IRiSS News Archive

A Deal for Greece

Greeks do not uniformly reject austerity measures, according to a recent New York Times article by IRiSS affiliate, Jens Hainmueller. Instead, most Greeks might approve a deal that would include both spending cuts and steep tax increases, as long some areas — pensions, education and marginal income tax rates — are largely untouched.

Blacks and Hispanics typically need higher incomes than whites to live in affluent neighborhoods

According to new research from Sean Reardon, affiliate of the Center on Poverty and Inequality, middle-class black and Hispanic households live in poorer neighborhoods than white and Asian families with similar incomes. Upward mobility continues to be a problem for many of these populations. Read more.

Paths Out of Poverty

David Grusky, Director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality, was quoted in a New York Times article about the increase in income in adulthood for children whose families moved to a better neighborhoods. Read more.

AAAS members from Stanford

Congratulations to David Grusky, Director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality, for his election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Read more.

Lurkers and the Internet

"The term lurker connotes a low-value role in online communities. Despite making up the majority of members, these invisible individuals are often cast as peripheral players who should be encouraged to participate more fully."

In a recently published article, IRiSS visiting scholar Jocelyn Cranefield and her collaborators argue that "the lurker concept is problematic and that online communities, and the roles associated with them, need to be reconceptualized." Read more in the latest issue of the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.  

How to change global warming's image

CPI and REP affiliate, Robb Willer, explains how finding the right words and language might be the key to changing the political opinions on climate change. Read more in this New York Times article.

More charitable men

Lindsay Owens, Research Affiliate of the Center on Poverty and Inequality, is featured in this Stanford Report article suggesting that men are more inclined to donate money to charities or volunteer time if they believe their self-interest is aligned with that cause.

100 years of artificial intelligence

How will artificial intelligence affect automation, national security, psychology, ethics, law, privacy, and democracy over the next 100 years? Russ Altman, presenter at the 4th Conference on Computational Social Science, will be the faculty director of this study. The committee will identify the most important aspects of AI at a given time and gather a group of experts to analyze and report on those issues. Read more.

MacArthur Genius Grant

Many congratulations to former IRiSS Faculty Fellow Jennifer Eberhardt for being awarded the 2014 MacArthur Genius Grant. Her work targets the predominantly unconscious racial stereotypes that often criminalize African Americans, and the consequences that has in institutions and the justice system. Read more.

What menus really say

Dan Jurafsky, IRiSS Faculty Affiliate, is featured in The Atlantic for his new book, The Language of Food. For this book he analyzed 6500 menus describing 650,000 dishes to reveal the way language, in particular the length and complexity of the word or phrase, correlates to more expensive dishes and restaurants. Read more.

Shripad Tuljapurkar's publication in Demography

The measure of a nation's health is life expectancy. But comparing life expectancies doesn't tell us why one country is better then another: is it a difference in the health of the young, the old, or both? Researchers at Stanford University, in a paper in the journal Demography, show that the US has done worse than other wealthy countries at improving health for working-age adults. Read the Stanford Report article.

In contrast, the US has done about the same as other countries in reducing mortality at ages over 65. These contrasting trends have made the US a strikingly unequal society in the ages at which people die. International comparisons suggest that this trend is set to continue unless the gap in progress against deaths at working vs. retired ages can be closed.

The researchers, Duncan Gillespie, Meredith Trotter and Shripad Tuljapurkar, developed a new method to study the disparity in individual lifespans. For the past 50 years in the US, they found strikingly steady reductions in post-retirement mortality but mortality stagnation at younger working ages.
The lead author, Professor Tuljapurkar, said “when compared with Canada, the U.S. did a poor job of improving working-age health at from 1984 to ’94, and the situation worsened again around 2000. Younger people in Canada clearly benefited from the National Health program implemented  around 1984. The US only has equivalent healthcare for people over 65, through Medicare.”

Read the paper here


In the past six decades, lifespan inequality has varied greatly within and among countries even while life expectancy has continued to increase. How and why does mortality change generate this diversity? We derive a precise link between changes in age-specific mortality and lifespan inequality, measured as the variance of age at death. Key to this relationship is a young old threshold age, below and above which mortality decline respectively decreases and increases lifespan inequality. First, we show for Sweden that shifts in the threshold’s location have modified the correlation between changes in life expectancy and lifespan inequality over the last two centuries. Second, we analyze the post-World War II (WWII) trajectories of lifespan inequality in a set of developed countries Japan, Canada, and the United States where thresholds centered on retirement age. Our method reveals how divergence in the age pattern of mortality change drives international divergence in lifespan inequality. Most strikingly, early in the 1980s, mortality increases in young U.S. males led to a continuation of high lifespan inequality in the United States; in Canada, however, the decline of inequality continued. In general, our wider international comparisons show that mortality change varied most at young working ages after WWII, particularly for males. We conclude that if mortality continues to stagnate at young ages yet declines steadily at old ages, increases in lifespan inequality will become a common feature of future demographic change.

Computing in the social sciences

Dan McFarland, IRiSS faculty fellow, is featured in this Stanford News article about large-scale computing in the social sciences. Read more.

11 Stanford Professors Join the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Congratulations to the 11 Stanford professors elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They join a group of 5200 of the world's most accomplished leaders from academia, business, social policy, energy, global security, the humanities, and the arts, including more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. Read more.

Honoring Donald Kennedy

Stanford trustees dedicated The Donald Kennedy Graduate Residences in Escondido Village to President Emeritus and IRiSS External Advisory Board Member, Donald Kennedy, in recognition of his contributions to Stanford. Read more.

Lucy Liew’s artwork at IRiSS

Through Stanford's Art Spaces program, which gives Stanford the opportunity to exhibit works by local artists, we will be displaying the artwork of Lucy Liew at our 30 Alta Road office. Her current show will be on display until May 1. Read more about the show.

Lucy Liew is a Malaysian-American artist whose work is known for its rich color palette, complex symbolism, and deep cultural iconography.

The Stanford Art Spaces program has had more than 140 exhibits drawing more than 300 different artists to display over 5000 individual pieces of artwork. This makes the program one of the largest galleries in the San Francisco Bay Area

Call for Proposals - February 7 Deadline


IRiSS Seed Grant Program

The IRiSS seed grant program supports proposal development, pilot research, and other activities that advance faculty research projects to the point where they can attract external funding. The program rewards high-risk, high-return research proposals, including work that develops new methods, applies theories or methods to new substantive areas, or translates among previously unrelated theoretical perspectives. Preference is given to proposals from assistant and associate professors with appointments in one of the six social science departments in the school of Humanities and Sciences. Award amounts are capped at $10,000. Since the program's inception, nearly all of the projects have led to subsequent funding proposals, many of which have been awarded external support from agencies such as the NSF, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Learn more

IRiSS Faculty Fellows Program

The IRiSS Fellows Program draws together Stanford faculty from multiple departments to explore cutting-edge research questions with the goal of creating and communicating new knowledge through research publications and in the classroom. Fellows can apply to work on an individual or small group project. There is some bias toward faculty projects that bring together faculty from different disciplines to take advantage of the interdisciplinary environment that IRiSS fosters, but exceptions can be made.

IRiSS Fellows are selected for their potential to develop successful collaborations that lead to new external funding opportunities and the creation of teaching initiatives that may transform social science teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Fellows may also use their time to initiate new project proposals, to further the work of ongoing research programs, or to complete important research efforts and bring them to fruition through publication.

Learn more

The deadline for IRiSS Seed Grant Program and the IRiSS Faculty Fellow Program is Friday, February 7th. Read the detailed Call for Proposals: Seed Grants; Faculty Fellow Program

Reardon and Carter join National Academy of Education

Congratulations to 2012 IRiSS faculty fellow, Sean Reardon, and CPI faculty fellow, Prudence Carter, for their election to membership in the National Academy of Education.  They are part of a group of 14 education leaders from across the country who are being recognized for their prominent contributions to education research. Read the full press release.

Sean Reardon is a Professor of Sociology in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He is also the Director of the Stanford Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Program in Quantitative Education Policy Analysis.  His research focuses on social and educational inequality.

Prudence Carter is also a Professor of Sociology in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on social inequality and the sociology of education.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Keepin’ It Real: School Success beyond Black and White and Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. & South African Schools.

Conference on Social Inequality

Join us on October 25th at the Berkeley-Stanford Conference on Social Inequality! 10/25/2013 10:00am - 4:00pm, 30 Alta Road Read more

Interview with Susan Athey

Susan Athey explains how big data changes business management Read more

2013 CSS RFP Recipients

Congratulations to this year's winners: Charlie Gomez, Rem Koning, Daniel Greene, and Leo Yeykelis. They will receive grants from IRiSS to pursue their computational social science research projects. Read more.

Grad Student Opportunity: public opinion research

The Laboratory for the Study of American Values is taking applications for the upcoming academic year, aimed at helping students writing dissertations about American public opinion.

Request for Graduate Student Proposals, August 2013

Application deadline is September 9, 2013


1. Description of the Laboratory

The lab involves two components: public opinion polls and a laboratory-style seminar.

We are writing to let you know about an exciting opportunity, the Laboratory for the Study of

American Values. The opportunity, sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Social

Sciences (IRiSS), aims to help graduate students who are writing dissertations about American

public opinion. This memo describes the lab and explains how students can apply to participate.

The application deadline is September 9, 2013.


Public Opinion Polls: In academic year 2013–14, we will field several omnibus surveys to

nationally representative samples of U.S. adults. Stanford graduate students will have

opportunities to include questions and experiments that are important for their dissertations, and

they will receive the data at no cost. Our aim is to help graduate students conduct major studies

that will launch their careers.

Whenever possible, we will structure the surveys to fit the needs of Stanford graduate students.

Tentatively, we are planning to run the five surveys over the next twelve months. Four surveys

will involve nationally representative samples; the fifth will involve a special sample of

minorities, such as African Americans or Latinos. Each survey will have 1,000 respondents and

last about 20 minutes. We may adjust this plan if a different sequence of surveys would be more

helpful to lab members. The surveys will be conducted by a prominent internet polling firm.


