Spring 2017 Small Grant Awards

ISS supporting faculty research projects, conference

Conference

The Farm to Plate Conference: Uniting to Create, Educate, and Celebrate a Sustainable and Equitable Local Food System
Rachel Bezner Kerr, Development Sociology
Noliwe Rooks, Africana Studies

Projects

Unions and the Postwar European “Economic Miracle”
Murillo Campello, Johnson Graduate School of Management
Mathew Baron, Johnson Graduate School of Management

Gender Inequalities in Social Media Work: Digital Labor as a New “Pink Ghetto”?
Brooke Duffy, Communication

Mobile Phones in Public
Lee Humphreys, Communication

Promoting Healthy Eating among Poor Children: Information, Affordability, and Accessibility on Food Consumption in Ethiopia
Hyuncheol Bryant Kim, Policy Analysis and Management

Social Influence and Reward Learning in Discriminatory Decision Making
Amy Krosch, Psychology

Promoting Conservation of a Risk-Laden Species Using One Health Risk Messaging: The Case of White Nose Syndrome in Bats
Katherine McComas, Communication
Bruce Lauber, Natural Resources
Heidi Kretser, Natural Resources

Access Denied: Poverty, Politics and Civil Representation
Jamila Michener, Government
Mallory SoRelle, Lafayette College, Government and Law

Further Education During Unemployment
Zhuan Pei, Policy Analysis and Management
Pauline Leung, Policy Analysis and Management

Presence in Mediated Social Interactions Leads to Absence from the Here-and-Now
Andrea Stevenson Won, Communication

When Do People Perceive Their Positive Outcomes as Unfair?
Emily Zitek, Industrial and Labor Relations


Unions and the Postwar European “Economic Miracle”
Murillo Campello, Johnson Graduate School of Management
Mathew Baron, Johnson Graduate School of Management

This grant would facilitate the gathering of new historical data to study the role of labor policies driving the 1950s-1960s European “economic miracle”. The project proposes to test a variety of hypotheses about the role of wage moderation and coordination, in particular, how these policies may have led to increased corporate investment, debt financing, and research and development (R&D), which, in turn, led to higher productivity growth and rising living standards across the income distribution. The grant would mainly be used to digitize and translate yearly financial statements of the largest 400 European firms over the period 1948-1965, effectively building a database similar to Compustat for U.S. firms. This data would be combined with new historical data on wages and labor supply in 1950s Germany, which would also be collected and transcribed from archival sources with the help of this grant. This new database would eventually be made public to other researchers. This project seeks to establish the importance of labor policies in driving long-term economic growth.

Gender Inequalities in Social Media Work: Digital Labor as a New “Pink Ghetto”?
Brooke Duffy, Communication

Although the role and status of women in technology fields—including computer design, programming, and software engineering—remain astonishingly low, the rise of a digital media economy has furnished new opportunities for those aspiring to work with technology. Social media communication, which entails representing and promoting brands and products on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, signals a new media career field seemingly dominated by young women.1 Yet, this sector has also been described as a “pink ghetto” (Levinson, 2015)—not just because of the mostly female workforce, but also because the profession is predicated on invisible labor, the assumed link between communication and femininity, and other hallmarks of under-valued, feminized work. This project explores the culture and practice of social media promotional work, with an emphasis on gender and other social inequalities. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with current and former social media workers, Duffy examines the extent to which these modes of work reproduce or challenge the gendered division of labor in media and technology. More broadly, her project considers whether this seemingly ideal career represents an updated version of the 20th-century feminine laboring subjectivity—one defined by work that’s always-on, relationship/communication-oriented, and foregrounds reputation management.

Mobile Phones in Public
Lee Humphreys, Communication
This request is for funding to help complete a project exploring the use of mobile phones in public space. The prominence of mobile devices in public space cannot be under-estimated. While survey research has explored people’s attitudes about mobile phones in public, little empirical research exists that examines behaviors surrounding mobile phone use in public. The last systemic observational analysis of public mobile phone use in the US was published in 2005 and the mobile media landscape has changed dramatically since then with the rise of smartphones. Using both observational and interview methods, this project will help to develop systematic knowledge about how and why people use mobile devices in public.

