Economic mobility and prosocial behavior

Mihajlo Ivanovic ’22 and professor Benjamin Ho

Over the summer I was working with Professor Benjamin Ho in the economics department  regarding the effects of economic mobility on the prosocial behavior. The goal of the project was to determine if the individual’s ability to move up or down through the social classes changes one’s chance to engage in prosocial behavior such as donating or volunteering.

I was working with four data sets, three of them including cross-national data with more than 30 countries and one representative data from the U.S In the beginning of the project I was doing OLS regressions without restrictions in order to determine the coefficients on mobility and to observe the changes in coefficients as we added more independent variables such as GDP growth, education, index on corruption, etc. We used a dependent variable that showed if a person volunteered in the past month/year, depending on the dataset. Since economic mobility is actually lower as the coefficient increases (1 represents the lowest mobility, whereas 0 represents the highest mobility),  our case negative coefficients actually show a positive relationship between economic mobility and prosocial behavior. In the picture below we can see that the coefficients on mobility are large and significant.

Restrictions that resulted in consistent results were the place of birth restriction (those born outside of the country they reside in have larger coefficient), age restriction (as you get older the coefficient on mobility increases), and trust restriction (those that trust more have larger coefficients).  Furthermore, since our measurements of the mobility are on country-level rather than individual-level, a mixed effects model was used to observe the behavior of the coefficients. After running the melogit and metobit models, we found that economic mobility is still a significant variable and that the restrictions mentioned above, still hold.

Since past researchers have focused mostly on income and inequality as the main independent variables, the effect of economic mobility on prosocial behavior is the undiscovered effect with the potential of large implications on debates regarding social impacts of resource distribution.

Supplementary Materials for Teaching About Slavery in Ancient Rome

Professor Curtis Dozier and Tao Beloney ’23, Greek and Roman Studies Department

This summer I worked with Professor Dozier to study the representations of Ancient Roman slavery in popular high school Latin textbooks and ultimately to create the beginnings of some supplementary materials for teachers covering the subject. This, along with the broader racism in Classics departments and education, is the subject of longstanding activism, and this project exists within that activism.

Dated to he 3rd century CE, this mosaic depicts two slaves carrying wine jugs. Image: Pascal Radigue (Wikimedia Commons)

I began by studying the best practices for teaching American slavery as laid out in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s oft-cited Teaching Hard History report, and proceeded to study the presentation of slavery in three of the most popular high school Latin textbooks, keeping in mind the shortcomings that the SPLC identified in US history textbooks. Considering all this, I studied the up-to-date treatments of ancient Roman slavery, using Peter Hunt’s Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery and volume 1 of the Cambridge World History of Slavery. I then proceeded to sketch the beginnings of some supplementary materials that teachers might use when discussing slavery in Ancient Rome, modelled off of pedagogical priorities outlined in the SPLC’s Hard History framework.

We chose to create supplementary materials because most high school teachers, particularly in public schools, do not choose their textbooks and do not have budgets or time for more materials. Though some reformers support the wholesale rejection of the current textbooks, and some books are perhaps incurably awful, better textbooks will take time and investment from publishers while supplementary materials that can be added to existing materials allow teachers to make changes to their treatments of the subject now. Thus free materials that can be added on top of mandatory subject matter are ideal.

The materials are organized roughly by topic, for example manumission (the practice of freeing slaves) or the slave trade, and are designed to be inserted into lessons or lectures whenever teachers arrive at them. For example, teachers could add to textbook’s treatment of manumission by pointing out how the practice served the interests of enslavers: the possibility of manumission was a method of social control designed to pit enslaved people against each other by encouraging them to compete for their freedom, thus preventing the development of group identity. These resources are a proof of concept that might be expanded upon by others in the future, perhaps to cover Roman slavery more comprehensively or to address other topics like imperialism or gender politics.

