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PRC Brief Series

Welcome to the PRC Research & Policy Brief Series, an ongoing selection of research and policy briefs based on PRC publications and research of special interest to policymakers.

  • Population Health and Well-Being

    Greater Neighborhood Cohesion in Childhood and in Older Adults’ Current Neighborhoods Each Predict Higher Cognitive Function

    Jean Choi, Sae Hwang Han, Yee To Ng, & Elizabeth Muñoz, January 2024

    Healthy cognitive function allows people to better maintain their independence and economic productivity in adulthood. A sense of neighborhood cohesion–the perceived degree of trust, reciprocity, and sense of belonging among members of a community–may be one of the modifiable factors that can promote cognitive health and delay the onset of cognitive decline. This brief, from PRC Graduate Student Trainee Jean Choi and CAPS Faculty Affiliates Sae Hwang Han and Elizabeth Muñoz and colleague used data from the Health and Retirement Survey to investigate the effects on cognitive aging of perceived neighborhood cohesion at different life stages—childhood, young adulthood, early midlife, and late midlife/late adulthood. They found that greater perceived neighborhood cohesion in childhood and late midlife/late adulthood (people ranging in age from 51 to 89 at baseline) each predicted higher cognitive function at baseline. They argue that policies to enhance people’s sense of belonging and trust in their neighborhoods across the life course can be important ways to promote healthy cognitive aging.

    Older U.S. Adults Who Started Exercising After a Fall Were Less Likely to Experience Another Fall in the Following Two Years

    Namkee G. Choi, C. Nathan Marti, Bryan Y. Choi, and Mark M. Kunik, October 2023

    More than 25% of adults age 65 and over fall every year in the United States. Among older adults who fall, approximately 40% experience two or more falls in the same year. Falls often result from a combination of physical or functional, medical, psychological, sensory and cognitive risk factors and environmental circumstances. In recurrent falls – that is, two or more falls in a year or over a given timeframe – previous falls are the most significant additional risk factor. This brief, from CAPS Faculty Affiliate Namkee Choi and colleagues, summarizes findings from a recent study that used longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of adults age 70 and older to examine single and recurrent fall risk and impacts over 3 years. They found that rates of falling were high among older adults; older adults who started exercising after a fall in 2019 were less likely to experience a recurrent fall in the following 2 years; both a single fall and recurrent falls were associated with a higher risk of hospitalization; older adults with recurrent falls had worse physical or functional health and more psychological health problems at baseline compared to older adults who did not fall; and racial and ethnic differences in the risk of single and recurrent falls were identified. To reduce falls among older adults, they advocate for expanding the reach of evidence-based fall prevention programs.

    How Did Vaccine Hesitancy Vary for Black, White, US-born and Foreign-born Adults During Early Covid-19 Rollout Efforts?

    Michelle L. Frisco, Jennifer Van Hook, and Kevin J.A. Thomas, December 2022

    Recent national studies have found that Black adults were consistently more vaccine hesitant than White adults, while the evidence is mixed about Hispanic-White disparities in vaccine hesitancy. Few nationally representative studies have sought to explain why racial/ethnic disparities in vaccine hesitancy exist. In this research brief, PRC faculty scholar Kevin Thomas, along with former PRC trainees and Penn State professors Michelle Frisco and Jennifer Van Hook, explore race/ethnic and nativity disparities in Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy with nationally representative data from adults ages 18–65 collected early in vaccine rollout efforts. They found that Black and foreign-born Hispanic adults had the highest vaccine hesitancy. Anti-vaccine beliefs accounted for about 70% of the Black-White difference in vaccine hesitancy while differences between foreign-born Hispanic and White adults were mainly due to foreign-born Hispanic adults’ greater skepticism about whether the government was truthful about vaccine risks as well as their lower levels of education compared to White adults. The authors argue that widespread public education to combat anti-vaccine beliefs is a critical public health approach for alleviating Black-White inequity in vaccine hesitancy while localized efforts to reduce vaccine hesitancy among foreign-born Hispanic people are warranted in communities where it is most prevalent.

    Life Expectancy for Black People Living in Former Slave Counties Is Considerably Lower Than the Life Expectancy for White People, Even after Taking a Whole Host of Factors into Account

    Robert L. Reece, June 2022

    Research on the long-term impacts of chattel slavery in the United States has yielded some important new understandings of the connections between the country’s past and present. This brief, from PRC faculty scholar Robert Reece, examines the connection between the number of enslaved people in counties in former slave states and life expectancy among Black and White people living in those same places today. He finds that relative to counties with fewer enslaved people in 1860, counties that had more enslaved people in 1860 have lower Black life expectancies and higher White life expectancies today, which exacerbates life expectancy inequality in those places, even after accounting for demographics, health access, local racial animus, occupational hazards, health behaviors, and neighborhood safety. He argues for the need to improve the quality of care Black Americans receive by investing in healthcare facilities that have providers—particularly Black providers—trained in the importance of reducing racial health disparities.

    The Unequal Burden of Child Death Adds to Disadvantage in Psychological Distress for Black and Hispanic Parents

    Debra Umberson and Rachel Donnelly, February 2022

    Hundreds of studies have documented the adverse psychological consequences after parents experience the death of a child. However, very little is known about racial/ethnic variation in life course experiences following the death of a child. These gaps in knowledge are striking in the American context of systemic racism and recent public attention to grief associated with premature mortality in racial and ethnic minority communities. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, PRC faculty scholar and CAPS co-director Debra Umberson and former PRC trainee Rachel Donnelly investigate how experiencing a child’s death is associated with parents’ subsequent psychological distress in mid to later life. They find that all parents who experienced a child’s death had higher levels of psychological distress in mid to later life than their nonbereaved counterparts but Black and Hispanic parents who experienced a child’s death had the highest levels of psychological distress. The authors advocate for more screening of bereavement-related risks in mid to later life with appropriate intervention to improve mental health outcomes. Published in partnership with UT Austin’s Center on Aging and Population Sciences.

    Disclosing a Sexual Identity Is a Persistent Stressor Throughout the Lives of Sexual Minority Youth That Has Important Implications for Their Mental Health

    Allen B. Mallory, Amanda M. Pollitt, Meg D. Bishop, and Stephen T. Russell, September 2021

    Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual – known collectively as sexual minority youth – experience stress associated with their nonheterosexual identity. Disclosing a sexual minority identity can be stressful and can negatively affect the mental health of sexual minority youth. Former PRC graduate research trainee and current OSU Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar, along with former PRC postdoctoral fellow Amanda Pollitt, current PRC GRA Meg Bishop and PRC faculty scholar Stephen Russell report on one of the first longitudinal studies to explore disclosure stress and depression among sexual minority youth and young adults. They found that high levels of disclosure stress was correlated with higher depression symptoms and that stressful disclosures may matter more for depression symptoms at younger ages.

    School Enrollment Protects Brazilian Adolescents from Overweight and Obesity, Even for Siblings in the Same Household

    Letícia J. Marteleto, Molly Dondero, Jennifer Van Hook, Luiz C. D. Gama, and Rachel Donnelly, April 2021

    Children and adolescents who live in Brazil, one of the most unequal countries in the world, are now among the heaviest in the world. Traditionally, researchers have paid scant attention to the role of adolescents’ own emerging socioeconomic characteristics, measured by whether they are in school or working, on their weight status. Using a nationally representative data set that includes anthropometric measures of the height and weight of all household members, this study, led by PRC faculty research associate Letícia Marteleto and former PRC trainee Molly Dondero, examines whether and how adolescents’ school and work experiences are associated with overweight and obesity in Brazil. They find that Brazilian adolescents who are enrolled in school—both those who work and those who do not—have the lowest probabilities of being overweight or obese. They argue for robust policies that promote school retention to minimize adolescents’ risk of overweight and obesity.

    Older Adults Who Live Alone Benefited from Seeing People in Person during the COVID Pandemic but Not Necessarily by Talking on the Phone

    Karen L. Fingerman, Yee To Ng, Shiyang Zhang, Katherine Britt, Gianna Colera, Kira S. Birditt, and Susan T. Charles, January 2021

    Approximately one-third of women and one-fifth of men aged 60 and over in the U.S. live alone and are at heightened risk of social isolation due to social distancing and other safety precautions introduced to curtail the spread of COVID-19. This brief, from PRC faculty research associate Karen Fingerman and colleagues, reports on a recent study which examines how daily positive emotions and negative emotions vary based on whether people live alone during the pandemic. They found that older adults who live alone experienced more positive emotions when they saw someone in person compared to those who had no in-person contact but that older adults who live alone experienced more negative emotions, especially loneliness, when they talked to someone on the phone. They are argue that those who want to support emotional well-being in older adults who live alone with in-person contact should do so while following COVID-19 safety guidelines.

    Adolescent e-cigarette users are more likely than never-users to progress to cigarette smoking, even among those who had no intention to start smoking

    Olusegun Owotomo, Haley Stritzel, Sean Esteban McCabe, Carol J Boyd, Julie Maslowsky, November 2020

    E-cigarette use is a relatively new risk factor for nicotine use disorder among U.S. adolescents. Adolescents who use e-cigarettes are at increased risk of developing nicotine use disorder and progressing to smoke conventional cigarettes. In this brief, former PRC trainee Olusegun Owotomo, current PRC trainee Haley Stritzel, PRC faculty research associate Julie Maslowsky, and colleagues explore which e-cigarette users progress to cigarette smoking, and why. They find that more adolescent e-cigarette users started smoking cigarettes one year later than adolescents who had never used e-cigarettes, including those who had no intention to start smoking. The authors call on health care providers, parents, and education campaigns to emphasize the dangers associated with e-cigarette use, including the risk of progressing to cigarette smoking even among those without an intention to do so.

    Liberal State Policies Improve Life Expectancy

    Jennifer Karas Montez, Jason Beckfield, Julene Kemp Cooney, Jacob M. Grumbach, Mark D. Hayward, Huseyin Zeyd Koytak, Steven H. Woolf, and Anna Zajacova, October 2020

    Life expectancy of people in the United States ranks last among 22 high-income countries. National averages obscure large differences within the states, which in 2017 ranged from a high of 81.6 years Hawaii to a low of 74.6 years in West Virginia. The state policy environment is critical to understanding these large disparities among U.S. states. In this study, former PRC trainee Jennifer Karas Montez, along with PRC faculty research associate Mark Hayward and co-authors, examine the impact of state policies on life expectancy in U.S. states from 1970 to 2014. They find that states that implemented more liberal policies that expanded economic regulations and protected marginalized groups saw a rise in their life expectancy while states that implemented more conservative policies were more likely to see a lowering of life expectancy for its residents.

