Spring 2014 Awards

Cohort Highlight: Institute for the Social Sciences Grants Awards

Precarious Lives, Desired Futures: Reimagining Lives and Livelihoods
Shelley Feldman, Development Sociology

Audience and Self-Concept in Social Media
Jeffrey Hancock, Communication
Megan French, Communication

Resilience and Ruination in Mountain Communities:  Comparative Regional Settlement Dynamics in the South Caucasus from the Bronze Age to Today
Lori Khatchadourian, Near East Studies
Adam Smith, Anthropology

“Men at Work” (and Family): Caregiving Responsibilities among the Working Class
Beth Livingston, Human Resource Studies
Ileen DeVault, Labor History
Sharon Sassler, Policy Analysis and Management

Congestion Pricing: Equity and Environmental Justice Implications
Michael Manville, City and Regional Planning

Medicaid and the Politics of the Poor
Jamila Michener, Government
Update: Reuters Interview on Trump Winning the Presidential Election

Insurance Competition and Network Offerings
Sean Nicholson, Policy Analysis and Management

Narrative, Metaphor, and Inoculation: Communication Theory to Promote Multi-Sector Approaches to Improving Health
Jeff Niederdeppe, Communication
Colleen Barry, Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University

Law and Social Science Conference – Increasing Inclusion/Reducing Discrimination – What Works?
Pamela Tolbert, Organizational Behavior
Esta Bigler, Employment and Labor Law

Philip Morris in Indonesia: An Ethnography of the Sampoerna Clove Cigarette Company
Marina Welker, Anthropology

Precarious Lives, Desired Futures: Reimagining Lives and Livelihoods
Shelley Feldman, Development Sociology

The increased scholarly recognition of precarious labor draws attention to its descriptive as well as analytic contribution to interpreting a changing employment and security environment. For most, precarious labor is attributed to the shift away from a Fordist production regime toward relations of casualization, flexibilization, and other short-term labor exchanges. For others, it highlights declines in social protections and the constellation of concerns around which social movements have been organized. In the European context, precarious labor draws attention to the changing place of work in one’s life and the balance between securing sustenance and living a full life. For still others, precarity refers to forms of alienation, anomie, exclusion, and insecurity expressed, not only through rising social movements, but also through generational shifts in social expectations, aspirations, and senses of community and belonging. This pilot project explores the relationship between forms of precarious livelihoods and declines in social protection in relation to the expectations and aspirations of young adults and their families. What is the link between structural shifts in the labor market and the changing values that people place on work as a defining feature of their identities? Do precarious workers signal an adaptive preference, a resignification of the meaning of career, play, and family, or resignation, fatalism, and frustration against the increasing risk and insecurity of everyday life? Are these the terms upon which people now explain their experiences and, if so, do these experiences signal distinctive, historically specific relations of new sources of freedom or of alienation and anomie? To explore these questions, this study will employ in-depth, qualitative interviews with young adults attending community college and their family members to identify changing patterns of identity and identification with work, career, and senses of community and belonging that fashion their expectations and aspirations.

Update: The project is fully underway, a review of the literature continues and data collection began this spring semester. The data collection should be complete by the end of the summer with plans to submit a grant proposal to extend the project in August. Completing the IRB first at Cornell and then at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) took longer than anticipated which delayed initiating fieldwork, hence a delay in our original timetable.

A notable proportion of those who attend TC3 view it as a stepping-stone to Cornell or other NYS institutions and make this strategic choice when applying to the College. Others view TC3’s rich vocational and specialty programs as a way to secure employment success and thus choose TC3 despite living in other NYS counties. Preliminary results suggest that fewer than expected are students who differentiate between long-term career goals and secure employment; most value a “good salary” over other aspirations about success. Likewise, parents seem to value job security and “high wages” as the criteria for success and define career as “making a good salary.” Almost all respondents, students and parents alike, worry most about employment and consider the value of particular degrees, ie; nursing, as a way to increase job market success.

