In this section (click to view):
Faculty-Led Interdisciplinary Grant
Detroit Metropolitan Area Communities Study - Systematic Social Observation
Metropolitan Detroit is a region of great contrasts. It contains some of the nation’s wealthiest communities, as well as some of the poorest. Parts of the region are new and growing, while others struggle with aging infrastructure, declining population, crime, fiscal distress and social dislocation. This great diversity is the accumulated product of decades of choices by residents, businesses, and policy-makers at all levels of government about what investments to make in individual communities. These choices have led to severe residential segregation by race and class. And as a result, the region faces daunting challenges as today’s residents and policy-makers seek to direct scarce public and private resources towards improving their communities and stimulating local economic development and growth on a regional scale.
The research we will conduct is part of a large-scale, new study of the metropolitan Detroit region, and the many diverse communities within the region. The larger study (The Detroit Metropolitan Areas Community Study or DMACS) will combine frequent surveys of the region’s residents, with in-depth data on population characteristics, financial conditions, the built and social environment, and existing public policy initiatives in a rotating sample of communities each year. This unique dataset will advance the study of diversity by amassing information about variance within and across communities on a wide range of factors including the built environment; public preferences, values, and perceptions of their communities; residential mobility; and community engagement. It will allow researchers to investigate how diversity - along numerous dimensions and at various levels of aggregation - shapes a wide range of perceptions, attitudes, priorities and behaviors. It will also offer policy-makers and community leaders a tool to inform place-based investment in the region and in specific communities.
Jeffrey Morenoff is a Professor of Sociology and Research Professor in the Population Studies Center and Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. He is also the Director of the Population Studies Center and Co-Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program at the School of Public Health. One line of his research focuses on understanding how local neighborhood context shapes people’s behaviors, attitudes, and health. A related line of research investigates patterns of neighborhood change and social interaction among neighborhood residents. Another line of Morenoff’s research focuses on crime and the criminal justice system. This includes work on the challenges returning prisoners face in reintegrating to the community, as well as research on how the type of punishment convicted felons receive for their crime (e.g., prison sentences vs. probation) affects their future life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, recidivism, and mortality.
Morenoff is currently the PI of NICHD- and NSF-funded studies on the effects of incarceration and is co-authoring a book titled After Prison: Reentry, Reintegration, and Recidivism. He is also PI of the Detroit Metropolitan Area Community Study, a project designed not only to generate new research on neighborhood change and local economic development, but also to provide a tool that community stakeholders can use to make evidence-based decisions about public policy and community investments. In the past, he has also served as PI of the Chicago Community Health Study, a project focusing on how neighborhood environments shape health and health disparities.
Morenoff obtained his Ph.D from the University of Chicago in 2000. In 2004, Morenoff won the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology, for “outstanding contributions to the discipline of criminology.”
Elisabeth R. Gerber is the Jack L. Walker Jr. Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Professor of Political Science (by courtesy) and Research Associate at the Center for Political Studies, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Her current research focuses on regionalism and intergovernmental cooperation, urban climate adaptation, transportation policy, state and local economic policy, land use and economic development, and local political accountability. She is the author of The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation (1999), co-author of Stealing the Initiative: How State Government Responds to Direct Democracy (2000), and co-editor of Voting at the Political Fault Line: California's Experiment with the Blanket Primary (2001) and Michigan at the Millennium (2003). She currently serves as vice-chair of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan.
Undergraduate Student Inclusion at the University of Michigan
Principal Investigator Sara Soderstrom is an Assistant Professor in Organizational Studies and the Program for the Environment (on the right in photo), Research Team Members (from left to right) Terra Molengraff, Sara Cohen and Dan Green are students at the University of Michigan
The overall question this research project addresses is how social identities, and especially racial identity, affect students’ feelings of inclusion on campus. We are further interested in exploring what role, if any, the University has in shaping those feelings. Underrepresented minorities (URM) at the University of Michigan have expressed feelings of exclusion from the larger community through social media campaigns such as #BBUM and the Michigan in Color student viewpoints in the Michigan Daily student newspaper. There is a great need for empirical evidence detailing URMs’ feelings of exclusion in order to gain the necessary knowledge that may facilitate community change. Additionally, greater understanding of when and how inclusive environments are fostered at the university can inform policies and programs that improve the university experience for all students. Through this project we will explore students’ experiences with feeling included and/or excluded on campus so that, ideally, we can better understand the role that various structures, such as classroom exercises, student organizations, and campus programs, may play in helping the University develop a culture of inclusion.