    How Do Intersecting and Overlapping Social, Environmental, Political and Economic Factors Affect Vulnerable Black Women’s Substance Use?

    Liesl A. Nydegger and Kasey R. Claborn, August 2020

    Black women generally have higher rates of infections, diseases and mental health problems than other groups in the United States. Systemic racism, economic and educational discrimination, and family conflicts contribute to these health disparities. Given these intersecting and overlapping social, environmental, political and economic factors that negatively affect Black women’s lives, it is helpful to employ syndemic theory, which focuses on understanding the ways in which a person’s context affects their health outcomes, to better understand vulnerable Black women’s substance use experiences. Using in-depth interviews with vulnerable Black women, PRC faculty research associate Liesl Nydegger and her Dell Medical School colleague Kasey Claborn demonstrate that this subpopulation of Black women were at high risk for unhealthy substance use and dependence. They call for policymakers to expand housing opportunities, increase funding to address intimate partner violence, and to improve the mental health treatment and substance use recovery opportunities available to low-income Black women.

    Mexican Americans Show Educational Progress Across Generations When Measurement Limitations Are Overcome

    Brian Duncan, Jeffrey Grogger, Ana Sofia León, Stephen J. Trejo, July 2020

    Understanding how immigrants progress in educational attainment across generations is crucial for assessing the long-term impact of immigration on society. Standard data sources used to measure generational progress rely on respondents self-identifying their racial or ethnic origin. But because assimilation and intermarriage can cause ethnic attachments to fade across generations, using these subjective measures of racial/ethnic identification might miss a significant portion of the later-generation descendants of immigrants. This phenomenon, known as ethnic attrition, can hide evidence of generational progress. To overcome the data limitations of subjective measures of racial/ethnic identification, PRC faculty research associate Stephen Trejo and colleagues use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) that reports the countries of birth of the respondents as well as the respondents’ parents and grandparents. They find that when country of birth for respondents, parents, and grandparents is available and used to measure immigrant generation, Mexican Americans show educational improvements between the 1.5 and third generations.

    Does the Death of a Child Prior to Midlife Increase Later Dementia Risk for Parents? Is this Disadvantage Greater for Black Parents than for White Parents?

    Debra Umberson, Rachel Donnelly, Minle Xu, Mateo Farina, and Michael A. Garcia, December 2019

    Dementia is a growing public health concern in the United States. Like other health outcomes in the U.S., the burdens of dementia are borne more heavily by black Americans than they are for white Americans. A number of biological, psychological, social, and behavioral mechanisms are associated with increased risk for dementia, but specific life course events that could trigger these mechanisms, such as the death of a child, have been largely unstudied. In this brief, PRC director Debra Umberson, former PRC graduate student trainees Rachel Donnelly and Minle Xu, and PRC graduate student trainees Mateo Farina and Michael A. Garcia use Health and Retirement Study data to show that the death of a child prior to midlife increases dementia risk for both black and white parents. Black parents are disadvantaged in that they are more likely than white parents to experience the death of a child, and such losses add to the already substantial racial disadvantage in dementia risk.

    Do Transgender Women and Men Have Worse Health Outcomes if Their Voices Are Perceived as Inconsistent with Their Gender Identity?

    Danya Lagos, October 2019

    Transgender people in the United States are more likely to experience worse overall health than cisgender (non-transgender) people. Within the U.S. transgender population, differences in expressions of gender identity are linked to health disparities. In social interactions, people typically ascribe gender to others by using cues from embodied characteristics associated with sex differences, such as voices, body shape, and hair growth patterns. Voices, particularly gendered voices, can shape relative social advantage and disadvantage. In this brief, PRC postdoctoral fellow Danya Lagos isolates the link between voice-based gender misclassification and patterns of health inequality within the transgender population. She finds that for both transgender women and transgender men, being perceived as a woman over the phone is associated with worse overall health.

    When Older People Interact with Weak Social Ties, They Get Up and Move

    Karen L. Fingerman, Meng Huo, Susan T. Charles, and Debra J. Umberson, July 2019

    Decades of research demonstrate the importance of social relationships on well-being in later life. Most of these studies have focused on the impact of close ties on physical and emotional health. This brief, from PRC faculty research associate Karen Fingerman and colleagues, reports on a study that breaks new ground by measuring the association of both close social ties and weak social ties on physical activity and mood. They find that older adults who interact with more weak social ties engage in more physical activity while encounters with close ties improve mood more.

    The Impact of Poverty and Discrimination on Child Height in India

    Diane Coffey, Ashwini Deshpande, Jeffrey Hammer, and Dean Spears, March 2019

    This brief describes disparities in child height – an important indicator of early life health – in India. The authors find that socioeconomic differences explain why Scheduled Tribe children, who often grow up geographically and socially isolated from other groups, are shorter than general caste children. However, socioeconomic variables alone do not explain why Scheduled Caste children are shorter than general caste children. Instead, height gaps between Scheduled Caste and general caste children are explained by a combination of SES variables and the fraction of households in a Scheduled Caste child’s neighborhood that outrank her household in the caste system. This may be because pregnant mothers experience more stress when they live near general caste neighbors or it may be because of the particular ways in which the general castes enforce their social dominance over Scheduled Castes, such as limiting Scheduled Caste families’ use of clean water.

    How Does the Transmission of Diet Behaviors Differ by Parent and Child Gender in Brazil?

    Rachel Donnelly and Letícia J. Marteleto, February 2019

    Diet is a key driver of obesity and a key mechanism in the transmission of obesity from parent to child. While past research in this area has primarily focused on the influence of mothers on the diets of their children, this brief, from PRC graduate student Rachel Donnelly and PRC faculty research associate Letícia Marteleto, reports on research that examines the influence of mothers and fathers on the diets of their daughters and sons in Brazil. They find that mothers’ diets have a stronger association with their daughters’ diets than fathers’ diets in lower-socioeconomic households. They argue that policies aiming to reduce the burden of obesity and improve nutrition among Brazilian children should consider improving the diets and health of parents, especially mothers.

    What Happens during Healthcare Interactions to Compel Gender Nonconforming LGBTQ People to Avoid Healthcare?

    Emily Allen Paine, October 2018

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals experience worse health throughout their lives compared to their heterosexual and cisgender (non-transgender, hereafter cis) peers, yet LGBTQ individuals are more likely to avoid healthcare. In addition, gender nonconforming LGBTQ individuals report more discrimination and avoid healthcare more often than their conforming counterparts. Using in-depth interviews with LGBQ cis women, transgender men, and nonbinary individuals, PRC graduate student trainee Emily Allen Paine shows the ways that healthcare interactions stigmatize gender nonconforming LGBTQ individuals which in turn discourages them from seeking care.

    What is the Impact of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination on Adolescents’ Well-Being?

    Aprile D. Benner, Yijie Wang, Yishan Shen, Alaina E. Boyle, Richelle Polk, and Yen-Pi Cheng, September 2018

    Racial and ethnic disparities are common across multiple domains in the United States and likely rooted in experiences of discrimination that occur early in individuals’ lives. In this brief, PRC faculty research associate Aprile D. Benner and colleagues report on a meta-analysis that examines whether adolescents’ perceptions of racial and ethnic discrimination are negatively linked to their well-being. They found that greater experiences of racial and ethnic discrimination are associated with higher levels of socioemotional distress, a higher likelihood of engaging in risky health behaviors and lower academic achievement. They also found that discrimination poses the greatest risk for Latino youth and younger adolescents.

    Transgender Youth Allowed to Use Their Chosen Name Have Fewer Mental Health Problems

    Stephen T. Russell, Amanda M. Pollitt, Gu Li, and Arnold H. Grossman, June 2018

    This brief, from PRC researchers Stephen Russell and Amanda Pollitt and colleagues, examines the relationship between chosen name use—which is a proxy for youths’ gender affirmation in various contexts—and mental health among transgender youth. The authors find that transgender youth who were able to use their chosen name at home, in school, at work, and with friends had lower levels of severe depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior.

    Black Deaths Matter: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Racial Disparities in Relationship Loss and Health

    Debra Umberson, January 2018

    Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to experience the premature death of mothers, fathers, siblings, children, and other relatives and friends. In this brief, PRC director Debra Umberson presents a conceptual framework for understanding how disparities in loss launch a lifelong cascade of psychological, social, behavioral, and biological consequences that undermine social connections, health, and well-being over the life course for black Americans.

    Adolescent E-cigarette Users’ Perceptions of the Harm and Addictiveness of Conventional Cigarette Smoking

    Olusegun Owotomo, Julie Maslowsky, and Alexandra Loukas, October 2017

    As the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise and their link with conventional cigarette smoking becomes clearer, it is important to understand how e-cigarette users compare with non-users, conventional cigarette smokers, and dual users on perceptions of addiction risk of conventional cigarette smoking as well as on other risk factors associated with smoking. PRC graduate student trainee Olusegun Owotomo, PRC faculty research associate Julie Maslowsky, and co-author Alexandra Loukas found that adolescent e-cigarette users endorsed a number of attitudes, perceptions, and characteristics that are risk factors for conventional cigarette smoking. These perceptions may leave them vulnerable to becoming conventional cigarette smokers or dual users in the future and potentially increase their risk for nicotine addiction.

    Open Defecation and Anemia in Children: The Case of Nepal

    Diane Coffey, Michael Geruso, and Dean Spears, May 2017

    Anemia is typically thought of as a nutritional outcome, with a corresponding policy focus on improving nutrient intake.  PRC faculty research associates Diane Coffey, Michael Geruso, and Dean Spears convincingly show that the disease environment affects nutrient absorption.  Therefore, interventions to address anemia should also focus on reducing parasitic infections that are transmitted through open defecation.  They make the case that policy makers interested in reducing anemia in developing countries should also prioritize reducing open defecation. 

    Do U.S. States’ Socioeconomic and Policy Contexts Shape Differences in Adult Disability?

    Jennifer Karas Montez, Mark D. Hayward, and Douglas A. Wolf, March 2017

    Using nationally-representative data from the American Community Survey, the authors, including former PRC graduate trainee Jennifer Karas Montez and current PRC faculty research associate Mark Hayward, apply the World Health Organization’s socio-ecological framework to determine if differences in adult disability exist across states and, if so, what are possible explanations for those differences. The research finds that disparities in adult disability across U.S. states are substantial, and a significant fraction of disparities arises from economic or social policies at the state level.

