considering Compensation: An Interdisciplinary Research Conference for New Scholars
Kevin Hallock, Labor Economics and HR Studies

Commodity Prices in the Presence of Long-run Economic Relationships

Peng (Peter) Liu, Hotel Administration

Age and Intertemporal Choice Among Aversive Experiences
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Corinna Loeckenhoff, Human Development

Gas Drilling, Sustainability & Energy Policy: Searching for Common Ground

Keith Porter, Law

Institutional Psychotherapy and the Reaction Against “Concentrationism”
Camille Robcis, History

Theorizing in the Social Sciences
Richard Swedberg, Sociology

Credit Card Reforms and Consumers’ Use of Credit Cards
Sharon Tennyson, PAM

An Empire of Complaints: Petitions, Rights and Justice in Eighteenth Century India
Robert Travers, History

Child Custody Decisions in Disadvantaged Families: A Pilot Study

Maureen Waller, PAM

Clean Water, Health and the Market Mechanism: How Effective is the Market at Allocating Health Goods?
James Berry, Economics

This project investigates how effectively the market mechanism allocates health goods. This study has three specific aims. First, we make a methodological contribution by evaluating the effectiveness of willingness-to-pay elicitation mechanisms in the field. Second, we study the extent to which charging for health goods leads to screening – allocating health goods towards those who stand to benefit the most. Third, we study whether higher willingness to pay indicates a stronger treatment effect. We offer water filters for sale to rural households at randomized prices. Our sales mechanism allows us to observe not just a purchase decision, but also the household’s exact willingness to pay for the filter. The randomization of prices allows us to study the relationship between health benefits and willingness to pay. The followup study for which funding is requested will allow us to rigorously measure medium-term (1-year) health effects. We have developed and thoroughly piloted a survey which will yield more accurate data than previous survey rounds. In addition, our survey measures risk aversion and several other factors which may influence willingness-to-pay as measured through our elicitation mechanism. After the followup has been completed, we will be in position to start the next phase of the project which will further investigate measurement strategies for willingness to pay and will study willingness to pay when a financing mechanism is offered.

Update: In May and June of 2011, the follow-up survey was successfully completed in 648 of the households in the original study sample. The initial findings are that, while filters reduced diarrhea among children in the short term, these effects dissipate after one year. However, there is heterogeneity in these effects: after one year, the filters are more effective for households within certain ranges of willingness to pay. The PIs will be completing the working paper from this study by the end of the spring 2012 semester. Once the paper is completed, the PIs intend to apply for funding for additional work on strategies for eliciting willingness to pay. Media coverage includes, ISS’ Spring 2011 Small Grant Awardee, James Berry, Identifies Useful Education Reforms in India.

Can Subjects Play Equilibria of Purified Games?
Aaron Bodoh-Creed, Economics

Our study examines why subjects fail to play mixed strategy equilibria in zero sum games. Prior research suggests that experimental subjects do not follow the predictions of game theory and that subjects cannot bring the skills and heuristics used in real-life economies into the laboratory. These results call into question the external validity of laboratory experiments (Palacios-Huerta and Volij 2008, Wooders 2010). First we will test whether agents can learn to play pure strategy, Bayesian Nash equilibria in purified games, analogs of complete information games that are relevant for external validity (Harsanyi 1973). Second, we will explore whether the failure to play mixed strategy equilibria is due to the subjects’ inability to randomize or a failure of the equilibrium conditions of the game. Finally, we will extend our results to more complex games to test the robustness of our results.

Update: As an initial step the research team completed a review of the literature on the ability of experimental subjects to successfully randomize according to game theoretic predictions.  With the techniques developed in the prior literature in mind, Ned Augenblick (a co-PI located in the Haas school of business) developed a novel internet based tool to allow the experimental subjects to play our game and provide a rich data set on the subjects’ decisions throughout the experiment.  Initial data gave relatively weak evidence for our hypotheses, but also suggested a number of additional anomalies that warrant exploration.  Over the summer Dr. Bodoh-Creed and his co-authors will continue to explore the data and plan to revise the experimental procedures to better understand both the veracity of the original conjectures and explore the novel behaviors that appeared during the initial experimental series.