Audience and Self-Concept in Social Media
Jeffrey Hancock, Communication
Megan French, Communication

Social media profiles provide rich, detailed depictions of user’s friends, hobbies, interests, and lifestyle. These profiles allow users to construct representations of the self that can have wide and varied audiences, and these new forms of audience raise important questions about how our online representations can transform self-concept. Two experiments are proposed that will investigate the role that perceptions of audience online play in self-concept change. In addition to advancing our understanding of the interaction between the self and behavior in computer-mediated environments, a second goal of the project is to develop an online platform that allows experimenters to manipulate specific features of perceived audience in social media. The development of this technology will provide the platform required to pursue multiple lines of research beyond the proposed studies.

Update: Past research shows that behavior online is incorporated into one’s self-concept, a phenomenon known as identity shift. The ISS funds were used to conduct two experiments examining how perceptions of audience in online contexts influences identity shift, and support for a summer stipend. The first study is examining how audience approval and feedback influence identity shift. The second study looks at the effects of audience size, using a platform developed to enable researchers to vary the number of perceived viewers. Data collected for the first study is being analyzed.  For the second study, data collection is expected to be completed by fall 2015 with 150 participants.

Media coverage: News Feed: ‘Emotional Contagion’ Sweeps Facebook (2014); ISS’ Small Grant Awardee and 2008 Faculty Fellow, Jeff Hancock, Examines Facebook and “Self-Presentation” (2014); Texting Friends or Strangers During Surgery Reduces Pain (2015).

Resilience and Ruination in Mountain Communities:  Comparative Regional Settlement Dynamics in the South Caucasus from the Bronze Age to Today
Lori Khatchadourian, Near East Studies
Adam Smith, Anthropology

This proposal seeks support for archaeological research in the Republic of Armenia under the auspices of a joint American-Armenian initiative known as the Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies (Project ArAGATS http://aragats.arts.cornell.edu). Over the past 15 years, under the co-direction of the PIs and Armenian colleagues, Project ArAGATS has assembled an account of long-term social dynamics in the Tsaghkahovit Plain of central Armenia from the Bronze Age to the modern era. Among the notable findings of our investigations are a number of enduring hiatuses in regional occupation, suggestive of recurrent episodes of social ruination. Such disruptions seem to contravene prevailing tropes of mountain regions—long loci of cultural meaning and religious mythology as the residence of the gods, the site of divine intercession, and primordial homeland—as timeless and static. Indeed, recent studies suggest that the human ecology of mountain environments is uniquely fragile due to their sensitivity to climatic change and the demand both locally and globally for mountain resources. The vulnerability of mountain areas to the challenges of ecological change and socioeconomic development threatens not simply episodic disasters, but the possibility of broad social disruption—the unraveling of institutions and polities—because mountains exert a significant impact on human economic, political, and cultural life. The proposed research investigates understandings of resilience and ruination in the mountains of the South Caucasus by extending the work of Project ArAGATS. As a pilot project, we seek support to initiate a regional survey in the Kasakh River corridor, a region adjacent to the Tsaghkahovit Plain. Our goal is to determine whether the patterns of ruination detected in the Tsaghkahovit Plain are echoed in the lower elevation Kasakh corridor. Based on the results of this research, we will initiate an effort to secure external funding for a multiyear project focused on explaining similarities and differences in settlement patterns of the two regions and tracking the potential impact of paleo-environmental trends.

Update: In the summer 2014, a team of archaeologists that included Cornell’s Lori Khatchadourian and Adam T. Smith launched a pilot survey in the Kasakh River corridor of Armenia  to investigate long-term patterns of human activity. The focus of this preliminary work was to assess the feasibility of survey methods in various sub-valleys of the Kasakh region and to field-test a new tablet-based GIS data collection system. The use of tablets equipped with built-in GPS and a cellular Internet connection allowed the archaeologists to collect data at a high rate of speed and accuracy. In total, 102 sites were recorded, including fortresses burials, and possible settlements. The results of the study demonstrate the feasibility of further research in the region, for which an application to NSF is now pending. Using a DJI Vision 2 Plus quadcopter drone, the team produced a video of the study area.

