ISR Insights Speaker Series

Past events:

Outgroup Empathy and Opposition to Restrictive Voting Laws

Thursday, March 9, 2023

State-level policies that make it harder for citizens to legally cast ballots have proliferated over the past decade, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s election denials after his 2020 defeat. This study examines the role of outgroup empathy as a potential driver of support for restrictive voting laws and voter suppression efforts. Evidence from two national surveys indicates that outgroup empathy may boost support for race-based electoral justice, above and beyond the influence of partisanship, ideology, and a host of socio-demographic influences. As predicted, the effects of group empathy are conditional on political sophistication: Those most likely to be aware that these laws target minority group voters are also those who bring outgroup empathy to bear on their policy views. The findings suggest that group empathy—especially among the most politically sophisticated—can catalyze opposition to restrictive voting laws.

Title IX, Due Process, and the Struggle over Campus Sexual Assault

Thursday, January 12, 2023, noon ET

This talk will examine some of the political dynamics generating the ongoing contestation over the implementation of Title IX in the realm of sexual harassment in sexual assault over the last two decades. Based on interviews and in-depth analysis of policy documents, Armstrong and her colleague Sandra Levitsky trace the processes generating increasing legalization—and even criminalization—of Title IX.


Election 2022: What Happened?

Thursday, November 17, 2022, noon ET

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Mara Ostfeld, Jowei Chen, and Nicholas A. Valentino from ISR’s Center for Political Studies discussed the outcomes of the 2022 midterm elections. The panelists presented the latest findings from the American National Election Studies (ANES), along with exit poll data, and the new legislative maps. Read a summary of the event.


Consumer Sentiment and Expectations in an Inflationary Environment

Joanne Hsu (Director, Surveys of Consumers; Research Associate Professor, Institute for Social Research)

Thursday, October 20, 2022


Closely followed by scholars, policymakers, and businesses, consumer sentiment and expectations over the economy have long been recognized as critical inputs for forecasting and understanding the trajectory of the economy. In this talk, Joanne Hsu discusses how consumer attitudes  have evolved through the pandemic and the recent escalation in inflation, and their implications for the future of the economy.


When Skin Color is More than Skin Deep: The Social, Economic and Political Meaning of Skin Color in America

Mara Ostfeld (Faculty Associate, Center for Political Studies; Assistant Research Scientist, Ford School; Associate Faculty Director, Poverty Solutions; Research Director, Center for Racial Justice)

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Skin color matters. Within and across ethnoracial groups, skin color affects life experiences, including one’s financial earnings, educational opportunities, health outcomes, exposure to discrimination, interactions with the criminal justice system, and sense of group belonging. While political coalitions in the U.S. have historically revolved around ethnoracial identities, Dr. Ostfeld draws on her book (co-authored with Nicole Yadon) to argue that skin color is an increasingly important component of how people are identifying themselves and staking positions in American racial politics.

To treat and when to treat? The role of sequential decision making and mobile technologies in health disorder research

Walter Dempsey (Research Assistant Professor, Data Science for Dynamic Intervention Decision-making Center (d3c))

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The development of smartphone and wearable sensors has led to an unprecedented opportunity to leverage these technologies to facilitate healthy behavior change. Push notifications delivered at the right time may have a huge impact; however, too many notifications may irritate and even exacerbate the situation. A critical question we face is “How do we design treatment plans that leverage mobile technologies for individuals struggling with a variety of health disorders?” Today, Walter Dempsey will discuss these types of treatment designs, known as just-in-time adaptive interventions, which are protocolized by a sequence of decision rules that specify whether and how to intervene depending on the person’s changing needs. He will discuss recent work by the Data Science for Dynamic Intervention Decision-making Center (d3c) in experimental designs and associated data analytic tools to answer questions about adaptive interventions and directions of future research.

Native Americans of the Upper Great Lakes: Sociological and Historical Perspectives on Land and Schooling Among the Anishinaabek

– Arland Thornton (Department of Sociology, Institute for Social Research, and Native American Studies, the University of Michigan)
– Eric Hemenway (Anishanaabe/Odawa, Director of Archives and Records, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Harbor Springs, Michigan)
– Linda Young-DeMarco (Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan)
– Alphonse Pitawanakwat (Odawa member of Wiikemkoong First Nation Unceded Territory, Ontario, Canada; Lecturer in American Culture and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan)
– Lindsey Willow Smith (Citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, University of Michigan Class of 2022, History and Museum Studies B.A.)

