Research Paper Competition Winners
Listed below are the winners of the annual ICPSR research paper competitions.
* = denotes Past Specialty Competition
2016 Award Winners
First Place - ICPSR Undergraduate
Student/Author: Candace M. Evans
School Affiliation: McMurry University (Texas)
Paper Title:The Moderating Effects of Race and Ethnicity on the Relationship between Body Image and Psychological Well-Being (213KB)
Abstract: Body image is particularly salient amongst adolescent females, whose innate desire for self-comprehension is mingled with the rapid maturations and changes of puberty. Although existing literature points to marked differences across racial ethnic groups in terms of what is considered the ideal female body type, little is known as to how these variances are psychologically internalized and manifested across groups. Through the analyses of secondary data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the present study investigates the relationships between several dimensions of body image and psychological well-being within a sample of adolescent females. Results indicate the relationship between feeling overweight and low self-esteem to be stronger in Latinas than in whites or blacks. Latinas also demonstrated a stronger relationship between feeling underweight and low self-esteem compared to blacks, for whom a lot/whole lot of perceived changes in curviness were related to high self-esteem. Finally, compared to the other racial-ethnic groups, changes in breast size were strongly correlated with low self-esteem and high depressive affect for Asians girls.
First Place - ICPSR Master's
Student/Author: Brielle Bryan
School Affiliation: Harvard University
Paper Title:Paternal Incarceration and Adolescent Social Network Disadvantage (244KB)
Abstract: This paper explores the relationship between paternal incarceration and the structure and quality of adolescents' social networks. Previous research suggests that the composition of adolescents' social networks is important for exposing them to, or insulating them from, disadvantageous peer relationships and providing social support during a critical developmental period. Recent studies on the collateral consequences of incarceration have explored the implications of parental incarceration for children's behavioral problems, academic achievement, health, and housing stability, but none have yet examined the social networks of these children. Using network data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I find that children of recently incarcerated fathers have more disadvantaged social networks than other adolescents: they have fewer friends, are more socially isolated, and are connected to less advantaged, less academically successful and more delinquent friends than their peers. These differences are robust to a variety of specifications and are generally consistent across race and gender subgroups. This adolescent social network disadvantage sheds new light on the young adult behavioral differences previously observed among children of incarcerated parents and reveals a new way in which mass incarceration may promote social exclusion.
2015 Award Winner
First Place - ICPSR Undergraduate
Student/Author: Tiffany Foster
School Affiliation: Hiram Colelge (Ohio)
Paper Title:Social Information Processing Mediates the Relationship between Effortful Control and Peer Success in First Graders (213KB)
Abstract: Some children have greater peer success than others. Effortful control is a biologically-based temperament component that has been linked to peer success. To explore why this relationship exists, a mediation analysis can be used to look for the mediating variables or mechanisms by which effortful control influences peer success. One possible mediating variable is social information processing or SIP, which allows children to cognitively interpret and respond to social situations. In the present study, it was hypothesized that SIP would partially mediate the relationship between effortful control and peer success. To test this hypothesis, pre-existing data on children from the NICHD study was used. The results of a mediation analysis supported the study's hypothesis. This suggests that biologically-based effortful control provides a lens through which children cognitively process social situations, which in turn has an impact on their peer success. Future studies could continue to explore this relationship.
2014 Award Winners
First Place - ICPSR Undergraduate
Student/Author: Lorraine Blatt
School Affiliation: Grinnell College (Iowa)
Paper Title:Cultural Mismatch in the Achievement Gap: Self-construal as a Mediator Between Socioeconomic Status and Academic Achievement (213KB)
Abstract: This secondary analysis explored whether an interdependent self-construal (defined by valuing relationships with others, conformity, and adjusting oneself to maintain social harmony), as opposed to an independent self-construal (valuing standing out, stability across situations, and promoting one's own goals) was related to lower college GPAs for students with low socioeconomic status. This research is informed by the cultural mismatch model (Stephens et al. 2012a) and uses Gates Millennium Scholars data (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Multivariate regression analyses determined that those who did not think good luck was important, relied on their cultural group for support, and did not have a positive self-concept (interdependent tendencies) had significantly lower GPAs and these variables were mediators between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. A second multivariate regression demonstrated that those with a largely salient interdependent self-construal who self-reported improved independence while in college had significantly higher GPAs than those who did not.