    How Losing Family Members Earlier than Expected Adds to Racial Disadvantage for U.S. Blacks

    Debra Umberson, January 2017

    PRC director Debra Umberson uses nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Health and Retirement Study to estimate the differences by race in the likelihood that Blacks will be exposed to more deaths of close family members than Whites throughout their lives. The data shows that Black Americans experience more family member deaths than Whites overall, and specific losses occur earlier in life. Studying this question is important because it could reveal an added layer of racial disadvantage suffered by Blacks that is not captured by differences in life expectancy or mortality alone.

  • Reproductive, Maternal, and Infant Health

    The Supply of Pill Packs for Self-managed Abortion Increased Substantially After the U.S. Supreme Court Eliminated the Constitutional Right to Choose Abortion

    Abigail R.A. Aiken, Elisa S. Wells, Rebecca Gomperts, and James G. Scott, April 2024

    In the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022, the United States Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to choose an abortion. Several states, particularly in the south, immediately imposed total or near-total abortion bans or severely restricted abortion access. In this brief, PRC faculty scholar Abigail Aiken and colleagues identified the number of abortion medications that entities outside of the formal U.S. health care system supplied to people in the U.S. as well as estimated of the number of people who used the medications to self-manage a medication abortion in the 6 months after the Dobbs decision. They found that community networks, telemedicine organizations, and online vendors provided a total of 35,587 medications for self-managed abortion in the 6 months post-Dobbs and that community networks accounted for over half of the total supply post-Dobbs. After accounting for the estimated rate of supplied vs. used medications, as well as estimates of what usage would have been in the absence of the Dobbs decision, the number of self-managed abortions that took place increased by an estimated 26,055 in the 6 months after Dobbs. The authors argue that self-managed abortion will likely continue to be the way many people access abortion in the U.S. post-Dobbs.

    State Policies Impact Young People’s Use of Their Preferred Contraceptive Method

    Kristine Hopkins, Jennifer Yarger, Irene Rossetto, Audrey Sanchez, Elisa Brown, Sarah Elmes, Thaddeus Mantaro, Kari White, and Cynthia C. Harper, September 2023

    When young people can use the contraceptive method of their choice, they are able to exercise reproductive autonomy. State policies can make it easier for young people to access their preferred contraception by increasing insurance coverage and reducing costs barriers. California’s expansion of Medicaid provides insurance coverage to many low-income residents. Its strong family planning safety net helps to provide coverage to many uninsured residents. Texas’s more restrictive health care policy environment, including much more limited access to Medicaid and other programs for low-income and uninsured residents, creates more barriers for young people to access contraception. Using data from a study of community college students in Texas and California, PRC researchers Kristine Hopkins, Irene Rossetto, Audrey Sanchez, PRC faculty scholar Kari White, and colleagues from the University of California San Francisco, explored the impact of insurance coverage on use of preferred contraceptive method. They found that students in Texas were less likely to use their preferred contraceptive method than students in California, with uninsured Texas students being the most disadvantaged. The authors argue that, while it is important to expand access to preferred contraceptive methods in all states, it is especially urgent to improve young people’s access to the contraception they want to use in states with abortion bans.

    Texas’ 2021 Ban on Abortion in Early Pregnancy Was Associated with a Decrease in Abortions in Texas, an Increase in Abortions Out of State, and a Decrease in Overall Abortions

    Kari White, Gracia Sierra, Klaira Lerma, Anitra Beasley, Lisa G. Hofler, Kristina Tocce, Vinita Goyal, Tony Ogburn, Joseph E. Potter, and Samuel L. Dickman, July 2023

    Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) made abortions illegal once embryonic cardiac activity (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a “fetal heartbeat”) can be detected (at about 5-6 weeks of pregnancy), with very limited exceptions. Before SB 8, abortions could be provided in Texas up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. SB 8 was the most restrictive abortion law in the US until June 2022 when the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which allowed Texas to enforce a law that prohibits almost all abortions. In this study, Kari White, PRC faculty scholar and principal investigator of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), along with PRC and TxPEP researchers Gracia Sierra, Klaira Lerma, Vinita Goyal, and professor emeritus Joseph Potter, and colleagues, compared the abortions Texas residents had in the month before and month after SB 8 went into effect. They also calculated the proportion of abortions that were done out of state for people who were 12 or more weeks pregnant in the six months after the law went into effect, compared to the same six-month period the year before. They found that SB 8 was associated with a decrease in abortions in Texas, an increase in abortions out of state, a decrease in overall abortions, and an increase in abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

    Self-managed Medication Abortion Using Misoprostol Provided by an Online Telemedicine Service Has a High Rate of Effectiveness and a Low Rate of Serious Adverse Events

    Dana M. Johnson, Mira Michels-Gualtieri, Rebecca Gomperts, and Abigail R. A. Aiken, March 2023

    In the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling that ended the constitutional right to abortion, many states have banned or severely restricted abortion access. As a result, women, transgender men, and gender non-binary individuals capable of pregnancy face unprecedented difficulties obtaining abortion care in clinics in those states. Aid Access is an online telemedicine organization that offers low-cost abortion pills to end a pregnancy on one’s own, a process that is also known as self-managed medication abortion. Typically, Aid Access provides the medications mifepristone and misoprostol for self-managed abortion. However, the service temporarily provided prescriptions for misoprostol alone because of challenges shipping mifepristone internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this brief, PRC Graduate Student Trainee Dana Johnson, PRC Faculty Scholar Abigail Aiken and colleagues assessed the safety and effectiveness of self-managed abortion using misoprostol acquired from Aid Access for 568 US residents. They found that self-managed medication abortion using misoprostol had a high rate of effectiveness and a low rate of serious adverse events. These argue that as existing and potential bans substantially limit access to mifepristone, and because misoprostol has far fewer legal constraints, people may increasingly consider misoprostol alone for self-managed abortion.

    A Health Education and Patient Navigation Program Increased Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening for Rural and Border Texas Residents

    Derek Falk, Catherine Cubbin, Barbara Jones, July 2022

    In the Texas-Mexico border region, women who live in lower socioeconomic status areas have lower breast and cervical cancer screening and higher cancer-related mortality than their counterparts in higher socioeconomic status areas. Studies have also reported several barriers to cancer screening in Texas border counties, including cost and transportation challenges. Patient navigation – or programs that provide support to help people overcome barriers to care – has been shown to increase breast and cervical cancer screening rates among different populations. However, few studies have focused on patient navigation to increase breast and cervical cancer screening among rural and border populations. To address this gap in knowledge, former UT Austin School of Social Work T32 recipient Derek Falk, PRC faculty scholar Catherine Cubbin, and UT colleague Barbara Jones, examined the impact of patient navigation services on clinical screening for breast and cervical cancer among women who attended an educational program. They also identified variation in breast and cervical cancer screening rates by rural and border counties in Texas. They found that patient navigation services increased receipt of breast and cervical cancer screening among women reporting barriers to care. They argue for the importance of health care systems to invest in supportive care services to improve outcomes for underserved populations in the United States.

    The Pattern and Timing of Weight Changes in Pregnancy Impact Child Growth and Weight Trajectories for Girls but not Boys

    Elizabeth M. Widen, Natalie Burns, Michael Daniels, Grant Backlund, Rachel Rickman, Saralyn Foster, Amy R. Nichols, Lori A. Hoepner, Eliza W. Kinsey, Judyth Ramirez-Carvey, Abeer Hassoun, Frederica P. Perera, Radek Bukowski, and Andrew G. Rundle, April 2022

    Current obesity prevalence in the U.S. is 14% among preschool aged children, 18% among school aged children, 21% among adolescents, and 40% among adults. Pregnancy is a critical period that can shape later health and obesity risk for both the woman carrying the pregnancy and the eventual child. The Institute of Medicine recommends that researchers explore how the pattern of prenatal weight gain, rather than total prenatal weight gain, impacts children’s health outcomes. Responding to this call, PRC faculty scholar Beth Widen and colleagues designed a study to understand how patterns of weight changes over the course of pregnancy are linked to body composition and growth patterns of the children born of these pregnancies. They found that unlike boys, girls exposed to high prenatal weight changes are likely more vulnerable to excess body fat across childhood and into early adolescence. These findings will likely be included in future Institute of Medicine recommendations for healthy weight changes throughout pregnancy.

    What Motivates People in the United States to Seek Medication Abortion Pills Outside of the Clinic Setting? 

    Dana M. Johnson, Melissa Madera, Rebecca Gomperts, Abigail R.A. Aiken, November 2021

    For those wanting to end a pregnancy, the cost of in-clinic abortion care can be a significant barrier. Restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. add further economic burdens to people who would like to obtain an abortion in a clinic. As abortion has become increasingly restricted, evidence is mounting that some people in the U.S. forgo the clinic altogether. Instead, these people attempt to manage their abortion on their own, outside of the formal healthcare setting. In 2018, Aid Access became the first service to provide self-managed medication abortion in the U.S. via an online telemedicine service. In this brief, PRC trainee Dana Johnson, PRC faculty scholar Abigail Aiken, and colleagues report on a recent study of 80 U.S.-based people who self-managed their abortion using medications obtained from Aid Access. They found that the high costs of in-clinic abortion care, made more difficult by restrictive state abortion policies, motivated people to seek medication abortion via online telemedicine. They also found that mothers weighed their family’s economic wellbeing in their decisions. Finally, the suggested donation of $90 for the pills was still too much for many people seeking online medication abortion.

    Breastfeeding Is Hard. Can Using an Infant Carrier with Your Baby Make It Easier?

    Emily E. Little, Camille C. Cioffi, Lisa Bain, Cristine H. Legare, and Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, July 2021

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed only breast milk for the first six months of life. However, in the United States, far from all parents breastfeed their infants. Previous studies have shown that parents who spend more time in physical contact with their infants are more likely to detect early hunger cues and breastfeed more frequently than parents who spend less time in physical contact. This brief by Emily Little, executive director of Nurturely, PRC faculty scholar Cristine Legare, and colleagues, reports on a randomized controlled trial in which pregnant parents were randomly assigned to receive an infant carrier before birth or put on a waitlist to receive the carrier when their child was six months old. They found that, compared to parents in the control group, parents who received an infant carrier were more likely to feed their six-month-old breast milk, either partially or exclusively. To improve lactation, they argue that healthcare and workplace policies must take physical proximity between parents and infants into account.

    Who Is Offered and Who Gets an IUD or Implant Before Leaving the Hospital after Having a Baby?

