October 27, 2006
Major Research Instrumentation
NSF Grant: Jon Krosnick, principal investigator
Development of a Computer Network for Experimental and Non-Experimental Data Collection via the Internet from a Nationally Representative Sample of American Households
In recent years, we have seen two remarkable trends: (1) a sharp increase across the social sciences in the use of survey data to address a wide range of important theoretical issues involving the nature of contemporary social life and the workings of the human mind, and (2) a sharp increase in the fiscal costs of conducting high-quality surveys, coupled with a precipitous decline in the response rates of such surveys. The social sciences therefore need quick innovation in survey methodology to permit costeffective collection of accurate data from highly representative samples. This proposal seeks funds to build a tool for data collection for social scientists that would bring a new standard of accuracy to the data, broader accessibility for social scientists at reduced cost, blending the analytic power afforded by a state-of-the art computer network laboratory with the generalization power afforded by a representative sample survey of American households. Specifically, the proposal seeks funds for three categories of expenses: (1) purchase of computer hardware, (2) installation of the computer hardware in a representative sample of 1,000 households across the country, and (3) calibration of a national network of these computers via the Internet, testing to assure that it works properly to permit social science data collection. The network will equip scholars around the world to do path-breaking research that could not be achieved by any methodology currently in use and would considerably increase the importance of the data we collect, analyze, and report. To achieve these goals, sampling statisticians at RTI International, one of the nation’s leading survey research organizations, would draw a representative sample of American households using an innovative method based upon U.S. postal service mailing address lists. Then, RTI installation specialists would visit the selected households, randomly select an adult household member, conduct a brief and enjoyable interview with him or her (with an expected response rate of about 80%), and then offer him or her a free laptop computer and free (for those not already equipped with) high-speed Internet connection in exchange for using the equipment to provide data once a month via the Internet. The interviewers would install the computers, walk respondents through the process of using them, and calibrate the equipment on site to work properly. Then, once a month, respondents would provide a new round of data by accessing a secure webpage, and calibration of the computer network would be conducted. A range of different evaluations of the network will be performed, gauging the response rate achieved for the initial in-home interview, the rate at which interviewed respondents agree to accept the computer equipment, the rate at which participating panel members complete each monthly data collection, the rate at which initially participating individuals drop out of the panel completely, sample composition biases that result from attrition, the impact of the initial recruitment response rate on sample and response quality, the presence of random and systematic measurement error in responses, and comparisons of the survey data against benchmarks to gauge accuracy. In addition to making measurements to permit these evaluations, the computer network will be used to ask questions designed by an interdisciplinary community of scholars who submit proposals to the American National Election Studies (www.electionstudies.org) to study the dynamics of the 2008 season of presidential primaries and the general election campaign. Beginning data collection in late 2007 and running at least through late 2008, the computer network can collect data on the panel of Americans’ views of the country, of the candidates, and of the election process in order to yield unprecedented insights into the long-term social and psychological dynamics of the democratic process. If this effort is successful, it will provide scientific and practical justification for the implementation of this approach to experimental and non-experimental survey data collection on a much larger scale, which would enable academic researchers, federal, state, and local government agencies, and private commercial and non-commercial organizations to conduct the highest quality research at a practical price. For example, the highest response rate surveys done in this country each bear the full costs of recruiting all of their respondents from scratch, which makes it extremely expensive for these survey projects to meet the high standards of response rates required by the White House Office of Management and Budget (which must approve all federal surveys). If the proposed computer network is created and proves to be effective, it would allow agencies to share the costs of sample recruitment across many projects, thus yielding high response rates at much more manageable costs. In essence, this project seeks to explore whether it is possible to create the equivalent of an astronomer’s telescope for shared collection and analysis of social science data on a wide range of topics to advance the study of social change using the highest quality methodologies. The net result will be a measurement tool that affords more precision, accuracy, and stimulus delivery facility than any existing computer network available today for social science research, experimental and non-experimental.
Posted by cthomsen at 12:19 PM
Philanthropy and Civil Society
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Grant: Debra Meyerson and Walter Powell, principal investigators
The grant provides the foundation for creating a new center on philanthropy and civil society, with a mission to engage students, faculty, and practitioners in examining ways in which philanthropic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and other key elements of civil society work to address public interests, both in the United States and abroad.