The State of Upstate New York Conference: Resiliency, Partnerships and Innovation
David Brown, Development Sociology, Rod Howe, Development Sociology and John Sipple, Development Sociology

2011 Cornell University’s Community and Regional Development Institute will host a State of Upstate New York Conference in June 2011 in Syracuse, NY. This will feature the expertise of social scientists from Cornell and several other universities, elected and appointed local and state officials, and public and private sector leaders. A strong regional focus on Upstate recognizes that communities and cities will be more successful in meeting their development goals if they understand their challenges and opportunities in a regional context. Upstate New York is comprised of dynamic regions each with their own set of assets and challenges. The conference will focus on urban/suburban/rural issues and inter-dependencies across various upstate regions across nine key thematic issues including economic development, energy, healthcare, and education. The event will be data-driven, policy-relevant, and focused on community resiliency, partnerships and innovation.

Update: In response to the myriad challenges and changes facing Upstate NY, the Community & Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) organized a State of Upstate NY conference held in Syracuse in June 2011.  A central goal for the conference was to foster a data driven dialogue around nine issue areas (Economic Development, Workforce Development, Income & Poverty, Local & Regional Governance, Schools & Youth, Health Trends, Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources, Energy, and Agriculture & Food Systems).  Serving as a basis for the conference panel discussions, CaRDI developed a Chartbook which combined public opinion data from a specially commissioned survey with secondary data.   The “Upstate Updates”  highlight data, resources, and CaRDI publications on each of these nine topic areas and may be viewed at http://devsoc.cals.cornell.edu/outreach-extension/.

Psychobiology of the Formation of Social Bonds 
Richard Depue, Human Ecology

The capacity to form social bonds is critical to the survival and group cohesion of human beings. Thus, it is important that the experiential and neurogenetic foundations of this capacity be understood. The formation of social bonds involves many component processes, including consummatory reward, associative conditioning, sensory-perceptual and attentional processes, and social memory formation. We have developed tasks to assess all of these components, and now, in this proposal, seek to assess whether the tasks are sensitive to individual differences in (i) the trait of social closeness, which assesses the capacity to form social bonds, and (ii) u-opiate and oxytocin activity. The development of tasks representing, and sensitive to variation in, the capacity to form social bonds will lay the foundation to assess their relation to genetic polymorphisms in dopamine, u-opiate, oxytocin, and vasopressin receptors, which contribute to bond formation and which is to be funded through an external grant.

Update: The capacity to form social bonds is critical to the survival and group cohesion of human beings. Thus, it is important that the experiential and neurogenetic foundations of this capacity be understood. The formation of social bonds involves many component processes, including consummatory reward, associative conditioning, sensory-perceptual and attentional processes, and social memory formation. We have developed tasks to assess all of these components, and now we have assessed whether the tasks are sensitive to individual differences in (i) the trait of social closeness, which assesses the capacity to form social bonds, and (ii) the u-opiate and oxytocin receptor genes. During Spring 2011, we ran one preliminary study of 50 participants and during Summer 2011 revised the six tasks on the basis of those data. In Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, we ran 70 participants on all six tasks, and collected saliva for the purpose of genotyping them on SNPs in the u-opiate and oxytocin receptor genes. We are currently analyzing the data on the six tasks, which should be complete by July 1. The genotyping will be completed in mid-June. Thus, in July and August 2012, we will prepare papers for publication and a grant proposal to continue the research.

Refiguring Village Studies: New Approaches to Agrarian Change in South Asia
Shelley Feldman, Development Sociology

The contemporary conjuncture is a moment of dramatic and rapid change in Agrarian life. Forms of production, and market relations are shifting with the emergence of new agricultural technologies; climate change has led to an increase in the frequency of “natural” disasters such as flooding, cyclones, and food shortages; and there is a rise in the prominence of conservative religious institutions in rural areas that reassert communal politics and offer competing narratives of change and often troubling responses to it. These transformations herald new patterns of migration, transformations in gender relations, new forms of economic insecurity, and erosions of social solidarities. Together they contextualize contemporary rural relations, highlight the salience of spatial and temporal procsses of social change, and constitute the conditions under which people now negotiate the conditions of their lives and livelihoods. We recuperate village studies as a methodological strategy and an epistemic vantage point for understanding current rural contexts in South Asia in the wake of these dramatic changes. Comparative village studies within the region promises to offer suggestive strategies for current understandings and future research since countries within the region have been, and continue to be, the site of important agrarian interventions–new relations of land ownership, green and gene technologies, and rural policy priorities–that require negotiating complex and contingent conditions that shape lives and livelihoods in new ways.