“Men at Work” (and Family): Caregiving Responsibilities among the Working Class
Beth Livingston, Human Resource Studies
Ileen DeVault, Labor History
Sharon Sassler, Policy Analysis and Management

The Great Recession, and the slow recovery that followed, left many Americans out of the labor force. The predominately male, working-class workers in the construction industry were particularly hard hit. In the shadow of this phenomenon, union administrators noticed a growing trend of men forgoing job opportunities due to child care responsibilities and seeking out emergency child care resources for their families to free them up to accept jobs. This project seeks to investigate how men represented by this union balance the demands of caregiving and paid work, particularly in the wake of the new economic realities that they face. We collect needs assessment data from the entirety of the union and interview a representative subset of union members to create new theory about how household labor and caregiving are restructured along gendered lines among the working class.

Update: Research is proceeding, although at a somewhat delayed pace from the originally proposed timeline. The researchers encountered a small delay with the partnering organization, but they were cleared to continue with data collection in January 2015. After IRB approval, survey collection commenced in March 2015 and will continue through May 2015. Although preliminary data is still being actively collected, the research team has received much positive feedback from other organizations interested in the topic of inquiry who would also like to participate. Plans for rolling out the methodology to more sites is currently underway, as is application to additional granting organizations to support this expansion.

Media coverage: Accents Impact Workplace and Consumer Choices (2014)

Congestion Pricing: Equity and Environmental Justice Implications
Michael Manville, City and Regional Planning

Traffic congestion imposes substantial costs on American society, in the form of pollution, lost time, and accidents. Transportation scholars have long argued that governments should manage congestion by charging dynamic tolls on congested freeways. Few people dispute efficiency of such “congestion pricing,” but observers do worry that tolls may not be equitable. Tolls are regressive, so congestion-pricing could harm low-income drivers. Yet not tolling the freeway also risks harming low-income people, because many low-income people live near congested freeways and are therefore exposed to substantial pollution that arises from congestion. Thus to make sound policy decisions, policymakers should understand the size of these populations at risk. This project estimates the size and socioeconomic status of those populations, for the ten most congested urban areas in the United States. Using travel behavior and socioeconomic data from the National Household Travel Survey and the US Census, this project evaluates pricing’s likely impact on both low-income drivers and low-income residences. The project thus merges transportation policy with public health, and provides a more holistic analysis of how market-priced travel might affect equity and environmental justice.

Update: Congestion pricing could reduce urban highway congestion, but also might disproportionately benefit the affluent while disproportionately burdening the poor. This project demonstrates that this fairness concern also applies to free roads, once the effects of vehicular air pollutin are accounted for. Free urban highways overwhelmingly subsidize the affluent, and the pollution from congested highways disproportionately burdens low-income people who live nearby. Peak-hour road pricing would likely burden some poor drivers, but they are both a minority of the poor and a small minority of peak hour drivers. Moreover, tolling, unlike leaving roads free, generates revenue that could compensate the poor people it harms. The project is in the working paper stage, and the authors expect to submit to a journal by early summer.

Medicaid and the Politics of the Poor
Jamila Michener, Government

As a pillar of the U.S. safety net system, Medicaid provides health insurance for over 70 million low-income Americans. This project undertakes the first comprehensive empirical inquiry into the program’s ramifications for political behavior. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative data, I will explore Medicaid’s broad effects while also considering institutionally mediated differences in the ways its impact is distributed across the population of beneficiaries. By exploring the micro-politics of Medicaid with an eye towards larger contextual patterns, this study underscores how critical intersections between public policy and state political realities shape the politics of the poor and by extension, the health of American democracy. This project was funded by the President’s Council on Cornell Women.

