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Research Highlights

Cornell has supported social scientists to study pressing social issues in nuanced, interdisciplinary, and cutting-edge ways. The significant impact of Cornell researchers is demonstrated in the following examples.

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Incarceration’s Impact on Families

An interdisciplinary team from Policy Analysis and Management, Government, and Sociology studied the level and extent to which incarceration affects families in the US. In addition to producing the first estimates of family-level contact with prisons and jails (at the national level, state level, and by demographic group), this research considered criminal justice contact beyond incarceration, current as well as historical family incarceration, and types or levels of family incarceration. Findings include the staggering revelation that nearly half of all people living in the United States have experienced incarceration in their family. One in seven adults has had a close family member spend more than one year in jail or prison—over 35 million people. This data, broken down by race, gender, and family income, provide policymakers, service providers, employers, and researchers with a much more nuanced and detailed understanding of how incarceration impacts American society.

How Can Kids Learn to be Safe Online?

Social Media TestDrive is an interactive educational platform created by researchers in Cornell's Social Media Lab in collaboration with Common Sense Education, and with input from educators in Cornell’s Cooperative Extension and 4-H. TestDrive is an educational program that enables young people to learn and practice digital citizenship skills through a social media simulation. Like a driving simulator for young people learning to drive a car for the first time, TestDrive provides a simulated experience of realistic digital dilemmas and scenarios that young people may encounter as they enter the social media world. Each module is designed to teach a specific social media skill, such as managing privacy settings, smart self-presentation, upstanding to cyberbullying, and news literacy. TestDrive looks and feels like a real social media site, but all the content on the site has been created for instructional purposes. Young people interact with the content through instructions that lead them to build new knowledge and skills, allowing them to practice important social media skills without worrying about negative consequences. The TestDrive platform is now publicly available to kids, parents, and educators--with 40,000 users worldwide so far--and offers an important tool in the effort to teach youth to become prosocial, productive members of the digital world.

Digitizing Down to the Roots of Racist Policing

An interdisciplinary team led by a Cornell historian with collaborators from universities in five states is building an ever-expanding digitized database of fugitives from American slavery. Freedom on the Move (FOTM) is an effort to collect, transcribe, and analyze all of the existing advertisements placed by North American enslavers who were attempting to coerce and capture self-liberating African and African American people. Taken collectively, these runaway ads, with their details of individual lives and agency, constitute a rare source of information about the experiences and resistance of enslaved people that does not appear elsewhere in the historical record. The free, open-source site has been designed so users can transcribe the text of an advertisement, contributing to the trove of information available for scholars, genealogists, and historians. Edward Baptist, the Lead PI on the project, notes that many will see in the surveillance of Africans and African Americans, including the pursuit of runaways, the historical roots of today’s policing of African Americans. In the modern era, both professional and volunteer attempts to police Black movements seem to continue the long tradition of stopping, questioning, reporting, disciplining, and seizing Africans and African American—actions for which ordinary white citizens were rewarded for doing under slavery, from the 1600s to 1865.