Update: This international workshop was a huge success and the organizers are in the process of securing access to a journal for an edited volume. Speakers included: Payal Arora, Carol Babiracki, Shelley Feldman and Jason Cons, Radhika Govinrajan, Mekhala Krishnamurthy, Satendra Kumar, Dinesh Paudel, Mubbashir Rizvi, Sara Shneiderman.

Rice and Language Across Asia: Crops, Movement, and Social Change
Magnus Fiskesjö, Anthropology

The goal of the international symposium (September 22-25, 2011) “Rice and Language Across Asia: Crops, Movement, and Social Change” is to examine the beginnings and spread of rice agriculture in early Asia, in the light of rapid advances in the field of human genetics as it bears on early population movements, linguistic studies of language diversification, plant genetics, and archaeological and anthropological research on agricultural beginnings and the attending social changes across Asia.

Update: The ISS Small Grant helped us arrange the international symposium “Rice and Language Across Asia: Crops, Movement, and Social Change,” jointly organized September 22-25, 2011 at Cornell by faculty and others from Linguistics, Plant Breeding and Genetics, Asian Studies, and Anthropology at Cornell, and from CRLAO, Paris. The successful symposium examined the beginnings and spread of rice agriculture in early Asia in the light of recent advances in human genetics bearing on early population movements, linguistic studies of language diversification, plant genetics, and archaeological and anthropological research on agricultural beginnings and attending social changes. Over 100 participants attended, both international and Cornell faculty and students: An interdisciplinary Fall 2011 course was offered, coinciding with the symposium. Selected proceedings were already published, in a special issue of Rice, including 12 contributions revised in the light of symposium discussions: Four by archaeologists; four by linguists; one by a team of human geneticists; two by plant geneticists; one by an agricultural economist; and remarks by an anthropologist discussant.

Developing Computational Supports for Frame Reflection
Geri Gay, Communication

An increasingly massive amount of political content and commentary is generated on a daily basis. While some tools exist to help readers and citizens stay abreast of what is being said, less research has been done on helping people keep track of how things are being said. That is, little work has focused on tools that analyze the framing of political issues on a large scale. This project synthesizes concepts from political science and computational linguistics to guide the development of just such tools. These tools are valuable and important for their capacity to promote frame reflection, i.e., critical thinking about how controversial issues are variously framed by different parties. By encouraging such critical reflection, these tools have the potential to enrich political discussion and improve the quality of political deliberation.

Update: This ISS Small Grant helped to support two undergraduate students and one postdoctoral associate, all of whom worked together to create two prototype visualization tools. One tool analyzes a collection of documents about the issue of cap and trade, the other analyzes less organized and more diverse content from political blogs. Both tools are now undergoing evaluation to assess their ability to support frame reflection in these diverse contexts. Furthermore, this grant helped lay the groundwork for a collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, that has resulted in a successful three-year grant proposal from the NSF’s Social-Computational Systems program entitled “Collaborative Research: Improving Online Political Deliberation With Computational Supports For Frame Reflection.” The ISS grant was instrumental in securing this NSF funding of $467,017, which will helped to continue working to improve the quality of online political discussion. Media: Addicted to Facebook? Study Explains Why (2015)

Family Dynamics and Song Learning in the Zebra Finch: A New Model for Understanding Social Influences on the Development of Communication
Michael Goldstein, Psychology

How do infants learn to talk? Recent work in our laboratory has shown that social feedback to infants’ early, immature vocalizations (i.e., babbling) provides crucially important guidance that facilitates speech development and language learning. To better understand the behavioral and neural mechanisms by which social feedback guides vocal development, we will study similar processes in the development of song in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata. The mechanisms by which infants learn to talk and birds learn to sing share parallels at the neural, behavioral, and social levels of organization. The zebra finch is a particularly good model of human vocal learning because young birds are reared by both parents in a family unit, and our preliminary data indicate that the parents are responsive to the immature song of their offspring. We will examine, over the entire period of song learning, the developmental effects of parent-infant social interactions that are organized by immature vocalizing. Data from this longitudinal study will provide the basis for experimental manipulations of family structure and parental responsiveness as well as neural analyses that will assess the effects of social feedback on brain development. Investigating the role of avian family dynamics in song learning will thus inform a mechanistic understanding, at multiple levels of organization, of how human parental responsiveness influences infant communicative development.

