Grants advance social sciences research, collaboration

How might the pandemic change social interaction between older adults, shift dynamics for immigrant workers and reshape local housing markets? How do gender disparities in pay vary across industrialized societies? And how quickly should you respond to that late email from a co-worker?

Those are some of the research questions Cornell faculty will pursue with the help of more than $271,000 in grants awarded this spring by the Cornell Center for Social Sciences (CCSS). The grants funded 19 proposals for studies and conferences involving more than 30 faculty members and researchers across campus.

Awarded each spring and fall, CCSS grants seek to promote interdisciplinary work, advance projects that are strong candidates for external funding and jump-start work by early-career faculty. The grants provide up to $12,000 for research projects, $5,000 for conferences hosted by Cornell and – new this spring – $30,000 for collaborations between members of the university’s newly formed or expanded superdepartments in economics, psychology and sociology, and of the coming School of Public Policy.

“We are excited about the range that this grant round represents,” said CCSS co-director Sahara Byrne, professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “We are particularly looking forward to seeing the results of exciting collaborations between members of the newly forming superdepartments.”

“The proposals awarded this round respond to the most relevant and critical issues of the day, including immigration, work culture, the social effects of COVID-19 and gender inequities,” added CCSS co-director Peter Enns, professor in the Department of Government, in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). “We are proud to fund such significant research.”

A CCSS grant will help Suzanne Lanyi Charles, assistant professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning, in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, study whether the pandemic could lead to “The Next Wall Street Housing Grab.” Charles will analyze activity by a new type of investment firm that emerged after the 2008 housing crisis – publicly traded real estate investment trusts specializing in single-family rental housing – that she said had decreased housing affordability and security. These firms are “well-positioned to exploit the COVID-19-induced 2020 housing crisis,” Charles wrote, “potentially emerging with even greater iniquitous power over local housing markets.”

The pandemic forced many older adults to make difficult choices between maintaining in-person social interactions that risked exposure to the virus, cutting off contact and risking isolation and loss of support, or shifting to virtual interaction. In “Changes in Social Contact Due to COVID-19 and Implications for Health and Well-Being of Older Adults,” a collaboration within the sociology superdepartment, Adriana Reyes, assistant professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management in the College of Human Ecology (CHE), and Erin York Cornwell, associate professor in the Department of Sociology (A&S), will examine how socializing among older adults has changed during the pandemic, including variation across demographic groups and socioeconomic status, and the implications for their physical and mental health.

In a book project, “Mao and Markets: The Communist Roots of Chinese Enterprise,” Christopher Marquis, the Samuel C. Johnson Professor in Sustainable Global Enterprise and professor of management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, and Kunyuan Qiao, a doctoral student in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, seek to unravel a “China puzzle” – the nation’s spectacular economic rise combining communist ideology and capitalist practices. Through in-depth case studies and statistical analyses, Marquis and Qiao will connect the legacy and ideology of Mao Zedong – founding leader of China’s communist regime – to business and entrepreneurship, providing “a new and more comprehensive angle to understand Chinese business.”

Additional research proposals funded by CCSS grants this spring include:

