Selected CDE Research Projects
Trajectories and Consequences of Nonmarital Fathering
Marcy Carlson
Father and newborn baby
Funded by NICHD’s Demographic and Behavioral Sciences Branch, this project investigates the factors associated with men becoming unwed fathers and the nature and consequences of unmarried fathers’ involvement with children. This is an important topic, given the large and growing number of men who will have at least one child outside of marriage—and the large fraction of children and mothers who will be exposed to their fathering behavior. Yet, our knowledge about nonmarital fathering and how it affects partners, children, and the fathers themselves remains limited, in part because men are often under-represented in national surveys. This research will provide new information about the process, content, and consequences of nonmarital fathering for children and families and may shed light on the development of sound policies and programs to strengthen families.

Trajectories and Consequences of Nonmarital Fathering project web site
Neighborhood Effects on Health in the Framingham Heart Study and the Role of Social Networks
Felix Elwert
Diagram of a social network
The Framingham Heart Study has followed a group of men and women in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948 in an attempt to identify the common factors or characteristics that contribute to health problems. This research project, led by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University, uses the rich Framingham data to investigate geographic variation in health outcomes and the effect of neighborhood attributes on individual health. Christakis is collaborating with CDE’s Felix Elwert on work investigating the concurrent role of social networks and neighborhoods on individual health outcomes and the effects of specific neighborhood social features on health. Elwert is currently involved in data development for the project, as well as statistical analysis of residential mobility, neighborhood-level variation in individual health outcomes, and the joint analysis of neighborhood and network effects on health. This project is funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Neighborhood Effects on Health project at the Christakis Lab
Exploring Population Concepts in Multiethnic Gene-Environment Interaction Studies
Joan Fujimura
Our project continues our study of whether and how researchers avoid the reification of social categories such as race in biomedical genetic studies of disease. Bioethicists have raised concerns about the linking of different socio-cultural racial groups to differential susceptibilities to common complex diseases. In this NHGRI-funded project we will examine whether and how notions of "population" change, as researchers move from traditional epidemiological studies of cancer incidence to genetic epidemiological studies. Traditional epidemiological studies use socio-culturally defined categories of race and ethnicity to account for environmental differences that may be linked to cancer. These researchers have now shifted their focus to the growing area of research in disease genetics known as "gene-environment interaction" (GxE) research, where such sociocultural categories are being replaced by new technologies that incorporate different ways of accounting for population stratification. We analyze how researchers operationalize "population" in these GxE studies of disease. Project findings will be useful in efforts to recognize and deliberate about the implications of how to use social concepts of race in future GxE and epidemiology studies.
Housing Status and Life Course after Privatization in Russia
Ted Gerber
Social scientists observe that aspects of housing may directly shape outcomes such as the educational and occupational attainment of children, rates of marriage, cohabitation, divorce, and childbearing, and perceived security, happiness, life satisfaction, and political attitudes. But we do not know whether housing has independent causal effects on these outcomes.

The project takes advantage a unique opportunity in contemporary Russia. Under the Soviet system, housing was allocated based on criteria like household structure, age, and seniority at work, not wealth and income. When the Soviet Union collapsed, housing stock was privatized by simply giving residents the property rights to their dwellings. This privatization effectively locked-in the non-market distribution of housing status from the Soviet period. The distribution of housing status today is still based largely on Soviet-era criteria rather than market principles, giving us a unique opportunity to study whether and how housing status exerts independent causal effects on life course outcomes.
Education and HIV Risk among Young People in a High Prevalence Country
Monica Grant
Nowhere are the challenges faced by young people greater, and the benefits of schooling more important, than in countries struggling with the problems of persistent poverty, malnutrition, adverse health, and HIV and AIDS. The Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Study is a seven-year longitudinal study that aims to identify critical aspects of school quality that put adolescents who face the dual challenges of poverty and HIV/AIDS on a safer, healthier, and more productive path to adulthood. This research seeks to uncover those aspects of schooling that will lead to more protective behaviors and lower HIV risk among young men and women. The study is funded by NICHD through the Population Council. Together with study investigators Paul Hewett and Barbara Mensch, Monica Grant is contributing to the design of the survey questionnaire and will supervise data collection in Malawi. Grant's analysis of the data focuses on how education and the HIV epidemic transform family dynamics and child health.

Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Study
Adolescent Sex, Normative Contexts and Well-Being
Eric Grodsky
young couple holding hands
-- with Ann Meier (University of Minnesota) and Bill McCarthy (University of California-Davis)
This project examines how the norms that characterize the social world of adolescents moderate the relationship between their emergent sexual behavior and wellbeing. Our specific focus is on global and local norms that contribute to the normative context of sex. Global norms reflect general, societal expectations that are typically reinforced by parents and other sources of normative influence. These global norms are more accepting of sex among older teens, boys, and those in romantic relationships. Local norms, in contrast, originate in more immediate social settings and may reinforce, modify or repudiate global norms. We examine normative context at three levels, situating adolescents within friendship networks and within schools. The project has two aims. The first aim is to investigate if and how global norms about adolescent sex condition the association between sex and mental health, school engagement, and risky behavior. The second aim is to analyze the degree to which the influence of global norms is contingent on local norms of friends and schoolmates. This project is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (R01HD067190).
Ready or Not? California’s Early Assessment Program and the Transition to College
Eric Grodsky
students walking on college campus
-- with Michal Kurlaender (University of California-Davis) and Jessica Howell (California State University-Sacramento)
The Early Assessment Program (EAP) is an an academic preparation program available to all students attending public schools in California that is designed to reduce the share of incoming freshman at the California State University (CSU) who are in need of remediation. By providing students with information on their college readiness before they begin their senior year of high school, EAP seeks to reduce the barriers students must overcome to successfully make the transition to college. In doing so, it may also serve an important secondary purpose, that of enhancing the curricular alignment between the secondary and tertiary sectors of public education.

In this project we evaluate the effectiveness of the EAP intervention across the diverse population of public high schools in the state and the students they serve. We evaluate two mechanisms, college application and high school course-taking, through which EAP may reduce the share of students at CSU in need of remediation. We also evaluates heterogeneity in the incidence and consequences of compulsory remediation across CSU campuses. This project is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences/U.S. Dept. of Education (R305A100971).
High School and Beyond: Human Capital over the Life Cycle as a Foundation for Working Longer
Eric Grodsky
-- with Chandra Muller and Sandy Black (University of Texas at Austin) and Rob Warren (University of Minnesota)
This project seeks to understand how cognitive and noncognitive skills interact across the life course to shape the education and occupational trajectories of adolescents through their late 40s. We will attempt to collect data from almost 15,000 members of a nationally representative sample of adults who were high school sophomores in 1980. Members of the sample initially participated in a study called High School and Beyond (HSB), funded by the U.S. Department of education. Sample members were surveyed in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986 and most recently 1992. In addition to survey data, HSB collected data from high school teachers, administrators and high school and college transcripts. Students also completed standardized tests in reading comprehension, mathematics, science and civics in 1980 and 1982. This project is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study-As We Age
Pamela Herd
WLS logo
The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) is a long-term study of a random sample of 10,317 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. The WLS provides an opportunity to study the life course, intergenerational transfers and relationships, family functioning, physical and mental health and well-being, and morbidity and mortality from late adolescence through 2008. WLS data also cover social background, youthful aspirations, schooling, military service, labor market experiences, family characteristics and events, social participation, psychological characteristics, and retirement. Survey data were collected from the original respondents or their parents in 1957, 1964, 1975, 1992, and 2004; from a selected sibling in 1977, 1994, and 2005; from the spouse of the original respondent in 2004; from the spouse of the selected sibling in 2006; and from widow(er)s of the graduates and siblings in 2006. The NIA has provided continuous funding for the project since 1991. New interviews with the original participants and their siblings are currently being collected and are expected to be completed by Fall 2012. Final data delivery will occur within six months of exiting the field.