The Farm to Plate Conference: Uniting to Create, Educate, and Celebrate a Sustainable and Equitable Local Food System
Rachel Bezner Kerr, Development Sociology
Noliwe Rooks, Africana Studies

The Food, Agroecology, Justice, and Wellbeing collective is a research group consisting of graduate students, faculty and post-doctoral students from across the university, including Development Sociology, Africana Studies, Crop and Soil Sciences, City and Regional Planning, Nutritional Sciences and Ecology. Their overarching interests are on the intersections and connections between the broad themes of agroecology, food sovereignty, food justice, health and well-being. In May 2017 they are co-hosting a 3-day conference bringing together academics, farmers, community organizations and government representatives with Cornell researchers—including junior and senior faculty, postdocs, and graduate students. The conference is being co-organized with local organizations Roots Rising Farm, Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, and Cornell Cornell Cooperative Extension. More information can be found at: http://groundswellcenter.org/farm-to-plate-conference.

Promoting Healthy Eating among Poor Children: Information, Affordability, and Accessibility on Food Consumption in Ethiopia
Hyuncheol Bryant Kim, Policy Analysis and Management

Young children in the developing world often maintain an unhealthy diet with very low dietary diversity, which increases the risk of not only stunting and wasting but also chronic diseases. This research project aims to identify the major barriers to improved complementary feeding and ways to address them in a developing country setting. Formative research suggests the major constraints are information, affordability, accessibility and father’s support. To test these hypotheses, the study will employ a clustered randomized experiment in the context of Ethiopia to examine the effects of nutrition behavior change communication (BCC) for mothers and fathers, food vouchers, peers, and increased market access to nutritious foods on mother’s child feeding behaviors.

Social Influence and Reward Learning in Discriminatory Decision Making
Amy Krosch, Psychology

Discrimination against minority group members is currently on the rise, despite widely held egalitarian beliefs, attitudes, and social norms in the United States. For example, a recent executive order proposed to ban immigrants and refugees based on their minority religion, and vast disparities persist between minority and majority groups despite legislative attempts at equality (e.g., the Civil Rights Act). Although this uptick in discrimination clearly reflects a number of institutional and psychological factors, the processes through which this bias emerges and persists in behavior remain unclear. The current project proposes that the tendency to discriminate against minorities manifests from witnessing majority group members discriminate and the basic reward processes associated with aligning one’s own behavior with peer behavior. Specifically, it proposes that discriminatory behavior can be learned through exposure to peer discrimination via reinforcement learning mechanisms, particularly in contexts where peer alignment promotes group cohesion. This research will utilize an interdisciplinary approach—incorporating social psychology, computational modeling, and cognitive neuroscience—to extend current models of social learning to the domain of intergroup bias and discrimination. Importantly, by examining the processes through which peer influence gives rise to discrimination and the situational contexts that exacerbate this effect, this research will inform more targeted interventions aimed at reducing anti-minority attitudes and behavior.

Promoting Conservation of a Risk-Laden Species Using One Health Risk Messaging: The Case of White Nose Syndrome in Bats
Katherine McComas, Communication
Bruce Lauber, Natural Resources
Heidi Kretser, Natural Resources

Recent years have witnessed growing endorsement of the One Health concept, which emphasizes connections between human, wildlife, and environmental health and well-being. Little is known, however, about how the public might respond to One Health messages, particularly those that draw linkages to shared disease risks. Building on insights into unintended effects of message framing, this project will conduct an online experiment to test messages about white-nose syndrome in bats, a disease that is devastating bat populations throughout North America. Bats are also a risk-laden species as they are a source of rabies, which is a common public health message about bats. The scientific question is whether risk messages can convey the threat that bats face alongside the risks bats pose and still promote positive conservation intentions. If so, these results may offer insight into other similar cases, where wildlife may be cast as primarily a victim or harbinger of disease (e.g., plague in prairie dogs, avian influenza in birds). Bringing together a social science team to work with wildlife biologists and public health officials, this project will contribute to the growing understanding of how a One Health approach may create meaningful opportunities for messaging about wildlife disease and public health as a means to promote long-term conservation and recovery of species facing precipitous declines.