Thursday, April 7, 2022

In this presentation a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Archive and Records Department discuss the land and schooling of the Anishinaabek—the Three Fires of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi. Of particular focus is the spread of Euro-American schooling among the Anishinaabek from the early 1800s through 1950. We trace the establishment of schools in the early 1800s and the growth of literacy and school attainment from the 1850s through 1940. In addition to considering schooling levels and trends of the Anishinaabek at the national level, we examine state differences, and focus on one particular group, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, who today live in Waganakising—the Land of the Crooked Tree—located in the northwest portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality

Erin Cech (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan; Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

“Follow your passion” is a popular mantra for career decision-making in the United States. In this talk, Cech will discuss her research on this ubiquitous cultural narrative that she call the “passion principle.” The passion principle is rooted in tensions between postindustrial capitalism and cultural norms of self-expression and is compelling to college-educated career aspirants and workers because passion is presumed to motivate the hard work required for success while providing opportunities for meaning and self-expression. Although passion-seeking seems like a promising option for individuals hoping to avoid drudgery in their labor force participation, she argues that the passion principle has a dark side: it reinforces socio-economic disadvantages and occupational segregation among career aspirants and workers in the aggregate and helps reproduce an exploited, overworked white-collar labor force. These findings have implications for cultural notions of “good work” popular in higher education and the US workforce and raises broader questions about what it means when becoming a dedicated labor force participant feels like an act of self-fulfillment.

Exposure to Violence and Subsequent Weapons Use in Two Urban High-Risk Communities

Speakers: Eric F. Dubow (Adjunct Research Scientist, Research Center for Group Dynamics; Professor of Psychology, Bowling Green State University) and L. R. Huesmann (Amos N Tversky Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies and Psychology, Professor Emeritus of Communication and Media, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, College of LSA and Research Professor Emeritus, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research)

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Researchers Dubow and Huesmann report preliminary results of data that they have collected over the last 13 years from youth and young adults in two diverse, urban, high-crime communities (Flint, MI, and Jersey City, NJ). Their findings have shown that early exposure to weapons violence (whether in the family, neighborhood, or through engaging with violent media) significantly correlates at modest levels with weapon carrying, weapon use or threats-to-use, arrests for weapons use, and criminally violent acts 10 years later. Violence exposure was significantly linked to beliefs about the acceptability of behaving aggressively. They argue that youth who observe more violence with weapons, whether in the family, among peers, in the neighborhood, or through the media or video games become infected from the exposure with a social-cognitive-emotional disease (evidenced particularly by normative beliefs approving of gun violence) that increases their own risk of behaving violently with weapons later in life.

Detecting white supremacist speech on social media

Libby Hemphill (Director, Resource Center for Minority Data at ICPSR; Associate Professor at UMSI)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Social media have been repeatedly shown to harbor white supremacist networks, enabling far-right extremists to find one another, recruit and radicalize new members, and normalize their hate. In order to address the problem of white supremacist speech on social media, platforms must first be able to identify it.

In this talk, Libby Hemphill presents research to understand what white supremacist speech looks like, especially how it’s different from general or commonplace speech, and to determine whether white supremacists try to adapt to avoid detection from social media platforms’ current content moderation systems.

Unprecedented: The Expansion of the Social Safety Net During the COVID Era and Its Impacts on Poverty and Hardship

H. Luke Shaefer (Director of Poverty Solutions; Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Polic; Professor of Public Policy; Professor of Social Work; Faculty Associate at PSC & SRC)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A major economic crisis accompanied the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in response the federal government mounted the largest and most comprehensive expansion of the social safety net in modern times. In this talk, H. Luke Shaefer will review research on the impacts of this safety net expansion, and where the nation goes from here.

Beyond the Pandemic: Challenges and Opportunities for Changes in Education

Pam Davis-Kean (Research Affiliate, PSC; Research Professor, SRC)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

At the end of the school year in 2020 parents, educators, and researchers, wondered how to deal with the “COVID slide” related to achievement and gains in learning due to schools shifting to virtual learning across the country. What we did not know at the time is that many schools would struggle to open at all in the Fall of 2020 and online and remote learning would continue to be one of the primary ways that children were educated for the rest of the 2020-21 school year. Today, the question remains: What will parents, educators, and researchers need to consider regarding achievement and learning gains as children are likely to return to in-person schooling in Fall 2021? Dr. Pamela Davis-Kean will discuss her research on how homeschooling was discussed on social media, the issues related to “holding back” or repeating a grade in primary school, and how new proposed policies for free community college may be important for helping those in secondary education get extra time to develop skills for entry into a four-year college.

Stress and Health in Context: The Role of Negative Relationships

Kira S. Birditt (Research Associate Professor, SRC)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

As burgeoning literature shows, social ties are integral for health and survival. As Director of the Aging & Biospsychosocial Innovations Program at ISR, Kira Birditt‘s research focuses on the negative aspects of relationships including the extent to which they are irritating, critical, or demanding. In this talk she will discuss the findings from her program of research showing that: 1) There is a great deal of variability in negative aspects of relationships within and between individuals, 2) Negative aspects of relationships have important implications for health that often vary by the context of stress, and 3) The implications of relationships and stress vary race/ethnicity. She will also discuss the Aging and Biopsychosocial Innovations program that she leads and directions for future research.