Posted by cthomsen at 12:09 PM
Sawyer Seminar on the Dynamics of Inequality
Mellon Foundation Grant: David Grusky, principal investigator
We live in an extraordinary period in which the structure of social inequality is changing in unusually rapid, complicated, and sometimes mystifying ways. Whereas scholars in some disciplines, such as sociology, are seemingly entranced by the possibility that class-based inequalities are weakening, scholars elsewhere attend to unprecedented increases in income inequality and a deepening spatial divide between rich and poor. The fields of race and gender inequality likewise reveal a tension between scholars who observe the rise of formally egalitarian attitudes and institutional practices and those who emphasize, instead, the persistence of discrimination, segregation, and wage gaps. The task of making sense of this constellation of trends is of course complicated by the usual disciplinary divides. Although there are long-standing literatures on trends in gender, race, ethnic, income, and class inequality, many of these literatures have developed quite separately and independently of one another. It is not, however, such balkanization alone that is to be blamed for our piecemeal and narrow-gauged understanding of trends in inequality. Additionally, most of these literatures focus quite obsessively on proximate sources of trend (e.g., a presumed decline in overt discrimination), whereas the larger forces that underlie these disparate proximate sources (e.g., competition, egalitarianism, rationalization) are either assumed or ignored.
The rationale for proposing a Sawyer seminar on The Dynamics of Inequality is that this extreme specialization and the consequent narrowing of our explanatory accounts might be resisted and overcome by having representatives of these various literatures come together. The following lines of questioning might be usefully pursued in the context of a Sawyer seminar:
Questions of grand narratives: Is there reason to revisit the old grand narratives of change or to forge new ones that might account for the seemingly disparate trends in inequality? Might we understand the ongoing diffusion of egalitarian values as a grand Hegelian logic that explains a diverse array of proximate changes (e.g., the spread of bureaucratization, the rise of antidiscrimination law)? Are all forms of inequality being delegitimated? Or are some forms more resistant to delegitimation than others? Do essentialist stories about gender, for example, have a greater resonance and continuing legitimacy among the public than essentialist stories about class or race? Does the egalitarian logic come to be modified in any important respect as it diffuses to “newer” divides (e.g., sexual orientation, alienage/citizenship, disability)? How does the operation of other grand logics of history (e.g., rationalization, marketization) modify egalitarianism? Are these logics playing out in fundamentally different ways in states with different political traditions and institutions (e.g., social democratic versus liberal regimes)? In less-developed and more-developed countries?
Questions of backlash: In which domains are anti-egalitarian backlashes most likely? Are the sources of these backlashes much the same for all forms of inequality? Does a “functionalist” logic, for example, underlie contemporary support for pro-inequality tax breaks, contemporary opposition to affirmative action, and contemporary outbreaks of anti-feminist ideology? Or are each of these instances of anti-egalitarianism best understood in their own terms? Should we worry about grand disequilibrating events that might set the current logic of egalitarianism permanently on its head (e.g., a War on Terror)? Or should WWII be understood as a definitive history-resolving event on the question of egalitarianism?
Questions of policy: To what extent should social policy address these various dimensions of inequality as a piece? Is it feasible or desirable to develop a comprehensive policy on inequality? Or is each form so distinct in its underlying mechanisms and so different in its ethical implications as to require separate and special remedy?
Posted by cthomsen at 12:07 PM
Credible Commitments in International Relations
NSF CAREER Award: Michael Tomz, principal investigator
Problems of credibility are central to international relations. Every day, leaders make threats and promises when dealing with other countries. Without a world government that compels leaders to keep commitments, why—and when—should anyone take foreign leaders at their word? I propose an integrated program of research and education to explore this fundamental question. My work will focus on two potentially important markers of credibility. Did leaders go public by telling their own citizens about threats and promises they issued abroad? And did they go legal by embedding their commitments in treaties and other international agreements? Although the theoretical literature about public and legal commitments has advanced quickly, empirical research has not kept pace. The fundamental problem, which researchers have acknowledged but not satisfactorily overcome, is endogeneity. In precisely the situations when publicity and legalization would make it costly to renege, rational leaders will either follow through or avoid committing in the first place. This leaves scholars little chance to observe and measure the penalties that are central to our theoretical models. Research has also been hampered by insufficient data about perceptions. Do key actors believe public and legal commitments are more expensive to break? To know for sure, we need systematic data about the perceived costs of backtracking on public and legal commitments.
I propose to address these problems through the first-ever experimental analysis of public and legal commitments in international relations.