Laboratory-Style Seminar:

As part of this program, Professors Paul Sniderman and Michael

Tomz will be offering a three-quarter class, “Laboratory for the Study of American Values,”

which will meet in the fall, winter, and spring on Tuesdays, 2:15–5:05pm. Students who want to

include questions on the omnibus surveys must enroll in the three-quarter lab by taking Polisci

423A, 423B, and 423C. The lab will provide training on all stages in the survey research process

and create a collegial environment in which lab members can coordinate their efforts.


2. Applying to Participate

We invite applications from Ph.D. students from the departments of Communication, Sociology,

and Political Science, the Graduate School of Business, and the Graduate School of Education.

Students who participated in 2012–13 may apply to participate again in 2013–14.


Students who wish to participate must submit a proposal (maximum 4 pages) that describes their

research questions, states their hypotheses, and sketches the questions and/or experiments they

would like to include on omnibus surveys. Applicants should email their proposals to Professors

Sniderman ( and Tomz (, and include “Proposal:

Laboratory for the Study of American Values” in the subject line. Proposals are due on

September 9, 2013. Students who are selected to participate will be notified before the start of


President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at Michigan

About the Program

In 2011, the University of Michigan joined in a collaborative partnership with the University of California to offer postdoctoral fellowship opportunities at the University of Michigan. In this program, the University of Michigan now offers postdoctoral research fellowships in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), economics, and political science, coupled with faculty mentoring, professional development, and academic networking opportunities.


The University of Michigan views these postdoctoral fellowships as providing an exceptional opportunity to recruit potential new faculty to the University by offering the possibility of either a postdoc alone or a combined postdoc and tenure track faculty appointment.


The University seeks applicants whose research, teaching, and service will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in higher education. The program is particularly interested in scholars with the potential to bring to their research and undergraduate teaching the critical perspective that comes from their non-traditional educational background or understanding of the experiences of groups historically underrepresented in higher education.



The program is aimed at those interested in pursuing a postdoctoral research fellowship in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), economics, or political science. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents when the application is due will not be considered. Applicants should expect to complete their doctorate on or before July 1 of the year following their application.


Candidates in all fields are evaluated by faculty reviewers in their own fields and in related fields. Faculty reviewers will evaluate candidates according to their academic accomplishments, the strength of their research proposal, and their potential for faculty careers that will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity through their teaching, research, and service. Faculty reviewers will submit their recommendations to the Office of the Provost, where the final selections will be determined.


Terms of Appointment

The University of Michigan President's Postdoctoral Fellowship Program awards fellowships in the fields listed above for research conducted under faculty sponsorship. The annual award provides a salary of $50-60,000, depending on the field and level of experience, and $10,000 for research and professional development. The award also includes enrollment in health plan for fellow and dependent(s), group life insurance, three weeks of sick leave, and one month (non-accrual) of vacation.

President's Postdoctoral Fellows are expected to (1) establish residence and participate in academic life at the campus of their postdoctoral appointment, (2) focus full-time on research and avoid other commitments such as teaching or additional employment, (3) meet regularly with their faculty mentor, and (4) attend the PPFP professional development programs.


Expectations for Mentors

President's Postdoctoral Fellowship mentors are usually tenured faculty who are expected to (1) take an active role in helping the fellow to plan and achieve his or her research goals, (2) assist the fellow in establishing a visible presence in department, (3) facilitate opportunities for the fellow to participate in national and international research meetings, (4) encourage the fellow to focus full-time on research and avoid other commitments such as teaching or outside employment, (5) assist the fellow in seeking opportunities to present papers or to interview for faculty positions, and (6) attend the program professional development activities such as the annual gathering.


Expectations for Host Departments

Host departments are encouraged to welcome the fellow into the department and make every effort to ensure that the fellow is included in communications about departmental colloquia, seminars and social events. Host departments are expected to provide the fellow with information about salary and benefits and administer the fellow’s research and professional travel funds. Host departments are expected to provide the fellow with appropriate office space and routine administrative support. In addition, President’s Postdoctoral Fellows should be provided with opportunities for career development, including consideration for a faculty position at the University of Michigan.


Information about the first two years of the program


Information about the next year of the program (2013 – 2014)

  • On-line applications due to joint University of California-University of Michigan application system by November 1, 2013.
  • Letters of support from up to two University of Michigan tenured/tenure-track faculty mentors and up to two references due by December 2, 2013.
  • Letters of support from University of Michigan department chair/director/dean due by December 2, 2013.
  • See for more information.


Proactive Steps Interested Departments Can Take

  • Cultivate exciting postdoc applicants.
  • Ensure potential faculty mentors get to know potential applicants.
  • Consider bringing potential applicants to campus for an informal visit before the application deadline.
  • Plan how the department might assess applicants’ suitability for a “preemptive” tenure track offer at the same time as the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship is offered.

IRiSS Dissertation Fellows

The Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS) is pleased to announce its first class of Dissertation Fellows.  

The program is intended to support work across the six social science departments within the School of Humanities & Sciences.  Particular encouragement is provided to graduate students whose research crosses disciplinary boundaries, relies upon computational social science methods and analyzes large, complex data sets. However, any social science graduate student at the dissertation writing stage is welcome to apply.  

IRiSS Dissertation Fellows receive a small stipend ($1,500 per quarter) for 1-3 quarters of the 2013-2014 academic year.  They will have access to work/office space and research support services within IRiSS, and will be encouraged to participate in monthly fellows lunch conversations. 

Three graduate students were selected for the 2013-14 academic year.  They are:

Social Networks: The Making of Migrant Sex Workers in Post-Socialist China, Yeon Jung Yu (Anthropology)

Firm Turnover Rate and Development, Huiyu Li (Economics)

Fighting Poverty at Home and Abroad, Lauren Prather (Political Science)



Research Grant Competition

The Institute for Research in the Social Sciences is pleased to announce our second annual research grant competition. The program provides research or RA funding for students who are interested in applying computational techniques to a social science problem. 1-2 page proposals are sought.

Deadline is 8/15.

Send proposals to:

For information:

New IRiSS Job Board

IRiSS is pleased to announce a new page on our web to post jobs that may be of interest to the social science research community. You can find the postings at JOBS. If you'd like to post a job, please send the information to

Future of Survey Research

Funded by the National Science Foundation, IRiSS recently helped Stanford professor Jon Krosnick and Stanford PhD student David Vannette organize two important conferences on the "Future of Survey Research" in Washington D.C. during the fall of 2012.

These conferences brought together many of the leading figures in survey research from academia, government, and the private sector to inform the NSF about current understanding of best practices in doing surveys and opportunities for NSF to fund new work in the area to further improve survey data collection procedures.

Programs from each conference, along with transcripts of the talks, slides shown, and biographies of the speakers are available on our website at

A-REP 2013 Projects Chosen

On January 23, 2013, a volunteer alumni committee met to review researcher applications for participation in the Alumni Research Experience Program, a new initiative of IRiSS in cooperation with the Stanford Alumni Association. Research projects were selected from the departments of sociology, psychology, communications, and design school, mechanical engineering.

The Alumni Research Experience Program engages Stanford alumni as volunteer subjects in online Stanford social science research experiments.

Participants contribute to scholars' examination of important questions of political science, economics, sociology, communication, and psychology. All Stanford Alumni are welcome to participate. Since many social science studies are now conducted online, it is timely, practical, and beneficial to reach out to those closest to Stanford who might enjoy this connection to the University's intellectual environment.

Members of the alumni committee include:

Linda Adler, MA ’87

Joe Delaney ’83

Joe Dew ’89

Theresa Johnson ’06, MS '10, PhD '16

Terrence Satterfield ’98

IRiSS Faculty MOOC attracts 40,000 Students

IRiSS Faculty affiliate Dan McFarland says his MOOC experience has him thinking about ways to improve Stanford students' experience.

Read about Dan McFarland's foray into the world of "MOOC"s, or Massively Open Online Course, where he attracted 40,000 participants and gained valuable insight into engaging students online. Read the whole Stanford Report story here.

Oxford announces Big Data workshop

Continue reading for more information about Oxford's upcoming Big Data workshop.

The Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Sloan Foundation and the Digital Social Research directorate of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC), will be holding a 2-day workshop, 21-22 March 2013 for social scientists who are grappling with the challenges of big data. The workshop is targeted at those who are working at the coal face of big data in the social sciences: those who are doing research using large-scale data and are interested in what this means for the future of the social sciences. Applications are invited from pairs of interested researchers: each should consist of a senior, established researcher paired with a junior colleague, post-doc or doctoral student.


Those who wish to attend the workshop should send an email to indicating interest in the workshop “Big Data: Rewards and Risks for the Social Sciences”.

Deadline for Applications

We invite applications by Monday, 10th December 2012. Applicants are invited to submit approximately 500-750 words about the expertise they bring to the workshop, and what they hope to gain from attending. If you are requesting travel funds you are asked to include a brief annotated budget.

Full Information about the Workshop

For further details and guidelines on how to apply, please see




Chinese Delegation Visits IRiSS

A delegation of Chinese college presidents visited Stanford for a tour of experimental research labs on November 15th, 2012.

Chris Thomsen, executive director of the Institute, presented an overview of interdisciplinary work at the Institute. Carolyn Ybarra, Research Experience Program Coordinator, described the collaborative research program with Foothill College that provides opportunities for college students to participate in Stanford research projects.  The delegation also visited the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging and the Virtual Human Interaction Lab.  On behalf of the Association of Community Colleges and China Education Association for International Exchange, the delegates were participating in a program that brings presidents and vice presidents from technical learning institutions across China to the U.S.  The program is funded by the Chinese government with the support of the Ministry of Education and serves to provide leadership and educational experiences to Chinese college administrators.

The participating Chinese institutions included Zhejiang Technical Institute of Economics, ZiBo Vocational Institute, Huanggang Polytechnic College, Yellow River Conservancy Technical Institute, Yunnan Vocational College of Mechanical and Electrical Technology, Chien-shiung Institute of Technology, Guangxi Technological College of Machinery and Electricity, Yunnan Jiaotong College, Wuhan Polytechnic, Tourism College of Zhejiang China, Shanghai Academy of Educational Science, Guangzhou Panyu Polytechnic, Tianjin Sino-German Vocational Technical College, Chengde Petroleum College, and China Education Association for International Exchange.

Annual Conference on Computational Social Science

On January 11, 2013, IRiSS hosted its second Conference on Computational Social Science. The first conference held last June attracted over 130 faculty and graduate students from 19 departments and schools throughout the university. A schedule and videos of presentatons from the 2013 conference are posted at our CSS website.