WLS web site
Wisconsin Longitudinal Study: Tracking the Life Course
Pamela Herd
Image of a man and his life events
Why are some individuals happy and healthy in late life, even after experiencing significant stressful events over the course of their lives? The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), ongoing since the original 1957 interviews with survey participants and families, provides a unique scientific resource for the study of aging and the life course. The WLS: Tracking the Life Course group of research projects brings together investigators from many academic disciplines, including sociology, demography, public health, economics, psychology, neuroscience, social work, nursing, and medicine. The projects take advantage of the rich WLS data, in combination with other data on population aging, to examine topics such as how end-of-life planning affects well-being for both the dying and bereaved family members; how parenting a disabled child affects the lives of the parents during their retirement and old age; and why higher levels of education are associated with better physical and mental health throughout our adult lives. These and other projects using the WLS data are funded by the NIA as a coordinated program of projects.
A Longitudinal Resource for Genetic Research in Behavioral & Health Sciences
Pamela Herd
GWAS image
This project will conduct genetic analysis on 10,000 participants in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), a highly productive 53-year long study of the life course of Wisconsin high school graduates of 1957 and their randomly selected siblings. WLS data cover cognition; social and economic background; educational, career, and family histories; earnings, income, and wealth; psychological and health measures; and multiple causes of death. Researchers, via varying mechanisms, will have access to all of the genetic and phenotypic data WLS has to offer. Further, our procedures and mechanisms to access these data are designed to reduce barriers to access and use, while still ensuring protections for our research participants. Adding genetic data to the WLS will help to create a consortium of large longitudinal studies of aging with harmonized phenotypic and extensive genomic data, e.g., combining the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, the Health and Retirement Study, and other studies. The project will create a platform for discovery at the frontier of biosocial research.
Fertility After a Large-Scale Disaster
Jenna Nobles
Indonesian homes
The residents of coastal Sumatra were one of many populations devastated by major disasters in the last decade – in this case the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Though studies have captured aspects of economic and structural recovery following these events, few have considered their demographic implications. This NICHD-funded project aims to fill this gap using data from a multi-level, longitudinal study fielded in Indonesia before and after the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Survey of Tsunami Aftermath and Recovery collected data from households in over 500 communities spanning a continuum of exposure to the disaster. Using satellite data to identify exposure variation, we look for temporal trends in the total fertility rate in heavily damaged communities that differ from the temporal trends in undamaged communities. We then develop a series of tests to identify whether the observed fertility trends are best interpreted as resulting from tsunami-driven changes to contraceptive access, family formation behavior, or the demand for additional children.
Health Conditions Among Elderly in Latin America
Alberto Palloni
Elderly Puerto Ricans
This NIA-funded project includes three main components: demographic change in Latin America and the Caribbean, an investigation into the Hispanic Paradox, and the connection between early childhood conditions and adult health and mortality.

The Latin American and Caribbean region is experiencing demographic change of unprecedented speed, with significant shifts in values and preferences and massive overhaul of pension and health systems contributing to uncertainty about the future welfare of the region's elderly. This project is designed to understand various dimensions of this phenomenon.

The first phase of the project concluded with the creation of a data base on elderly people in seven capital cities of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay). This data base is the first to inform various dimensions of aging in the region. It has promoted data analyses on determinants of health status, intergenerational transfers, access and use of medical care, disability and residential arrangements. The project has also served as a model that is being followed in similar data collection undertakings in other countries.

The second part of the project investigates the so-called “Hispanic Paradox” according to which the health and mortality of Hispanic migrants living in the U.S. is better than that of their U.S. white counterparts. Are Hispanic migrants living in the US in better health than non-Hispanics? Are their mortality levels lower? The project is designed to explore alternative explanations using large data sets both in the US and abroad and combines the analyses of health and mortality throughout the life course.

The third part of this research project estimates the correlates of health status changes, disability transitions and mortality in Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. in a comparative perspective. It assigns particular emphasis to the role of early childhood conditions, childhood experiences with illness.It also explores the role of education, income and wealth as determinants of older adults health and mortality.
Mexican Health and Aging Study
Alberto Palloni
MHAS logo
The Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS) is a longitudinal study of Mexican aging, using protocols and survey instruments that are highly comparable to the U.S. Health and Retirement Study. The study design will allow researchers to examine long-term implications for health and aging of the massive migration flows across the Mexico-U.S. border. Researchers first collected data for MHAS in 2000 and 2002 and are currently planning and fielding a 3rd and 4th wave of survey data collection to be completed in 2012 and 2014. The new waves will include collection of important biomarkers to complement information of health elicited from respondents. The study, led by Rebeca Wong of the University of Texas Medical Branch, is funded by the National Institute on Aging. Alberto Palloni is a key member of the team designing and implementing the survey and performing early analysis of the new data. The new data will enable enhanced research on aging and related population changes: of physical and mental health and disability, health behaviors and health care use, family support, aging and the life course, wealth, income, labor and retirement, migration and old age, and mortality, in a developing country aging fast with limited institutional support for individuals in old age. The data will enable cross-period and cross-cohort analyses of health and aging, and will be highly comparable with other similar studies in developed and developing countries, in particular the United States, enhancing the study of aging and health with a cross-national perspective.

