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Alumni Newsletter


Giving Day is April 19!

On April 19, Cornell alumni, students, parents, and friends worldwide will join together to raise funds for Cornell and make a historic impact. This year, CSI is excited to participate in Cornell’s Giving Day campaign and raise money to support the increasingly important inequality research conducted by our faculty and students. We need your support and will accept donations of any amount to help us advance our mission. Your donation will: support the popular Minor in Inequality Studies, and help us bring in external experts, policy makers, and Cornell alumni to the capstone Controversies about Inequality course for Minors; create opportunities for undergraduates to work on CSI faculty members’ research projects and to develop new data analytic skills; fund graduate student research projects and data collection efforts; reward excellence in undergraduate research by supporting CSI’s “best honors thesis” award; and help fund a speaker series and workshops that will bring external experts to Cornell to talk about their research and engage the campus community on inequality topics. Please continue reading to learn about what we do!

Minor in Inequality Studies

CSI’s undergraduate program, the Minor in Inequality Studies, surpassed 200 students enrolled for 2015-2016, our all-time high! Currently, the program has 222 minors enrolled from all seven Cornell colleges.

minor graph

Controversies about Inequality
This fall, affiliate Anna Haskins will teach the capstone course for the Minor in Inequality Studies, Controversies about Inequality. Typically, guest lectures by faculty from other universities enhance the student experience in this course, and this year is certainly no exception!
The first lecture in the series will be given by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, authors of $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (9/22). Kathryn Edin is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Professor of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University. Luke Shaefer is an Associate Professor of Social Work and Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. The second lecture in the series will be L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy on Inequality in the Promised Land: Race, Resources, and Suburban Schooling (10/20). L’Heureux Lewis McCoy is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York – CUNY. The final lecture in the series will be given by Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (11/17). Matthew Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences and co-director of the Justice and Poverty Project at Harvard University, as well as a 2015 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.

Internship Initiative
CSI recently established an internship opportunity initiative to support students who wish to extend their education with applied, real-world experience and further develop their analytic skills and knowledge of inequality. We work closely with social research centers to establish new and competitive summer internship positions for our students. This year, we worked with the Measure of America project of the Social Science Research Council located in Brooklyn, NY.
Measure of America is a non-partisan think tank providing tools for understanding well-being and opportunity in the United States and reporting these findings to the public and policy-makers. Measure of America explores well-being and opportunity in the United States using the American Human Development Index, a composite index comprised of indicators on health, education, and living standards. It is one of the only sources of life expectancy calculations for different racial and ethnic groups as well as for states and for smaller populations within states in the US today.
Many internship opportunities available to undergraduates are unpaid and unpaid internships assume that students are able to self-fund their living expenses. We are seeking financial support on Cornell Giving Day in part to establish a fund to ensure that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds will be able to use this opportunity.
We hope to expand this program in the coming years and need your support!


Boston’s Struggle with Income Segregation
Data by Executive Committee Member Kendra Bischoff and Stanford’s Sean Reardon highlight Boston’s growing struggle with income segregation. Over time, certain neighborhoods in Boston have become increasingly poor or affluent, and there is less social interaction between individuals living in different neighborhoods. This economic segregation has complex effects – for those living in poorer neighborhoods, there is higher exposure to violence and unhealthy conditions, which leads a compounded disadvantage for the residents. See the full article here, see the updated Income Segregation Report here.

No, 96% of Black tenured faculty are not at HBCUs
Director Weeden responds to a Washington Post article that claims that 96% of Black tenured professors work at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs). She shows that the correct figure is 22%. She also shows, though, that segregation by race, rank, and institution type is quite high among tenure-track faculty in the United States. See the full blog post here.

How Access to Public Assistance Impacts Political Participation
In “How Access to Public Assistance Impacts Political Participation”, posted on, affiliate Jamila Michener discusses health care access and benefits in the United States. She believes state residence should not determine access to vital resources like food or medical care. Michener showcases the hardships individuals experience in different states as a result of the power individual states have on what services to offer. While many conservatives argue that increasing state power will lead to more flexibility, evidence suggests that resources given to the most needy will actually decrease. See the full article here.


Neighborhood disadvantage and obesity across childhood and adolescence: Evidence from the NLSY children and young adults cohort (1986–2010)
CSI affiliate Steven Alvarado recently published an article examining the link between neighborhood disadvantage and obesity across childhood and adolescence using evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Children, and Young Adults. Previous research suggests that youth who grow up in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods face higher odds of becoming obese. Neighborhood effects scholars, meanwhile, have suggested that contextual influences may increase in strength as children age. This is the first study to examine whether developmental stages moderate the effect of neighborhood disadvantage on obesity over time. Results suggest that neighborhood disadvantage has a stronger impact on adolescents’ likelihood of becoming obese. Even after adjusting for observed and unobserved confounders, adolescents continue to face higher odds of becoming obese due to the conditions associated with living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Moreover, as research on adults suggests, girls experience larger impacts of neighborhood disadvantage than boys. See the full article here.