Update: ISS funding enabled the collection of pilot data which resulted in an NSF grant application under review, 2 draft manuscripts, and 6 presentations. The pilot data were so compelling that we continued data collection, resulting in the completion of a major longitudinal study on the role of social feedback on the development of vocal learning of the zebra finch. A juvenile male zebra finch learns the song of his father, but siblings from the same family exhibit a wide range of learning, therefore we focused on family context to filtrate out the impacts of maternal and paternal feedback on vocal ontogeny. Families were recorded between 30-70 days post-hatching, and social interactions were analyzed in 15-second time windows. Juvenile and father song were compared when juveniles reached song maturation, at 120 days post-hatching. We found that both parents contributed to juvenile song learning, in ways that challenge current theory. Contrary to the dominant imitation model, which posits learning from passive exposure to adult song, we found that young birds learn by singing immature song and receiving feedback from their parents. For example, non-vocal feedback from mothers, in the form of wing movements and feather fluff-ups, during or immediately after juvenile song increased the song similarity between the juvenile’s and father’s song. Fathers facilitated song learning in their offspring by singing immediately after an immature song. Comparisons of the syntax and specific acoustic features of pre- and post-feedback juvenile song indicate that parental responses facilitate real-time learning of developmentally advanced song. These findings parallel recent discoveries in my lab on social guidance of vocal development in human infants. ISS funding has made it possible for my lab to establish a truly comparative approach to the development of vocal communication, and the songbird and human infant lines of research are increasingly mutually informative.

Considering Compensation: An Interdisciplinary Research Conference for New Scholars
Kevin Hallock, Labor Economics and HR Studies

We are convening Considering Compensation: an interdisciplinary research conference for new scholars to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration and expand the impact of such compensation research, as well as raising the visibility of the emphasis Cornell University places on interdisciplinary scholarship.

Update: This conference will seed further cross-disciplinary collaborative and funded research on pay and income more effectively reaching those influencing workplace compensation practices. The conference to be funded with the remaining ISS funds was postponed till Spring 2013. A verbal agreement for additional sponsorship has been received from the professional association of compensation practitioners. A secondary goal of the conference is to encourage research that also addresses issues with which employers and policy makers are currently struggling, which is why this partnering is so valuable.

Commodity Prices in the Presence of Long-run Economic Relationships
Peng (Peter) Liu, Hotel Administration

The long-term co-movement among commodities is driven by economic relations, such as, production, substitution or complementary relationships. These economic linkages imply that expected commodity prices, which are determined by convenience yields and risk premia among other factors, tend to move with each other. This source of co-movement is not captured by traditional commodity pricing models. Casassus, Liu and Tang 2011 predict an upward sloping correlation structure among commodities that share the long-run economic relationships. We test this prediction using 44 publicly traded commodity futures including energy, softs, livestocks, grains, industry metals and precious metals.

Update: Liu’s research is under way and progressing well. Liu has performed the data analysis portion of the research and presented preliminary results at several conferences (2012).

Age and Intertemporal Choice Among Aversive Experiences
Corinna Loeckenhoff, Human Development

This proposal examines the psychological mechanisms that govern how people of different ages choose to distribute aversive events over time. We propose an experimental paradigm examining age differences in temporal trade-offs among aversive electrodermal stimuli with particular emphasis on the role of anticipatory dread. The expected results will serve as pilot data for a large-scale federal grant application.

Update: The Cornell Healthy Aging Laboratory, directed by Dr. Loeckenhoff, collected pilot data from 40 younger and older adults. Participants experienced individually calibrated aversive stimuli that differed in timing and intensity. Age groups did not differ significantly in perceptual thresholds, maximum bearable intensity, skin conductance responses, or decisions involving trade-offs between the timing and intensity of the stimuli. In contrast, there were significant age differences in anticipated and actual emotional responses with older adults showing lower responsiveness to variations in timing and intensity. These findings have important implications for understanding age differences in healthcare choices. The ISS supported pilot data serve as the basis for two pending grant applications (NIH: R01 and R21 mechanisms) and findings have been submitted for presentation at a national aging conference.

Update: ISS Grant Winner, Loeckenhoff, Receives Early Career Award in Gerontology

Gas Drilling, Sustainability & Energy Policy: Searching for Common Ground
Keith Porter, Law

This interdisciplinary conference will bring together distinguished panelists from law, science, government, and business to discuss energy policy, the global energy market, and the role of the law in sustainability, all through the lens of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The primary focus will be on the local and regional impacts of shale gas drilling. Cornell Law School is uniquely positioned to host such a conference, as it is situated atop rich natural gas fields—land available for drilling development—and is simultaneously part of a world-class research institution invested in creating a sustainable future. The event is an outgrowth of this natural and institutional landscape as well as years of research and local legal work conducted by the Cornell Water Law and Land Use Law Clinics. The conference will produce a working compilation of the legal, economic, and social impacts of shale gas development in an electronic and print guide created from research by faculty, external professional panelists, and law students.