First Place - ICPSR Master's
Student/Author: Peter Lista
School Affiliation: Indiana University-Bloomington
Paper Title:Organization Decision-Making and the Market Environment: Examining Contingency in Organizational Behavior (244KB)
Abstract: Uncertainty in an organization's environment can have profound implications for its internal structure and decision-making processes. Most sociological research looking at this phenomenon has focused on using self-reported measures — like member perceptions — when looking at environmental uncertainty. Analysis of the market, however, has often relied on independent, seemingly "objective" measures. This reliance on impersonal measures of uncertainty leaves many questions about the relationship between the market and the organization unanswered. Sociologists especially should be skeptical of research that does not include member perceptions because it erroneously decouples the organization from the individuals embedded within it. This paper aims at correcting this in the literature by showing that perceptions of the market affect decision-making structures within organizations irrespective of other constraints. Controlling for a host of individual, organizational, and external factors, I find that higher levels of perceived market competitiveness are associated with a decentralized decision-making authority within the organization.
First Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Jian Li
School Affiliation: Central University of Finance and Economics (Beijing)
Paper Title:Identify the Young Adults with Serious Suicidal Ideation: A Population-Based Study
Abstract: In the United States, suicide is a severe public health problem, and it has brought many Americans lots of pain. Studies have been done on the risk factors of "suicide" and "suicidal behaviors." However, relatively few studies are concerned with the suicidal ideation, which is commonly the first stage of the process of suicide. This study aims to find the potential risk factors correlated to suicidal ideation among young adults, by putting three main categories of risk factors (social-demographics, psychology, and social-culture) into consideration. A binary logistic regression model is applied. Psychological and social-demographic elements (e.g. illicit drug use and religiosity) are all found to highly correlate with suicidal ideation. Comparison with Chinese young adults is done for a better understanding of the mechanism of suicide. Finally, possible intervention strategies corresponding to the risk factors are examined for reducing the incidence of suicide among young adults.
First Place - Data Curation*
Student/Author: Tiffany Chao
School Affiliation: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Paper Title:Exploring the Role of 'Research Methods' in Metadata Description for Data Reuse (228KB)
Abstract: The methods and processes implemented by data producers to generate research data are a vital part of describing data for sharing and reuse. Yet, there is little known on how to document these implemented methods and what information to include about these data production processes that would be useful for others. The present study investigates metadata schemas for scientific datasets to examine how methods are represented and should be described for metadata inclusion. Results indicate varying levels of support for methods description where metadata schemas with more comprehensive elements for detailing methods also use discipline-specific terms, which may further encourage metadata generation for methods in these communities. This research has implications for the design and implementation of metadata standards to enhance the curation of research data for future reuse and sharing within and across disciplines.
Second Place - ICPSR Undergraduate
Student/Author: Raphael Small
School Affiliation: Haverford College (Pennsylvania)
Paper Title:The Impact of Student Background and Academic Performance on Future Income (806KB)
Abstract: This paper examines the effects of student academic performance and socioeconomic background upon future income. To do so, data were isolated and prepared from the US Department of Education's National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 before being analyzed using STATA 12. We chose to study five variables: Participant SAT Score, Parental Education Level, Parental Pretax Income, Participant Socioeconomic Status, and Total Income. Using regression analysis, we compared various linear models, both with and without interaction effects. Although we hypothesized that affluence and privilege would positively correlate with academic performance and income, our data analysis provides substantial evidence to reject such a notion. Overall, the results indicate that our variables had a trivial financial impact on income. It was found that children of all backgrounds performed nearly the same on average when controlling for educational performance, contradicting the wealth of existing literature.