Presentations from the last conference are available online at the CSS-2012 conference website.

IRiSS Awards First Computational Social Science Fellowships

The Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS) is pleased to announce the awardees of Stanford’s first competition for graduate student Fellowships in Computational Social Science. The three winners are Henning Piezunka (Management Science and Engineering), Bertrand Schneider, (School of Education and Computer Science) and Rebecca Weiss (Communication).

The fellowship program is a central part of IRiSS’ initiative to develop high quality research in the area of computational social science. This initiative is led by the founding director of Computational Social Science at Stanford, Daniel McFarland. The initiative entails a certificate program, summer workshop, bi-annual conference, and now a student fellowship program. The student fellowships provide graduate students with salary and tuition support, and are intended to promote interdisciplinary research efforts using computational techniques to analyze big data and address important social problems. Students were required to identify faculty advisors from two or more departments.


The three funded research projects are:

“Benevolent Rejection,”  Henning Piezunka

“Applying Network Analysis and Machine Learning Techniques to Exploit Social Eye-Tracking Data,”  Bertrand Schneider

"Distortions from reality: A computational approach to the study of issue salience and coverage in news," Rebecca Weiss


Chris Thomsen, IRiSS executive director, says the graduate students will be formally recognized at the next Stanford Computational Social Science conference to be held on January 11, 2013.


Snipp Assumes New Role with IRiSS

May 21, 2012. Karen Cook announced the appointment of C. Matthew Snipp as deputy director of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences. Snipp, who is the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Humanities and Sciences, has worked with the Institute since its founding in 2004. He will continue to serve as director of the Institute’s Secure Data Center, providing access to microdata of the federal government through the U.S Census Bureau’s network of research data centers.

Snipp, an expert in social stratification, is the former director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. In his new role with the Institute he will help define and develop the Institute’s support for research computing in the social sciences, and provide leadership for many of the interdisciplinary research projects and centers at the Institute. This includes his contributions to the study of social mobility, in collaboration with Professor David Grusky, director of the Institute’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.

For nearly ten years, Snipp served as an appointed member of the Census Bureau’s Racial and Ethnic Advisory Committee. He also has been involved with several advisory working groups evaluating the 2000 census, three National Academy of Science panels focused on the 2010 and 2020 censuses. He also has served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics as well as an elected member of the Inter-University Consortium of Political and Social Research’s Council. He is currently serving on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Population Science Subcommittee. Snipp holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

New Certificate in Cultures, Minds & Medicines

This spring, a new graduate certificate in Culture, Minds and Medicines will be offered through IRiSS. Tanya Lurhmann, the Howard H. and Jessie T. Watkins University Professor in the department of Anthropology, will serve as the director of the program. She is joined by five faculty from three departments who will serve on the steering committee. Luhrmann reported that 40 graduate students have been participating in a workshop since the beginning of the year, featuring speakers from Medical Anthropology, Cultural Psychology, and Medicine. Read more at Cultures, Minds & Medicines.

2012 Stanford Summer Institute in Political Psychology (SIPP), July 15-Aug. 4

SIPP is a three-week intensive training program introducing graduate students and professionals to the world of political psychology scholarship. Special pricing and course credit is available for Stanford students. On-line applications are now being accepted. For details, visit the SIPP website.

IRiSS scholar presents East Palo Alto school transfer program findings

How far can school choice programs go in leveling the playing field?  Insights to the academic and social effects of a local desegregation program on transfer students were presented by Kendra Bischoff at a January 2012 special meeting of the Palo Alto Board of Education, as reported in Palo Alto Online.

Bischoff, whose work at the IRiSS Secure Data Center helped facilitate the findings, focuses on the causes and consequences of racial and economic segregation in neighborhoods and schools, the effect of school context on student outcomes, and civic engagement among disadvantaged youth.

PACS Grants for Student Research

The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) awards small grants to undergraduate and graduate Stanford students who are pursuing research in philanthropy or civil society, for projects such as undergraduate honors theses, master's students capstone projects and doctoral student research.

Applications for Winter Quarter proposals are due Monday, February 6. For details, visit the PACS website.

Praise for Occupy

American National Election Studies (ANES) co-director Gary Segura weighs in on the significance of the Occupy movement in the Boston Review

New Certificate in Computational Social Science

IRiSS is offering a new certificate in computational social science (CSS). The certificate will provide graduate students in social science with intellectual scaffolding and a curricular framework through which they can take computationally challenging classes in natural language processing, network science and data visualization. For details on the certificate or how to apply, visit the CSS webpage

CPI Wins National Poverty Research Center Grant

The IRiSS-based Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality (CPI) has won a $4 million federal grant to establish a National Poverty Research Center which will focus on monitoring trends in poverty and inequality, making them publicly accessible via an online web portal, and developing science-based policies on poverty and inequality. The new center will put Stanford at the heart of an increasingly important national discussion about rising unemployment and how poverty is defined. For more, visit the Stanford Report article.

Assigning Race: When the Clothes Can Make the Man

Determining a person’s race is generally considered as straightforward as scanning for physical cues such as skin tone, hair color and other facial features. However, an interdisciplinary team of researchers recently found that the perception of race can be altered by signals of social status as simple as the clothes a person wears.

In a series of experiments, study participants were asked to determine the race of computer-generated faces—both male and female.  Faces accompanied by business attire were more likely to be seen as White, whereas faces accompanied by janitor attire were more likely to be seen as Black. 

Far from being a straightforward “read out” of facial features, say the researchers, racial categorization represents a complex process shaped by context and the stereotypes and prejudices we already hold.

“Looking the part: Social status cues shape race perception” appears in PLoS ONE, now published online.

Growing out of previous work by Stanford sociologist Aliya Saperstein,the study combined the expertise of two psychologists, two sociologists and a computer scientist from Tufts University, UC Irvine and Stanford. A novel mouse-tracking system developed by the pair of psychologists at Tufts—which records participants’ hand trajectories while using a mouse to select a racial category on the computer screen—was key to revealing the subtlest influences of the status cues. 

Even when participants indicated that a face with low-status attire was "White" or a face with high-status attire was "Black," their hand movements indicated that they were drawn toward the other race stereotypically tied to the status cue. So, when a face with low-status attire was categorized as White, participants' hand movements nonetheless traveled slightly closer to the "Black" response, suggesting a stereotypic link in individuals' minds between Blacks and "low status."

These results were confirmed by computer simulations modeling how categorization decisions are likely to occur inside the human brain. 

Notably, the status cue effects were largest for faces that were the most racially ambiguous. Given recent and projected growth in the multiracial population of the U.S., this new evidence suggests that, even in the absence of clear visual cues, racial stereotyping would continue to exist in American society.

Professor Saperstein (featured at left) recently weighed in on the project:

What motivated this research?

The consensus view in the social sciences is that race is “a social construction,” but there is actually very little research about what, if anything, this means in terms of people’s day-to-day interactions. Most studies of how racial categories or boundaries come to be defined, or how they are defined differently in different contexts, examine large-scale historical changes – like the rise of the “one-drop rule,” which expanded the legal definition of blackness in post-Civil War America to include anyone who had any known African ancestry. My colleagues and I are interested in what a malleable—and not solely biological—conception of race means for how contemporary Americans are perceived by others, or identify themselves, in their everyday lives.

How does the study advance this body of knowledge?

It shows, very simply, that race is about more than a person’s physical features. If you can change how people perceive your race by changing your clothes (or by getting a promotion or demotion in your job), then race is not an “essence” that we hold in our bodies, it is a category we get assigned to socially through interactions with other people. How we perceive another person’s race is determined, in part, by how our brains combine information from both visual cues and the stereotypical associations we hold about racial groups. This is one way that past disparities continue to be relevant today and have the potential to be perpetuated far into the future.

This was an interdisciplinary collaboration with two psychologists, a computer scientist, and two sociologists that builds on existing work on social status and racial classification. How did the collaboration form?

This was indeed a unique collaboration. My colleague Andrew Penner and I previously published some interesting survey results showing that changes in social status experienced over a period of nearly two decades—such as unemployment, incarceration and falling into poverty—were related to changes in how people were racially classified by survey interviewers (e.g.,The Race of a Criminal Record and How Social Status Shapes Race). But with secondary survey data we couldn’t explain why or how these changes came about. So we contacted Jonathan Freeman, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Tufts, after reading some of his previous mouse-tracking research. He and his advisor, Nalini Ambady—who was at Tufts when the study was conducted but has also recently joined the faculty at Stanford—were working on a theory of cognitive categorization that needed some empirical demonstration. It was kind of a match made in science heaven. 

What are the implications of your findings?

The results have really interesting implications for studies of racial discrimination. Usually these studies take the person’s racial classification for granted while trying to show the burden of unfair treatment experienced by particular groups. Our study suggests that you first have to decide what a person’s race is before deciding how you are going to treat them; so, if we can intervene in the process of what psychologists call “person perception,” perhaps we can also disrupt discriminatory outcomes.

It seems that self-awareness is key in order to identify our own prejudices and biases before they cast their die.  Are there any takeaways that individuals can apply in their daily lives?

Great question. People can always be more attentive to their personal prejudices and how they might affect their interactions with others. But the results of this study actually direct attention away from the behavior of specific individuals and towards our shared socialization and the norms and beliefs we hold about others. What needs to be acknowledged is that we live in a society in which race—or what we think about other “races”—plays a role in everything from where we live and how much money we make, to how we interact with and even see each other. Basically, the American legacy of racial discrimination continues to systematically skew how we see our social world.

Fighting Hunger in San Francisco and Marin

As suffering continues during this economic downturn, one can’t help but wonder how those in our own backyard are faring. The Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality’s (CPI) latest working paper does just this by examining how well the Bay Area’s most needy are able to feed themselves. “Fighting Hunger in San Francisco and Marin: An Analysis of Missing Meals and the Food Landscape over the Great Recession” looks at how well food assistance programs are working in the Bay Area and whether public and private sources are keeping up with demand.

The paper’s lead author, CPI Associate Director Christopher Wimer, discusses the significance of the findings.

CPI has a tall order, with so many impacts of the Great Recession on America’s working poor to examine. What motivated this particular study? 