Update: This conference, co-sponsored by Prof. Porter’s Water Law Clinic, had an overflow attendance exceeding 200 people on both days of the event and feedback was positive. The conference accomplished its purpose of fostering a better informed understanding of gas drilling issues and their potential impact on the environment. A direct measure of that outcome was the dialog at the municipal level concerning the pros and cons of enacting bans or moratoria at the local level.  The economic and environmental stakes are immense and the conference served the aim of fostering a sounder basis for decision-making especially at the local level.

Institutional Psychotherapy and the Reaction Against “Concentrationism”
Camille Robcis, History

The goal of this project is to provide an intellectual history of “Institutional Psychotherapy,” a movement that emerged in France after the Second World War. Institutional Psychotherapy was devised by a group of avant-garde doctors appalled by the deplorable conditions of psychiatric care during the war. Psychic life, they argued, was intimately connected to social structures. Thus, treating the psyche meant treating the social. As such, they sought to reform the asylum to make it look and feel less like a “concentration camp,” to make it more welcoming for patients. This project traces the birth of Institutional Psychotherapy in the clinic of Saint-Alban during WWII and follows its development in France until the 1970s with the clinic of La Borde in which various French intellectuals (most famously Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze) were involved.

Update: Professor Robcis finished the research for this project and she is currently in the writing phase.  She travelled to the IMEC in Normandy last May to examine the archives of the La Borde clinic.  She also had access to many of the documents at the Saint-Alban hospital.  She spent two weeks in Barcelona investigating the POUM and another hospital, the Insitut Pere Mata in Reus, where Francesc Tosquelles taught for many years.  She conducted a series of interviews with doctors who worked with him and with political activists who knew him when he was alive.  She is hoping to produce an article from this research this summer and to eventually expand this project into a book that examines the relationship between psychoanalysis and politics more broadly.

Theorizing in the Social Sciences
Richard Swedberg, Sociology

This conference will focus on the theme of how to theorize in the social sciences. While it is common in sociology and social science to emphasize the role of theory and also to have courses in theory, much less attention is being paid to theorizing (and practically no courses exist on this topic). The result of this imbalance between theory and theorizing – both are clearly needed – is that it has become much more difficult to get data and theory together than it has to be. The lack of attention being paid to theorizing is general in social science; and the people who will be invited to the conference will come from different social science disciplines. Theorizing covers such topics as induction, deduction, abduction (imagination-intuition), generalizing, concept formation, creating typologies, model building and much more.

Update: This conference was held on April 21, 2012, in the A.D. White House. Speakers included Jim March, Karin Knorr Centina, Mike Lynch-Stephen Turner, Daniel Klein, Karl Weick, Ronald Paulsen, Trevor Pinch and Richard Swedberg.

Credit Card Reforms and Consumers’ Use of Credit Cards
Sharon Tennyson, PAM

This research examines the impact of changes in credit card regulations on consumers’ use of credit cards. The study uses a unique data source on consumer credit card usage that is available on a monthly basis from 2006 through 2010. The data are obtained from the Ohio State University’s Consumer Finance Monthly (CFM), which interviews a nationally representative sample of 300 to 500 households each month. The survey provides detailed data on credit card ownership, credit terms, usage, and payment behaviors, along with data on employment, income, net worth, and demographics. These data are used to examine the impact of changes in credit card fees and disclosures mandated by the CARD Act of 2009 on consumers’ use of credit cards. Theory predicts that the improved disclosures should reduce behaviors that lead to high long-term costs of credit, with the largest impact observed for consumers who carry credit card debt from month to month. However, theory also predicts that the CARD Act restrictions will reduce credit card availability and worsen the terms of credit, especially for higher risk borrowers. We use the CFM data to test for these effects of the new regulations.

