An impressive contingent of over 50 U-M ISR faculty, students, and projects participated in the 2019 conference of the Population Association of America (PAA), held in Austin, TX in April. Here is a sample of their research presented at the meeting. There was also a lot of buzz on Twitter, check out our moment: #ISRatPAA.

Congratulations to the following researchers on their award-winning posters!


Race, Childhood Structural Factors, and Cognitive Function in Later Life
Haena Lee, Shannon Ang, and Xinyu Zhang

Haena Lee at PAA

Haena Lee at the 2019 PAA annual meeting.

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study,  Haena Lee (SRC) investigated how social experiences at school and community during childhood shape cognitive health over the life course. Lee’s research showed that Blacks have lower levels of cognitive function than Whites in later life and that this racial gap is partially explained by childhood structural factors. Furthermore, Lee finds that attending racially diverse schools most of the time in childhood is associated with higher levels of cognitive function in later life net of adult experiences. “This suggests that exposure to diverse social settings may serve as mental stimuli, promote social inclusion, and diversify social interaction, benefiting cognitive outcomes over time,” writes Lee. For more information, read the extended abstract here.

Spanking and Young Children’s Socioemotional Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
Garrett Pace, Shawna Lee, and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor 

Country-specific slopes derived from a multilevel model of the relationship between spanking and socioemotional development among 3 and 4 year old children.

Spanking and socioemotional development among 3- and 4- year old children. (click to enlarge)

Research by Garrett Pace, (PSC), Shawna Lee (RCGD) and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, U-M School of Social Work, suggests that spanking may be harmful for children on a more global scale than previously known. Pace et al. analyzed the relationship between spanking and socioemotional development in 62 countries.  Pace says, “What’s fascinating about this is that all the point estimates are negative, indicating that spanking isn’t associated with higher child wellbeing in any of these 62 countries.” For more information, read the extended abstract here.


See all PAA poster session winners here.

Research Highlights

WATCH: John Casterline, PAA President and Population Studies Center training alumnus, delivered the Keynote Address, “Childbearing as a Choice.”


Rising Tides Life Which Boats? Connecting Absolute and Relative Mobility Across Generations
Deirdre Bloome

Deirdre Bloome (PSC)

Deirdre Bloome (PSC, SRC) proposed a new approach toward measuring the transformation of childhood (dis)advantages into adult (dis)advantages and discussed how these mobility patterns vary across people from low- and high-income backgrounds. Extended abstract here.



The Influence of Nutrition Assistance Program Participation in Childhood on Improved Young-Adult Food Security
Noura Insolera, Julia Wolfson, and Alicia Cohen

Food security transitions 1999-2015

Food security transitions 1999-2015 (click to enlarge)

In the United States, 13% of the population is food insecure, including 21% of all children. One in seven Americans receives SNAP benefits and one in two children born each year receive WIC benefits. Using data from the Panel Study on Income Dynamics, Noura Insolera (SRC-PSID) and colleagues found that participation in these programs as a child significantly increase the odds of improving food security in young adulthood. Extended abstract here



Affording the Luxury of Negotiation: Primary Caregivers’ Rules for Adolescents
Asta Breinholt and Paula Fomby

Rule setting by family income quintiles. (click to enlarge)

How do social and economic circumstances shape how we parent? Breinholt (PSC, SRC-PSID) and Fomby (PSC, SRC) and found that affluent parents are less likely to have clear and enforced rules compared to other caregivers. It turns out that rich parents can quite literally afford the luxury of negotiating with their kids. Extended abstract here




Exposure to Global Cultural Scripts Through Media and Attitudes Toward Violence Against Women
Jeffrey Swindle

Media content in Malawi. (click to enlarge)

International organizations disseminate specific messages, or global cultural scripts, about what constitutes a modern lifestyle. A person’s exposure to these scripts can influence their attitudes. Swindle (PSC) focused on scripts that denounce violence against women as unjustified and examined the spread and influence of those scripts through media in Malawi from 2000-2016. He finds that these international organizations spread global cultural scripts critical of violence against women in Malawi through targeted radio programs and newspaper articles and Malawians’ exposure to these difference scripts has divergent effects on their attitudes. Read the paper here


Maternal Work, Schedules and Hours Volatility, and School Readiness
Natasha Pilkauskas

Natasha Pilkauskas (PSC)

Precarious employment, or uncertain or unpredictable work, has risen in recent decades especially among economically disadvantaged groups. Research has found that many workers, especially those in service-sector employment, receive schedules on short notice, have schedules that change on a weekly basis and may not have consistent level of work over time. So, how might volatility in maternal work hours and schedules in early childhood affect school readiness? Natasha Pilkauskas (PSC) found that although changes in work hours or shifts over time are not association with school readiness, irregular shifts (work that changes weekly) are associated with greater behavioral problems in early childhood. Extended abstract here