Update: With the support of the Institute for the Social Sciences, Jamila Michener has spent the last year conducting an extensive content analysis of several large newspapers throughout the country. As a result, she now has data that captures over 30 years of media depictions of Medicaid beneficiaries in several different regions of the country. Thus far, her analysis reveals substantial variation across time and space. She is now in the process of examining the implications of such changing media constructions for both policy processes and political behavior. Drawing on this content analysis, as well as data from qualitative interviews and national surveys, Michener will soon complete her first book, tentatively titled, Contexts of Disempowerment: Social Policy and the Political (In) Equality of the Poor. In addition, support from the ISS has also enabled her to secure a Presidential Authority Award from the Russel Sage Foundation.

Media Coverage: Affinito-Stewart Grants Support 12 Women Faculty (2015)

Insurance Competition and Network Offerings
Sean Nicholson, Policy Analysis and Management

The recent passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the creation of the Health Insurance Exchanges has heightened competition between private insurers, with the goal to reduce premiums and improve choice for individuals seeking insurance. Although some literature has demonstrated that competition leads to lower premiums, less is known about how competition affects the quantity and quality of providers available in the offered insurance plans. This project seeks to investigate the effect of insurer competition on the provider networks offered by insurance companies and employers to their customers and employees. This is motivated by concerns that the premium reduction expected to be brought about by the ACA will have the unintended consequence of producing “narrower networks” and reduced choice of physicians and hospitals. Using a proprietary dataset containing medical claims for inpatient and outpatient care submitted by private insurers and large employers nationwide, I will explore whether relatively competitive markets have had narrower provider networks, and whether high-price providers are likely to be dropped from networks over time.

Update: Our initial findings indicate that consumers and employers place significant value on having a broad network of physician practices when selecting health insurance plans. This is particularly true of groups consisting of specialists, such as cardiologists and orthopedists. On average, consumers are willing to pay approximately $1,200 per year to move from the narrowest to the broadest network plan. However, insurer competition does not necessarily lead to the provision of these broader network plans that consumers value. This is due to the fact that in more competitive insurance markets, the physician practices in the greatest demand are able to exert considerable bargaining power to raise negotiated reimbursement rates from insurance plans that wish to include these practices in their networks. This provides strong incentives, particularly for weaker insurers in competitive markers, to offer narrow network plans (i.e., to reduce the sizes of their networks). We are still investigating the extent to which insurers could use network configuration as a tool to offset a weak bargaining position, and how narrow networks affect consumer welfare. These results should be available by the end of 2015 or mid 2016.

Narrative, Metaphor, and Inoculation: Communication Theory to Promote Multi-Sector Approaches to Improving Health
Jeff Niederdeppe, Communication
Colleen Barry, Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University

Social, environmental, and economic factors beyond individual choices drive three major preventable health issues of our time — tobacco use, obesity, and prescription drug abuse. Experts have encountered challenges in convincing Americans to embrace a multi-sector approach to addressing these health issues. We propose to test communication strategies derived from narrative, metaphor, and inoculation theories to encourage citizens to embrace a multi-sector approach to improving health. We will employ a survey-embedded randomized experiment (N = 3,000) to compare the effectiveness of these message strategies to promote multi-sector approaches to reduce smoking, obesity, and prescription drug abuse. In doing so, we will identify strategies effective across health contexts, explore similar features of major health issues of our time, and compare the applicability of theories that have been productively applied to other health domains. The project will also yield insights to overcoming arguments in opposition to these approaches.

Update: This paper combines insights from competitive framing and persuasion research by comparing the impact of inoculation and narrative messages on support for policies designed to reduce obesity, cigarette use, and prescription painkiller addiction. A two-wave randomized experiment (n = 5,007 at time 1, n = 3,901 at time 2) tests whether inoculation and/or narrative messages offset the impact of industry anti-policy messages delivered both concurrently (time 1) and with a one-week delay (time 2). We find that narrative messages outperformed inoculation messages at time 1, although both increased support for health policy relative to the control group. At time 2 only, the inoculation message provided resistance to the persuasive industry anti-policy message, while narrative message effects decayed but remained significant.