Evaluating Mechanisms of Long Run Differences Across American Indian Reservations

The policies aimed at Native Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century promoted cultural assimilation. Land privatization and education formed the central tenants of federal policy towards Native Americans. These policies worked to erode traditional tribal governments. The Assimilation Era was halted in 1934 when Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). The IRA stopped the privatization of tribal lands on every reservation, offered assistance in drafting constitutions and business charters, and implemented a revolving credit fund. Tribes electing to organize under the IRA received these benefits, but were also subject to oversight from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribes worried about the powers they would still hold if they chose to adopt the IRA. Once adopted, tribal governments were not able to modify their choice and remain organized under the IRA today. Non-IRA tribes were ineligible for some government programs but faced less federal oversight. This project explores the short-term and long-term differences that resulted from IRA adoption.

Concerns over IRA constraints proved accurate as IRA reservations consistently had a lower income per capita over time. Tribal governments organized under the IRA were limited in several ways including over all transactions for land and natural resources, which had to be approved by the Secretary of Interior and any use of the revolving credit fund was under close supervision from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The income inequality is illustrated in the graph below. Note that the gap is largest in 1945 and 2010.

This project specifically explores the mechanisms that explain these early and persistent differences. I specifically examined four mechanisms that could be applied to parts of the IRA. They were:

  1. Land Holdings: The IRA halted the allotment of tribal lands on the reservations and made funding available to return some of the private land back to the tribes themselves. To examine this data, I used BIA land reports from 1934-1996 and collected information for each land tenure type present on over 100 reservations.The key points to highlight from this graph are the bottom left, for tribal land relative to 1934, the top left, for fee-simple land (which is essentially the type of land we live on), and the bottom right, which looks at individual trust land. The bottom left shows there was not a significant increase in the amount of tribal land returned to IRA reservations until many decades later. Similarly, the inverse of this occurred with fee-simple land, where IRA reservations saw an increase in the amount of fee simple land relative to 1934 until the 1970s. The IRA did seem to work for individual trust land, as IRA reservations saw a decrease in the amount of land shortly after implementation that persisted over time.
  2. Natural Resources: As an extension to the land holding changes, we examined the development of Oil and Gas wells on reservations.
    The critical period in this graph is the late 1930s to 1945, as that’s when the IRA was implemented and the big income difference between IRA and Non-IRA places was not present. As the data shows, there is a fairly even number of wells per capita between both IRA and Non-IRA places in that period, so natural resources likely cannot explain the early differences between IRA and Non-IRA reservations.
  3. Credit Markets: The IRA made available the revolving credit fund to reservations, so I looked to evaluate if IRA reservations were in fact given more funds to use. For this mechanismI constructed credit data from two sources: BIA Statistical Supplements from 1939-45 and BIA Annual Credit Reports from 1948-54. This graph shows the amount of real per capita loans that were made available from 1939-54. While the IRA promised the revolving credit fund to give reservations access to funds, they failed to adequately maintain this benefit as the difference between IRA and Non-IRA locations diminished by the mid 1950s. After checking for any accounting differences, Professor Frye and I realized this may have been due to a shift in the head of the BIA in 1945.
  4. Business Charters/Constitutions: The IRA promised to help ratify charters and constitutions. I looked to see if that mattered with respect to per capita income. I’m still investigating this data, but I’ve collected the constitution and charter years for many reservations and plan to evaluate if the presence of these documents influenced per capita income in a negative way.

“Even This One Has a Role in Deciding the Outcome”: Reimagining Children’s Agency and Human Rights in Armed Conflict

Professor Tracey Holland, Jonan Kiang ’21, Sofia Rao ’22, International Studies

The basis of this Ford project was the four films from Professor Tracey Holland’s class, Hello Dear Enemy, specifically For Sama, Of Fathers and Sons, The Distant Barking of Dogs, and Colors of the Mountains. The first two of these are located in Aleppo and Northwest Syria respectively during the Syrian Civil War (2011-present), while the third is located in Hnutove near the frontline of the War in Donbass (2014-present), and the fourth in Montes de Maria region of Colombia during the Colombian Conflict (1964-present). Considering the emerging scholarship on children’s rights and agencies, our goal was to evaluate the topic of children’s agency beyond the current discourse of childhood by bringing in hermeneutical methods of analysis.