Mexican Health and Aging Study web site
Early childhood conditions, reproduction of socioeconomic inequalities and the persistence of health disparities
Alberto Palloni
This project analyzes the relationship between early health conditions, adult socioeconomic attainment, and adult health in the US and the UK. The first goal of this study is to document the impact of early health conditions on adult socioeconomic and adult health outcomes. If early health status influences socioeconomic status attainment and health accumulation throughout the life course, then early health contributes to explain, albeit partially, the persistence of health disparities among individuals of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. The second goal is to identify the main pathways through which early health status influences individuals' adult socioeconomic and health status. We hypothesize that the long-term impact of early health depends in part on the different cognitive and non-cognitive skills that individuals with disparate health conditions acquire throughout their childhood and adolescence. We are using multiple data sets for the US (WLS, HRS, ECLS-K, NSLY) and the 1957 and 1970 British cohorts Studies for the UK.
Changes in Family Structure and Economic Well-being in Twenty Nations
James Raymo and Marcy Carlson
The goal of this project is to advance our understanding of relationships between family behaviors and economic well-being. To this end, we use comparable data from nearly two dozen industrialized countries to describe socioeconomic differentials (measured primarily by education) in family behaviors and to evaluate how particular family transitions are linked to economic well-being. We assess whether these relationships are primarily due to educational differences in the prevalence of particular family transitions (i.e., social selection) or to the consequences of family transitions for economic well-being. We also consider the extent to which observed differences across countries may depend on characteristics such as public policies or aggregate economic circumstances. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Family Change in Japan
James Raymo
Part of Raymo's longer-term study of family change in Japan, this project focuses on the well-being of single-mother families. Although nonmarital childbearing remains rare in Japan, steady increases in divorce have resulted in substantial growth in single-mother families and about one-in-ten children now living with an unmarried mother. The primary goal of this project is to evaluate the extent to which intrafamilial support, especially via coresidence, is associated with the economic well-being, health, and parenting practices of single mothers. Much of this work will be based on new surveys conducted by the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training.




Interactional Influences on Survey Participation
Nora Cate Schaeffer
-- with Jen Dykema, Dana Garbarski, and Doug Maynard
This research focuses on the critical challenge of recruiting participants for social research surveys, a problem highlighted by the recent National Research Council's (NRC) Panel on a Research Agenda for the Future of Social Science Data Collection . The refusal component of nonresponse has grown steadily in recent years, threatening the ability of surveys to represent the populations from which the samples are drawn. The proposed research examines the reciprocal influence between interviewers and sample members in unique ways that go beyond previous research. For example, when an interviewer engages in persuasive actions, is it because she has somehow perceived cues that this sample member is persuadable? When the interviewer engages in actions that appear to be successful in persuading the sample member, is it simply that a persuadable sample member has provided her the opportunity to do so? The research uses new substantive and methodological approaches and draws on theories of social exchange and reciprocity, conversation analysis and the interaction order, and content analysis. We re-specify "rapport" as the responsiveness of the interviewer and the engagement of the sample member. The empirical investigations exploit a unique collection of pairs of acceptances and declinations in a case control design that uses observations from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study that are matched on the sample members' propensity to participate. The project also fills a gap in knowledge about whether sample members' voices provide interviewers with information that they can use to rapidly form accurate assessments of the likelihood that a call will lead to an interview. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Fundamental Factors Affecting the Wealth and Retirement of Elderly Americans
John Karl Scholz
Nest egg image
This research program, funded by NIA, combines several projects investigating the degree to which American households are financially well-prepared for retirement. What role do children play in wealth accumulation? As any new parent soon learns, children affect consumption and hence wealth. Yet, despite a vast literature relying on the life-cycle model to examine wealth accumulation, few papers focus on the role of children. Our proposed work redresses this imbalance and, in so doing, illuminates a fundamental factor affecting retirement well-being. Are there differences in retirement savings of households in different U.S. birth cohorts? Our previous work found that Americans born between 1931 and 1941 were overwhelmingly on track for financially secure retirements in 1992 (prior to the stock market increases in the second half of the 1990s). We investigate whether these results hold for other cohorts, particularly those born after 1941. How are retirement decisions correlated with expectations and wealth? We use a new model of retirement to study the way retirement expectations and wealth accumulation interact to influence actual retirement decisions. What is the effect of employer-provided pensions on retirement wealth accumulation? Our work develops a rigorous standard for evaluating the adequacy of wealth accumulation. This research will enhance understanding of the effects of changes in the pension landscape on the adequacy of resources available for retirement. We provide a broad, new perspective on the degree to which all Americans are preparing adequately for retirement, the factors affecting wealth accumulation, and how people respond to changes in their financial circumstances.