Though the Great Recession that officially began in late 2007 has been both extraordinarily long and deep, we lack rigorous local estimates of how unmet food need, or “missing meals” are expanding or contracting due to increasing need and the efforts of government and nonprofit food providers fighting to reduce that need. So we wanted to help fill this knowledge gap in San Francisco and Marin Counties, where local providers like the San Francisco Food Bank were really interested in seeing how they were doing. We also wanted to understand what the food landscape would look like if some of our major food assistance programs were administered and utilized to their fullest extent.

Tell us briefly about the study.

Our report estimated 1) the total number of meals needed by low-and moderate-income residents to get by, 2) the total number of meals that they could reasonably be expected to provide for themselves, given their income, 3) the number of meals provided by government sources, such as CalFresh (i.e., food stamps) and School Nutrition Programs, which provide free and reduced cost meals in public schools to low-income children, 4) the number of meals provided by the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks, the primary providers of food assistance the two counties, and 5) the number of meals provided by other non-government sources.

From the estimates of these five totals, we then derived the total number of “missing meals,” that if provided, could achieve adequate food security for all residents of these counties.

Overall, the number of meals necessary from 2007-2009 increased by about 19 million meals, as more people found themselves struggling to make ends meet as the recession unfolded. As incomes dropped, the low-income group was able to cover a slightly smaller fraction of their needed meals by themselves.

Fortunately, the number of meals provided by government and private sources during this period increased overall by about 30% and 25% respectively. The resulting number of meals that remained “missing” after provision from all sources declined over the three-year period by approximately 11%. While this percentage may sound small, in actual numbers they translate into roughly 6 million fewer missing meals. All of this reduction occurred in San Francisco, however, whereas meal provision in Marin failed to keep pace with a substantial uptick in the number of people struggling there. So Marin’s situation wasn’t nearly as positive.

It is fair to say that, in tandem, public and private safety nets made a real dent in rising unmet food need during the Great Recession, at least in San Francisco.

 Is it accurate that the findings were a mix of both good and bad news? 

Yes. While we found that the combination of increased food assistance from government and nonprofit sources is substantially helping to reduce food insecurity and hunger, despite the growing numbers of people in need, public programs aren’t being fully utilized. For example, in the case of Cal-Fresh, only 42.8 percent of eligible Californians receive the benefit (as of 2009), meaning that California has the third lowest participation rate in the nation. The average participation rate among other states is closer to 60 percent.

If the three major food assistance programs were fully utilized, we estimate that the number of missing meals in San Francisco county would be entirely eliminated; and in Marin, the number of missing meals would be reduced by about 78%, to about 2.9 million meals.

So, the findings highlight the effectiveness of government programs in fighting hunger, as well as their untapped potential.

Where do you and your colleagues expect the findings will be most useful?

I think policymakers and practitioners are striving to make sure the food assistance safety net is stretching to meet people’s needs, especially as the “recovery” doesn’t seem to be reaching those living in poverty as much as those up the income ladder. Part of why Cal-Fresh (or food stamps) was so successful in meeting needs is that the value of benefits increased because of the Obama administration’s stimulus program. And others have found that food stamp spending goes directly back into the economy because recipients essentially have to spend it when they receive it. So finding ways to tap that untapped potential of safety net programs to meet people’s unmet food needs will be critical to making further inroads into the remaining meals gap.

Fortunately, CPI isn’t missing a beat—it’s conducting follow-up research to understand why these programs are underutilized.

That’s right. CPI has won a grant for a qualitative study of how San Franciscans decide to use food assistance programs. We think that participation is low for a number of reasons, such as lack of information, social stigma attached to receipt of food assistance, and public policies that suppress enrollment (such as fingerprint imaging and quarterly income verification in Cal-Fresh). This project will help us understand the in-depth processes that underlie low-income people’s decisions around food assistance, and therefore help public and private stakeholders improve systems of food assistance delivery, particularly around increasing take-up of healthy foods like fresh produce.

This study was a great example of CPI’s commitment to undergraduate research.

Lucas Manfield was the co-author on the paper and was our Undergraduate Poverty Research Fellow—our annual undergrad researcher that we bring in to get involved with poverty research. And he was truly a great asset to the project. Lucas came to us from the Symbolic Systems major at Stanford, and had a wealth of expertise in computer programming. But at CPI, he was able to turn this expertise toward learning and implementing statistical programming to help us unpack the answers to the research questions underlying this project. He'll undoubtedly be a big success in his post-Stanford career, where he hopes to use his technical and research skills to help improve the world we all live in.

The Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality is part of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences. Visit the paper at For more on CPI’s programs, publications, and events, visit the CPI website (link to

New Pathways Issue Available

Summer 2011 PathwaysThe Summer 2011 issue asks which states and cities are winning the war on poverty and which are making things worse. Read about the Harlem Children's Zone, New York City's innovative Center for Economic Opportunity, the "Wisconsin Experiment" with science-based poverty policy, and the Southern poverty disaster. 

Social Science Job Seekers Have New Carrying Card

Photo of a carrying card

The Methods in Analysis Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) is helping aspiring social scientists land their first jobs-- and establish strong career starts.

When Stanford’s social science students go on the job market, they can earn a certification to accompany their degree, confirming that they have special expertise in social science research methodology. Thanks to a Certificate in Social Science Methodology offered by the Methods of Analysis Program in Social Sciences (MAPSS), a program of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS), Stanford Ph.D. students can develop methodological skills with a focus on advanced cross-disciplinary training in research methods. The expertise, either quantitative or qualitative (or both), is acquired largely through coursework offered across university departments and through participation in a colloquium series.  

David Yeager who recently received his Ph.D. from the School of Education in Developmental and Psychological Science, is one success story. A 2011 MAPSS certificate recipient, Yeager (pictured below at right) took as many methods classes as he could in a variety of departments, for a grand total of 12--far beyond the requirements. With employment options in mind, his goal was to have his disciplinary psychology work speak to broader communities of economists, political scientists, and policy makers.  

The strategy paid off. Yeager’s job search yielded offers in several departments: in a school of medicine doing public health research, a school of applied developmental psychology, a school of education, and a developmental psychology department. “It is relatively rare for someone from an education school to receive offers in disciplinary departments, especially without a post-doc in that discipline,” notes Yeager. “My methodology training, however, helped me to publish in disciplinary journals, which helped search committees see my fit in the discipline.”

In the end, he took the job in the developmental psychology department; he starts as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin in January 2012. “Search committees said that I was a ‘two-for-one’—meaning that I was both a substantive researcher as well as a methodologist. This made me an appealing hire.” 

According to MAPSS co-director James Holland Jones, each social science has traditionally had its own preferred research methods, favoring some and rarely using others. But these barriers are breaking down at an astonishing rate. “Some of the most innovative social science is being done by people who take the time to learn about data collection and data analysis techniques developed and used by disciplines other than their own,” states Jones. “The MAPSS Certificate is designed to encourage Stanford graduate students to be innovators in this way." 

Towards this end, MAPSS aims to enhance researchers' communication skills across disciplinary boundaries. This is achieved as candidates present their work in the MAPSS Colloquium series, where they are challenged by faculty and peers across disciplines on their methods of data collection and analysis. States Yeager, “One of the most valuable parts of your training as a scholar is knowing how to be critical of your own data and avoid designs or interpretations that can undermine your conclusions. The MAPSS talks were one of the most powerful settings for learning and practicing this type of thinking--mainly due to the community's commitment to methodological sophistication and open critique.” 

Fellow certificate recipient Adam Millard-Ball, who received his Ph.D. in Environment and Resources, says the credential helped secure a position as an assistant professor at the Department of Geography at McGill University. “MAPSS helped me to navigate the different methodological traditions in different disciplines and gain exposure to methods that I would not have otherwise come across,” he states. “The certificate also provided formal recognition of my cross-disciplinary methodological training - a helpful asset when on the job market.” 

Certificates were also awarded to Kendra Bischoff (Ph.D. Sociology ‘11), who will be a Visiting Scholar at IRiSS in 2011-12, and Wendy Gross (’12 Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science). More on the certificate and MAPSS program may be found at:

The Inner Workings of Saddam’s Dictatorship

Political scientist Lisa Blaydes is seeking answers about the nature of politics in one of the world’s most iron-fisted regimes—Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Her IRiSS project investigates the mechanisms by which the Baath political party, intelligence agencies, and security forces successfully operated, using over 7 million internal security documents recovered upon Hussein's overthrow. The documents were drawn from the Hoover Institution's collection on the Baath Party, the single largest archive amassed following the fall of an authoritarian regime.

Couchsurfing Connections

Photo by Chris Pyle Last year IRiSS researcher Bogdan State crashed on the couches of an American musician in Reykjavik, Iceland-- all in the name of ethnographic research.  State is working with IRiSS Fellow Paolo Parigi to build a quantitative model of interpersonal trust. They plan to test it using data from, an online community of travelers and hosts with millions of members internationally. For more, visit the Stanford Magazine.

Millionaire Tax: Will It Drive Out Wealthy Californians?

Will a legislative proposal to increase taxes on California’s top earners in order to address the state’s budget woes cause wealthy residents to leave the Golden State? Stanford sociologist and IRiSS affiliate Cristobal Young, who researched tax increases on top incomes in New Jersey, has produced findings which suggest it is unlikely. For the full story, visit this page.


A High Calling for the Class of 2011

IRiSS Faculty Fellow and political scientist Rob Reich, who was chosen by the Class of 2011 as the annual Class Day Lecturer, gave his largest presentation ever to several thousand at Maples Pavilion on Saturday. Reich urged class members to be pioneers of the new social economy, where blurring boundaries between the business, government, and nonprofit sectors are presenting new possibilities for social progress.  For the full story, visit the News Service site.

Lessons from China

China’s rise as an economic powerhouse can offer valuable lessons for other developing nations.  So believes economics professor Kalina Manova (pictured), who was appointed as an IRiSS Faculty Fellow for 2011-12, to pursue research entitled “China’s International Trade and Investment.”  The project will examine how China’s institutional environment and market liberalization allowed its spectacular trade expansion, with the hope of yielding relevant insights to other less developed countries.