We began by researching the backgrounds of the films and drafting brief summaries of them. For a good while, we did not fully close in on our topic yet, but after researching dozens of readings and journal articles, we were able to narrow down and transform the vastness of information we were facing to a solid approach and argument. We knew that children were not simply incomplete adults and rather individuals who were agentic, but we needed to demonstrate that somehow. By the end of Week Five, we each probably watched each of the films between three to four times, and we marked more than 130 timestamps within these films that demonstrated children and their lived experiences in a way that contradicted the dominant childhood identity, i.e. innocent victims, and connected it to relevant literature.

Due to the complexity of the topic of children’s rights, our sources came to include a myriad of different fields: political theory, psychology, sociology, gender studies, geography, and international politics. All these would fit into the jigsaw puzzle of what childhood meant on top of and beyond constructed innocence and victimhood.

Multiliteracy Development through Youth Education Programs

Professor Ah-Young Song & Yvonne Hunter ’21, Education Department

This summer, Professor Song and I built two courses for an American school in Kuwait, focusing on spatial justice, community engagement, and developing critical literacy skills to be used for a future research project with international youth. These courses were designed to to support the academic and personal development of the students to prepare them for college or post-secondary life in the USA. 

For our first curriculum, I researched five topics: public and private space, gendered space, architecture, digital space, and community care. Each topic became the guiding theme for each day of the program, tying together class activities ranging from reimagining the social rules of local sites to pinpointing possible accessibility improvements, and examining how the digital world leaks into reality. The spatial justice course culminates in a multimodal project, in which students report on a current issue in their community through a critical spatial lens.

Our second curriculum is designed to build upon the understandings constructed in the first year, and is centered around the practice of world-building. Each day focuses on a particular field—medicine, advertising, urban planning, journalism, and technology—and analyzes it from the creator and consumer perspective. Students are challenged to reimagine this field in their own fictitious world, which becomes progressively more developed throughout the program. The concluding project presents their world and the political and social forces at play within it.

 I also reviewed articles from Professor Song’s dissertation on a Brooklyn out-of-school literacy program, providing comments to prepare future manuscripts for journal submissions. I compiled supplementary articles relevant to each chapter from prominent education journals such as Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and Review of Research in Education.

A slide from our Architecture lesson

A slide from our Gendered Spaces lesson

First half of the Spatial Justice curriculum

Redistribution or Illusion? –A closer look at Ecuador’s Economic Policies during Correa’s Citizen Revolution

Yixiao (Carl) Cao ’22 and Professor Esteban Argudo (Economics Department)

This summer, I worked with Professor Argudo and Anish Kumthekar ’22 to assess the impact of the redistributive policies implemented in Ecuador under Rafael Correa’s Citizen Revolution (2009-2013). The main focus in the past two months is to collect and examine the data to get a comprehensive and quantitative understanding of the socio-economic progress in Ecuador during the period of interest. 

As the graph demonstrates, the sampling of each period varies. We’ve identified three major changes:

  1. March and September surveys pre-2014 only cover urban areas, while post-2014 all the surveys include both urban and rural areas
  2. The Galapagos Islands are included since 2014
  3. There’s a major sampling expansion in 2014.

The first two could be dealt with easily through some cleaning, however, the third one is of major concern.

We used diff-in-diffs regressions to check if the sampling change (i.e. the “treatment”) has caused any variations in the demographic representation of the survey. We found the parallel control assumption to be held in pre-treatment periods for both income (ingrl) and age (p03) :






Then we ran the regression and found a significant coefficient (p-value = 0.033) on the interaction term. This suggests that the sampling expansion in 2014 is causing variations in the representation of the survey and has to be controlled for in our future analysis.

Besides the data analysis work, we also read papers about the HANK model and the Ecuadorian economy. This project helped me learn how to think about and approach research questions independently and critically, as well as gain valuable skills in R and Python programming. For the rest of the summer and next semester, we will continue to do formal analysis on the data, build the model, calibrate it with the data, and finally evaluate the impact of the economic policies.