  • “The Social Psychology Behind ‘Always On’ Work Culture”: Vanessa Bohns, associate professor in the Department of Organizational Behavior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), and Laura Giurge, a postdoctoral research fellow at London Business School, will investigate a bias that causes receivers of work emails to overestimate senders’ expectations for response speed – seen as a proxy for hard work – and how tempering that bias affects productivity and well-being.
  • “Using Eye Tracking to Investigate Real-Time Statistical Learning”: Morten Christiansen, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology (A&S), Felicity Frinsel, a doctoral student in the field of psychology, and Fabio Trecca, assistant professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, will leverage eye tracking to develop theoretical insights into the role of statistical learning – sensitivity to distributional patterns in the world – in language acquisition, and suggest how second-language learning instruction might be improved.
  • “Portable Rights for Migrant Workers: Bringing the Sending State Back into the Local”: Shannon Gleeson, associate professor in the Department of Labor Relations, Law and History (ILR), and Xóchitl Bada, associate professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, will work on a book about the role sending states have begun to play in international migration, in some cases stepping in to protect erstwhile residents’ labor and human rights.
  • “Immigrant Worker Precarity, Race, and the Dual Pandemic”: Kati Griffith, the Jean McKelvey-Alice Grant Professor and chair of the Department of Labor Relations, Law and History (ILR), and Shannon Gleeson, associate professor in the Department of Labor Relations, Law and History (ILR), will marry legal analysis and interviews with low-wage immigrant workers (unauthorized, temporary and permanent) from Haiti and Central America to illuminate how the pandemic has shifted workplace dynamics.
  • “James Tully: To Think and Act Differently”: Alexander Livingston, associate professor in the Department of Government (A&S), will work on an edited volume featuring writings by the Canadian political scientist and philosopher James Tully to illustrate the origins, development and reinvention of his central innovation in the study of political thought: reconceiving political theory as a dialogical practice.
  • “Sex Discrimination and Title IX Enforcement in the Academy”: Vida Maralani, associate professor in the Department of Sociology (A&S), and Celene Reynolds, a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow and postdoctoral associate in the Department of Organizational Behavior (ILR), will examine the experience of, and institutional responses to, sex discrimination in U.S. higher education. The study will be the first to systematically describe and analyze allegations of unlawful sex discrimination in academe.
  • “Civility as a Contextualized Social Psychological Phenomenon: The Role of Equality, Agency, and Mobility”: Laura Niemi, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology (A&S), will conduct research seeking to clarify when and why people disagree about what civility means, and the extent to which they agree – even when they differ in values or social position.
  • “Japan Reborn: Race and Foreign Relations from World War to Cold War”: Kristin Roebuck, assistant professor and Howard Milstein Faculty Fellow in the Department of History (A&S), will work on a book examining Japanese nationalists’ efforts during the Allied occupation after World War II (1945-52) to cleanse the nation of children born to Japanese mothers by foreign fathers, mostly U.S. troops, stationed in Japan after the war.
  • “Production Networks Under Uncertainty”: Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel, assistant professor and Robert Jain Faculty Fellow in the Department of Economics (A&S), Bineet Mishra, a graduate student in the field of economics, and Kristoffer Nimark, assistant professor in the Department of Economics (A&S), will study the impact of uncertainty on the network structure of production, or the set of input and output linkages between firms.
  • “The Effects on Children of Equality Rules for Religious Placement Agencies”: Nelson Tebbe, the Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, and Netta Barak-Corren, associate professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will use in-depth interviews, original datasets and national archive data to analyze whether children are harmed when child-placement agencies close their doors rather than follow antidiscrimination rules that violate their religious beliefs, and outcomes when agencies are allowed to continue to discriminate.

Additional grants supporting collaborations within superdepartments include:

  • “Machine Learning for Prediction of Tax Evasion”: Douglas Miller, professor and associate chair of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management (CHE), Marco Battaglini, the Edward H. Meyer Professor of Economics (A&S), and Eleonora Patacchini, the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Professor of International Political Economy in the Department of Economics (A&S), will develop a machine-learning prediction model aimed at improving targeting of auditing resources, to be tested in collaboration with the Italian Tax Authority.
  • “Work Hours and Gender Inequality in Earnings Across Countries”: Kelly Musick, professor and chair of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management (CHE), and Kim Weeden, the Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Sociology (A&S), will explore cross-national differences in wage disparities between women and men, between parents and childless adults, and between “mothers and others” in advanced industrialized societies.
  • “Reducing the Adverse Effects of Prenatal Maternal Stress on Child Neurodevelopment in a Low-Income African American Sample”: Barbara Strupp, professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (CHE) and Department of Psychology (A&S), Anthony Ong, professor in the Department of Human Development (CHE), and Richard Canfield, senior research associate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (CHE), will investigate the potential for increased maternal intake of choline, an essential nutrient, to reduce the risk to optimal child development caused by greater exposure to prenatal stress.
  • “Cultural Differences in Event Perception: Neurophysiological Measures and Developmental Origins”: Qi Wang, professor and chair of the Department of Human Development (CHE), Khena Swallow, associate professor in the Department of Psychology (A&S), and Sawa Senzaki, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, will examine how the sociocultural context in which individuals develop affects how they perceive and remember events as adults, as children and as parent-child dyads.

Grants will support two Cornell-based conferences:

  • “Rhythms of the Land: Indigenous Knowledge, Science, and Thriving Together in a Changing Climate”: Karim-Aly Kassam, International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies in the Department of Natural Resources and the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (CALS), and Rebecca Slayton, associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies (A&S), will lead an international conference of social and biophysical scientists with Indigenous and rural communities affected by climate change to help them envision possible futures and develop action plans.
  • “The American Political Economy after COVID-19”: The conference led by Isabel Perera, assistant professor in the Department of Government (A&S), will bring scholars together to discuss whether the “shock” of the COVID-19 pandemic will spur dramatic and long-term changes to American politics and markets, or has merely exposed pre-existing social inequalities, political-economic relationships and public policies.

Read complete abstracts here for each of the projects funded this spring.

Read the story in the Cornell Chronicle.

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