James S. Jackson’s Continuing Legacy and Contributions to Social and Behavioral Research on Black Americans

Panelist: Robert Taylor (Harold R Johnson Endowed Professor of Social Work, Sheila Feld Collegiate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Faculty Associate, RCGD); Belinda Tucker (Professor Emerita of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, and the Special Liaison for Faculty Development, UCLA); and Phillip Bowman (Professor, Higher and Postsecondary Education at the U-M International Institute)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Join Robert Taylor, Belinda Tucker, and Phillip Bowman for a panel discussion on the continuing legacy and contributions of James S. Jackson.

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It

Panelist: Ethan Kross (Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics; Professor, Management & Organizations Area, Ross School of Business; Professor, Department of Psychology, LSA)

Wednesday, March 3, 2021:

Tell a stranger that you talk to yourself, and you’re likely to get written off as eccentric. But the truth is that we all have a voice in our head. In this ISR Insights talk, University of Michigan professor Ethan Kross joins Dave Mayer (Ross School of Business) to discuss Kross’ new book, Chatter. Interweaving behavioral and brain research from Kross’ lab with colorful real-world case studies, Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships.

This talk is co-sponsored by Literati Bookstore, where you can purchase Kross’ new book.

Research Universities and the Public Good in the Time of COVID-19

Panelist: Jason Owen-Smith (Executive Director, Institute for Research on Innovation & Science (IRIS); Executive Director, Research Analytics; Professor of Sociology, University of Michigan; Research Professor, Institute for Social Research)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

America’s most research intensive universities represent about 3% of higher education institutions, but they conduct 90% of the nation’s academic research. Drawing on his recent book, Research Universities and the Public Good: Discovery for an Uncertain Future and the work of ISR’s Institute for Research on Innovation & Science (IRIS), which he directs, Jason Owen-Smith explains how these unique and essential organizations serve as an important form of “social insurance” in the face of an uncertain future. Universities like U of M are uniquely able to address “unknown unknowns,” problems and opportunities we do not know we have yet. No other sector or type of organization accomplishes is equipped to serve this purpose in our society. COVID-19 puts special pressures on the academic research mission that come after more than a decade of declining public support. The pandemic and its effects jeopardize the US Academic Research Enterprise (US-ARE) and with it the future health, wealth, and well-being of our nation and the world. Drawing on unique data science resources developed at IRIS, and 20 years of work on the economic and social value of research and innovation, Owen-Smith highlights the challenges and explains how they might be addressed by federal and state policy-makers, the leaders and faculty of institutions like ours.


Perspectives on the 2020 Presidential Election

Panelists: Jenna Bednar (Research Professor, Center for Political Studies; Professor, Department of Political Science; Director of Michigan in Washington), Vincent Hutchings (Research Professor, Center for Political Studies; Professor, Department of Political Science), and Angela Ocampo (Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science; 2018 LSA Collegiate Fellow).

Thursday, October 22, 2020


The State of the 2020 Presidential Campaign with Less than a Month to Go

Panelists: Michael Traugott (Research Professor Emeritus; Center for Political Studies, Communication Studies, Department of Political Science), Josh Pasek (Faculty Associate, Center for Political Studies Associate Professor; Department of Communication Studies and Political Science), and Stuart Soroka (Faculty Associate, Center for Political Studies; Professor of Communication Studies and Professor of Political Science, LSA).

Wednesday October 14, 2020:

The speakers provide an update on the 2020 contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden with an emphasis on the current state of public opinion about the candidates and key issues in the campaign.


School Mental Health in the Detroit Public Schools Community District

Robin Jacob (Research Associate Professor, SRC; Research Associate Professor, School Of Education; Co-Director Youth Policy Lab) and Elizabeth Koschmann (Assistant Research Scientist, Michigan Medicine; TRAILS Program Director)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020:

In recent years, rates of child and adolescent mental illness have skyrocketed. Nearly half of adolescents in the United States will experience symptoms of a mental illness before age 18, and one in five will be severely impaired by their symptoms. Among youth ages 10-24, suicide has become the second leading cause of death, killing almost 8,000 young people annually. These problems may be acerbated in urban, high poverty schools. There is evidence of higher rates of both mental illness and self-injury and suicidal behavior in communities of color which is hypothesized to reflect the impact of systemic racism, as well as significant racial disparities in access to high quality health and mental health care. Schools are uniquely positioned to identify and respond to students’ mental health care needs, and to reduce widespread inequities in access to effective prevention and early intervention services. However, only limited data is available on the prevalence and pattern of mental health challenges in urban schools or about the school or district resources available to address those challenges.