    Cristina Wallace Huff, Joseph E. Potter, and Kristine Hopkins, April 2021

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognizes that IUDs and implants are a safe and effective contraceptive option for patients right after delivery. It is also a method that many women want. This research brief reports on a recent study in which obstetrician/gynecologist Cristina Wallace, along with PRC faculty research associates Kristine Hopkins and Joseph E. Potter, analyzed who was offered and who received these long-acting contraception (LARC) methods before discharge among 199 women who delivered a baby in a Texas safety net hospital. They found that 52% of the women were offered an immediate postpartum LARC method and that, among those who got the method before leaving the hospital, satisfaction and continuation of the methods was high. However, Spanish-speaking Hispanic women were less likely to be offered the method, perhaps due to limited use of interpretation services during contraceptive counseling. They argue for the importance of health care providers to present the full range of contraceptive options throughout pregnancy to all women to help them come to a patient-centered decision on their contraceptive method of choice.

    Evidence From Over 52,000 People in England and Wales Shows Telemedicine Abortion Without Ultrasound Is Safe, Effective and Improves Care

    Abigail Aiken, Patricia A Lohr, Jonathan Lord, Nabanita Ghosh, and Jennifer Starling, February 2021

    The Covid-19 pandemic prompted the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to publish guidelines to safeguard abortion care in the UK. These new guidelines allowed for the delivery of medical abortion via telemedicine for people with pregnancies up to 10 weeks’ gestation. The telemedicine model does not require ultrasound scans unless there are reported symptoms. Based on over 52,000 reports of abortion during the study period, the authors, led by PRC faculty research associate Abigail Aiken, found that telemedicine medical abortion without ultrasound is safe, effective and improves access. They argue that no-test telemedicine should become routine in the provision of abortion care.

    Live Births Fell in Brazil after the Link between the Zika Virus and Microcephaly Was Widely Publicized

    Letícia J. Marteleto, Gilvan Guedes, Raquel Z. Coutinho, and Abigail Weitzman, June 2020

    The Zika virus was first reported in Brazil in 2014. In late 2015, Brazil’s Ministry of Health announced the association between the Zika virus and microcephaly, which was followed by intense national and international media coverage. Government officials subsequently released statements recommending that women postpone pregnancies. In this brief, PRC faculty research associate Letícia Marteleto and colleagues use monthly data on live births and other data sources to show that the number of live births fell in 2016 approximately 9 months after the publicized link between the Zika virus and microcephaly. Declines were observed across all educational groups and all but the oldest age groups and in both the northeastern and southern states examined in more detail.

    Texas Family Planning Providers’ Difficulties Offering Adolescents Confidential Services Foreshadows Similar Problems Nationwide as New Title X Rules Go Into Effect

    Kate Coleman-Minahan, Kristine Hopkins, and Kari WhiteFebruary 2020

    Texas is one of 24 states that does not explicitly allow minor teens to consent for their own contraceptive care. The federal Title X family planning program historically has guaranteed confidential and low-cost SRH services for all patients, including minor teens. Recent changes to the Title X program guidelines may deter minor teens from getting confidential services, especially in states that require parental consent. Kate Coleman-Minahan, former PRC postdoctoral fellow and co-investigator with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, along with PRC faculty research associates Kristine Hopkins and Kari White, use in-depth interview data to explore the impact of changing parental consent rules on minor teens’ access to contraceptive care after policy changes in Texas. They find that the availability of confidential services for teens declined after the 2011-2013 changes to publicly funded family planning programs in Texas.

    Louisiana Abortion Patients' Current Challenges Accessing Care

    Erin Carroll and Kari White, January 2020

    In March 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee, the case that will decide whether Louisiana abortion providers need hospital admitting privileges. In a recent study of Louisiana abortion patients, PRC faculty research associate Kari White and colleague Erin Carroll compared patients’ expectations and preferences for care with their actual experiences accessing abortion services. From June 2018 – January 2019, the research team conducted 35 in-depth interviews with patients seeking care at the three in-state facilities. The study found that most women’s expectations and preferences for abortion care are not met in Louisiana’s current service environment and policy setting.

    Women’s Experiences with Protestors while Accessing Abortion Care in Louisiana

    Erin Carroll and Kari White, December 2019

    Women seeking care at free-standing abortion clinics often encounter anti-abortion protestors. While women seeking abortion have reported that the presence of protestors constitutes a negative and even traumatic aspect of care, laws protecting patients from protestor activity vary. From June 2018 – January 2019, PRC faculty research associate Kari White and colleague Erin Carroll led a research team that interviewed 35 women who were seeking abortion care at Louisiana’s three facilities about their experiences accessing services, including any interactions they may have had with people outside the clinics. They found that the presence of protestors was disruptive and unwelcome. In some cases, protestors impeded care.

    Repeat Teen Births in the United States Cluster in Poorer Areas with More Limited Reproductive Health Care Access

    Julie Maslowsky, Daniel Powers, C. Emily Hendrick, and Leila Al-Hamoodah, October 2019

    In 2017, 16.3% of the 194,377 births to adolescent women in U.S. ages 15-19 were repeat teen births. Understanding where first-time and repeat teen births occur, as well as documenting the demographic composition, socioeconomic conditions, density of health care providers, and availability of family planning services in these places, can inform both clinical practice and health services resource allocation. Using 2015-2017 birth certificate data, PRC faculty research associates Julie Maslowsky and Daniel Powers, along with their co-authors, found that first and repeat teen births cluster in geographic areas that are economically worse off than areas with lower levels of teen births. These results demonstrate a need to allocate resources and tailor teen pregnancy prevention programs to the types of teen births that are most common in each area.

    Confident, Moderate, Reluctant: Young Women’s Trajectories in Their Willingness to Refuse Unwanted Sex

    Abigail Weitzman and Allen B. Mallory, May 2019

    Unwanted sex is widely experienced by young women in the United States, and previous research has identified the factors associated with young women agreeing to have unwanted sex. However, much less is known about young women’s willingness to refuse sex. This brief, from PRC faculty research associate Abigail Weitzman and PRC graduate student trainee Allen Mallory, reports on a study that is the first of its kind to examine this willingness to refuse sex and explore how it evolves during the transition to adulthood. They find that young women follow three trajectories in their willingness to refuse unwanted sex: confident, moderate, and reluctant.

    Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws Have Negative Consequences for Women’s Health and Wellbeing

    Abigail R.A. Aiken, Elisa Padron, Kathleen Broussard, and Dana Johnson, October 2018

    Abortion is not legal in Northern Ireland, except to preserve a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent permanent damage to her physical or mental health. Despite this, women who live in Northern Ireland have abortions. Unless they qualify for one of the few legal exceptions, women obtain a clinic-based abortion by traveling to a country where abortion is legal or they use telemedicine to access medications to self-manage an abortion at home. Reporting on 30 in-depth interviews with women living in Northern Ireland, PRC faculty research associate Abigail R.A. Aiken, undergraduate student Elisa Padron and PRC graduate student trainees Kathleen Broussard and Dana Johnson show that Northern Irish women experience travel barriers, fear and anxiety surrounding the criminalization of self-managed abortion, and a breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship that isolates women and prevents them from seeking care and support through the Northern Irish healthcare system.

    Community College Students Want to Use More Effective Birth Control Methods But Can’t Always Get What They Want

    Kristine Hopkins, Celia Hubert, Kate Coleman-Minahan, Amanda Jean Stevenson, Kari White, Daniel Grossman, and Joseph E. Potter, April 2018

    Female community college students who have a child while in college are 65% more likely to drop out than those who don’t. This brief, from researchers with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, shows that a large percentage of community college students want to use more effective contraceptive methods, but many aren’t using them, often due to access barriers. Several strategies are recommended to help community college students have children when they are ready for them, thus improving their chances of successfully completing college.

    The Impact of Information about Abortion Safety on Texas Voters’ Opinions about Restrictive Laws

    Kari White, Daniel Grossman, Amanda Jean Stevenson, Kristine Hopkins, and Joseph E. Potter, February 2018

    A substantial gap exists between the scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of abortion in the United States and public opinion about abortion safety. But recent studies suggest that it may be possible to change perceptions about health issues that are based on misinformation. This brief, by researchers from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, demonstrates that informational statements about the safety of office-based abortion care as currently practiced in Texas significantly reduced perceptions that ambulatory surgical center and admitting privileges requirements would make abortion safer and reduced support for these requirements.

    Women’s Empowerment and Contraceptive Method Use in Egypt

    Goleen Samari, October 2017

    Egypt’s fertility rate reached a 25-year high of 3.5 births per woman in 2014.It is assumed that women’s empowerment plays an important role in women’s choice of a specific contraceptive method. This research brief, by former PRC postdoctoral fellow Goleen Samari, found that use of long-acting methods fell in Egypt between 2005 and 2014, while use of short-acting methods increased. She also found that women’s empowerment increases the likelihood of contraceptive use in Egypt.

    The Impact of the Zika Epidemic on Women’s Reproductive Intentions and Behaviors in Brazil

    Letícia J. Marteleto, Abigail Weitzman, Raquel Zanatta Coutinho, and Sandra Valongueiro Alves, October 2017

    This research brief, by PRC faculty research associates Leticia Marteleto and Abigail Weitzman and co-authors, reports on a focus group study that explores how and why the Zika virus affects reproductive processes in Brazil. The authors found that both reproductive intentions and behaviors changed as a result of the Zika epidemic among women from low and high socioeconomic status groups in two areas of Brazil. They argue that Brazilian health officials and policymakers should reduce barriers to contraceptive use, address longstanding disparities in reproductive health services that put low-income women at disproportionate risk of an unwanted pregnancy, legalize abortion, and show respect and support to women who actively pursue pregnancy during the Zika epidemic.

    Improving Women’s Education Improves Maternal Health: Evidence from Peru

    Abigail Weitzman, July 2017

    Maternal mortality in Peru declined over 70 percent between 1990 and 2015. Women’s education levels rose during the same period. This brief by PRC faculty research associate Abigail Weitzman indicates that Peruvian women’s rising education levels contributed to falling maternal mortality rates by reducing the risk of maternal complications and increasing the use of modern contraception and reproductive healthcare.

    How Greater Travel Distance Due to Clinic Closures Reduced Access to Abortion in Texas

    Daniel Grossman, Kari White, Kristine Hopkins, and Joseph E. Potter, February 2017 

    Texas Policy Evaluation Project investigators demonstrate that increases in travel distance to the nearest abortion clinic caused by clinic closures between 2012 and 2014 were closely associated with decreases in the official number of abortions in Texas. Counties where the distance to the nearest facility increased 100 miles or more between 2012 and 2014 saw a 50% decline in abortions. Meanwhile, counties that did not have an abortion provider in 2014 and did not experience a change in distance to the nearest facility had essentially no change in the number of abortions.