Posted by cthomsen at 12:00 PM
Exchange Network Transition: Uncertainty, Risk and Shifts in Mode of Exhange
NSF Grant: Karen Cook (Stanford) and Coye Cheshire (UC Berkeley), principal investigators
Social scientists have accumulated a large and growing body of theory and data on many distinct types of social exchange systems. It has been demonstrated through a long history of social exchange experiments that different forms of exchange yield different outcomes, to some extent as a function of the differences that exist in levels of risk and uncertainty inherent in these different forms of exchange. But prior work generally begins with fixed networks in which only one type of exchange can occur (e.g. negotiated or reciprocal exchange); in other words, the type of exchange is fixed by the experimenter for purposes of comparison. Modes of exchange do not change and they are not selected by the participants.
There is little or no research on the process of transitioning between different modes of social exchange. With the existing foundation of research on the structural and perceived differences between various major forms of social exchange, researchers are now in an ideal position to investigate the transitions between modes of exchange and the effects of these changes on exchange outcomes. This research proposal is a first step toward understanding the effects of changes in modes of exchange.
In this proposal the investigators develop a set of theoretically driven arguments for social exchange systems that transition (or shift) between reciprocal exchange and binding or non-binding negotiated exchange (which is only one of the possible types of transition in modes of exchange). These shifts can be structurally determined (i.e. the form of exchange occurs exogenously independent of the particular intentions or desires of the participants), or as agent-based transitions (i.e. in which individuals choose to move to a new mode of exchange based on their own experiences and dispositions). The researchers make several predictions about how agent-based transitions occur and about the attributions exchange outcomes that result from both structurally determined and agent-based transitions in mode exchange. Finally, the researchers propose a new set of social exchange experiments that will allow them to test hypotheses about social exchange transitions. By collaborating between Stanford University UC-Berkeley, the researchers will be able to combine resources (such as subject pools and experiment lab space) so that they can achieve much more than either could accomplish alone.
The potential intellectual merits of this proposal include advancing the theoretical tradition of social exchange processes, developing the first series of testable hypotheses concerning the effects of shifts between different modes of exchange and examining how individual attitudes and attributions about exchange partners change as a result of these transitions. This is one step in developing theory about the dynamics of exchange networks. The broader impact of this proposed research includes the capacity to directly address questions about processes and outcomes in rapidly changing systems of exchange such as business-to-business transactions (B2B), Internet-based exchanges, and other forms of real-world social exchange.
Given the strong foundation of theory and research that has accumulated about many different modes of social exchange, social scientists are now in a perfect position to build upon and advance this research by looking at the complex processes of social exchange transitions. Given increased interest in real-world systems of B2B and Internet-based exchange (which often challenge many assumptions about exchange processes, attributions, and outcomes), the opportunities for theoretical development and realworld applications of the study of transitions in modes of exchange are substantial.
Posted by cthomsen at 11:55 AM
Summer Workshop in Formal Demography
NIH Grant: Shripad Tuljapurkar and James H. Jones, principal investigators
Stanford is ushering in a new approach to studying populations—one that engages researchers from multiple disciplines, including anthropology, biology, economics and sociology. The goal is to encourage the use of demographic tools to solve some of today's complex challenges, such as the demographic impact of the AIDS epidemic, population aging and the possible extinction of some species.
"Pick any problem in the world, and I can guarantee there is a population component to it," said James Holland Jones, an assistant professor of anthropological sciences. "Training in formal demography has all but disappeared at a time when so many problems call for demography."
Shripad Tuljapurkar, professor of biological sciences and the Dean and Virginia Morrison Professor of Population Studies, kicked off the "Second Stanford Workshop in Formal Demography," held on campus Aug. 7-12. He presented a surprising problem: declining fertility rates around the world. For years, industrialized countries worried about the negative implications of overpopulation, including environmental impacts and resource limitations. Today, the concern is shifting from overpopulation to low fertility.
The fertility rate is the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, and demographers say a rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a population from declining. A number of countries have now fallen below the replacement rate, including Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and even China, whose total fertility rate has dropped from 5.8 in the 1970s to an estimated 1.73 today. In Hong Kong and Singapore, the fertility rate is even lower, estimated at 0.95 and 1.06, respectively.
"What happens in 20 years?" Tuljapurkar asked the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows attending the workshop. "That is a frightening rate of decline, especially in smaller countries."
In June, when Japan's health ministry announced that the country's fertility rate had fallen to an all-time low of 1.25, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said it would become one of the most important items on the policy agenda. Tuljapurkar explained to students that one concern about low fertility rates is that economic growth has been tied to population size. Another concern is that pension programs, such as Social Security, depend on the renewal of the working-age population. Tuljapurkar recently was appointed to the Technical Advisory Panel to the U.S. Social Security Advisory Board and has published extensively in demography.