(credit: Yixiao (Carl) Cao; from top left: Anish Kumthekar’22, Yixiao (Carl) Cao’22, Professor Esteban Argudo)

(credit: Yixiao (Carl) Cao; Carl and Anish working together on a debugging process)

The Oviedo Project

Professor Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Kendal Simmons ‘23, Hispanic Studies Department

This summer I had the pleasure of working with Professor Paravisini-Gebert on the Oviedo Project. The goal of this project is to translate Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s Historia general y natural de las Indias or General and Natural History of the Indies. During the previous four semesters, students (including me) translated chapters that now need to be checked, edited, and then uploaded to the project’s website. My job this summer mainly focused on organizing those chapters, updating the website, and preparing for more chapters to be translated in the upcoming school year. I also got to try my hand at editing and I had the opportunity to take part in the overall decision-making process. 

The front page of the website.

One of the most rewarding parts of my job was looking for antique images and prints that accompanied each of the chapters I uploaded. By doing this, I learned about the flora, fauna, and political climate of colonial Latin America, right from primary sources. These images also give the Oviedo project a sense of both authenticity and creativity that I think perfectly reflects the personalities of the students who completed these translations.

With guidance and insight from Professor Paravisini-Gebert, I also learned about the translation process as a whole. For example, with so many chapters and so many students translating Oviedo’s work, certain steps need to be taken to maintain a sense of consistency. It raises questions like: How do we translate certain words? Do we leave them in Spanish to maintain authenticity and cultural significance? Or do we find an English equivalent that is more recognizable and easier for readers to digest? To answer these questions, we met several times with other members of the Oviedo team over Zoom, which allowed me to better understand the importance of everyone’s individual role in a project in such a large and complex project. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed working on the Oviedo Project under Professor Paravisini-Gebert. It is so exciting to see how much we were able to complete this summer and, even though there remains much to do this coming year, I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds!

Why Women Don’t Code: Media Exposure and Occupational Choice in U.S. Labor Markets

Ha Bui, 2022, Professor Sarah Pearlman, Economics Department

This summer, under Professor Sarah Pearlman’s guidance, I had the opportunity to investigate the relationship between exposure to media content and women’s decision (not) to pursue Computer Science in higher education and a career in the U.S. Women in STEM is a topic that has intrigued numerous gender and labor economics projects. While the percentage of women entering stem fields such as bio, physics, and engineering has steadily risen since the 1980’s,  women’s participation in Computer Science has been waning, wherein the percentage of women majoring in Computer Science has halved between 1983 and 2010.

Percent of Undergraduate Majors who are Women, by Fields

Simultaneously, the second half of the 20th century also saw the expansion of cable networks in the U.S., offering households unprecedented access to affordable information and entertainment services. This socio-economic transition created a new cultural context that harbored the 80s college-and-job-market-entering generation of women and men. 

Our project was inspired by an NPR article titled “When Women Stopped Coding” that highlighted gender dichotomies in pop-culture as a potential catalyst and was informed by previous studies of cable television’s impacts on women’s household autonomy and girls’ access to education.  We examined the following questions:.

  • Does access to cable television and the content in pop-culture on screened movies influence the declining women’s participation rate in Computer Science?
  • If yes, how much, and what are the possible confounding factors?



In the first week, I conducted literature reviews to examine the following:

  1.  The impacts of cable television access and media exposure on gender empowerment and decision making.
  2. The discrepancy in gender cultural representation. 
  3. Possible determinants of the observed female’s diversion from Computer Science in the 80s. 

Subsequently, I tracked the expansion of cable television in the U.S. through the years 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, and 1988 using data previously acquired from the Television & Cable Factbook. To locate the arrival of cable services, I incorporated the cable television data with the Federal Information Processing Standards – a geographical code – listed in the Bureau Census data. Most of the data-cleaning tasks were conducted using reclink (a merging command that allowed for minor expression differences in string variables) in Stata. Specifically, we used the number of observations as the identifier and the names of states and localities as matching pillars. In the figures below, we can see the direction of cable network growth.