    Irish and Northern Irish Women's Experiences with At-Home Medical Abortion Using Online Telemedicine

    Abigail R. A. Aiken, December 2016

    PRC faculty research associate Abigail Aiken reports on work with colleagues in which they analyzed six years of data from Irish and Northern Irish women who requested and accessed abortion pills using the online telemedicine service Women on Web (WoW). The aim of the study was to learn about who requests and accesses abortion using online services and their experiences both with their unwanted pregnancies and their abortions. This brief was submitted to the Irish Citizens' Assembly, where it is currently being considered as key evidence in the decision about whether to call a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution. 

    Irish and Northern Irish Women's Experiences with At-Home Medical Abortion Using Online Telemedicine

    Abigail R. A. Aiken, December 2016

    PRC faculty research associate Abigail Aiken reports on work with colleagues in which they analyzed six years of data from Irish and Northern Irish women who requested and accessed abortion pills using the online telemedicine service Women on Web (WoW). The aim of the study was to learn about who requests and accesses abortion using online services and their experiences both with their unwanted pregnancies and their abortions. This brief was submitted to the Irish Citizens' Assembly, where it is currently being considered as key evidence in the decision about whether to call a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution. 

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  • Family Demography and Human Development

    Busting the “Model Minority” Myth: Academic Performance and Substance Use Varies Widely Across Asian American Youth Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation

    Stephen T. Russell and Amy L. McCurdy, December 2023

    Asian Americans are often characterized as a “model minority,” uniformly high‐performing and hardworking people who have achieved success despite systemic racism and disenfranchisement. This model minority stereotype influences the way people think about Asian American youth, who are seen as “problem free,” and therefore assumed to be high-achieving and less likely to use substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana. This stereotype obscures diversity within Asian American groups. In this brief, PRC faculty scholar Stephen Russell and former PRC postdoctoral fellow Amy McCurdy explore how the multiple identities and experiences of Asian American youth intersect to impact their academic performance and substance use. They found that academic performance and substance use outcomes for Asian American youth varied widely across their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and experiences of bias-based bullying. Thus, Asian American youth are often treated as a single high-achieving group, yet that view overlooks diversity among Asian American youth, many of whom need support for academic success and health behaviors that they do not currently receive. The authors argue that to minimize the negative impact of bias-based bullying, schools should implement or strengthen school practices and policies that promote school safety and the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and all students.

    Black parents’ race-related experiences in their workplaces impact how they teach their adolescents about race and race relations

    Lorraine E. Scott and Fatima Varner, November 2023

    Racial discrimination – the unjust or prejudicial treatment of a person or a group of people based on racial group membership – is a harmful stressor on Black families and occurs across many contexts, including workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods. Black parents try to lessen the negative effects of racial discrimination by communicating racial socialization messages through which they tell their children about their race, racial group membership (cultural socialization), and interracial interactions (preparation for bias). In this brief, PRC graduate student trainee Loraine Scott and PRC faculty scholar Fatima Varner test how the racial composition of Black families’ contexts interact with experiences of racial discrimination to shape parents’ racial socialization messages to their adolescents. They found that more personal experiences of racial discrimination and working with more Black people was associated with more cultural socialization messages. Adolescents’ and parents’ experiences with racial discrimination were associated with more preparation for bias messages. In addition, parents with few Black co-workers gave more preparation for bias messages when they had more personal racial discrimination experiences. To lessen experiences of racial discrimination for Black workers and other workers from marginalized communities, the authors advocate for strengthening policies related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    Volunteering Improves Older Parents' Mental Health After the Death of a Child

    Hyungmin Cha and Patricia A. Thomas, August 2023

    About 13% of parents experience the death of their child, a devastating and stressful life event with negative mental health consequences. Few studies, however, have asked whether parents’ mental health eventually returns to the levels they had before losing their child, and if so, how long the healing process takes. Still fewer studies still have examined whether certain activities may lessen recovery time. Hyungmin Cha, former CAPS and PRC graduate student trainee and current postdoctoral fellow at USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, and Patricia Thomas, former PRC postdoctoral fellow (2010-2013) and current associate professor of sociology at Purdue University, analyze Health and Retirement Study data to examine of the duration of mental health recovery for bereaved parents. They also measure the impact of volunteering on that recovery. They find that, compared to nonbereaved parents, parents aged 50 and older whose child died between 1998 and 2016 had an immediate increase in depression after child loss and then returned to their pre-bereavement levels after about 7 years. They also found that depression for bereaved parents who started volunteering after their loss returned to their pre-bereavement levels more quickly, in about 4 years. They advocate for policies and programs to encourage volunteering to help older parents recover their mental health more quickly after child loss. Published in partnership with UT Austin’s Center on Aging and Population Sciences.

    Children Growing Up in Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Families and from Marginalized Racial/Ethnic Groups Tend to Have Epigenetic Profiles Associated with a Faster Pace of Biological Aging

    Laurel Raffington, Peter T. Tanksley, Aditi Sabhlok, Liza Vinnik, Travis Mallard, Lucy S. King, Bridget Goosby, Kathryn P. Harden, and Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, March 2023

    To better understand how social inequalities become embedded in the body and impact the mind across the lifespan, researchers can study a child’s epigenetic profile – a score based on markers on the DNA that turn genes “on” or “off.” In this brief, former Population Research Center Postdoctoral Fellow Laurel Raffington, along with PRC Faculty Scholars Kathryn Paige Harden, Elliot Tucker-Drob and Bridget Goosby and colleagues, took DNA-methylation samples from the saliva of young people participating in the Texas Twin Project to create epigenetic profiles. They found that the epigenetic profiles of children from disadvantaged backgrounds looked worse than those of other children, including a faster pace of biological aging, higher chronic inflammation, and lower cognitive functioning. The authors argue that, to decrease disparities in the cognitive and physical health of adults, interventions to reduce educational, nutritional, and environmental disparities need to start in childhood.

    Social Isolation Increases from Adolescence through Later Life but Varies by Gender, Age, and Partnership Status

    Debra Umberson, Zhiyong Lin, and Hyungmin Cha, September 2022

    Substantial evidence has found that people who are socially isolated experience worse mental and physical health and are more likely to die compared to their less isolated peers. And while the negative health impacts of social isolation affect both men and women, social isolation unfolds over the life course and perhaps in different ways for men and women. In this research brief, CAPS director and PRC faculty scholar Debra Umberson, along with PRC faculty affiliate Zhiyong Lin, and CAPS/PRC graduate student trainee Hyungmin Cha, report on a recent study that explores the gendered patterns of social isolation from adolescence to old age. Using Add Health and Health and Retirement Study data, they find that social isolation increases from adolescence through later life and that men are more socially isolated than women across all age and partnership categories with one exception: after age 62, married women are more socially isolated than married men. Published in partnership with UT Austin’s Center on Aging and Population Sciences.

    Mexican-Origin Adolescents’ Spanish Proficiency Is High and Benefits Ethnic Identity, Resilience, and Life Meaning

    Jun Wang, Wen Wen, Lester Sim, Xin Li, Jinjin Yan, and Su Yeong Kim, September 2022

    Retaining one’s heritage language is critical for the positive development of linguistic minority youth. However, research on heritage language development primarily focuses on younger children’s experiences. In a recent study exploring Spanish proficiency across six years during adolescence among Mexican-origin youth with first-generation immigrant parents, Jun Wang of Texas A&M along with PRC faculty scholar Su Yeong Kim and colleagues found that Spanish language proficiency was high and language development continued during adolescence. They also found that family relationship quality was more predictive of language proficiency than how much Spanish was spoken at home and that Mexican-origin adolescents’ Spanish proficiency consistently benefits their ethnic identity, resilience, and life meaning. The authors recommend that targeted and evidence-based intervention, prevention, and promotion programs be offered to support adolescents’ heritage language and resulting positive development.

    The Messages African American Mothers and Fathers Give Adolescents about Race Are Shaped by Their Own Experiences with Racial Discrimination and Their Observations and Fears of Racial Discrimination

    Kathleen Holloway and Fatima Varner, October 2021

    African American parents commonly socialize their adolescent children about race, ethnicity, and interracial relations. These racial socialization messages include communications about potential racial barriers – known as preparation for bias – and messages about African American culture, history and heritage – known as cultural socialization. How parents view their race and think others view them, as well as whether they are a mother or father, can influence the relationship between race-related stressors and the racial socialization messages that they give their children. Analyzing data from a national sample of 567 African American parents of adolescents, Human Development & Family Sciences graduate student Kathleen Holloway and HDFS assistant professor and PRC faculty scholar Fatima Varner found that personal and vicarious racial discrimination experiences were related to the cultural socialization messages parents gave their adolescent children. Parents who gave more messages to prepare their children for bias included, for example, those who experienced high vicarious racial discrimination who also believe that others view their race negatively. Holloway and Varner recommend increasing resources available to schools, mental health providers, and institutions that serve African American families, encouraging schools to adopt curricula that include racial socialization messages.

    Chinese People Believe that Only Children Are Lonely. But Chinese Youth Who Are Only Children Report Less Loneliness than their Peers with Siblings

    Shengjie Lin, Toni Falbo, Wen Qu, Yidan Wang, and Xiaotian Feng, July 2021

    A common stereotype about only children in China is that they are lonelier than children who grow up with siblings. However, little research has documented whether large numbers of Chinese actually believe in this stereotype and whether the stereotype is even true for youth. PRC graduate student trainees Shengjie Lin and Yidan Wang, along with faculty scholar Toni Falbo, and colleagues found that young Chinese adults do indeed believe that only children experience more loneliness than those who grew up with siblings. But this belief does not match the reality in which youths with siblings report more loneliness than only children. The mismatch between stereotype and reality points to the need for counseling professionals, among others, to check their only-child-as-lonely biases and instead focus on the reality of the issues facing their clients.

    Twin Study Shows that Link between Harsh Parenting and Youth Antisocial Behavior is Environmental, Not Genetic, in Origin

    Alexandra Burt, D. Angus Clark, Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Kelly L. Klump, and Luke W. Hyde, March 2021

    Harsh parenting, and especially hitting children in anger, has been linked to children’s aggression and antisocial behavior, as well as poorer school performance. However, while these relationships have consistently been shown across multiple studies, they have not been definitively shown to be the result of environmental, rather than genetic, factors. Studying twins can help researchers disentangle genetic and environmental effects. In this study, PRC director Liz Gershoff and colleagues studied both identical and non-identical twins to evaluate the impact of harsh parenting on youth antisocial behavior. They found that that youth antisocial behavior caused by harsh parenting is environmental, not genetic.