For the past two years, Manova has been working with rich proprietary data on Chinese firms engaged in cross-border trade. As she has demonstrated thus far, access to external finance and the ability to produce high-quality products are both necessary conditions for export participation. In turn, trade economists believe that greater access to export markets and the potential technological spillovers through increased participation in international trade can be instrumental in improving economic growth in developing countries.

Manova's IRiSS project, which will produce three distinct papers, will shed light on the factors that allow individual firms to become successful exporters.  For example, results may indicate that governments should encourage investment in technologies that allow firms to produce and export higher quality.  The project will also elucidate the distributional consequences of trade liberalization.  Evidence that bigger firms which use higher-quality inputs and more skilled workers benefit more from trade liberalization, for instance, would imply that trade reforms may bring overall welfare gains at the expense of increased inequality.  Finally, her work will explore the contribution of multinational companies and access to inputs of higher quality from abroad to China's trade activity. A better understanding of these determinants will facilitate the design of growth-promoting policies in the world’s poorest countries. 

Manova is excited about the potential synergies within IRiSS.  Because her study will have direct policy applications for emerging economies seeking to improve their growth prospects and income distribution, she anticipates benefits from the input of scholars with the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.  As it will illuminate how China's experience relates to other less developed countries in the process of economic and political reform, she expects interactions with researchers involved in the Democracy Project of the Social Science History Program to be valuable. 

Manova is confident that the study will increase awareness and understanding of these issues on the Stanford campus. “Undergraduate and graduate research assistants working with me on these papers will be exposed to hands-on knowledge and be motivated to conduct independent research via class projects, senior theses and Ph.D. dissertation chapters. It will be rewarding to see them engaged with the material and using their experience so productively.”

IRiSS Announces 2011-12 Seed Grantees

IRiSS has selected four outstanding faculty to receive seed grants for the 2011-2012 academic year.  The scholars were selected through a competitive proposal process for their work to advance new lines of social science inquiry. 

The IRiSS seed grant program supports proposal development, pilot research, and other activities that advance faculty research projects to the point where they can attract external funding. The program rewards high-risk, high-return research proposals, including work that develops new methods, applies theories or methods to new substantive areas, or connects previously unrelated theoretical perspectives. Proposals are selected through a competitive process, and preference is given to those submitted by assistant and associate professors.

The 2011-12 seed grants are as follows:                   

Lisa Blaydes, Assistant Professor of Political Science—"Repression, Resistance and Regime Durability in Authoritarian Iraq"

A study of the internal workings of authoritarian regimes, using a dataset of over 7 million internal security documents recovered upon the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S. and coalition forces in 2003—a collection which represents the single largest archive amassed following the fall of an authoritarian regime.

Woody Powell, Professor of Education and Sociology and Communication—“Rewarding Performance That Is Hard to Measure: The Diffusion and Impact of Metrics and Evaluation in the Nonprofit Sector”           

An analysis of the various forms of nonprofit evaluation and the sources of not only these tools but the wider enthusiasm for assessment.  Particular attention will be given to how these practices have spread and their impact on nonprofit behavior and performance. 

Florian Scheuer, Assistant Professor of Economics—“Optimal Income Taxation in Economies with Rent Seeking”

An exploration of the legitimacy of recent policy proposals to tax top income earners at very high rates on the grounds that some or all of these individuals are engaged in socially unproductive or counterproductive activities, such as externality imposing speculation the financial sector (e.g. high-speed trading, flipping real estate). It is the first formal study of the implications of rent-seeking activities for optimal income taxation developing a model especially calibrated to the U.S. economy.

Xueguang Zhou, Professor of Sociology—“Elite Mobility and the Intra-organizational Relationship in the Chinese Bureaucratic State”

A study of the emergence of the bureaucracy and its intra-organizational relationships by examining the flow of personnel and career mobility across bureaucratic offices in China, using career mobility data of over 40,000 officials in one province in its entirety for over two decades.  The ultimate goal is to illuminate incentives and personnel management designs within the bureaucracy, and the role of local governments in China’s economic development.

IRiSS Welcomes Faculty Fellows

IRiSS will welcome a diverse cohort of faculty fellows for the 2011-2012 academic year.  Eight outstanding Stanford scholars were selected through a competitive proposal process for their work to advance new lines of social science inquiry.  For research highlights, visit this page.

Research highlights include:


A project tracing rural Chinese children’s schooling, family, and life experiences over nine years and across multiple environments, to explore both the traditional educational pathways and non-traditional, alternative routes to adulthood and upward mobility in one poor, interior province in China.


A study of the internal workings of authoritarian regimes, using a dataset of over 7 million internal security documents recovered upon the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by U.S. and coalition forces in 2003—a collection which represents the single largest archive amassed following the fall of an authoritarian regime. 


A joint investigation with political science professor Barry Weingast exploring how regimes marred by endemic violence, through more transparent and efficient bargaining processes, can change into regimes in which violence rarely occurs, with all the beneficial consequences for economic growth that such a change entails.

  • Kalina Manova, Assistant Professor of Economics-- CHINA’S INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND INVESTMENT

 An examination of how China’s unique institutional environment and gradual market liberalization allowed its spectacular trade expansion, which may yield relevant insights to other less developed countries in the process of reforming their economic and political systems.


A project examining the relationship between pro- and anti-immigrant social movement activity and multicultural policies in five countries in Western Europe during the 1990s, following the events of 9-11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ongoing terrorist attacks which heightened anti-foreigner sentiment. 

  • Rob Reich, Associate Professor of Political Science and Lucy Bernholz, Visiting Scholar, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society--PHILANTHROPY, POLICY AND TECHNOLOGY PROJECT

Examining the 21st Century, technology-driven innovations in philanthropy and civil society with an eye toward updating the 20th Century public policy framework that structures the nonprofit sector.  A high-level and cross-disciplinary mapping of the new “impact economy,” which brings social investing and for-profit companies that produce social returns into the established realm of nonprofit organizations. The changing landscape pits 21st century enterprises against 20th century public policy and regulatory frameworks.

  • Jonathan Wand, Assistant Professor of Political Science--SHAPE CONSTRAINED INFERENCE IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

A contribution to social science research methodology through an examination of the mismatch between the theoretical questions that scholars seek to evaluate and the statistical models from which they draw inferences.  Its broader goal is to advance the training of social scientists in statistical methods and to enhance applied research in the social sciences.  

Joining these eight scholars will be Professors Mike Tomz (Political Science) and Paolo Parigi (Sociology), who will continue as Faculty Fellows in the new year.  Parigi’s project is entitled “Trust Studies in an Internet  Mediated Environment" and Tomz’s project, “The Democratic Peace,” looks at whether democracy contributes to peace, or whether the apparent correlation between democracy and peace is spurious.

In addition to course release, fellows are provided access to research space and support services at the IRiSS offices at 30 Alta Road, and participate in the residential program.  Located in the hills above campus near the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Stanford Golf Course, the facility provides a quiet and undisturbed setting for their work.  For more on the program, visit the Faculty Fellows webpage.

The “Trophy Wife” Stereotype: Myth or Reality?

For years, academic literature has supported the theory of the "trophy wife." Romantic partner selection has been studied by scholars with great interest because of its importance in reproducing group boundaries and social inequalities. According to sociologist Elizabeth McClintock (pictured here), much support has been given to the “market model” which says that partner selection is competitive and that partners trade desirable characteristics for different desirable characteristics.

In this example, a beautiful woman marries a wealthy man to achieve a higher socioeconomic status. Thus, the husband gains a fetching wife despite his own lack of good looks, and she gains wealth and status otherwise inaccessible. The social implications of this model are women’s economic dependency in marriage and the perpetuation of gender inequality.

New research by Elizabeth McClintock (‘11 PhD Sociology), pictured above, challenges this model of partner selection, insofar as it applies to the exchange of beauty for status. Using data from Add Health Romantic Pairs Sample, courtesy of the IRiSS Secure Data Center, McClintock has discovered that the strong tendency towards matching—in other words, for individuals to choose partners with characteristics similar to their own—is more scientifically sound than the market model.

This conclusion was hard-won. McClintock challenged prior literature by noting that the apparent evidence in favor of exchange might instead result from individuals’ tendency to select partners with characteristics similar to their own. She noted the strong empirical evidence that partners tend to be matched on many characteristics, including socioeconomic status and physical attractiveness, and also that individuals of higher socioeconomic status are, on average, rated as more physically attractive. As a result, she argued that the tendency toward matching might create a spurious correlation between one partner's appearance and the other partner's status. Specifically, if attractive women and men are of higher socioeconomic status on average, partner matching on status (or on physical attractiveness) would create a positive correlation between women's physical attractiveness and men's socioeconomic status, and between men's physical attractiveness and women's socioeconomic status, even in the absence of a beauty-for-status trade. In the course of her work, McClintock discovered that prior studies had failed to fully control for matching and for the within-individual correlation between socioeconomic status and physical attractiveness. Because these controls were absent, prior support for the widely-accepted trophy wife stereotype may not be valid.

What might this mean for those searching for a romantic partner? It strongly supports that individuals tend to seek partners with qualities similar to their own—whether it be race, education, physical appearance, or socioeconomic status. Thus, women aren’t really out there looking for men with money, nor are men looking for beautiful women—rather, individuals are seeking relationships that provide compatability and companionship.

The Add Health Romantic Pairs data provided a unique opportunity for McClintock to conduct the study, as it is the only large, nationally representative sample of couples to contain physical attractiveness ratings of both partners. Without this information, says McClintock, it would not have been not possible to test between the market and matching models. The dataset was accessed through the IRiSS Secure Data Center, which is located on Alta Road in the hills west of campus. “I would not have been able to complete this research without support from IRiSS and the SDC,” according to McClintock. “In addition to providing the secure office space that I needed, it is in a beautiful and quiet location and is a great place to work without interruptions.”

Stanford Study Examines Millionaire Tax: Will it Drive Out the Wealthy?

California has seen lively recent debates over extending the state’s “millionaire tax” for five more years. Facing a hazardous budget deficit, recent proposals argue for extending the top current tax rate of 10.3% on incomes over $1 million. Critics and some legislators argue the millionaire tax would cause high earners to move to neighboring lower or no-income tax states Arizona or Nevada.

This “flight of the wealthy” argument was debated in New Jersey recently, a state which is considering taxing its top earners anew after raising their rates significantly in 2004.  The debate was fueled in part by a recent study by Stanford sociologist and IRiSS affiliate Cristobal Young (pictured below), who looked at New Jersey’s taxation experiment and found that the increase in rates didn’t cause an out-migration of millionaires.