Year Total observations
1968 3633
1973 6860
1978 11005
1983 18612
1988 39677

Progression of cable service presence in the States (by sub-county localities)

Because the data was collected using a programming language that we were not familiar with, I focused primarily on understanding the progression of cable access and checking for possible errors in the custom dataset, including typos in string variables like locality names and FIPS codes as well as duplications due to technical reasons. One particular issue I regularly encountered occurred when we tried to merge data using reclink: Stata would duplicate observations from either dataset to match with an observation from the other. This is because, in the original cable dataset, one locality could have numerous identifying FIPS codes, creating a long string variable. To work around this problem, we decided to horizontally separate the codes into several string variables. After that, we generated another binary variable to examine if the FIPS codes in the census file matched any of the FIPS codes listed in our custom cable file.

The process entailed constant trials and errors. Professor Pearlman was immensely patient and informative throughout our meetings.  Although the project remains inchoate, the work thus far has provided a firm basis for continued research.


Media Psychology Textbook Research

Alice Aldoukhov ‘22, Daria Lochoshvili ‘22, and Professor Dara Greenwood, Psychology Department

This summer I worked under Professor Greenwood’s guidance to start compiling materials for a Media Psychology textbook that she will be writing. I worked alongside another student, Dasha Lochoshvili, and we decided that each of us will review a topic every two weeks so that at the end of the month we would have four topic areas covered between the two of us. I chose to focus on media violence and parasocial relationships with media characters.

I used the PsycInfo database for the majority of my research.

I began by doing some background reading on the theories in media psychology to have a better understanding of the foundations before delving into the current literature. Using databases like PsychInfo and Communication and Mass Media Complete, I searched for all the articles published over the past 5 years on my chosen topics. I then compiled a few dozen of the most relevant. I considered the patterns that emerged in the literature, and organized what I found into categories such as “video games” and “real world vs fictional violence” for media violence, and “emotional wellbeing” and “gender” for parasocial relationships. Then I wrote a literature review, outlining what I had learned through my research – from relevant theories, to summaries of the studies, to an overview of the popular methodologies. I also listed some suggestions for studies that could have “spotlight” features in the textbook. I repeated this process in the second half of the program with the literature on parasocial relationships with media characters. These literature reviews are meant to serve Professor Greenwood as she writes the textbook, and I hope to keep assisting her research in the future.

As part of my work, I got to follow my interests and read the most fascinating articles.

State, Society, and Individual in China’s Coronavirus Pandemic

Since its outbreak in China at the end of 2019, the COVID-19 Pandemic has been more than a public health issue, but rather, a highly political one. For us, who witnessed the situation escalate and were involved in the pandemic, however remotely, this Ford Scholar project, led by Professor Fubing Su, is significant at both the academic and personal levels. Living with and through COVID-19, we aimed to analyze the pandemic as a case study to gain a deeper understanding of politics in today’s China.

(From left to right: Kaiqing Su, Yinguang Zhao, Photo by Yijia Hu)

The project is composed of three parts. In the first week, we read through and collected a wide range of primary sources and commentary articles on the coronavirus outbreak, prevention, and control in China. We organized them into different themes–such as media, propaganda, civil society, nationalism, memory, central-local government relations, etc. Based on the categorization, we then picked out key events and representational materials to demonstrate the diverse layers of Chinese politics. For example, Professor Su explored the realm of civil society in China through the actions taken by state-controlled GONGOs, partially autonomous NGOs, and individual volunteers; Yinguang studied the comments under Fang Fang and Dr. Li Wenliang’s Weibo–social media accounts of two of the most significant figures during the epidemic–to understand how Chinese people think about freedom of speech, government accountability, and patriotism; Kaiqing analyzed the differences between the official and grassroots timelines, contrasting the two kinds of “memories” constructed. Together, we hope to provide a more nuanced picture of the state, the government, and the people in contemporary China.

(A Screenshot of the Reader of Chinese Politics that We Created)

(A Screenshot of our GitHub Site)

Our individual research projects are ongoing ones, and this summer was a good starting point for us to recollect and reflect on the coronavirus outbreak in China. The virus might be gone someday, but the lessons from this “case study” will remain as open doors.

(Top left: Prof. Su, top right: Yinguang Zhao, lower middle: Kaiqing Su)

—-By Kaiqing Su ’21 and Yinguang Zhao ’23, July, 2020.