    Emotion Work Exacts a Psychological Toll on the Emotion Worker in Both Same-Sex and Different-Sex Marriages, But the Toll Is Highest When the Spouse is a Depressed Man

    Debra Umberson, Mieke B. Thomeer, Amanda M. Pollitt, and Sara E. Mernitz, September 2020

    Emotion work, or devoting effort toward assessing and managing another person’s emotional needs to support their emotional well-being, is a common dynamic in intimate relationships that helps foster intimacy and closeness between spouses. While emotion work generally benefits the well-being of the recipient, providing it can be stressful and might undermine the emotion worker’s psychological well-being. Previous research on heterosexual couples suggests that emotion work may more strongly undermine psychological well-being for women than for men. In the brief, PRC director Debra Umberson, former PRC trainee Meike Thomeer, and PRC postdoctoral fellows Amanda Pollitt and Sara Mernitz use diary data with individuals in same-sex and different-sex marriages and find that emotion work exacts a psychological toll on the emotion worker in both same- and different-sex marriages, but the toll is highest when the spouse is a man with depressive symptoms.

    Policy and Practice Recommendations for Ensuring that Foster Care Serves Children’s Best Interests

    Sarah A. Font and Elizabeth T. Gershoff, April 2020

    Foster care is a poorly regarded intervention to protect children exposed to abuse or neglect even though the totality of research evidence suggests no differences in child wellbeing between children receiving foster care versus similar children who do not, or slightly positive effects for select subgroups or for select outcomes. In this brief, PRC associate director Elizabeth T. Gershoff and co-author Sarah A. Font highlight what it would take to make meaningful improvements in children’s experiences and outcomes in the foster care system. These include: subjecting foster care interventions to rigorous impact evaluation; measuring the quality of the children’s experiences in foster care; and making strategic investments in data integration across multiple systems to produce high-quality impact and process evaluations.

    How Much Household Instability Do Children Experience While Growing Up?

    Kelly Raley, Inbar Weiss, Robert Reynolds, and Shannon E. CavanaghDecember 2019

    While most studies of children’s family changes and instability have focused on changes in mothers’ marital and cohabiting relationships, other adults and children entering or leaving households also contribute to changes in who children live with. PRC faculty research associates Kelly Raley and Shannon Cavanagh, PRC staff member Robert Reynolds, and PRC graduate student trainee Inbar Weiss use data from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation to expand the description of children’s household composition and stability to include sibling and other household member transitions as well as residential instability. They find that children’s experience of household instability is much more frequent than previously documented, with black and Hispanic children experiencing more household instability than white and Asian children.

    Marital Strain Increases Psychological Distress for Couples in Both Same-Sex and Different-Sex Marriages, but Women in Different-Sex Marriages Suffer More

    Michael A. Garcia and Debra Umberson, December 2019

    It is well-established that marriage benefits physical and emotional well-being. However, substantial evidence – based almost exclusively on one spouse in heterosexual marriages – demonstrates that marital strain increases psychological distress for married people. In this research brief, PRC graduate student trainee Michael Garcia and PRC director Debra Umberson examine whether and how marital strain reported by both the respondent and his or her spouse is associated with psychological distress and whether differences exist for women and men in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual marriages. They find that people who report higher levels of their own marital strain as well as people whose spouses report higher levels of marital strain experience more psychological distress. They also find that, compared to men in other union types, women married to men report higher levels of distress as a result of their own and their spouse’s marital strain. Women in different-sex marriages also report higher levels of distress compared to women in same-sex marriages, but as a result of self-reported strain only. This research has implications for research on marital dynamics and health as well as on counseling for married heterosexual, lesbian and gay couples.

    Sexual Minority Youth are Over-represented and Have Worse Outcomes in the Child Welfare System

    Stephen T. Russell, Laura Baams, Jessica N. Fish, Bianca D.M. Wilson, and Armeda Stevenson Wojciak, May 2019

    This brief, from PRC faculty research associate Stephen T. Russell and colleagues, reports on a study using nationally representative data to show that the over-representation of sexual minority youth in child welfare systems is a national phenomenon. This brief also reports on a companion study which finds that sexual minority youth in foster care or out-of-home placement experience more victimization, poorer school functioning, more substance use, and poorer mental health compared with heterosexual youth.

    Having Children and Forming Marital Unions as Adolescents Negatively Impact Educational Outcomes for Brazilian Women

    Leticia J. Marteleto and Aida Villanueva, November 2018

    Women who have their first child during adolescence tend to have worse social and economic outcomes compared to women who have their first child later in life or those who have no children. But it is not always clear if having a child while young is the cause of poor outcomes in adulthood or if teenage mothers’ previous disadvantages are the primary cause of those outcomes. The role that early union formation plays is also unclear. This brief, from PRC faculty research associate Leticia Marteleto and PRC graduate student trainee Aida Villanueva, evaluates the causal effects of adolescent childbearing and early union on young women’s educational attainment in Brazil. Using methodologies to account for teenage mothers’ selectivity into early childbearing, the authors demonstrate the ways early childbearing and early union formation negatively impact women’s educational attainment.

    No Longer Up for Debate: Physical Punishment Causes Negative Outcomes for Children

    Elizabeth Gershoff, Gail S. Goodman, Cindy L. Miller-Perrin, George W. Holden, Yo Jackson & Alan E. Kazdin, September 2018

    A large body of research consistently links parents’ use of physical punishment, including spanking, to harm to their children. This finding holds up across populations, settings, and cohorts. But because it is unethical to conduct randomized controlled trials to study the effects of physical punishment, some critics still debate whether there is a causal link between physical punishment and harm to children. In this brief, the authors, led by PRC faculty research associate Liz Gershoff, find that the research on physical punishment meets five standard criteria for drawing causal conclusions. The message to policymakers, psychologists, and parents is clear: it is time to implement multiple strategies to end this outdated parenting practice.

    How Spouses Influence Each Other’s Health Habits in Same-Sex Compared to Different-Sex Marriages

    Debra Umberson, Rachel Donnelly, and Amanda Pollitt, August 2018

    Decades of research have highlighted how, compared to men, women do more work to influence their spouse’s health habits, to the health benefit of men. In this brief, PRC director Debra Umberson, PRC doctoral student Rachel Donnelly and PRC postdoctoral fellow Amanda Pollitt show that gay and lesbian spouses, like heterosexual spouses, actively work to influence each other’s health habits. Policymakers and others should highlight the ways marriage can promote health in same-sex as well as different-sex couples while also paying attention to gender differences in some of these relationship dynamics.

    Same-Sex Couples Devote More Attention to End-of-Life Plans than Heterosexual Couples

    Mieke Beth Thomeer, Rachel Donnelly, Corinne Reczek, and Debra Umberson, June 2018

    Engaging in end-of-life planning enhances the quality of later-life caregiving, health, and death. In this brief, Mieke Beth Thomeer, PRC doctoral student Rachel Donnelly, Corinne Reczek, and PRC director Debra Umberson report on end-of-life planning among same-sex and different-sex married couples. They find that same-sex spouses devote considerable attention to informal planning conversations and formal end-of-life plans while heterosexual spouses report minimal formal or informal planning.

    Perceptions of Shared Power, Gender Conformity, and Marital Quality in Same- and Different-Sex Marriages

    Amanda M. Pollitt, Brandon A. Robinson, and Debra Umberson, December 2017

    Marriage is a key institutional context for the study of gender and gender inequality. This research brief, led by PRC postdoctoral fellow Amanda Pollitt, examines the relationships between gender conformity (i.e., women embody femininity and men embody masculinity), perceptions of shared power, and marital quality in same- and different-sex marriages.

    Parenting Patterns, Racial Discrimination, and African American Adolescents’ Psychological and Academic Outcomes

    Fatima Varner, Yang Hou, Tajma Hodzic, Noelle M. Hurd, Sheretta T. Butler-Barnes, and Stephanie J.Rowley, November 2017

    Declines in academic engagement and psychological well-being, which are common for many adolescents, may be exacerbated among some African American adolescents because of exposure to racial discrimination. While discrimination can have negative effects on the development of minority children, some develop adaptive qualities to better cope with discrimination. These qualities can contribute to psychological well-being and better academic outcomes. This research brief, by PRC faculty research associate Fatima Varner and colleagues, reports on a study that examined whether there were groups of families with different combinations of parenting, specifically involved-vigilant parenting and parental racial socialization (i.e., messages about race). Next, the researchers examined whether parenting profiles, racial discrimination, and adolescent gender independently or interactively predicted adolescent academic and psychological outcomes.

    What are the Effects of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Depression and Thoughts of Death on Their Children’s Level of Parental Connectedness?

    Susan De Luca, Yan Yueqi, and Yolanda Padilla, August 2017

    Mental health outcomes such as depression are often passed down in families. While links between the mental health conditions of parents and their children have been established, there is a limited understanding of these outcomes over time and the impact that mothers and fathers have on their children independently. Analyzing data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, PRC faculty research associates Susan De Luca and Yolanda Padilla and co-author Yan Yueqi show that children felt less connected to both mothers and fathers with mental health symptoms, but the effects varied somewhat based on the sex of the parent.

    The Parenthood “Happiness Penalty”: The Effects of Social Policies in 22 Countries

    Jennifer Glass, Robin W. Simon and Matthew A. Andersson, May 2017

    A large body of research has established that parents are less happy than nonparents. But is it always true that parents are less happy than nonparents? This research brief, by PRC faculty research associate Jennifer Glass and colleagues, shows that the “happiness penalty” is entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies that allow parents to better combine paid work with family obligations.

    Do Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Spouses Differ in the Ways They Care for Each Other During Physical Illness?

    Debra Umberson, Mieke Beth Thomeer, Corinne Reczek, Rachel Donnelly, and Rhiannon A. Kroeger, March 2017

    Using data collected from surveys and in-depth interviews with same- and different-sex couples, this brief summarizes two studies that analyze gendered marital dynamics around care work for physical illness.  Led by PRC Director Debra Umberson, authors include PRC NICHD Trainee Rachel Donnelly and PRC alumnae Mieke Beth Thomeer, Corinne Reczek, and Rhiannon A. Kroeger.  The authors found differences by gender and union type in the ways women and men give care to and receive care from their spouses in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual marriages.