Second Place - ICPSR Master's
Student/Author: Jane E. Oliphant
School Affiliation: Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri)
Paper Title:Social Capital for Adolescents from Low-income Families: A Means to Improve Academic Achievement and Mental Health? (422KB)
Abstract: Although social capital has been popularized in recent years as a wholly beneficial construct that defines the degree to which a person has networks and relationships of trust, few researchers have investigated social capital's impact on low-income populations. The current study examined the impact of social capital measures in the school and home environment for low income adolescents' academic achievement and psychological wellbeing for respondents from A three city study: Welfare, children, and families (Cherlin, 1999). The sample was composed of predominantly low-income Latino and African American mother-child pairs. Social capital was operationalized using a model developed by the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics. Results revealed few benefits of social capital for low-income youth. Limitations of the study and implications of the lack of support for social capital's influence on this group are discussed in light of recent academic and governmental interest in the influential power of social capital.
Second Place - Data Curation*
Student/Author: Rebekah Cummings
School Affiliation: University of California, Los Angeles
Paper Title:Much Ado About Data: Intellectual Property Issues Surrounding Academic Research Data (169KB)
Abstract: According to a 2013 Oxford study, intellectual property (IP) is the element of data curation that causes the most confusion for academic researchers. Intellectual property is always murky, but even more so as it relates to data because “facts” are not eligible for copyright protection under United States copyright law. In this paper, the author frames the complex issues surrounding intellectual property and data curation including the unique nature of data, the motivations behind open data sharing, and the legal landscape that undergirds current data practices. This paper also demonstrates how librarians can use the four factors of fair use - purpose, nature of the work, amount used, and effect on the market - when assessing risk in data reuse.
2013 Award Winners
First Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Alexander Janke
School Affiliation: University of Michigan
Paper Title:An Empirical Look at Malpractice Reform and the Intensive Margin of Physician Supply
Abstract: Evaluations of state malpractice reform effects on physician supply have focused on the extensive margin of supply. They use data from the A.M.A. Physician Masterfile to estimate effects on number of physicians practicing in a state/county. To a limited extent, recent papers have also addressed a possible impact of reform on the intensive margin of supply. This paper makes use of data from the Community Tracking Study Physician Survey to estimate the effect of noneconomic damage caps implemented in Nevada in 2002 and Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia in 2003 on physicians' willingness to accept Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance patients and on hours worked. The panel data model shows many statistically significant estimates. However, simple robustness tests suggest these estimates are misleading. The paper ends with a discussion of why the model may not be appropriate and how other strategies could yield more robust results.
First Place - Master's
Student/Author: Natasha Yurk
School Affiliation: Indiana University - Bloomington
Paper Title:The Strategic Parent: How School Performance Affects Parental Investment
Abstract: One of the most basic insights in the sociology of education is that parenting affects children's school performance, but we have yet to understand the reverse: whether and how children's achievement affects parental investment behaviors. The data used are from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) to analyze whether reading test results and teacher assessments of language and literacy skills predict a range of parental investment in the later grades. Findings suggest that parents follow a "Compensation" model in which they increase investment when children are struggling in school, but these behaviors vary by type of investment and other child and family characteristics. These patterns persist even when controlling for social class background. This research represents an important step toward developing a more dynamic, theoretical parenting model, in which parents view feedback from teachers and schools as signals for investment decisions.
First Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Sarah K. Allsberry
School Affiliation: Washington University in St. Louis
Paper Title:The Unbanked in the U.S.: Similarities and Differences between Previously Banked and Never Banked Households
Abstract: Past studies have been done on the "unbanked," those without bank accounts with traditional financial institutions. These studies treat the unbanked as a homogeneous group; however, recent studies are beginning to indicate a need to understand variation within this group. This study begins to fill this gap by comparing those with and without a history of bank account ownership to find differences in demographic characteristics and use of Alternative Financial Services (AFS). Using data from the 2009 Current Population Survey, Unbanked/Underbanked Supplement, a model was created binary logistic regression. The author found that there are significant differences in the history of bank account ownership in several areas, including among Hispanics compared to non-Hispanic households, single parent households, households in the South, and households that patronize AFS. The findings have implications for practice in financial education and services as well as future research.