The study, which is published in the June 2011 National Tax Journal, examines the migration response to New Jersey’s tax, which raised its income tax rate on top earners by 2.6 percentage points to 8.97 percent, one of the highest tax rates in the country. Drawing on unique state tax micro-data, Professor Young, along with co-investigator Charles Varner of Princeton University, estimated the migration response of millionaires to the rate increase. Their results showed that overall, top earners didn’t move. Only one relatively small subset of the millionaire population – those who are retired and living on investments rather than employment – showed a small migration response. On balance, the tax raises roughly $1 billion per year in new revenue.

Q&A with Cristobal Young

Stanford sociologist and IRiSS affiliate Cristobal YoungWhat motivated this research?

While I was at Princeton, there was a lot of political anxiety about out-migration from New Jersey. But the state has by far the highest population density in country – higher than Japan. In a crowded state, out-migration seemed like the wrong thing to complain about. This irony initially got us interested.

We first did a study showing that out-migration was driven by low-income people and retirees who could not afford to live in the state. They were moving to states that actually taxed them more, but had a lower cost of living.

We then asked, “well, what about the very rich?” We managed to get access to the complete state income tax records, providing a virtual census of millionaires in the state.

What are the study’s implications with respect to California’s current debate over extending a millionaire’s tax? 

If the tax “works” in New Jersey, it certainly works in California. States are so much larger in the west, it makes migrating to a different state tax system much more costly. A bay area millionaire could move to Seattle, but that is an 800 mile move and a big family disruption. New Jersey millionaires could move only a half-hour drive to Connecticut, and sharply cut their top tax rate without leaving the New York Metro Area. We don’t see that migration happening. And the millionaire tax in New Jersey is three times larger than in California.

New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie made some fun of your study, implying that it was a ploy of the liberal academy.  Do you wish to rebut Governor Christie’s comments?

He’s had a few colorful things to say. My favorite line from Governor Christie is, “when you're dealing with professors, certain things that are theoretical are interesting, but guys like me... have to deal with what's real.” Of course, our paper is all evidence.

The Governor’s administration presents data which shows that most millionaires are small business owners, whose flight would reduce the number available jobs.  Is there a similar threat in California? 

They are completely wrong about that. The state’s income tax data shows that only 19 percent of people in the millionaire tax bracket own businesses of any size (small, medium, or large). Moreover, business ownership ties people to their state and makes them less likely to move. We show this in the millionaire data set: those who own businesses are less likely to migrate.

Broadly speaking, how do you hope these findings will be used?

I’m a big believer in evidence-based public policy. I really hope that other states with millionaire taxes, such as California, New York or Maryland, will see value in releasing their tax data.

Media coverage of this issue has fueled debate over whether federal tax policy in recent decades has cultivated a “boom and bust” economy by rewarding speculative investing through low income tax rates.  Do the study’s findings have any bearing on how federal lawmakers makers might approach taxation going forward? 

In the early 1960s, the top marginal tax rate in the US was 91 percent. There was not much point in negotiating multi-million-dollar salaries and stock options: most of that income would be taxed away. As the rate has fallen to 36 percent, there has been a great concentration of income at the top. In New Jersey, the millionaire tax reduced income inequality by a small but noticeable degree.

On this “boom and bust” point-- does a millionaire tax make state budgets more sensitive to the business cycle? 

Yes. This is particularly true in a state like California that tends to have deeper recessions than the rest of the country. States should either bank a significant portion of their millionaire tax revenues, or tie the millionaire tax to the unemployment rate. So, when the unemployment rate rises above average, the millionaire tax is triggered, and when unemployment falls below average, the millionaire tax turns off. This would do a lot to help stabilize state budgets.

Does Poverty Get Under the Skin?

The new issue of Pathways looks at the deleterious effects of poverty on children’s health. Also, former IRiSS affiliates Tomas Jiménez and Laura López-Sanders use Arizona’s controversial immigration law to examine the public policy effects of an illegal immigrant class. For an online issue, see the Pathways webpage.

IRiSS Welcomes Two New Board Members

Henry E. Brady and Craig Falkenhagen were recently appointed to the IRiSS Advisory Board, a prestigious group of individuals who provide the Institute with guidance and counsel. 

Henry E. Brady is Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy and Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.  He received his PhD in Economics and Political Science from MIT in 1980.  He has written on electoral politics and political participation, social welfare policy, political polling, and statistical methodology, and he has worked for the federal Office of Management and Budget and other organizations in Washington, D.C. He is president of the American Political Science Association, past president of the Political Methodology Society of the American Political Science Association, and director of the University of California's Survey Research Center from 1998 to 2009. He is coauthor of Letting the People Decide: Dynamics of a Canadian Election (1992) which won the Harold Innis Award for the best book in the social sciences published in English in Canada, Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (1995) which won the Philip Converse Award for a book making a lasting contribution to public opinion research, Expensive Children in Poor Families: The Intersection of Childhood Disability and Welfare (2000), and Counting All the Votes: The Performance of Voting Technology in the United States (2001). He is co-editor of Rethinking Social Inquiry (2004) which won the Sartori Award for best book on qualitative methods, Capturing Campaign Effects (2006), and the Handbook of Political Methodology (2008). Brady has also authored numerous articles on political participation, political methodology, the dynamics of public opinion, and other topics.  He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2003 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006.

Craig Falkenhagen (’74 MS ’75  MBA ‘89) has served in a variety of volunteer positions at Stanford. He recently completed his term as Chair of the Alumni Committee on Trustee Nominations and has co-chaired numerous class reunion fundraising campaigns. He served as a Regional Chair during Stanford’s Centennial Campaign and later as National Chair of the Personal Solicitation Program. He is active on the Alumni Advisory Board of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Stanford and has served on the board of the Buck/Cardinal Club and on the Board of Governors of Stanford Associates. In 2007, Falkenhagen was awarded the Stanford Medal for his volunteer service to Stanford.                     

Since 2000, Falkenhagen has worked as a volunteer or led numerous local community organizations including two public school foundations, a number of youth sports programs, and a local Boy Scout troop. From 1990 to 2000, Falkenhagen worked in Bank of America’s project finance group in San Francisco where he helped finance power plants, refineries, telecommunications systems and oil and gas projects throughout the developing world. He started work with Exxon in 1975. His engineering, operations and corporate planning assignments took him to the North Slope of Alaska, Santa Barbara Channel, the Permian Basin, and ultimately to the U.K. North Sea for seven years of expatriate life in London. 

Falkenhagen earned his BS and MS degrees in Industrial Engineering in 1974 and 1975 and returned to Stanford twelve years later to earn an MBA in 1989. His wife, Sally, graduated from Stanford in 1975 and is active in Stanford alumni activities, the Junior League and Hidden Villa. Their seventeen year old son, Sam, is a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School where he plays football and baseball and is lead trombone in M-A’s celebrated jazz band. Falkenhagen is a loyal Stanford sports fan and enjoys backpacking in the Sierras.



Faculty Invited to Nominate Undergrads for Summer Institute

The Tikvah Fund and the Hertog Foundation, two private foundations, are sponsoring the Tikvah-Hertog Summer Institute on Economics and the Human Good, which will take place under the auspices of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business from July 31 to August 10.  The Institute will offer 20 to 25 U.S. and international undergraduates an intensive program of study and discussion focused on the relationship between economic history and philosophy and fundamental issues of human well-being. 

The Institute has a website, at  The program is open to current undergraduates in U.S., Israeli, and other international colleges and universities, including those who will have received their undergraduate degrees by the time the program takes place. 

The program will be led by three eminent scholars, including Stephen Haber, who serves as the director of the IRiSS Social Science History Program.  Haber is a leading scholar of the relationship between political institutions and economic growth.  Others are Professor Charles Calomiris of the Columbia Business School, one of the country’s leading authorities on financial institutions, and  Professor James Otteson of Yeshiva University, a professor of philosophy and economics and an authority on the history of modern philosophy and the history and philosophy of economics. 

Students will spend mornings with Professor Otteson in close reading and discussion of the ideas of thinkers such as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek and their implications for issues including the relationship between human nature and economic activity and the connections among economic freedom, political liberty, and moral virtue.  In the afternoons, with Professors Calomiris and Haber, students will study and discuss the application of these ideas to policy-relevant questions: Do market economies produce societies that are more prosperous than others?  Do the social and political costs of markets outweigh their benefits?  Can democracy and personal virtue coexist with markets or do they require a powerful state to constrain markets?

In their discussions, students and core faculty will be joined by eminent outside scholars.  At several evening events, speakers from the worlds of politics and journalism will connect the daily discussions to economic issues on the national and international agenda.

The program is free.  Students will be provided with meals and lodging at Columbia University and, if applicable, overseas air transportation.   Each student will receive a stipend of $1,000.    

Faculty with the knowledge of this field are encouraged to nominate their outstanding undergraduate students for the program.   



For additional information, contact:

Suzanne Garment, Executive Director

Tikvah-Hertog Summer Institute on Economics and the Human Good

Columbia University

The Tikvah Fund

745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1400

New York, New York 10150

212-796-1668 (o)

917-842-4796 (c)


What Resource Curse?

Enter the resource curse -- the idea that the more stuff dug out from on or under a country, the slower it will grow and the higher the risk it will descend into civil war.

The work of Steve Haber, director of the Social Science History Program, and colleagues is cited in a recent publication of Foreign Policy magazine entitled, "What Resource Curse?".

An Asian Dimension to the Stanford Center for Population Research

The Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and its Asia Health Policy Program have joined with other centers and programs across the university as collaborative partners for the new Stanford Center for Population Research (SCPR). For more on the collaboration, visit the APARC website.

Midterm Elections Analysis

Gary Segura, co-director of the American National Elections Studies--the longest-running national study on American politcal opinion, and major indepedent research project of IRiSS--recently spoke with the Stanford Report about the mid-term elections and how President Obama's two years in office helped shape today's political landscape.

Does Rainfall Affect Democratic Stability?

