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


U-M alumna Jasmine Manalel shares how her ISR awards bolstered her career.

by Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder

On May 18th, University of Michigan alumna Jasmine Manalel tweeted: “A stranger on a plane, seeing the article I was reviewing, asked if I was a social worker. And for the first time, after years of ‘I’m a graduate student,’ I said, ‘I’m a psychologist.’ It felt right.” This sky-high encounter was a well-earned cloud nine moment for Manalel, who is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in D.C., and who has steadily endeavored to ascend to where she is today.

Manalel, who works in the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, grew up in the D.C. metro area in northern Virginia and received her B.A. from the University of Virginia. It was there that she took elective psychology courses that quickly piqued her interest and she became a research assistant in several different labs. “I wanted to learn more about why our closest relationships are so impactful, in both a positive and negative way,” the 28-year-old says. “I applied to the University of Michigan with the intention of studying social relations, and sure enough, my dissertation was on social networks across the life course.”

She was primarily guided by her advisors, Toni Antonucci and Jacqui Smith. Both women head research groups in the Survey Research Center, which is housed within the Institute for Social Research (ISR). Antonucci is the primary investigator of the Life Course Development Lab and Smith is the primary investigator of the Psychosocial Aging Group. Manalel was a graduate student researcher at both labs. “My first two years were very course-heavy, so I spent a lot of my time at the psychology building,” she says. “But, as I became more involved in research projects, I spent more time at ISR and by the middle of my third year I was working there full-time.” Manalel reflects that it was during this juncture that she learned to be a psychologist, a researcher, a scientist, and a scholar.

Jasmine Manalel

Jasmine Manalel

Striving to become better in all four of these areas is a continuous goal of Manalel’s. And she’s soaking up the support and opportunities for such development at NIH. “I’m learning a lot as a new postdoc, and I love the research I’m getting involved in,” she says. Manalel adds that her new colleagues have made her transition quite smooth by openly welcoming her into the fold.

Furthermore, on a personal level, Manalel’s pretty much back in her old stomping grounds. Yet, while the phrase “home is where the heart is” may ring true for Manalel, she confides that, “although it’s nice to be closer to home, I do miss Ann Arbor and Michigan.” Manalel may miss Ann Arbor, but she knows that despite the distance and being out of sight, she certainly isn’t out of mind. In mid-October, she was awarded the Gerontological Society of America’s Behavioral and Social Sciences Section Student Research Award at the dissertation level. “It was a last-minute application for me. Jacqui Smith urged me to apply and wrote a letter of support on my behalf,” she says. “Even now, as a post-doc, my mentors at Michigan forward me awards, fellowships and grants that they think I’m qualified for.”

Applying for awards and grants is something that Manalel has invested in. “As a graduate student I aimed to apply for everything I was eligible for,” Manalel says. She confesses that’s she’s always surprised when she wins anything, and that there were plenty of times when her efforts were unfruitful. It was during such moments that Manalel counted herself especially lucky to have mentors who believed in her abilities, and who continued to encourage her to apply. Two notable instances that these pushes helped springboard Manalel to success were when she won The Elizabeth Douvan Junior Scholar Fund in 2016 and The Robert Kahn Fellowship for the Scientific Study of Social Issues in 2017. Both awards have proved instrumental in furthering her career as a lifespan developmental researcher.

The Douvan award, which was created to support the research and training activities of junior researchers in the Life Course Development Program at the ISR, provided Manalel with the funds to buy software and other supplies necessary to conduct research. It also funded her travel expenses to attend and present her work at academic meetings. “Conferences, in particular, were instrumental to my progress,” Manalel says, “because they allowed me to meet experts both within and outside of my field, and to receive feedback on my own work.” She also adds that these conferences contributed more generally to her socialization as an academic. “There is very much a hidden curriculum in academia – norms and standards – that are not explicitly taught, but rather implicitly understood by the community,” she explains. “Attending conferences and participating in other academic events increases exposures to these norms. As a young scholar, it’s important to get involved and learn these norms.”

The Kahn Fellowship has been equally important to Manalel’s development. “This award was especially meaningful because, through my dissertation, I tried to honor Dr. Kahn’s commitment to using social science research to address social issues by investigating how we could leverage our close, social networks,” she says. “It provided me with tuition, benefits, and a stipend for two semesters. It essentially funded my last year of graduate school and allowed me to focus full-time on my dissertation.”

Manalel’s dissertation was titled “Social Networks Across the Life Course.” It was an examination of social networks and the connection to well-being at three periods in people’s lives – childhood, young adulthood, and older adulthood. Her first study revealed that the social networks of children are relatively small and family-centric, and that is adaptive. Manalel then examined stability and change in social networks all the way from childhood to early adulthood. She reports, “I found that the changes that are typically experienced, such as increase in social network size and increase in immediate family are consistent with the developmental goals of the transition to adulthood.” Lastly, she took a close look at older adults’ social networks, activity engagement and loneliness. Here Manalel discovered that social integration through activity engagement can balance out inadequate social networks. In summary, she says that “taken together, these findings highlight that it’s important to study social networks with a consideration for the developmental context in which they are formed, evolve, and exert influences on well-being.”

The influence and support of Manalel’s own personal social network at ISR is described by her in one word: priceless. In addition to Antonucci and Smith, she was also mentored by Kira Birditt (a research associate professor in the Life Course Development Program) and generally recalls her colleagues at ISR as positive and generous with their time and resources. “I think ISR really embodied team science, and moving forward it’s something I strive to emulate,” she says.

As it stands, Manalel plans to stride toward to a career in research, but being only a few months into her postdoc she’s willing to entertain all prospects. “One of the advantages of being at NIH is exposure to many different research-related career options,” she says. “Sometimes as an academic, the most ‘planning’ you can do is to seek out opportunities and take hold of the ones you encounter.” As evidenced by what she has been able to accomplish with both The Elizabeth Douvan Junior Scholar Fund and The Robert Kahn Fellowship for the Scientific Study of Social Issues, there’s very little room for doubt that Manalel will work to make the most of anything that comes her way.

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.

  • Arland Thornton

    Professor Emeritus of Sociology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and Research Professor Emeritus, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research
    Arland Thornton is Professor of Sociology, Population Studies, and Survey Research at the University of Michigan, where he is also … more
  • Michael R Elliott

    Professor of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Research Professor, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
    Michael Elliott is a Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Research Scientist at … more