Second Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Ryanne Kikue Fujita-Conrad
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Reed College
Paper Title:Accepting the Foreign: Perceived Threat, Foreigner Exclusionism, and Social Distance from Immigrants in the United States and Spain
Abstract: In the United States and Spain, rising immigrant populations have increased public debate over national immigration policy. Although both countries continue to struggle to come to terms with their foreign-born populations, these two nations have strikingly different immigration histories, which have shaped immigration policy and social attitudes toward immigrants. This project examines perceptions of immigrant populations in the United States and Spain. Allport's contact hypothesis and Blumer's group position theory are tested in regard to respondents' perceptions of economic and cultural threat. The effects of perceived economic and cultural threat on respondents' social distance from immigrants and immigration policy preferences are tested also. Logistic regression models are used in the analysis. Although both Allport's and Blumer's theories are supported, results highlight the differing processes observed in the United States and Spain. In this way, this project underscores the influence of contextual factors on individual-level intergroup processes.
Second Place - Master's
Student/Author: Christine Y. Zhang
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Columbia University
Paper Title:An exceptional Dream: Aspirations as a Determinant of Self-Reported Happiness in the US
Abstract: Though income inequality in the US has increased dramatically since the 1970s, empirical evidence has by and large failed to show a corresponding decline in Americans' overall happiness levels. A possible explanation for this somewhat counterintuitive phenomenon is Americans' belief that they live in a meritocratic, upwardly mobile society, broadly known as "American Exceptionalism," which mitigates the negative effects of inequality. However, this hypothesis is rarely analyzed statistically. The present study uses ordered logistic regression of individual-level data from the 2010 United States General Social Survey to examine the linkage between respondents' perception of upward mobility and belief in hard work as a path to success and self-reported happiness level. Results indicate that these factors are more important than objective measures of socioeconomic status in determining overall happiness. These findings provide evidence that the aspirational aspects of American Exceptionalism are salient components of individual well-being.
Second Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Lauren Marks
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Santa Clara University
Paper Title:Perceived Sources of Racial Inequalities and Class Standing: Impact on Justice Values of American Whites
Abstract: This study examined the effects of racial inequalities awareness and class standing on white respondents' views on racial and class justice. Data from two decades (1990-2010) of the General Social Survey were used. Insights from two qualitative interviews supplemented the quantitative findings. Multivariate regression analyses suggested that agency for redressing race and class inequalities were viewed differently depending on the perceived sources of the inequality. Awareness of structural racial inequality led to respondents favoring structural solutions to race and class inequalities. However, a person of higher class standing tended to place agency for class inequalities on the individual and consequently was less open to structural solutions. Theories that distinguish between race and class inequalities were used to explain the findings, with implications for distinct policies to address race and class inequalities.
2012 Award Winners
First Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Quentin Karpilow
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Kenyon College
Paper Title:Racial and Ethnic Threats in Pretrial Release Processing
Abstract: Although extant research highlights the importance of race in determining pretrial detention outcomes, few studies have examined the ecological factors that shape those extralegal disparities. Building on minority threat theories, this project uses hierarchical modeling techniques to examine how county-level ethnic and racial composition impacts pretrial release outcomes for adult defendants charged with drug felonies. Results indicate that racial and ethnic threats significantly influence the amount of bail set, the probability a defendant posts bail, and the likelihood a defentant is detained prior to trial. The paper concludes with a discussion of the structural differences between racial and ethnic threats.
First Place - Master's
Student/Author: Zornitsa Kalibatseva
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Michigan State University
Paper Title:A Symptom Profile Analysis of Depression in a Nationally Representative Sample of Asian Americans
Abstract: Past research has suggested the existence of differences in depressive symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of depression among ethnic and racial groups. In particular, Asian Americans have been found to experience depression differently than European Americans. Using a symptom profile approach, the presentation of depressive symptoms was examined in a nationally representative sample of Asian Americans and compared to that of European Americans. This study used data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys, which include the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) and the National Comorbidity Survey- Replication (NCS-R). Depressive symptom profiles of Asian Americans and European Americans who reported depressive experiences were compared in order to analyze the phenomenology of depression in these groups. Findings suggested that Asian Americans reported somatic and affective depressive symptoms equally. When compared to European Americans though, they endorsed a variety of symptoms less frequently. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.
First Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Amanda Mireles
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Princeton University
Paper Title:Cultural Capital Investments: Concerted Cultivation and the Academic Achievement of Hispanic Kindergarten Students
Abstract: This study extends analysis of the role of cultural capital investment in the form of concerted cultivation on measures of academic achievement in the Hispanic population. Previous studies have limited analyses to white and black students only. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K), this study quantitatively tests Lareau's (2003) theory of concerted cultivation and its impact on measures of academic achievement for Hispanic students. Consistent with Bodovski and Farkas (2008), concerted cultivation is measured using 29 items concerning perceptions of parental responsibility, leisure time, parental relationships with school, and the number of children's books at home. This study uses three distinct outcome measures of academic achievement--general knowledge, mathematics, and literacy. Results of ordinary least squares regression analyses indicate that, for Hispanic students, concerted cultivation is positively and strongly associated with parental socioeconomic status but only modestly associated with measures of academic achievement.
Second Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Danae Ross
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Wayne State University
Paper Title:Black Feminism and Hip Hop: A Cross-Generational Disconnect
Abstract: Using the 1993 National Black Politics Study, this project employs bivariate and multivariate analyses to investigate the impact of strength of feminism on the likelihood of listening to rap music among black women. Contributing one of the very first statistically grounded arguments to the largely theoretical discourse in the emergent epistemology of Hip Hop Feminism, this research shows that age mediates the aforementioned relationship by positively corresponding with strength of feminism and negatively corresponding with the likelihood of listening to rap music. These findings suggest that, in addition to a more recent study that allows this relationship to be assessed in a contemporary context (which acknowledges Black feminist consciousness as more than a biological phenomenon), a cross-generational dialogue is also crucial to revealing a collective identity, and to birthing and sustaining a sociocultural and political movement which fosters the change for which both Black feminists and young people have cried out.
2011 Award Winners
First Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Tommaso Pavone
Undergraduate School Affiliation: University of Michigan
Paper Title:Do More Parties Make for Happier Voters? Democratic satisfaction and representation across thirty-six democracies
Abstract: Extensions of Downsian theory of party competition imply that the greater the number of political parties, the greater the perception of representation and satisfaction with the democratic process. However, this logic has been subjected to increasing scrutiny. This paper conducts a cross-national analysis of public opinion data from thirty-six democracies to assess whether a) feeling represented by a party increases democratic satisfaction, and b) whether more parties induce a greater sense of party representation. Multivariate regression results find that feeling represented by a party correlates with greater satisfaction with the democratic process. The more striking results emerge when testing the relationship between the number of parties (as measured by the effective number of electoral parties (ENEP) and parliamentary (ENPP) parties) and party representation. Namely, although more parliamentary parties correlate with greater perceived representation, the opposite is true for the number of electoral parties. This implies that more parties do not necessarily make for happier voters.
Second Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Erin R. McMichael
Undergraduate School Affiliation: California State University - Northridge
Paper Title:External versus Internal Motivators as Predictors for LGBTQ-Directed Bullying Behavior in Adolescents
Abstract: There are a number of influences that predict bullying behavior. Participants in this study were 10th grade male and female adolescents from various American high schools, graduating class of 2000 (N = 1211, 80.5 percent white, 9.3 percent black, 10.1 percent other, mean age = 16.33, SD = .602). The participants were given a social attitudes survey that included questions about their relationships with parents, peers, and feelings of self-worth, and for this exploratory study were used to predict usage of anti-gay remarks. Respondents who reported hearing parental use of anti-gay remarks strongly predicted their own use of such epithets above all other hypothesized predictor variables (ß = .37, p < .01). Special consideration should be given to external factors such as exposure to biased language as being far more influential over internally-based motivators such as self-esteem and quality of relationships with parents.