Groundbreaking research in “Rainfall, Human Capital, and Democracy," a new paper by SSHP Director Steve Haber and University of Washington political science professor Victor Menaldo, finds that regions with moderate rainfall support stable democracies, while regions with rainfall extremes cause persistent autocracies.  To visit the discussion, visit the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV or Bloomberg News; for social commentary, visit this WSJ essay; or link to the paper or Powerpoint


A Management Makeover for India's Textile Firms

A new World Bank-Stanford study selected a set of textile factories in India for complimentary management makeovers to study the effects on profitability and efficiency. For co-author Nick Bloom, observing the chaos that reigned in the cotton weaving factories before the consultants arrived was a glimpse into a world without managers. It was also the culmination of an IRiSS seed grant for the groundbreaking research. For details, visit the Washington Post.

GIS Day, Nov. 17

GIS Day is held in over 45 countries during Geography Awareness Week to showcase the work done by those using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geospatial technologies. As part of its ongoing commitment to support the development and integration of geospatial technologies, the University is celebrating GIS Day with an Open House. Included will be a series of lightning talks, a Map Gallery featuring some of the best cross-disciplinary student work and a "Where in the World" contest with prizes. For info on this free public event, visit this site.

Gay Couples' Children

Do gay couples' children succeed in a world dominated by traditional families? Sociologist and IRiSS scholar Michael Rosenfeld sheds new light on this question by bringing facts and figures derived from the country's largest data bank – the Census. For details, visit the News Service.

A Look at Executive Pay

The new issue of Pathways tackles the problem of executive pay, and top experts weigh in. Other topics include:

*Are unions history?
*Did the stimulus work?
*Should low-income parents be paid for good behavior?

Click here for the full PDF of the issue. Pathways is a magazine on poverty, inequality, and social policy produced by the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality.

Uncertainty May Signal Economic Turnaround

After examining 17 prior uncertainty shocks, economist and IRiSS affiliate Nicholas Bloom sees a strong recovery in U.S. stocks. Bloom discusses his outlook for U.S. stocks and the global economy, which was formulated upon findings from an IRiSS seed grant project in 2008, in a series of interviews by Bloomberg News.

Select this link for the video interview
Select this link for the Business Week news story

More Couples Meet Online

More Americans are finding love online, says sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, whose nationally representative study "How Couples Meet" was funded by IRiSS and the NSF. Visit NPR for Rosenfeld's research on how the Internet has become a force for romance.

Trends in Contraception Use

Unintended pregnancies remain a persistent social challenge in the United States.   To address the problem more deeply, sociologist Paula England secured an IRiSS seed grant to interview 70 local college-age women to better understand the factors behind it.  

Aided by doctoral student Krystale Littlejohn, who is also a mentor in the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education Program (EDGE-SBE), the study reflects the broader commitment of the research team to understand and combat the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in America.
EDGE-SBE is one of several programs within IRiSS focused on social science scholar preparation and training.  IRiSS seed grants are awarded annually for new social science research projects by Stanford facuty that have the potential for larger-scale study.

For details on this research project, visit the News Service.

Afghanistan and the “Resource Curse”

The U.S. government recently announced that geologists had discovered almost $1 trillion of mineral resources in Afghanistan. Will its newfound wealth promote economic growth and political stability, or will it fuel more corruption and violence, while doing little to improve the lives of everyday Afghans? Drawing upon analogous research on the impact of modern-day resource booms in Mexico on democracy and prosperity, Social Science History Program director Steve Haber and his protégé Victor Menaldo, a University of Washington political science professor, explore this question in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Segura Named AAAS Fellow

IRiSS center director Gary Segura has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His appointment to the prestigious honorary society recognizes his leadership in advancing the social sciences through his work as a political scientist.

As co-director of the new Stanford Center for American Democracy, Segura will oversee the American National Election Studies (ANES), a $10 million NSF-funded project to study voter participation and decision-making in the upcoming mid-term elections and 2012 U.S. presidential election. The Center will begin as the home of ANES, but is envisioned as an ongoing enterprise housing a variety of research programs and student training focused on parties and party coalitions, candidates and campaigns, and the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of ordinary citizens in order to advance a broader understanding of the merits and challenges of American electoral democracy.

Segura’s research focuses on issues of political representation and on the accessibility of government and politics to America’s growing Latino population. He is the president of the Midwest Political Science Association and one of the principal investigators of the Latino National Survey. At Stanford, he is a professor of political science and the chair of Chicana/o Studies.

For more on Professor Segura and other Stanford AAAS fellows, visit the News Service website.

Ross elected to NAS

Psychology professor Lee D. Ross has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, a private organization dedicated to furthering science and its use for the general welfare. As the Stanford Federal Credit Union Professor of Psychology, Ross has focused his research on biases in human inference, judgment, and decision making. For details, visit the News Service website.

NSF awards $10 million for American National Election Studies

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $10 million to fund the American National Election Studies (ANES) to study voter participation and decision-making in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, and in the mid-term elections of 2010. IRiSS shares the award with The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR), which has conducted the study since 1948. Stanford has served as co-lead of the project since 2005.

"I am delighted that IRiSS will continue to partner with ISR at the University of Michigan in conducting the American National Election Studies,” says Stanford Provost John Etchemendy. “This is the longest running survey of the American people in the social sciences. I congratulate Stanford's political scientists Simon Jackman and Gary Segura on an ambitious proposal and look forward to a successful collaboration."

Jackman and Segura will serve alongside Michigan political scientist Vincent Hutchings as co-principal investigators of the four-year collaborative grant.  The award allows ANES to move in new directions that respond to changing social, economic, and political conditions in American society. Although the major piece of science funded by the grant is a large, face-to-face survey of the American electorate immediately before and after the 2012 presidential election, a series of smaller studies of the electorate will be fielded between now and the summer of 2012.

“There is also a lot of politics happening now, well ahead of the next election,” says Professor Jackman. “The country has its first African-American president, who is pursuing an ambitious policy agenda; troops are committed abroad in two prolonged conflicts; economic recovery is fragile; the presidency and both houses of Congress are in Democratic hands; the possibility of terrorist attacks on the United States remains politically salient. Against this backdrop, we were determined for the ANES to be generating data well ahead of the campaign for the 2012 presidential election.”

The ANES is the longest political time series in the world, with data from every U.S. presidential election since Harry Truman’s unexpected victory in 1948. An online Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior (www. provides easy access to tables and graphs that display the ebb and flow of public opinion, electoral behavior, and choice in American politics over time. Complete data from the study are available for analysis by scholars and political analysts.

The face-to-face interviews with national probability samples of eligible voters will include large numbers of African-Americans and Latinos. States Professor Segura, "African-American and Latino voters represented 22% of the national electorate in 2008 and that number is expected to grow substantially by 2012. Since Democratic candidates rely heavily on minority votes to remain competitive, the growth in this segment of the electorate has the potential to be decisive, and the ANES can and must explore the opinion dynamics in these communities.”

New to the current grant cycle, the ANES will also be conducting a series of internet surveys called the 2010-2012 Evaluations of Government and Society. The overarching theme of the surveys is to gauge political perceptions during one of the most momentous periods in American history. Piloted by Stanford scholars, this new phase of the project breaks new ground for the development of methods for survey research for American public opinion.

“Face-to-face interviewing has many virtues, but is extremely expensive and imposes a limit on the sample sizes that can be fielded, and the precision with which politically interesting phenomena can be measured,” says Professor Jackman. “Surveying via the Internet offers the prospect of considerably larger samples, but there are open questions about representativeness of Internet surveying, and how to port questions to a self-administered Web format. One of our goals is to explore rigorously the tradeoffs between cost, representativeness and precision, generating a knowledge base to guide the design of future studies of public opinion.”

Other topics for all ANES surveys will be selected through submissions to an on-line commons designed to solicit input from a broad range of scholars. These could include questions on the economy, religion, health care, foreign policy and other topics that will emerge on the national scene in the near future.

Stanford’s share of the grant, approximately $3.3 million, is the founding project for the Stanford Center for American Democracy, which will expand the core teaching and research opportunities within the University. This includes the participation of undergraduate and graduate students in research, seminars focused on survey research and the specific uses of the ANES, and in the long-run, a standing program for methods training in survey design & implementation.

The Institute for Research in the Social Sciences seeks to initiate and strengthen interdisciplinary research in the social sciences, to enable Stanford scholars to better understand and confront major domestic and global challenges. Home to four research centers and three major research initiatives, IRiSS facilitates collaborative research of societal significance that effectively promotes scientific research and results.

For more information about the American National Election Studies, visit the study website:

Stanford Researchers Get Better Access to Census Data

Thanks to an arrangement with IRiSS, a Secure Data Center opening on campus will allow researchers access to an ocean of confidential information accumulated by the Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and other agencies. Visit the News Service website for the full article.

Learning the Hard Way

Every day, the Martu people of Western Australia go to extraordinary lengths to maintain their foraging society. How they do it offers lessons for the rest of us, say anthropologists and IRiSS faculty fellows Doug and Rebecca Bird. An article in the current issue of Stanford Magazine sheds light into the Birds' ongoing, NSF-funded research project and field school in Western Australia.

Ridgeway Named as AAAS Fellow

Sociologist Cecilia Ridgeway has been named as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for her contributions to the field of gender inequality.  As an advisor to the IRiSS REP program, she has also helped drive innovations in the conduct of social science research at Stanford.  Ridgeway joins seven other Stanford facuty in receiving this honor.  For details, visit the News Service

A New Way of Looking at Cultural Influences

As IRiSS scholars, anthropologist Melissa Brown and biologist Marcus Feldman are blending their academic backgrounds to examine changes in marriage patterns and religious practices in 20th century China. What's emerging is a biological approach to explaining how culture and social structure influence society. For more, visit the News Service website.

NSF Proposal Development Workshop: Thurs. April 8

IRiSS welcomes Stanford social science faculty to attend this workshop intended to strengthen funding proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation.  The workshop will be led by Dr. Jan E. Stets, NSF Sociology Program Director.   For details and to RSVP, vist this flyer (a PDF file).



IT Services Data Storage Service

IT Services currently provides the University with storage for about 400 terabytes of data across three tiers of service, ranging from performance oriented to low-cost solutions. More info can be found here.

Misperceptions of Mexican-Americans

Mexican-Americans are often perceived as recent immigrants, but at least one-third trace their U.S. roots back more than one generation. A article by sociologist and IRiSS seed grantee Tomás Jiménez calls for a new awareness of Hispanics as Americans with deep family histories in this country.