    Cohabitating Couples With Lower Education Levels Marry Less. Is This Because They Do Not Want To?

    Kelly Raley, August 2016

    This brief, based on PRC associate director Kelly Raley's co-authored article in Demography entitled “Diverging Patterns of Union Transition Among Cohabitators by Race-Ethnicity and Education: Trends and Marital Intentions,” addresses the decline in marriage among co-habitating couples by examining marriage intention and structural barriers.

  • Education, Work, and Institutions

    What Motivates State Policymakers’ Decisions to Fund Public Higher Education During Economic Downturns?

    Denisa Gándara, Meredith S. Billings, Paul G. Rubin, and Lindsey Hammond, February 2024

    State legislative bodies cut funding for higher education during economic downturns. In this brief, PRC faculty scholar Denisa Gándara and colleagues explore how and why policymakers made the funding decisions they did when they were faced with the COVID-19 economic downturn. The authors explored these funding questions in-depth in California and Texas, states that are similar in the size and diversity of their student populations but different in their political ideologies. They found that public higher education faced larger budget cuts relative to other sectors because policymakers had greater discretion over higher education funding compared to other state budget areas and because they believed that all higher education institutions had access to other sources of revenue while other sectors did not. They also found that policymakers favored funding student financial aid over funding institutions and that funding decisions were made in relation to how it affected their constituents as well as whether they perceived those constituents as having influence over their reelection. The authors emphasize the need to educate policymakers that cuts to state tuition support disproportionately impacts colleges and universities that serve historically marginalized students because these institutions, with few other revenue sources, must raise tuition to make up for lost state revenue.

    Motivating High School Teachers to Support Students’ Growth Mindsets Reduces Inequality in Academic Outcomes

    Cameron A. Hecht, Christopher J. Bryan, and David S. Yeager, August 2023

    The United States is one of the most economically unequal developed countries; education may be one of the best ways to achieve social mobility. However, young people from lower-income backgrounds face many obstacles to academic success. Inequalities between socioeconomically disadvantaged and advantaged students can be made worse when teachers believe that intellectual abilities are fixed and cannot be improved, particularly for disadvantaged students. One way to lessen the negative effects of this thinking would be to stimulate teachers to create a growth mindset classroom culture, which is guided by the belief that students’ intellectual abilities are not fixed but can be improved with effort and learning. Using a values-alignment framework, the authors developed a 45-minute self-administered online intervention to motivate high school teachers to adopt new communication practices in the classroom that support and reinforce students’ growth mindsets. They found that the intervention had a positive impact on teachers and on students’ pass rates and grades. They also found that the intervention reduced inequality between students. If implemented widely, the intervention has the potential to positively impact hundreds of thousands of socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

    Brazilian Parents’ Involvement In Education Supports Their Children’s Dedication To Schoolwork and Math and Reading Achievement

    Andrew E. Koepp, Elizabeth T. Gershoff, and Letícia J. Marteleto, February 2023

    Decades of research from the United States and other high-income countries has demonstrated that parents’ involvement in their children’s education positively impacts student academic achievement. However, it is not clear if these findings generalize to a middle income country such as Brazil, where average education is lower and resources to invest in children are more limited. On the other hand, Brazilian parents might encourage children’s schooling because Brazilians benefit from some of the highest returns to education in the world. Using data from several million fifth-grade and ninth-grade students enrolled in Brazilian public schools, PRC Graduate Student Trainee Andrew Koepp, PRC Director Liz Gershoff, and PRC Faculty Scholar Letícia Marteleto found that parent involvement was indirectly linked to student achievement through students’ completion of homework and that even involved parents with few years of formal schooling supported their children’s academic achievement. They argue that interventions and outreach programs should therefore target all parents to improve children's long-term academic and career success. Brief also available in Portuguese.

    Designing a Mindset Intervention to Help Underrepresented Students Thrive in Introductory College Science Courses

    Cameron A. Hecht, Anita G. Latham, Ruth E. Buskirk, Debra R. Hansen, and David S. Yeager, November 2022

    Demand for professionals with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields continues to grow in the United States. But many undergraduate STEM majors, especially underrepresented minority and first-generation college students, drop out or change majors before graduating. Students’ mindsets, or their assumptions, beliefs, or perspectives that shape how they interpret and respond to their academic environment, are potential barriers to success. Mindset interventions have shown promise for improving undergraduate students’ academic outcomes and promoting diversity in STEM. However, mindset interventions need to be customized to maximize their impact. PRC postdoctoral fellow Cameron Hecht and PRC faculty scholar David Yeager, along with UT Austin biology instructor collaborators, designed a protocol to develop customized peer-modeled mindset interventions for specific college courses, in which current students hear from former students about the changes in thinking that helped them to be successful. Using the protocol, the authors designed an intervention for introductory biology and found that it improved students’ experiences and outcomes in the course, particularly among students who have been historically underrepresented in the STEM fields. These findings highlight the positive impact of students hearing the right story at the right time from a trusted source.

    Online Mindset Training Protects Adolescents from Unhealthy Responses to Stress

    David S. Yeager, Christopher J. Bryan, James J. Gross, Jared S. Murray, Danielle Krettek Cobb, Pedro H. F. Santos, Hannah Gravelding, Meghann Johnson, and Jeremy P. Jamieson, October 2022

    Adolescents today are experiencing record-high levels of stress-related anxiety and symptoms of depression. Conventional thinking portrays stress as mostly a bad thing to be avoided. But this “stress avoidance” mentality can disadvantage teenagers, as it may lead many to disengage from potentially beneficial stressors such as demanding academic coursework. PRC faculty scholars David Yeager, Christopher Bryan, and colleagues, combined and tested two existing, scientifically validated mindsets – the growth mindset and stress-can-be-enhancing mindset – into a single, coherent treatment to teach adolescents how to appraise and optimize stress. They found that teaching adolescents about the two mindsets together had synergistic effects and that together, the synergistic mindsets training helped adolescents to engage with challenges rather than avoid them, and to harness the body’s natural resources to help them succeed when the demands of challenging pursuits felt the most intense. This research demonstrates a potentially powerful, low-cost and easy-to-use tool for addressing adolescents’ stress.

    School Administrators’ Support for Educator Training on Students’ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is An Effective Way to Reduce Victimization for LGBT Students and Improve School Climates for All Students

    Salvatore Ioverno, Meg D. Bishop, Stephen T. Russell, May 2022

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth report higher rates of victimization and hostile school climate than their non-LGBT peers. Professional development training for school personnel on issues related to sexual and gender identity, known as SOGI training, is one strategy to improve the school experiences and school climate for LGBT youth, and potentially all youth. However, little is known about the impact of SOGI training on LGBT and non-LGBT youth’s experiences at school. Former PRC postdoctoral fellow Salvatore Ioverno, current PRC trainee Meg Bishop, and PRC faculty scholar Stephen Russell report on a recent study in which they find that support for SOGI training by school administration is an effective way to reduce victimization disparities for LGBT students and improve school climates for all students. They also find that the impact of SOGI training should be sustained over time to reap the associated benefits.

    White, Asian, Latinx, and Black Families Express Race-Based School Preferences

    Chantal A. Hailey, March 2022

    Most students in the United States attend racially segregated schools. To explain school racial segregation, researchers often highlight structural factors such as school assignment based on racially segregated neighborhoods. And while these structures contribute to segregation, schools in cities without residential school assignments are also segregated. Understanding families’ school preferences, particularly if they are motivated by race, is necessary to evaluate the impact on racial segregation of expanded school-choice policies. Using data from an experimental study in which eighth-grade students and their parents were asked about their willingness to attend hypothetical high schools with randomized majority White, majority Latinx, majority Black, and racially diverse compositions, PRC faculty scholar Chantal Hailey finds that schools’ racial composition affects families’ school preferences. In order to decrease racial segregation in schools, Dr. Hailey advocates for policymakers to dismantle educational practices that perpetuate negative stereotypes and marginalize student populations.

    How Have Changes in the Labor Market Contributed to Increases in Suicide and Drug Poisoning Deaths among Men in the United States?

    Jamie M. Carroll, Alicia Duncombe, Anna S. Mueller, and Chandra Muller, February 2022

    Over the last two decades, deaths from suicide and drug poisoning have risen rapidly for American men without a college degree. Changes in the U.S. labor market likely play a central role in these mortality patterns. This changing labor market – particularly the loss of good-paying blue-collar jobs – can feed into feelings of hopelessness and despair which in turn increase vulnerability to suicide and drug poisoning deaths. Many adolescents growing up in the 1970s expected to hold blue-collar jobs that would support middle-class lifestyles but found that these jobs had largely disappeared when they reached adulthood. Using data from a large, nationally‐representative sample of students who were in high school in 1980, PRC researcher Jamie Carroll, PRC faculty scholar Chandra Muller, and colleagues, find that men who expected to work in occupations that later declined in labor market share and economic value have increased risks of suicide and drug poisoning deaths in adulthood. They advocate for educational training in flexible skills and adaptability as important tools for suicide and drug abuse prevention.

    How Do Teachers’ and Parents’ Expectations Come Together to Influence Adolescents’ Educational Success?

    Aprile D. Benner, Celeste C. Fernandez, Yang Hou, and Chelsea Smith Gonzalez, December 2021

    The U.S. educational system has long struggled with racial/ethnic and socioeconomic achievement gaps among its students. Students of color and those from lower-income backgrounds often have poorer academic attainment compared to White students and those from higher-income families. Understanding the processes that could reduce disparities in academic achievement are critical to improving educational practice. Teachers’ and parents’ expectations for the educational futures of youth strongly influence how well the youth do academically. Using data from a large, nationally‐representative sample of students, PRC faculty scholar Aprile Benner, PRC graduate student trainee Celeste Fernandez, and colleagues, find that high teacher expectations are critical for youth academic achievement and can mitigate the negative effects of low parent expectations. They argue that improving educational expectations that teachers hold for all students has the potential to greatly assist youth who are often marginalized in educational settings.

    Across Rich Nations, Disadvantaged Children Do Better When Work-Family Balance Is a Policy Priority

    Matthew A. Andersson, Michael A. Garcia, and Jennifer Glass, January 2021

    Across wealthy nations, health disparities between children in rich and poor families have been well-documented. Work-family conflict is linked to declines in parental health and well-being, which in turn can deteriorate well-being throughout the family. While policy mandates that support reconciling conflicts between the demands of work and those of family, such as paid time off, cannot eliminate all the financial difficulties of economic disadvantage, they can quite possibly mitigate the impact of that disadvantage. State subsidization of childcare, in contrast, may lower family economic strain in the short-term, but do not impact parental working conditions or hours. Using data with young adolescents from 20 rich nations, Matthew A. Andersson, from Baylor University, together with PRC trainee Michael A. Garcia and PRC faculty research associate Jennifer Glass find that disparities in children’s health between disadvantaged and advantaged families are lessened significantly through work-family reconciliation policies while cash transfer policies are not associated with reducing disparities in children’s health. Generous work-family reconciliation policies “level the playing field” among working parents and reduce the negative impact of economic disadvantage on children’s health.