Update: This project has produced a research paper entitled “The Effects of CARD Act Disclosures on Consumers’ Use of Credit Cards.” The paper first examines whether the characteristics of credit card owners and the likelihood of being a revolver appears to have changed in the post-CARD Act environment, and then examines whether and how revolvers’ credit card payment behaviors responded to the policy changes. Results suggest that there are no adverse effects of the CARD Act on consumers’ use of credit cards, but there are at best modest beneficial effects of the Act on consumers’ credit card payment behaviors, and only among the highest-risk borrowers. The research paper is posted on the Social Science Research Network.  The research has been presented in seminars by Lauren Jones at the PAM Graduate Student research forum and by Sharon Tennyson at the Center for Marketing and Public Policy at Villanova University.  It has also been accepted for presentation at two conferences: the American Council of Consumer Interests (presentation made by Tennyson, April 2012) and the Boulder Summer Conference on Consumer Financial Decision Making (presentation to be made by Jones and Loibl, June 2012).

An Empire of Complaints: Petitions, Rights and Justice in Eighteenth Century India
Robert Travers, History

Histories of modern India generally assume that a ‘public sphere’ emerged in the nineteenth century, when Indians began to engage the British colonial state with ‘modern’ techniques of petitioning, public meetings, newspapers, and claims to individual and community rights. My book project aims to rediscover and analyze a vibrant culture of public debate and political critique that pre-dated the colonial period in India. It does this by examining the numerous petitions about rights and justice which flooded the British East India Company after its conquest of Bengal in the late eighteenth century. Arguing for the existence of a vigorous culture of complaint in eighteenth century Bengal, I suggest that many of the elaborate bureaucratic regulations made by British conquerors, and also imperial ideas of racial hierarchy and exclusion, were specifically designed to suppress or deny legitimacy to indigenous forms of politics and public argument. My work suggests further how Indian complaints had a major impact on British politics and the wider British empire in an age of imperial expansionism. An ISS small grant would enable me to continue the complicated and far-flung archival work that is necessary to reconstruct this world of Indian complainers, supporting research travel to manuscript collections in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow to work on both English language and Persian sources. Further, it will enable to me to meet with scholars in Britain working on similar issues in early modern history, and to discuss opportunities for further collaborative exchanges.

Update: Prof. Travers visited archives in Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh) in summer 2011 to consult the private papers of Scottish officials working for the East India Company in the late eighteenth century. From these papers, and from working in the British Library in London, he accumulated materials for his current book project on petitioning as a form of political practice in early colonial India. In November 2011, Prof. Travers presented preliminary findings from this research in a paper titled “Genealogies of the Colonial Public Sphere: Public Space and Political Protest in Eighteenth Century Calcutta,” at the North American Conference on British Studies, Denver, Co.

Child Custody Decisions in Disadvantaged Families: A Pilot Study
Maureen Waller, PAM

Although children in single parent households are now the focus of considerable policy attention in New York and elsewhere, surprisingly little research has examined how economically disadvantaged families make child custody decisions, particularly in situations where parents were never married to each other or separated but did not legally divorce. New York provides assigned counsel in many child custody cases, but some previous research suggests that parents and caregivers may avoid the legal system entirely if they believe this would lead to increased family conflict or problems with other government agencies. The objectives of this pilot project are to identify salient issues related to child custody decisions in disadvantaged families from the perspectives of custodial and noncustodial parents, relative caregivers, and legal, social science, and parenting experts. This pilot project will set the stage for a larger study examining several basic questions, such as: 1) how low-income parents and other caregivers make decisions about child custody; 2) why they may chose to establish informal rather than formal custody agreements; 3) how their ideas about the best interest of their child correspond to legal interpretations of this standard; and 4) the implications of these choices for their access to public benefits, their child support agreements, and their involvement with the child welfare and criminal justice systems.

Update: Professor Waller began work on the first phase of this project using nationally representative survey data to examine the physical custody arrangements of young children following a nonmarital birth.  This research showed that about one-third of unmarried parents who are living apart both report that the child lives in their household full-time.  Regression results suggest that this apparent discrepancy can be explained by the difficulty parents have identifying a custodial parent when children spend a substantial amount of time with their father or parents continue to cohabit “part-time.”  Findings indicate the need to update survey measurement to reflect changes in contemporary families.  This paper will be presented at the PAA meeting in May and will be submitted to a journal this summer.  Data collection for the second phase of the project examining how unmarried parents make decisions about child custody received additional support from a National Institute for Food and Agriculture grant of $135,000 for 2011-2014 on to study child custody decisions in low-Income families. Pilot interviews are expected to take place over the summer. Press coverage includes: (2014) ISS’ Family Project’s Fellow, Maureen Waller, Shares Wisdom with Parenting Educators, Student research guides CCE parent education (Dec 2014)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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