Paula England Elected as AAPSS Fellow

Sociology professor Paula England was recently elected a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  The Academy recognizes and honors individual social scientists for their outstanding contributions to social science and their sustained efforts to communicate their research beyond their disciplines. 

England’s research focuses on gender inequality in labor markets, and on how changes in family life are affected by the gender and class systems. She is currently an IRiSS faculty fellow, serving as co-director of a new Stanford-Harvard initiative called the Collaboration for Poverty Research. Run under the auspices of the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, the initiative aims to organize social science research in order to promote new policy initiatives to deal with social problems related to inequality and poverty. In her role, England will convene and oversee thematic task forces that will synthesize research on pressing national problems of economic insecurity, urban violence and incarceration, and unplanned pregnancies.

In addition, England is an affiliate of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and is a former editor of the American Sociological Review.

IRiSS Fellows Seek Socially Sustainable Solutions

How can social science-based evidence help reduce domestic poverty and urban unrest? This is one of the questions under investigation by four Stanford faculty selected as 2009-10 IRiSS fellows: sociologist Paula England, political scientists and collaborators Karen Jusko and Jonathan Rodden, and anthropologist Rebecca Bird.

Sociology professor Paula England will be in residence at IRiSS as co-director of a new Stanford-Harvard initiative called the Collaboration for Poverty Research, a coordinated effort to organize social science research in order to promote new policy initiatives to deal with social problems related to inequality and poverty. In her role in the initiative, which was spearheaded by director David Grusky of the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, England will convene and oversee thematic task forces that will synthesize research on pressing national problems of economic insecurity, urban violence and incarceration, and unplanned pregnancies. The task forces will be charged with developing policy that is resolutely science-based, provides authoritative analyses of the state of scientific research, and draws out the implications of such research for policy.

Joining her in residence will be three other IRISS fellows: political scientists and collaborators Karen Jusko and Jonathan Rodden, and anthropologist Rebecca Bird. Jusko's and Rodden’s project builds on their efforts to advance the role of geography in shaping election outcomes and public policy. As independent researchers, the two discovered complimentary research interests focused on how different electoral institutions aggregate income distribution and political preferences in different ways, ultimately generating cross-country policy disparities. As IRiSS fellows, their mutual goal is to assemble the world’s richest set of comparative time-series data on income, demographics, and political behavior at the lowest level of geographic analysis possible. Using GIS (geographic information systems) expertise within IRiSS and the Department of Anthropology, they will embark on a multi-year data collection and capacity building effort at Stanford that includes developing a more compete curriculum on the analysis of spatial data in the social sciences. They will also continue to analyze data from their earlier efforts to digitize electoral maps, and to merge them with economic, political, and census data. One of their goals is to explore why the income distribution within metropolitan areas varies across North American and Europe, as current explanations neglect the role of politics and policy in patterns of urban development.

Rebecca Bird will study how patterns of human mobility shape our landscape through her project, “Solving Collective Action Problems in the Maintenance of Biodiversity: An Agent-Based Modeling Approach in a Small-Scale Society.” The project, which was recently awarded a three-year National Science Foundation grant, investigates the social, economic, and ecological causes and consequences of Australian aboriginal landscape burning. Through the IRiSS fellowship, data will be analyzed and research models will be constructed with the goal of producing several significant papers for publication.

The IRiSS Fellows Program draws together Stanford faculty from multiple departments to create and disseminate new knowledge through research publications and teaching initiatives that may transform social science teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. IRiSS fellows are provided funding or granted release time from teaching, as well as furnished with office space on Alta Road at a facility undergoing conversion from the National Bureau for Economic Research.

IRiSS Hosts First Visiting Professor

Dr. Azi Lev-On has been appointed as the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Visiting Israel Professor at the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences for the 2009-10 academic year.  As the Institute’s first visiting professor, Lev-On will focus his research on behavior and organization in computer-mediated environments.

Lev-On serves as the head of the new media track in Ariel University Center in the City of Ariel in Israel. An expert in political communication and political theory, Dr. Lev-On studies the social and political uses of the Internet, focusing on questions of collective action and democratic governance.  His recent research studies how and why computer-mediated communication impacts monetary transfers in trust games, and how people rank news stories online. A particular area of interest has been Internet usage surrounding political events in Israel, through which Lev-On examines the behaviors of a wide range of citizens including political candidates, Ultra-Orthodox segments, and Gaza Strip evacuees.  At Stanford, Lev-On will teach classes on the social and political impacts of the Internet, models of democracy, and Israeli politics and society.

The professorship is funded by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), a nonpartisan organization committed to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship by emphasizing the fundamental values that our nations share. AICE was established in 1993 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and provides a vehicle for the research, study, discussion and exchange of views concerning nonmilitary cooperation (Shared Value Initiatives) between the peoples and governments of the United States and Israel.

Correll Awarded Gould Prize

Sociology professor Shelley Correll was recently awarded the Gould Prize for her paper, “The Motherhood Penalty.” Awarded by the American Journal of Sociology, the prize recognizes excellence in sociology research. “The Motherhood Penalty” considers how stereotypic beliefs associated with motherhood impact the workplace evaluations and pay and hiring decisions of women when they give evidence of being a mother.

The prize, which carries a cash award, will be presented at annual meeting of the American Sociological Association later this year.

“The Motherhood Penalty” considers how stereotypic beliefs associated with motherhood impact the workplace evaluations and pay and hiring decisions of women when they give evidence of being a mother. This research has been covered by the media, including CNN, ABC World News Tonight, and The New York Times, and it has been referenced in employment discrimination cases, in the California State Senate, and in documents written by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to offer guidance to employers on caregiver discrimination.

All of Correll’s work addresses the fundamental question of how gender inequality persists even while other structural features of society change—a perspective that highlights the social psychological underpinnings of gender stratification.

Correll arrived at Stanford in 2008 from Cornell University, where she was an associate professor of sociology. Her arrival signified a homecoming, as Correll received her PhD and master’s degree in sociology from Stanford in 2001 and 1996 respectively. Since returning, Correll has become an affiliate of the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, serving on the advisory board of its Research Experience Program (REP). The REP provides an expanded pool of subjects for social science research experiments through a collaboration with Foothill Community College.

Researchers Awarded Mellon Grant

With the female deficit in China rapidly reaching crisis stage, a surplus of marriage-age men—an estimated 47.4 million by 2050—is exacerbating problems of sex trafficking, regional stability, and international security. Anthropologist Melissa Brown, biologist Marcus Feldman, and historian Matthew Sommer were awarded a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a seminar to discuss the gender bias that threatens to destabilize Chinese society and beyond.

The basis of the seminar entitled "Gender Bias in the Past and Future of Asia" are emerging results from a research project “Female Deficit and Social Stability in China: Implications for International Security” conducted by its five organizers. Funded by Stanford’s Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies, the three-year project investigates the effects of marriage squeeze on bachelors, women, their natal families, and local communities in order to explore the social threat posed by “surplus men” as well as women’s economic value prior to marriage. The work fills the void of information about the current social conditions and well-being of poor unmarried men and women in inland rural China.

Although the research is primarily concerned with Chinese governance issues derived from female deficit, it also considers implications of China’s domestic stability for international security, especially as it relates to migration of both men and women for work and marriage. Because similar issues regarding female deficit are important elsewhere in Asia – most notably in India – a better understanding of conditions in China can inform future research in other Asian countries.

The seminar will meet throughout the 2010-11 academic year, bringing together cultural, historical, demographic, and policy experts from Stanford and other universities in the greater Bay Area. Participants will include from faculty and graduate students affiliated with several research institutes at Stanford: the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research, and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The seminar also hopes to attract local county officials faced with increasingly skewed birth sex ratios owing to large Asian immigrant communities.

Among the broader questions the seminar seeks to address are: what are the demographic and economic prospects for men and women in a heavily gender-biased population? Can a modern social welfare net mediate the effects of male bias on people’s prospects? Is it possible to construct models for the effects of economic and social interventions on future sex ratios? What are the implications for policy solutions of the fact that these problems have such deep cultural and historical roots?

Organizers expect the seminar’s discussions to inform publications that will be produced to reach a broad, international audience. Each seminar meeting will address gender bias (including son preferences), marriage squeeze, and well-being in relation to one of the following sets of topics: women’s status, rural-to-urban migration, sexuality, social stability and violence, aging and support, policy interventions. Each meeting will include cultural, historical, demographic and policy perspectives on the topic; and will focus on China.

The seminar series will include morning public lectures that will be announced on the Stanford University Events website.

A Champion of Undergraduate Research

Photo courtesy L.A. Cicero

Social scientist Stephen Haber was awarded the 2009 Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research. Recognized for his strong record of directing undergraduate research through his lab and mentoring activities, Haber has maintained a deep commitment to providing advanced training opportunities not often afforded to undergraduates.


IRiSS leaders named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Two IRiSS faculty leaders were recently elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS): Jon Krosnick, the Frederic O. Glover Professor in the Humanities and Sciences and co-director of the American National Election Studies; and Norman Nie, research professor of political science and director of the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society.

Awarded by one of the country’s oldest honorary learned societies, these elections are significant in terms of recognizing Jon’s and Norman’s academic leadership in addressing social problems. They were joined by nine other Stanford faculty who were also elected—for details, visit the Stanford Report article at:

Parsing the Vote: How Demographic Shifts Could Erode Party Allegiances.

Political science professor Gary Segura discusses racial divisions in voting and party identity in Stanford Magazine. Also mentioned are plans to establish IRiSS's fifth interdisciplinary research initiative, the Stanford Center for American Democracy.

REP Researcher Featured in Almanac

A study on the impact avatars can have on behavior, diet and health changes is featured in The Almanac. (9/10/08) The story highlights the work of Jesse Fox, researcher and manager of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. Some of Fox's studies are conducted at the IRiSS Research Experience Program, in collaboration with Foothill Community College.  To read the full story, see

Home At Last

IRiSS has numerous sites throughout campus. Our core service group and the Social Science History Program are now located on the Main Quad in Building 370 (adjacent to the Segal sculpure, shown here), while IRiSS's Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality can be found in Building 80. Please visit the Contact page for information about our various affiliates and locales. We welcome you to visit.