First Place - Master's
Student/Author: Sayon Deb
Graduate School Affiliation: Boston University
Paper Title:The Long Term Effects of Colonial Land Tenure: Micro Evidence from India
Abstract: This paper uses household survey data from India to examine the impact of historic land tenure institutions on economic and social outcomes for households today. It offers evidence on specific channels through which the structure and quality of land tenure (i.e. revenue collection) systems could persist today. We find that districts where land ownership was dominated by landlords, today have lower annual income, per capita consumption, and cumulative household asset levels than districts which were characterized by non-landlord tenure systems. Households in landlord districts are more likely to have narrower social networks and lower levels of memberships in community organizations, weaker propensity to work collectively in solving communal problems, and are more likely to be subject to crime than district where non-landlord systems were prevalent. Our results are significant and robust to a diverse set of controls.
Second Place - Master's
Student/Author: Douglas Rice
Graduate School Affiliation: Pennsylvania State University
Paper Title:The Impact of Supreme Court Activity on the Judicial Agenda: Calling to Action or Settling the Law
Abstract: The ability of the Supreme Court to impact the federal judicial agenda is of primary impor- tance in understanding both the policymaking power of the Court and the agenda of the entire federal judiciary. A traditional, legal perspective holds that the justices of the Court settle ques- tions of law and close the door on future litigation, reducing agenda attention for policy areas. More recently, an interest group perspective suggests the sitting Court encourages litigation within prioritized policy areas through signals, enhancing future policy attention. I analyze the impact of Supreme Court activity on the overall judicial agenda and observe a pattern consis- tent with a legal perspective. When the Supreme Court issues a decision, it settles law in a policy area and reduces attention to that policy area throughout the judiciary.
First Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Whitney Boyer
Graduate School Affiliation: Washington University in St. Louis
Paper Title:Educational Outcomes for Latino Immigrants in Los Angeles County: The Importance of Gender, Immigrant Generation, and Mother’s Education Level
Abstract: In the United States, the proportion of Latinos is growing at a rate faster than any other minority group; the Pew Research Center reports that Latinos have accounted for 50 percent of the United States population growth since the year 2000. Research since the 1960s has consistently identified a gap between Latinos and Whites in educational outcomes. In order to expand on this research, this study uses a recent data set from the L.A.FANS (2001) survey to explore the effects of theoretically supported variables on educational attainment. The final logistic regression model was significant (X² (8)=90.27, p<0.001), with gender, mother’s educational attainment, and father’s nativity as predictors of high school graduation. Contrary to prior studies, income and household language were not significant predictors of educational outcomes in this sample.
2010 Award Winners
First Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Evangeleen Pattison
Undergraduate School Affiliation: The City College of New York
Paper Title:The Expansion of Higher Education: Access and Opportunity or Exclusion and Stratification?
Abstract: The U.S. Department of Education estimates that in the year 2018, the number of people earning masters and doctoral degrees will rise by 99.7% and 109.3%, respectively since 1998, suggesting the growing importance of advanced degrees. As such, it is no longer enough to look at higher education as the traditional dichotomy of college versus non-college graduates. This study uses MIDUS I, a nationally representative sample (N=4,718) of U.S. adults ages 27-47 and 48-68 to gauge shifts in the role of parental education since the expansion of American higher education following World War II. Did this expansion increase access and opportunity for all students or heighten methods of stratification and exclusion? Key findings include: (1) there is a significant relationship between parental education and degree completion of offspring (2) this relationship becomes stronger as the degree becomes more advanced; and (3) the relationship of paternal education is stronger among the younger cohort; however, maternal education is stronger among the older age cohort. Findings suggest that there has been an increase in processes of stratification at the highest levels of degree completion.