Dr. Niederdeppe was a Finalist and $1,500 Runner-Up Prize Winner in the 2016 Frank Prize in Public Interest Communications, given by the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The award stems from the research funded by the ISS small grant.

Media coverage: Americans Oppose Soda Tax (March 27, 2014), ISS’ Small Grant Awardee, Jeff Niederdeppe, Part of Survey Yielding Creative Childhood Obesity Solutions (April 21, 2014), ISS Small Grant Award Winners Byrne and Niederdeppe Receive $3M Grant to Study Tobacco Warnings (July 7, 2014), Like the flu shot, message inoculation won’t last forever (October 2014).

Law and Social Science Conference – Increasing Inclusion/Reducing Discrimination – What Works?
Pamela Tolbert, Organizational Behavior
Esta Bigler, Employment and Labor Law

To prevent legal claims of discrimination, rectify past and potential problems of bias, and ensure workplace equity, many employers have implemented an array of organizational policies and practices aimed at reducing discrimination and increasing inclusion. Surprisingly little evidence exists on the efficacy of such practices or on the conditions that may moderate their impact, although within the last decade, a small body of research has begun to develop within sociology and psychology on this topic. In this context, we propose to hold an interdisciplinary conference to bring together members of three groups – social science researchers who study organizations and social inequality, human resource managers who implement diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices, and lawyers and legal scholars who have crafted legally-mandated organizational remedies in the wake of lawsuits – to discuss the effectiveness of different organizational practices in ameliorating workplace bias and discrimination. Our broad aims are to contribute to both the advancement of academic research on these issues by fostering interdisciplinary exchange and to increase the dissemination of social science research to practitioners.

Update: An interdisciplinary conference, What Works: Reducing Discrimination and Increasing Increasing Inclusiveness in Organizations, in New York City from June 4-5, 2015 is bringing together a select set of lawyers, social science researchers, and senior human resource practitioners to discuss the effectiveness of different organizational practices in ameliorating workplace bias and discrimination. Given the large amount of time and money many employing organizations have invested in various practices aimed at reducing bias and creating more inclusive work places, surprisingly little evidence exists on the actual impacts of such practices. Thus, the interdisciplinary exchange among practitioners and academics is aimed at advancing our understanding of the kinds of practices that are most effective in reducing bias and creating inclusive work environments, and the conditions that affect their efficacy. The participants in the conference include chief human resource officers and chief diversity officers from a number of major corporations, lawyers from well-known plaintiff and corporate law firms, and an international set of sociologists, psychologists and economists.

Philip Morris in Indonesia: An Ethnography of the Sampoerna Clove Cigarette Company
Marina Welker, Anthropology

Smoking rates in industrialized countries have declined since the 1970s, rising dramatically over the same period in developing countries, where international tobacco companies aggressively work to expand markets, curb regulations, and undermine effective anti-smoking strategies. Efforts by Big Tobacco to market ordinary cigarettes in Indonesia, however, have historically met with only limited success. Over 90% of Indonesian smokers consume clove cigarettes (kretek). By acquiring kretek company PT Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna in 2005, Philip Morris International adopted a new strategy to make inroads in a country where two out of three men smoke. Sampoerna was founded in 1913 by a Chinese migrant and orphan in the port city of Surabaya, and was family-owned and -operated for most of its history. Philip Morris’ strategy of “indigenizing” appears to have paid off; since 2008, Sampoerna has been Indonesia’s largest kretek producer, controlling a market share of roughly 30%. I am requesting funding for a month of research in Indonesia in summer 2014 that will lay the foundation for a 12-month ethnographic study of the production, marketing, distribution, consumption, and regulation of Sampoerna cigarettes.

Update: During a month in Indonesia the researcher carried out preliminary ethnographic fieldwork and interviews at the House of Sampoerna museum and factory, developed and renewed research contacts, and identified key sites for future research. The project has subsequently received two external research grants (Fulbright Senior Scholar Award and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Post PhD Grant).