This study presents data collected as part of a partnership between TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students), the Youth Policy Lab, and the Detroit Public Schools Community District. In 2019, our study team collected survey data from nearly 3,500 DPSCD teachers, administrators, school staff, almost 11,000 students, and 800 families. In this talk, Drs. Robin Jacob and Elizabeth Koschmann share findings on (1) the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and exposure to traumatic events among students, (2) the degree to which these are associated with school engagement, absences, and other behaviors, and (3) the challenges staff and district administrators face in providing mental health services for their students.


The American National Election Study: History and Insights from Recent Surveys

Vincent Hutchings (Professor, Department of Political Science; Research Professor, Center for Political Studies)

Wednesday, Aug 12, 2020:

Why does America vote as it does on Election Day? Since 1948, the American National Election Studies (ANES) has provided data to inform explanations of election outcomes in the United States. The ANES provides survey data from a nationally representative sample of American adults to give researchers a view of the political world through the eyes of ordinary citizens.

In this ISR Insights talk, Dr. Vincent Hutchings (Professor, Department of Political Science; Research Professor, Center for Political Studies) discusses the history of ANES and why it remains an essential resource for the social sciences. He talks about the study’s approach to data collection and instrumentation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes conducting surveys through a combination of Internet, video, and telephone interviews. Dr. Hutchings also highlights politically-relevant results from recent studies, including attitudes on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mental Health and Well-being Among Older Americans During the Pandemic: The COVID-19 Coping Study

Jessica Finlay (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Social Environment and Health, ISR) and Lindsay Kobayashi (Assistant Professor, Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, School of Public Health)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020:

COVID-19 has both immediate and long-term consequences for the health and well-being of Americans. Older adults are not only at higher risk for severe illness from the disease, but may also be especially vulnerable to social and emotional harms associated with the pandemic. In this ISR Insights talk, Drs. Jessica Finlay (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Social Environment and Health, ISR) and Lindsay Kobayashi (Assistant Professor, Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, School of Public Health) discuss insights from the COVID-19 Coping Study of nearly 7,000 adults aged 55+ from across the country. The talk shares participants’ perspectives and diverse experiences during the first upswing of the pandemic, including major sources of stress and ways of coping.


Wealth and the Persistence of Racial Inequality

Fabian Pfeffer (Research Associate Professor, Survey Research Center, ISR; Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center, ISR; Associate Professor, Department of Sociology; and Founding Director, Center for Inequality Dynamics)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020:

As the country grapples with its persistent problem of racial injustice, this ISR Insights talk will focus on one aspect of long-standing racial inequality — gaps in family wealth. Featuring new findings on the depth and persistence of racial wealth gaps, Fabian Pfeffer (Research Associate Professor, Survey Research Center, ISR; Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center, ISR; Associate Professor, Department of Sociology; and Founding Director, Center for Inequality Dynamics) will clarify why rising levels of wealth inequality present a major challenge to the economic prosperity and opportunity of most families in this country.

Motor City at a Standstill: Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 on Detroit

Jeffrey Morenoff (Professor, Sociology and Public Policy; Director, Population Studies Center) and Lydia Wileden (PhD Candidate, Sociology and Public Policy; Population Studies Center trainee)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020:

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit has emerged as an epicenter of the crisis. To date, more than 1300 Detroiters have died from a coronavirus infection and 43 percent of city residents have lost their jobs. In this ISR Insights talk, Jeffrey Morenoff (Professor, Sociology and Public Policy; Director, Population Studies Center) and Lydia Wileden (PhD Candidate, Sociology and Public Policy; Population Studies Center trainee) will discuss efforts by the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study — a panel study of more than 1100 Detroiters — to capture the real-time experiences of Detroiters and share insights from two survey waves on the dramatic financial precarity facing many Detroit households and the behavioral and economic changes residents are making to get by.

The Kids are Not All Right: Educational Inequalities in the Time of COVID-19

Pamela Davis-Kean, Professor of Psychology and Research Professor at ISR

Wednesday, May 20, 2020:

With schools closed due to the COVID19 virus, the teaching and learning environments for children have now merged into one place–the home. With schools being the “great equalizer” for education opportunities, what does it mean for families to provide assistance and much of the teaching during the quarantine and what challenges will schools face if they are able to open in the fall? Dr. Davis-Kean will discuss her research on the inequalities in educational opportunities and what that means for families, schools, and children as this unprecedented crisis is potentially increasing achievement gaps across the country.

This webinar series focus on the research happening at ISR. If there is a topic you would like to see featured or have an idea for a future presentation, please email