The Social Demography Seminars (SDS) at the Center for Population and Development Studies provide a lively forum for scholars from across the university to discuss in-progress social scientific and population research. Social demography includes work that uses demographic methods to describe and explain the distribution of social goods across populations. The Social Demography Seminar series thus welcomes presentations on a wide variety of topics such as family, gender, race/ethnicity, population health—including mortality, morbidity, and functional health—inequality, im/migration, fertility, and the institutional arrangements that shape and respond to population processes. The long-term goal is to build a broad and multidisciplinary community of social demographers at Harvard.
The core programming committee includes Jason Beckfield, Mary Brinton, Christina Cross, Sasha Killewald, Joscha Legewie, Mary Waters, and Xiang Zhou, all Harvard sociologists, plus Lisa Berkman, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Elyse Jennings, a research scientist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.
The seminars occur on Thursdays, 12:00-1:15 p.m. in the conference room at 9 Bow Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and those with other academic appointments (e.g. research scientist or associate) are welcome.
For additional information or to be added to the email list for announcements, please contact Lesley Harkins.
1/30: Jacob Bor, ScD, assistant professor and Peter T. Paul Career Development Professor in the departments of global health (primary) and epidemiology, Boston University, will present “Health divides and political divides.”
2/6: Christina Ciocca Eller, PhD, assistant professor of sociology and social studies at Harvard University, will present “Life goes on after dropout: Examining the early life outcomes of four-year students with ‘some college, no degree.'”
2/13: Jayanti Owens, PhD, the Mary Tefft and John Hazen White, Sr. Assistant Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, department of sociology and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, will present “What drives racial/ethnic disparities in school discipline?”
Are Black and Latinx students suspended and expelled from school at higher rates than White students because of their greater exposure to punitive schools (“racialized sorting”) or because they are perceived and/or treated more harshly for identical misbehavior in the same types of schools (“differential behavior perceptions” and “differential treatment/support,” respectively)? This article disentangles these three key mechanisms of racial disparities in school discipline by combining school administrative data with an online video vignette experiment with 1,000 teachers across the U.S. As front-line actors, teacher-respondents provide both textual and quantitative reports of a randomly-assigned student’s misbehavior and their decisions on whether to instigate school intervention. I find that racialized school sorting plays the largest role: if White students were to equally attend disadvantaged and minority schools, they would experience similarly high rates of school discipline as Black and Latinx students. Differential behavior perceptions and differential treatment/support also gain some empirical support.
2/20: Elizabeth Frankenberg, PhD, Director, Carolina Population Center, and professor of public policy and sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will present “Long-term dynamics of health, well-being, and population change after a disaster.”
Exposures to extreme events are increasingly common in many parts of the globe as a function of changes in weather patterns combined with rising sea levels. This presentation traces the implications of exposure to an extreme event for health, well-being, and population change over the long-term, drawing on data STAR, the Study of the Tsunami Aftermath and Recovery. STAR has interviewed respondents from 10 months before the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami for 10 years, collecting data on mortality, morbidity, family formation and fertility, and migration. The data provide an unusual opportunity to examine resilience and the role of rebuilding assistance in the aftermath of a large-scale disaster.
2/27: No Seminar
3/5: Mariana Arcaya, ScD, associate professor of urban planning and public health, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will present “A long-run view of recovery after Hurricane Katrina: Dimensions and determinants of post-disaster well-being.”
3/12: Ariela Schachter, PhD, assistant professor of sociology, Washington University, St. Louis, will present “Not one drop: Uncovering Whites’ contemporary rules of ethnoracial classification in the U.S.”
What are the rules governing how White Americans ethnoracially classify others? Prior studies highlight the importance of multiple perceived biological and sociocultural cues; however, we lack a comprehensive assessment of their collective and relative effects. We use a survey experiment in a controlled environment to systematically disentangle the underlying classification logics followed by non-Hispanic White observers. We uncover three key rules: (1) ancestry strongly shapes classification, but there is little evidence supporting the “one drop” rule; (2) instead, observers often rely on a skin “color line” to categorize individuals; and (3) sociocultural cues are fundamental for Hispanic categorization, and to some extent Native American, MENA, and Asian classification. The unexpected absence of a one-drop rule and surprising importance of color and sociocultural cues highlight the U.S. racial system’s growing complexity. By showing how racially mixed individuals and minorities are classified by Whites, our findings illuminate the potential future of race in the U.S. The findings also have important implications for research on discrimination and inequality, and offer a critically needed baseline for future work examining classification in various contexts.
3/19: No Seminar
3/26: Weihua An, PhD, associate professor, sociology and quantitative theory and methods, Emory University, will present “You said, they said: A framework on informant accuracy with application to studying self-reports and peer-reports of adolescent smoking.”
Social science research heavily relies on self-reported data. However, it is known that self-reports, especially of sensitive behaviors, tend to be biased. Among many endeavors to address self-reporting bias (such as using administrative records and conducting biological testing), informants (such as peers, co-workers, and family members) are often employed to provide alternative reports to supplement self-reports. In this paper, I discuss the necessity and the applicability of using informant reports and the types, measures, and determinants of informant accuracy. I show that studying informant accuracy not only helps deepen our understanding regarding how perceptions of alters are configured, but also helps develop more effective methods to utilize informant reports to correct self-reporting bias. I also propose a general framework that links informant accuracy to informant characteristics as has been done in prior studies, but also to alter characteristics, dyadic characteristics, and features of the object being reported on. I illustrate the framework through a case study of self-reports and peer-reports of smoking among 4,094 middle school students in China. The results confirm some of the previous findings (e.g., central subjects are significantly more accurate informants), but also reveal the mechanisms that can account for such findings, present more complicated and nuanced patterns beyond previous findings, and show the distinctive logics for identifying the presence and the absence of a behavior. Based on one of the core findings, I propose weighting informant reports by informants’ network centrality and show that this method helps produce more effective corrections to potentially biased self-reported smoking status.
4/2: Meg Lovejoy, PhD, research program director for the Workplace and Well-being Initiative, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, and Pamela Stone, PhD, professor of sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, will present TBA.
4/9: Colter Mitchell, PhD, research assistant professor, Survey Research Center, University of Michigan, will present TBA.
4/16: Gilbert Gee, PhD, professor in the department of community health science, University of California, Los Angeles, will present TBA.
Past Social Demography Seminars