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A Century of Educational Inequality in the United States
Abstract: The “income inequality hypothesis” holds that rising income inequality affects the distribution of a wide range of social and economic outcomes. Research highlighting the sharp increase in educational inequality in recent decades has fuelled concerns that rising income inequality has had damaging consequences for equality of educational opportunity, even while other researchers have provided descriptive evidence at odds with the income inequality hypothesis. In this paper we track long-term trends in family income inequalities in college enrollment ("enrollment inequality") using all available nationally representative datasets for cohorts born between 1908 and 1995. We show that the trend in enrollment inequality moved in lockstep with the trend in income inequality over the past century. There is one exception to this general finding: for cohorts at risk of serving in the Vietnam War, enrollment inequality was high while income inequality was low. During this period, enrollment inequality was significantly higher for men than for women. Aside from this singular confounding event, evidence on a century of enrollment inequality establishes a strong association between income inequality and enrollment inequality, providing support for the view that rising income inequality is fundamentally changing the distribution of life chances.Find out more »
Machine Learning for Causal Inference
Abstract: Given advances in machine learning over the past decades, it is now possible to accurately solve difficult non-parametric prediction problems in a way that is routine and reproducible. In this talk, I'll discuss how these machine learning tools can be rigorously integrated into observational study analyses, and how they interact with classical ideas around randomization, semiparametric modeling, double robustness, etc. When deployed carefully, machine learning enables us to develop statistical estimators that reflect the study design more closely than basic linear regression based methods.Find out more »
Distinguishing Distress from Disorder: Black-White Patterns in the Determinants of and Links between Depressive Symptoms and Major Depression
Background: Black Americans experience higher rates of psychological distress but similar or lower rates of psychiatric disorders than Whites. This study aimed to clarify these discordant distress-disorder patterns by (1) assessing whether sociodemographic and psychosocial risk factors varied across outcomes and racial groups and (2) evaluating Black-White differences in the distress-disorder linkage.
Methods: Secondary analysis of the Nashville Stress and Health Study (n=1,246), a community epidemiologic survey of Blacks and Whites in Nashville, Tennessee, was used to assess distress (CES-D depressive symptoms scale) and major depression (MDD; based on the CIDI) was the disorder of interest. Race-stratified models assessed correlates of each outcome and the between distress-disorder association separately among Blacks and Whites; interactions considered potential moderating effects of SES and stress exposure on this association within each group.
Results: Distress and disorder were differentially shaped by risk factors and varied by race. Increases in distress were associated with greater disorder risk among both racial groups. However, a significant interaction between distress and stress exposure indicated that the odds of “chronic” MDD (lifetime and past-year prevalence) depends on the level of stress exposure for Blacks only.
Conclusions: This study informs the “race paradox in mental health” by demonstrating that distress and disorder have etiologies that vary within and across racial groups and the distress-disorder association depends on stress exposure among Black Americans. This has implications for public health practice, as pinpointing the protective mechanisms underlying Blacks’ low disorder rates despite elevated risk exposure may inform more effective avenues of intervention.Find out more »
Life after death: The scale and salience of mortality in sub-Saharan Africa
Abstract: Dramatic reductions in the infant and under-five mortality rates over the last half century are among the global health community’s most notable achievements. The trends are clear and the message is positive: the world today is healthier and safer for young people than it has ever been. Sub-Saharan African countries, in particular, have experienced some of the most dramatic reductions in early life mortality. However, the all-time low infant and under-five mortality rates conceal the pervasiveness by which contemporary populations experience the phenomenon of having an infant or under-five-year-old child die—a life event that can leave parents vulnerable in myriad ways. In this talk I will introduce new population measures that capture the scale at which infant and child deaths are experienced by and dispersed across mothers in contemporary African populations. I will then demonstrate the disadvantage mothers can experience following a child’s death, and will conclude by discussing how I am extending this research with a data collection project in rural Malawi.Find out more »