Access Denied: Poverty, Politics and Civil Representation
Jamila Michener, Government
Mallory SoRelle, Lafayette College, Government and Law

In the United States, civil statutes protect crucial economic, social, and political rights. Some of the functions of civil law include preventing evictions, advocating on behalf of public assistance beneficiaries, representing borrowers in disputes with debt collectors, safeguarding women from abusive relationships and resolving family related disputes. Such legal protections are often most critical to low-income women, particularly women of color. This project will examine the political causes and consequences of civil legal representation. The researchers will investigate three core questions:
1) How do political institutions (like federalism, executive power, and political parties) shape the state and national policies that determine access to civil legal representation?
2) How does access to (or lack thereof) civil legal assistance affect the political attitudes and actions of low-income Americans?
3) How does civil legal representation more broadly affect the contours of American politics (e.g. by helping to identify problems with policies, providing an avenue for holding government institutions accountable etc.)? Together, these inquiries fruitfully merge macro-institutional and micro-behavioral approaches to studying an imperative facet of inequality.

Further Education During Unemployment
Zhuan Pei, Policy Analysis and Management
Pauline Leung, Policy Analysis and Management

Recognizing that the labor market increasingly values highly skilled workers, recent policies have focused on encouraging the unemployed to pursue further education. However, while the returns to education for traditional students is unambiguously large, the evidence for unemployed workers is scarce. This project proposes to estimate the effect of additional education on future labor market outcomes for unemployed workers during and in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The study will use high quality administrative data from the state of Ohio, which link together unemployment insurance claims, earnings and enrollment, course completion and degree receipt in public higher education institutions. Two methods will be applied to estimate the causal effects of further education: 1) an instrumental variable method that relies on the variation in enrollment induced by the exogenous changes in unemployment benefit generosity, and 2) a class of matching methods that incorporates new insights from the machine learning literature.

Presence in Mediated Social Interactions Leads to Absence from the Here-and-Now
Andrea Stevenson Won, Communication

Spatial proximity is a key predictor of social relationships, but mediated interactions give us the opportunity to connect with people who are spatially remote from us. However, ease of connection through media does not completely do away with the effects of distance. While media use can make people feel close to remote friends and family, chatting with a socially remote conversational partner can make that person seem farther away than they actually are. This relationship is not just a simple conflation of the categories of social and spatial distance, but rather a key to some of the most notable effects of constant media connectedness. When a person is socially engaged, or “present” with a conversational partner through media, they are less present in their actual, physical environment. The research project described below investigates some potential effects of this phenomenon. The hypothesis is that people who are socially engaged with remote others are less aware of their surroundings than those who are engaged in an equally engrossing task with someone in their physical location. This is because people experiencing high levels of social presence feel themselves, to an extent, to be co-located with their conversational partner. If demonstrated, this explanation has important implications for both pro- and anti-social use of media.

When Do People Perceive Their Positive Outcomes as Unfair?
Emily Zitek, Industrial and Labor Relations

People are quick to view a bad event that happens to them as unfair and to view a good event as fair. This research seeks to understand why there is this asymmetry and to demonstrate the circumstances under which people might view their positive outcomes as unfair. If methods from the field of social psychology can be used to propel people to think more deeply and deliberately about their own outcomes, then people might be more likely to recognize when their positive outcomes are unfair. And if people do perceive their positive outcomes as unfair, they might be more likely to engage in charitable behavior and “give back.”