    Women, Minorities, and Non-Union Workers Continue to Dominate Low-Wage Markets, and Experience Job Insecurity and Limited Upward Mobility

    Ken-Hou Lin, Carolina Aragão, J. Adam Cobb, November 2020

    Work plays a central role in American life and forms the core of most adults’ identity. Yet, since the 1970s, employment conditions for a large segment of the population has deteriorated and low-wage work has expanded significantly. As part of an on-going research project exploring the relationship between work, job quality and upward mobility, PRC faculty research associate Ken-Hou Lin, graduate research trainee Carolina Aragão, and Adam Cobb from the McCombs School of Business provide an overview of the low-wage labor market in the United States. They find that gender, race/ethnicity, and immigration status characteristics typically associated with broader disadvantages are also associated with low-wage work, job insecurity, and lack of upward mobility.

    Changing U.S. Students’ Mindsets about Learning Improves Academic Achievement

    David S. Yeager, Paul Hanselman, Robert Crosnoe, and Chandra Muller, September 2019

    In the United States, many students’ grades drop in the transition between 8th and 9th grades and often never recover. One promising intervention to help students successfully navigate the transition to high school involves encouraging students to see their intellectual abilities as something that can grow (like a muscle), rather than as something fixed (like eye color). In this research brief, PRC faculty research associates David Yeager, Robert Crosnoe and Chandra Muller, along with colleagues in the Mindset Scholars Network, report on the first longitudinal study to evaluate the effects of a short growth mindset curriculum in a nationally-representative sample of U.S. public high schools. They demonstrate that 9th grade students who took the growth mindset curriculum earned higher GPAs and took more challenging courses, particularly in schools that are more supportive of a growth mindset philosophy.

    Proposition 8 Increased Homophobic Bullying in Schools without a Gay-Straight Alliance Club

    Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Yishan Shen, Elizabeth A. Vandewater, and Stephen T. Russell, August 2019

    This brief explores whether Proposition 8 (Prop 8), a November 2008 California voter referendum that restricted marriage to heterosexuals, was associated with an increase in homophobic bullying, or bullying related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, among California youth. Analyzing data from nearly 5 million California youth, PRC faculty research associate Stephen T. Russell and his colleagues find that homophobic bullying in California schools increased in the period leading up to the Prop 8 vote and declined in subsequent school years. No other forms of bullying (based on race/ethnicity, gender, or religion) showed a similar pattern. In addition, students at schools with gay-straight alliances did not report an increase in homophobic bullying, demonstrating a protective effect of GSAs.

    White and Black Boys Fall Further Behind White Girls during the Transition to High School

    April Sutton, Amy G. Langenkamp, Chandra Muller, and Kathryn S. Schiller, December 2018

    Educational transitions, such as the one from middle school to high school, are difficult for all students but may be especially difficult for students from marginalized groups. During these critical periods in schooling, academic status can be reshaped and inequality between racial/ethnic groups and gender can deepen. Former PRC trainees April Sutton and Amy Langenkamp, along with PRC faculty research associate Chandra Muller and Kathryn Schiller (SUNY Albany), use nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to investigate how the transition to high school affects the GPAs of young white, black, and Latino men and women. They show that white and black male students, especially higher-achieving black students, suffer the greatest academic losses at the high school starting gate. Notably, these young men do not recover lost academic ground the following year. Given the role that high school GPA plays in gender and racial/ethnic disparities in educational attainment, this research has significant implications for inequalities within and beyond high school.

    To Improve Community College Transfer in Texas, Students Need Better Information

    Lauren Schudde, Huriya Jabbar, and Andrea Chevalier, December 2018

    Community college students in Texas lack essential information about state transfer policies. With better resources, students could take courses more efficiently at community college and position themselves to complete their bachelor’s degree after transfer. To improve the state’s investment in higher education, policymakers and other stakeholders should clarify existing transfer policies and increase the quality of student-facing information about transfer. Improving transfer in Texas will advance equity and reduce students’ costs and the time it takes them to complete a four-year degree.

    Twenty Years of Evidence Shows Continuing Racial Disparities in Academic Achievement

    Katherine W. Paschall, Elizabeth T. Gershoff, and Megan Kuhfeld, July 2018

    Non-Hispanic white children typically outperform their non-Hispanic black and Hispanic peers; high-income students also outperform low-income students in school. This brief, from PRC research associates Katherine Paschall and Megan Kuhfeld and faculty research associate Elizabeth Gershoff, investigates variations in academic performance within race and ethnic groups according to students’ family income. They find that, from 1986 to 2005, non-poor white students consistently outperformed their non-poor black and Hispanic peers and poor white students outperformed poor black and Hispanic students, illustrating that poverty has a more detrimental effect on the academic achievement of children of color compared to their white peers.

    Why Are the Courses You Take in High School Important for Your Health at Midlife?

    Jamie M. Carroll, Chandra Muller, Eric Grodsky, and John Robert Warren, July 2018

    Using data from the High School and Beyond cohort of high school sophomores, PRC trainee Jamie M. Carroll, PRC faculty research associate Chandra Muller, and colleagues show that taking advanced courses in high school appears to improve health 30 years later. To improve our population’s health, policymakers could encourage more access to advanced coursework in high school as well as pedagogical strategies that empower independent thinking.

    Who Goes to Jail for Child Support Debt?

    Elizabeth Cozzolino, May 2018

    This brief, by PRC trainee Elizabeth Cozzolino, uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to describe who goes to jail for nonpayment of child support and who among child support debtors are more likely to go to jail. She finds that 14% of fathers with child support debt go to jail; fathers who owe over $10,000 in debt and who have children by more than one mother are more likely to be sent to jail for nonpayment of child support.

    New Measures of Teacher Turnover Can Reveal Underlying Chronic Staffing Problems in Schools

    Jennifer Jellison Holme, Huriya Jabbar, Emily Germain, and John Dinning, March 2018

    Teacher quality is one of the most important measures that predicts students’ educational and professional outcomes. But student success can be undermined by teacher turnover. This brief, by PRC faculty research associate Huriya Jabbar and colleagues, describes a typology of teacher turnover measures, including both measures currently in use as well as new measures developed by the authors. These measures illuminate different ways in which staff instability can negatively affect schools.

    Is Dropping out of High School More Likely after Stressful Life Events?

    Veronique Dupéré, Eric Dion, Tama Leventhal, Isabelle Archambault, Robert Crosnoe, and MichelJanosz, March 2018

    High school dropout is typically viewed as the result of long-held vulnerabilities such as learning problems. This research brief, by PRC visiting scholars Véronique Dupéré and Eric Dion and PRC faculty research associate Robert Crosnoe and colleagues, shows that recent stressful life events can lead to a student dropping out.

    The Emergence of Big Data Policing

    Sarah Brayne, August 2017

    The past decade has seen both the proliferation of surveillance in everyday life and the rise of “big data.” Through extensive qualitative research focusing on the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), PRC faculty research associate Sarah Brayne explores whether and how adopting big data analytics transforms police surveillance practices. This brief demonstrates that, in some cases, the adoption of big data analytics is associated with mere amplifications in prior practices, but in others, it is associated with fundamental transformations in surveillance activities.

    Race Gaps in School Trust: Where They Come from and How to Resolve Them

    David S. Yeager, Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Sophia Yang Hooper, and Geoffrey L. Cohen, June 2017

    Trust in American institutions varies widely among adults from different racial-ethnic backgrounds. This brief, from PRC faculty research associate David Yeager and colleagues, demonstrates that unjust treatment causes minority adolescents to lose trust in school, but a respectful "wise feedback" intervention can repair distrust.

    Do Men and Women Both Enjoy a Wage Premium for Working in Finance?

    Ken-Hou Lin and Megan Tobias Neely, April 2017

    Over the last three decades, compensation in financial sector jobs has grown dramatically. However, do men and women who work in finance earn a wage premium? That is, do they earn more than their counterparts working in nonfinance jobs?  And do wage premiums vary by gender and parental status?  The authors, PRC faculty research associate Ken-Hou Lin and sociology PhD candidate Megan Tobias Neely, find that women earn a greater wage premium than men in low-wage financial jobs but that almost all of the increase in compensation in high finance has been captured by men, particularly fathers.

    Addressing Homophobic Bullying in Schools: Punitive Versus Supportive Strategies

    Jack Day, November 2016

    This brief, based on PRC faculty research associate Stephen Russell's and postdoctoral fellow Jack Day and colleague's article in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity entitled, "Supportive, Not Punitive, Practices Reduce Homophobic Bullying and Improve School Connectedness," highlights the best practices preventing homophobic bullying in schools, an important issue as U.S. states consider how to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (the replacement for the No Child Left Behind Act). The brief shows that schools with supportive practices, such as counseling services and a case-by-case approach to discipline, have better outcomes than schools with punitive, “zero tolerance” practices. 

    How Do Potential New Employers Evaluate Workers in Part-Time Jobs, "Temp" Jobs, or Jobs Beneath Their Skill Level?

    David Pedulla, April 2016

    This brief, based on PRC faculty research associate David Pedulla's article "Penalized or Protected? Gender and the Consequence of Nonstandard and Mismatched Employment Histories” recently published in the American Sociological Review, examines the consequences of having a history of part-time work, “temp” agency employment, or a job beneath one’s skill level when applying for a new position. 

    How Can Improving Data Collection and Reporting Advance the Civil Rights of LGBT Students?

    Stephen Russell, March 2016

    This brief, based on the article “Documenting Disparities for LGBT Students: Expanding the Collection and Reporting of Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” published in March in Discipline Disparities: A Research-to-Practice Collaborative, focuses on the importance of collecting data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. PRC faculty research associate Dr. Stephen Russell is a co-author of this article and editor of the journal.

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The PRC Research & Policy Brief Series is organized and edited by Kristine Hopkins. Contact her with research and policy brief ideas, questions or comments.

Edwin Rodriguez provides document design and creative services for the series.

The 2016 PRC Research Brief Series was organized and edited by Laura Dixon.