Second Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Matthew S. Michaels
Undergraduate School Affiliation: University of Florida
Paper Title:Americans’ Ever-Changing Attitudes toward Homosexuality
Abstract: Would increasingly liberal trends in Americans’ attitudes toward homosexuality observed in prior research persist in an updated data set? Do specific demographic characteristics predict variations in attitudes toward homosexuality? The preceding two questions were the main focus of this study. Data from the General Social Surveys (GSS) were examined using correlational and regression analyses. Specific variables for analysis were selected based on prior research. The results showed that age, education, and political views were the most significant predictors of attitudes toward homosexuality. Contrary to prior research, it was found that race and sex were not as significant as previously believed. Implications for legislation and social policy are discussed.
Third Place - Undergraduate
Student/Author: Evelyn Williams
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Kent State University at Stark
Paper Title:Satisfaction of Needs and Well-Being: An Application of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Population of Kenya
Abstract: Maslow (1954) proposes that humans are motivated by needs that are arranged in a pyramidal hierarchy. Failure to achieve the highest need level results in flawed personal development and poor psychological well-being. However, much of the developing world struggles to obtain the basic needs of daily life. Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to examine possible relationships between basic, safety, and belongingness need fulfillment and the physical and mental health ratings of the general population of Kenya, Africa. By conducting secondary data analysis on The Afrobarometer (Mittullah et al., 2005), we examined this hypothesis. Individuals who failed to satisfy basic needs reported greater physical health concerns. In regards to psychological well-being, the failure to satisfy any of the three need types (i.e., basic, safety, or belongingness needs) was associated with increased levels of fatigue and exhaustion related to worry and anxiety.
First Place - Master's
Student/Author: Katie Farina
Graduate School Affiliation: University of Delaware
Paper Title:The Effects of Situational Crime Prevention on Crime and Fear among College Campuses and Students
Abstract: Previous research has suggested that situational crime prevention tactics could be useful on college campuses. College campuses represent a unique environment for their students. By their very nature and population, these institutions may put students at risk for victimization. As such, it is important to examine the effects of situational crime prevention techniques at the student level. The results could prove influential for future prevention and policy endeavors. This study sets out to examine situational crime prevention tactics in relation to crime rates and fear of crime for college students. OLS regression analyses will be conducted using data from ICPSR that contain a sample of 3,472 students from 12 four-year postsecondary institutions in the United States.
Second Place - Master's
Student/Author: Boning Cao
Graduate School Affiliation: Baruch University, City University of New York
Paper Title:Is Higher Cognitive Ability Associated with a More Stable Marriage?
Abstract: Many studies have examined the impacts of common demographic characteristics on an individual’s marriage. While being widely used as an indicator of behavior in psychological studies, cognitive ability is rarely studied as a factor that affects marital stability, which highly depends on the behaviors involved in marriage. This paper investigates the relationship between an individual’s cognitive ability and marital stability. Event history analysis is conducted with Cox proportional hazard model using the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). Age-adjusted AFQT scores are used as a measure of cognitive ability. Some factors that may affect both intelligence and marital stability are included to make sure the effect of cognitive ability is not confounded. The result indicates that higher cognitive ability is associated with greater marital stability and lower risk of marital dissolution, particularly for non-Hispanic Whites.
2009 Award Winners
First Place - RCMD*
Student/Author: Nathaniel Becker
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Yale University
Paper Title:The Transmission of Political Ideologies through Social Networks: an Empirical Approach (342K)
Abstract: This paper investigates the formation and transmission of political ideology through social networks. Elaborating on information-updating models within computer science and network theory, I formalize a model for the transmission and distribution of political beliefs through social networks. I then turn to a dataset provided by the Minority Data Resource Center (MDRC) which chronicles the political opinions of individuals from several minority groups within the Houston area to evaluate the extent to which the political ideologies "converge" amongst individuals within the same social network. Using ethnic minority presence as an instrument for social network connectedness, I find some circumstantial evidence that the tightness and closure of minority networks may impact the correlation between individuals' views. Interestingly, the most compelling evidence comes with issues of low political salience to the survey respondents. However, the ability to generalize from this study is limited because the measured impact of social networks is relatively small and the conclusions are not uniformly robust.