Racial and Social Disparities in Bystander Support During Medical Emergencies in U.S. Streets
Affiliated Professor Erin York Cornwell and Graduate Student affiliate Alex Currit have found that bystanders rarely help people who have a medical emergency in a public place—only 2.5 percent receive assistance. This poignant finding is even more dismal for Blacks who were less than half as likely as whites to get help from a bystander. Likewise, persons living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged and densely populated counties were also less likely to receive help from passersby. “When you have a neighborhood environment where people don’t know each other, where people are wary of strangers on the street, and someone needs help right in that moment, people may be more likely to just look away or keep walking without lending a hand,” said lead author Erin York Cornwell. The authors used data pulled from emergency medical service providers, who fill out a form after each ambulance call. See the Cornell Chronicle coverage here, full article here.

Long Work Hours, Part-time Work, and trends in the Gender Gap in Pay, the Motherhood Wage Penalty, and the Fatherhood Wage Premium.
This paper, coauthored by Director Weeden, former student Youngjoo Cha (Sociology PhD, 2010), and graduate student affiliate Mauricio Bucca, shows how the rise in long work hours, defined as working 50 or more hours per week at paid labor, contributed to trends in wage differentials between mothers, fathers, childless women, and childless men over the past 30 years. In the US, the share of workers from all four groups who worked long hours rose until the mid-2000s, but the gaps between the groups stayed the same while the hourly pay associated with working long hours rose dramatically. Because fathers are much more likely, and mothers are much less likely, to work long hours than other groups, the rising hourly pay for long work hours exacerbated wage gaps between fathers and childless men (where fathers earn more, on average, than childless men in the same occupation and with similar qualifications), between mothers and childless women (where mothers earn less than childless women), between childless men and childless women and, especially, between fathers and mothers. Changes in the distribution of part-time work over these three decades, by contrast, had mixed effects on wage differentials: they reduced gender gaps in wages and the motherhood wage penalty, but exacerbated the fatherhood wage premium. These findings help us understand why gender and family wage differentials persist, and also demonstrate that changes in the social organization of work and in compensation practices can have unanticipated consequences for wage inequality. Published in the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences [Forthcoming].

Merit and Blame in Unequal Societies: Explaining Latin Americans’ Beliefs about Wealth and Poverty
Graduate Student affiliate, Mauricio Bucca, studies popular beliefs about the causes of inequality in seven Latin American countries. In these rigid and unequal societies, people are more likely to believe that wealth and poverty depend on individual merits or faults rather than structural constraints. The factors that drive beliefs about wealth and poverty at the individual level are investigated, as well as the distribution of beliefs across countries. The findings provide partial support to theories maintaining that being in an advantaged social position leads to favoring individualistic beliefs. However, the findings report a novel effect of social class. More importantly, unobserved country-level factors are shown to be the most powerful predictors and the only source of cross-country variation in the distribution of beliefs about the origins of inequality. Published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility [Forthcoming]. See the full article here.


Steven Alvarado describes pitfalls minorities face in academia
CSI affiliate Steven Alvarado was the keynote speaker in the Fall Diversity in Scholarship and Engagement Symposium on Dec. 7, and spoke about the pitfalls minorities face in academia. Drawing from his own experience as a rising Latino student researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Alvarado believes that many students can feel like imposters in their fields, due to the lack of underrepresented minorities. He advised aspiring scholars to pursue research that is relevant to their interests, as well as finding opportunities to “create your own time” by securing fellowships and grants in lieu of distracting teaching assistant or research assistant obligations. He concluded his talk by stating that “We represent a minority of minorities: we are selected. We have a responsibility to our communities to use ourselves to propel our communities forward.” See the Cornell Chronicle coverage here.

Steven Alvarado talks to students about the racial and ethnic disparities in U.S. higher education
In Steven Alvarado’s talk at the Tatkon Center on March 2nd, he emphasized that diverse students, faculty, and staff enriches the academic growth of students and produces more productivity and progress in society. Alvarado showed data highlighting that the race/ethnic gap in education (both high school and higher education) is wider than the gender gap in education. He also talked about how some of the sources of this educational inequality are due to family background like family structure, parent’s education, and family income. He concluded by talking about the challenges and opportunities in the role of professors to support the academic growth of diverse students.

Ethics and Public Life “Inequalities: How Deep? Why? What Should Be Done?” Lecture Series
The College of Art and Science’s Program on Ethics and Public Life (EPL) is hosting a series of lectures on inequality on Mondays from 4:30-6:00pm in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium in Goldwin Smith. The series features prominent scholars who address a wide variety of issues relating to inequality. The first lecture of the series was Benjamin Page, Political Science, Northwestern, who spoke about rising political inequality in the United States due to unequal representation and gridlock (February 8). The second lecture was given by Miles Corak (Economics, Ottawa) who spoke about unequal opportunity and generational earnings mobility (February 22). The third lecture, given by David Grusky (Sociology, Stanford) considered how rising commodification has exacerbated inequality (February 29). The fourth lecture was given by Prudence Carter (Education, Stanford) who discussed the double binds of racial and economic inequality (March 14). The fifth lecture in the series was given by Cecilia Rouse (Economics, Princeton) on higher education and the challenge of inequality (April 11). The final speaker in the series will be Karl Alexander (Sociology, Johns Hopkins) on the interaction of family, school, and society in shaping inequality (April 25). For video coverage of these events, please visit CSI’s media page.

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