Adolescent Technology, Sleep, and Physical Activity Time in Two US Cohorts
Paula Fomby, Joshua Goode*, Kim-Phuong Truong-Vu*, Stefanie Mollborn
(* University of Colorado Boulder)

Technology use as primary and secondary activities 2002 and 2014. (click to enlarge)

Adolescents’ electronic media use has increased by 14% since 2002, with increases occurring primarily as the result of increased technology use as a secondary activity. Paula Fomby (PSC, SRC) argues that we need to start studying teens’ tech use as a health behavior to really understand implications on their development. Draft paper here




Residential Integration in the Suburbs: What Happened in Metropolitan Detroit and Why
Reynolds Farley, PSC

Trends in residential segregation in Detroit, 1940-2015 (click to enlarge)

Following the July 1967 violence in Detroit that led to 43 deaths; President Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission and they quickly and famously observed – that if present policies continued, the nation’s metropolises would soon consist of a central city with an overwhelmingly low-income minority population and a largely white and much more prosperous suburban ring. Their conclusions were based, in large part, upon their analysis of Detroit and similar Rust Belt cities. Fifty years later, the city of Detroit has an 80% minority population with a high poverty rate of 35%. However, the middle class African-American population, since 1990, has moved to the suburban ring where segregation levels – in both neighborhoods and schools – are moderate to low. This analysis describes what happened in Detroit and explores why. Read more here


ANN  ARBOR—Consumer sentiment remained at very favorable levels, according to the latest University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

The Sentiment Index has been higher thus far in 2018 (98.5) than in any prior year since 2000, which was the last year of the longest expansion since the mid-1800s, said U-M economist Richard Curtin, director of the surveys.

Moreover, stock price declines, rising inflation and interest rates, and the negative mid-term election campaigns, have not acted to undermine consumer confidence, he said. Needless to say, consumers are not immune to these factors. The data only indicate that the tipping point toward escalating pessimism has not been reached by the close of interviewing.  

Overall, the latest data indicate that real consumer spending will advance at a 2.6-percent pace in the second half of 2018 to the first half of 2019.

“Consumer resilience in the face of negative news has primarily been due to widespread optimism about future job growth,” Curtin said. “Consumers were confident that the economy would maintain robust job growth in the year ahead, despite the expectation that overall wage growth would remain dismal.

“Consumers now place a higher value on job security compared with wage growth due to job losses associated with the Great Recession, as well as the aging of the labor force. This sense of confidence in the security of their jobs has bolstered discretionary spending decisions, although rising prices and interest rates for homes and vehicles will result in a slowing pace of sales during the year ahead.”

Personal Finances Remain Positive

Although consumers continued to favorably judge both their current and expected finances, both were slightly less favorable in October. The proportion that reported recent financial gains fell to 52 percent, down from last month’s 56 percent.

When asked about their financial prospects for the year ahead, 40 percent expected gains, down from last month’s 44 percent. Rising inflation expectations were accompanied by a decline in the size of nominal income gains expected during the year ahead, which fell to 1.8 percent in October, down from 2.1 percent in the prior month.

Buying Plans Weaken

Consumers’ views of buying conditions for vehicles and homes were less positive in the October 2018 survey. Low and attractive pricing for new vehicles was cited by just 17 percent in October, tied with August, and the fewest positive price references since 1984.

Net references to mortgage rates on home buying conditions were the least favorable in a decade. Overall, vehicle and home buying conditions have declined by nearly 20 percent since their peak at the start of 2015. Importantly, the remaining strength in home and vehicle buying is due to greater certainty about jobs and incomes.

Consumer Sentiment Index

The Consumer Sentiment Index was 98.6 in the October 2018 survey, just below September’s 100.1 and last October’s 100.7. The Expectations Index was 89.3 in October, just below the 90.5 recorded in September and last October. The Current Conditions Index declined slightly to 113.1 in October from 115.2 in September and last October’s 116.5.

About the Surveys

The Surveys of Consumers is a rotating panel survey based on a nationally representative sample that gives each household in the coterminous U.S. an equal probability of being selected. Interviews are conducted throughout the month by telephone. The minimum monthly change required for significance at the 95-percent level in the Sentiment Index is 4.8 points; for Current and Expectations Index the minimum is 6 points.

Surveys of Consumers

U-M Institute for Social Research


Contact: Bernie DeGroat, 734-647-1847,     

           Surveys of Consumers, 734-763-5224

Faculty Profiles

ISR’s faculty experts conduct groundbreaking and wide-ranging social science research — representing more than 20 academic disciplines. Included below are two examples of the type of work being done by members of our team.

  • Steven G Heeringa

    Research Scientist Emeritus, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
    Steven G. Heeringa is a Senior Research Scientist Emeritus at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR). He … more
  • Jessica Danielle Faul

    Research Associate Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
    Jessica Faul is a Research Associate Professor at the Survey Research Center in the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at … more