Some countries are taking steps to shore up their populations by using advertisements to encourage women to have children or by selectively increasing immigration. But do policymakers know what causes low fertility rates and what levers would be most effective in stemming the decline? Stanford's demography workshop, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, Stanford's Institute for Research in the Social Sciences and Stanford's Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, teaches students and researchers how to find answers through improved demographic analyses.
"The workshop is a new model of training we are implementing with 15 faculty and 40 students—mostly PhDs—from across the country," Jones said. "We're trying to push innovative methodologies for demographers by covering formal demography, related analytical methods and models that are formulated as computer programs."
Jones and Tuljapurkar organized the workshop and are publishing a textbook and software package to supplement the training. Unlike many demographers who are sociologists, Jones is a biological anthropologist and Tuljapurkar is a biologist and demographer.
Posted by cthomsen at 11:45 AM
Studies of Spatial Reasoning in Political Choice
NSF Grant: Paul Sniderman and Mike Tomz, principal investigators
Spatial models are now central to research on electoral competition and democratic representation. Typically, the policy preferences of voters and candidates are arrayed on a number line, and voters choose the candidate closest to themselves. Despite the ubiquity of such models, we have relatively little empirical knowledge about how people use spatial information to make political decisions. To what extent do citizens accurately perceive the distance between themselves and candidates? Under what conditions do spatial distances underlie electoral choices? Two problems have impeded empirical research on these questions. First, we tend to observe the choices of voters only after candidates have adopted equilibrium positions. Spatial models tell us, though, that candidates face pressure to adopt the position of the median voter, leaving citizens to break the tie on other grounds. This creates an irony: the more spatial considerations drive politics, the harder it becomes to see their effects in public opinion surveys. Second, researchers typically rely on survey respondents to identify where voters and candidates stand in the issue space. This leads to a confound: it may appear that citizens applied the spatial criterion, when in fact they “projected” their own policy stance onto the candidate they liked for other reasons, or they were “persuaded” to adopt the position of their preferred candidate. Thus, two sources of bias, running in opposite directions, make it difficult to infer when voters use spatial criteria. Survey experiments can overcome these two problems of endogeneity. The core idea is to bring the location of candidates under experimental control. For each experiment, we describe the locations of candidates in an issue space and ask respondents to choose among them. This approach permits us to study how citizens respond to a wide range of candidate positions. The method also enables us to manipulate non-spatial influences on decision making, such as the party affiliation of the candidates. In the proposal, we offer many concrete examples of this method and explain how it can help us infer the effects of three factors—party affiliation, uncertainty, and the structure of elections—on the spatial perceptions and choices of citizens. First, we detail a basic experimental design for detecting partisan biases in spatial reasoning. We also extend the design to resolve a long-standing conundrum: the extent to which projection and/or persuasion underlay partisan bias. Second, we offer hypotheses about how respondents that are uncertain about their position or who encounter ambiguous candidates will make spatial choices. We also detail designs to test hypotheses about each. Third, we offer hypotheses and present experimental designs to investigate the impact of structural factors on spatial reasoning. They include choices in two dimensions, the role of the status quo, and the consequences of institutional constraints on policymakers. The proposal also discusses how our experimental design can speak to other debates in the field, including research on abstention and directional voting. Broader Impact: We believe this project will open up for examination from a new angle the nexus between the views of voters and the strategies of candidates. Our experiments address questions central to democratic politics: the reputations and roles of political parties, the effects of candidate ambiguity and credible commitments, and the way citizens make choices when candidates take positions in multidimensional versus one-dimensional issue spaces. We hope this research will contribute to both the theory and practice of democracy. This project could also advance the trend toward integrating formal and behavioral approaches in social science. Our proposal is part of an initiative by the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS) at Stanford to (1) bring together researchers from across the social sciences to extend the use of randomized experiments, and (2) establish a multi-university working group to translate principles of behavioral economics into the study of political choice. We also believe the project will enhance education. To this end, we will incorporate data and methods from our project into a new module on “Experimentation in the Social Sciences,” which we will propose for the Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models summer program.
Posted by cthomsen at 11:41 AM
Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
NSF Grant: Karen Cook, principal investigator
EDGE-SBE is one of a number of programs funded by the National Science Foundation with the intent of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in the social, behavioral and economic sciences, who enter and complete PhD programs and go on to jobs in the professioriate.