Surveying Ethnic Sub-Groups: Problematic Priming of Ethnic Identity?
Principal Investigator Mara Ostfeld is a Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Good public policy requires good data. Little can be inferred about the most effective way to serve the public good without sound information on the population to be served, and the needs to be addressed. This cornerstone of sound policy is impeded, however, by the difficulty of obtaining representative data on racial and ethnic sub-groups. Members of these populations tend to be more difficult than whites to reach, recruit, survey and retain in numbers that permit reliable analyses and inferences, thereby increasing the costs associated with surveying large samples of racial and ethnic sub-groups. To minimize these costs, many surveys focused on reaching these populations diverge from the traditional practice of including personal demographic questions at the end of surveys, and begin the survey by asking potential respondents about their race and/or ethnicity. This format serves as a valuable way to ensure that limited resources are focused on reaching and gathering data on the targeted population. However, asking about one’s ethnic identity at the beginning of a survey risks priming an identity laden with social, economic and political associations. These methodological practices highlight the question as to whether the use of these “ethnic filter” questions - intended to increase the representativeness of data - is actually biasing it; and in doing so, biasing the precise information intended to develop more accurate and representative policies for racial and ethnic sub-groups. In this study, we seek to examine how beginning surveys with questions on racial and/or ethnic identity may affect responses to subsequent survey items in the context of studies of Latino public opinion. Simply put, does asking Latinos about their ethnicity at the beginning of a survey change how they report their views on policy matters?
Helping People Help Themselves? Examining the Effectiveness of Self-Help Organizations in Borderland Colonias
Principal investigator, Danielle Zoé Rivera is a doctoral student in Urban and Regional Planning
An estimated 1.6 million people live in informal settlements called "las colonias" on the U.S.-side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Colonias are neighborhoods marked by a lack of adequate housing, local representation, and basic utilities and services. To address these issues, numerous community-based organizations (CBOs) formed to provide services to the colonias, largely based upon the principles of "self-help." Self-help is defined, here, as a program with the goal of neighborhood improvement that uses household or community involvement, either for decision-making or labor. The self-help literature from housing and community development has debated the influences of government on the efficacy of these programs, but this question has not been examined within the colonias' context. Therefore, this research proposes to examine the community-based organizations that have, for the past thirty years, served as 'local representation' for colonias neighborhoods, asking the question: In borderland colonias, what are the short- and long-term impacts of self-help organizations' different approaches to poverty alleviation? The research uses the international border to create a natural experiment examining the efficacy of self-help programs in relation to varying governance across the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In analyzing this region, the research objective is to identify impacts in self-help program efficacy given changes in local and national government. Ultimately, the outcome of interest is a metric that describes the impacts of self-help programs across the case region in relation to government involvement in self-help promotion.
Charter School Access
Principal Investigator Isaac McFarlin is Assistant Research Scientist of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Access to high-quality public schools is a key determinant of upward mobility. School choice aims to improve both access and quality, and a growing form of choice is manifested by charter schools. Proponents of charter schools argue that they facilitate innovation, create competitive pressures that improve all schools, and can produce large gains in student achievement. Opponents argue that charter schools take resources away from traditional public schools, cream skim high-performing students, and discriminate against disadvantaged students. We conduct a nationwide audit study to answer whether charter schools limit access to certain types of students.
Diversity in Practice
Students of Color in Public Policy (SCPP)
The Diversity in Practice series is designed to encourage students from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and personal and professional experiences, and faculty with expertise to dialogue on the issue of race and policy. Each luncheon seminar explores a different topic, and will include a presentation by the guest faculty member or student, and an open discussion with the students attending the seminar sessions. A component that is highlighted at every seminar is the encouragement of active participation from the student audience, not only of asking questions, but offering their opinion and feedback, and sharing their own personal and professional experiences as it relates to the topic.