EDGE-SBE is a collaboration between Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A & M University.
At Stanford, EDGE-SBE is a broadly interdisciplinary program with connections to the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCRSE) and the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS).
The diversity director at Stanford is Laura Lopez-Sanders, who focuses on recruiting and retaining underrepresented minority students in political science, psychology and sociology.
EDGE-SBE offers the following forms of support:
Graduate Diversity Fellowships--These are "add-ons" to the basic financial packages offered by the departments. Among other things, these funds help support research by the fellows and travel by fellows to professional conferences.
One-on-One Mentoring--In addition, to any advisors assigned by their department, EDGE fellows are assigned to a faculty mentor and a graduate student mentor in their discipline. These mentors work with EDGE-SBE to help the student make a successful transition to graduate school and to the professoriate.
Connections to Colleagues at Other Institutions--A yearly conference supported by EDGE-SBE allows Fellows to present ideas, obtain feedback and network with peers and professors at the participating universities.The idea is that this is a highly supportive environment that fosters both professional and personal connections.
Individuals interested in participating in EDGE-SBE should contact Laura Lopez-Sanders at Laura Lopez-Sanders@stanford.edu.
Posted by vijoy at 11:12 AM
Survey Research Methodology Optimization for the Science Resource Statistics Program
NSF Grant: Jon Krosnick, principal investigator
The Division of Science Resource Statistics at the National Science Foundation has been conducting a large series of ambitious surveys that are used widely by policy makers, private sector researchers, academics, and others throughout the U.S. and around the world. These surveys have always been designed to achieve the highest methodological standards to minimize sampling error and measurement error, so as to provide the strongest possible bases for making inferences about the populations of interest. These populations include the general U.S. population, as well as subpopulations such as PhD recipients, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, undergraduates, and others. Some of the SRS projects are single cross-sectional surveys, and others are long-term panels that involving tracking cohorts of respondents over many years and implementing repeated measurements. At this time in its history, SRS?s surveys are increasingly challenging, because of a general trend in US survey research toward increasing costs of data collection. It is increasingly expensive to reach potential respondents, and it is increasingly expensive to convince individuals who are initially reluctant to participate in surveys. Therefore, in order to continue to maintain the high quality standards for which SRS surveys are known while accommodating existing budgets, it is increasingly important to get the best bang for the buck when designing these studies. Good design decisions can be made in many domains of the enterprise. Efforts to locate potential respondents can be optimized. The language and visual displayed used when first approaching a potential respondent can be optimized. The design of the questions and questionnaire used can be optimized. The strategy for the timing of attempts to contact potential respondents can be optimized. The strategy used to attempt refusal conversions can be optimized. And so on. This cooperative agreement is intended to fund a series of studies that will help to optimize SRS survey design by fostering collaboration between SRS staff and Professor Jon Krosnick of Stanford University. Four particular projects are outlined for initial efforts under the agreement: (1) evaluating the impact of incentives on survey participation and response quality, (2) optimizing the design, layout, and wording of written materials mailed to respondents to maximize the likelihood that they will participate in the survey, (3) evaluating the impact of lower response rates on data quality, and (4) optimizing the procedure for tracking respondents between waves of panel survey cycles, to minimize later wave non-response, This work has intellectual merit because it will be based on well-established theories of survey methodology, and the findings of this work will have theoretical implications for improving understanding the processes of social science data collection and optimizing those methods. The insights gained from this work can and will be distributed broadly to the survey research community to understand principles of incentivizing behaviors generally, eliciting cooperation generally, and understanding the determinants of non-participation in collective enterprises for the public good. We plan to publish as many findings as possible from this work. The proposed activities will promote training because a graduate student and undergraduates at Stanford will play active roles in the work, thereby gaining valuable professional experience. Because sample surveys are devoted to collecting data from all segments of society, and because under-represented groups tend to participate in surveys at especially low rates, the efforts of this research seek to broaden their representation in survey datasets and policy-making. This work is completely devoted to enhancing the infrastructure for research that SRS surveys constitute. The societal benefits of this work will focus on enhancing the quality of SRS survey data, which play important roles in federal and private sector strategic planning.
Posted by cthomsen at 10:57 AM
October 06, 2006
Stanford IT Open House approaching
Stanford University Libraries and Information Technology Services are happy to present the 2006 on Wednesday November 1 in Meyer and Green Libraries. Come talk to campus representatives from nearly every technical, media related, and communications related service. More information can be found at http://itopenhouse.stanford.edu/
Posted by vijoy at 04:44 PM