First Place - ICPSR
Student/Author: Austin Lee Wright
Undergraduate School Affiliation: University of Texas - Austin
Paper Title:Why Do Terrorists Claim Credit? Attack-Level and Country-Level Analyses of Factors Influencing Terrorist Credit-taking Behavior (336K)
Abstract: Terrorism is commonly considered a coercive political strategy employed to manipulate a broader audience, enraptured by the horror of the terrorist's dramatic acts of violence. However, if generating publicity and disrupting public life is the raison d'etre of modern terrorism, why do so many contemporary attacks remain unclaimed by their perpetrators? Over the past forty years, the proportion of attacks where credit is taken has fallen dramatically. By 2004, roughly 14.5% of all attacks were claimed. This paper is the first attempt to explore credit-taking behavior using cross-national data. I test theoretical claims using two datasets (of attack-level and country-level factors) and a series of statistical methods. I conclude that the factors influencing credit-taking are neither equally powerful across geographic space nor time and conclude that several major theories of terrorist decision-making fail to adequately explain terrorists' decision to claim ownership over their deeds.
Second Place - ICPSR
Student/Author: Jared Koerten
Undergraduate School Affiliation: University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Paper Title:Anti- Communism and Idealism: The Peace Corps and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World, 1960-1966 (230K)
Abstract: This paper seeks to uncover the political motivations behind the creation of the Peace Corps in the United States. While many historians attribute both anti-Communism and idealism as impetuses behind the founding of the Peace Corps, an important trend in the relative importance of these factors over time remains unexplored. This thesis uses primary source documents to show how the United States perceived the importance of the Peace Corps in containing Communism during the organization's formative years. After its establishment, however, a sense of idealism became synonymous with the Peace Corps. During this period, a romantic notion of the Peace Corps garnered support for the organization at home and abroad. Discussions of the organization's strategic importance in the Cold War disappeared. In examining actual program implementation, however, this rhetorical shift towards idealism appears to be only a facade, as programs were guided by U.S. foreign policy in the Cold War.
2008 Award Winners
First Place - RCMD*
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Yale University
Paper Title:Intergenerational Mobility By Race: Can The Black Middle Class Reproduce Itself (312K)
Abstract: What is the fate of the black middle class? The rise of the black middle class is a relatively recent phenomenon, and as such, it remains to be seen whether it successfully passing its prosperity to the next generation. Building upon various models used by Featherman & Hauser (1978), Hout (1985), and Mazumder (2005), this paper uses intergenerational elasticities and mobility tables to examine the transmission of class status from one generation to the next. Data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID) is used to compare the differences in mobility between middle class blacks and whites over the period from 1968-2003. The results indicate that African-Americans in the middle class show higher levels of class persistence than middle class whites and that the black middle class is actually growing over time, while the number of whites in the middle class is shrinking.
First Place - ICPSR
Student/Author:Poh Lin Tan
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Princeton University
Paper Title:Examining the Economic Basis of Ethical Vegetarianism (196K)
Abstract:People who choose to be vegetarian for ethical reasons often believe that their choice has a small but positive impact on the welfare of animals. This paper examines the main economic arguments that are widely used in support of this belief as well as competing theories that claim that ethical vegetarianism in fact leads to more animal suffering. Using national chicken and pork production data from the United States Department of Agriculture and household-level expenditure data, I provide some estimates of the elasticity of quantity of each meat type produced to changes in consumer expenditure on it. The data suggest that elasticity of supply is positive and smaller than unity, and that values are larger when the changes in expenditure are negative. On the other hand, there is little evidence to support the rival hypothesis that ethical vegetarianism results in greater animal suffering.
Second Place - ICPSR
Student/Author:Corina D Mommaerts
Undergraduate School Affiliation: University of Michigan
Paper Title:The Effect of Property Taxes on Elderly Residential Geography: A County-Level Analysis (164K)
Abstract:This study seeks to better understand the effects of local property taxes and public education expenditures on where the elderly live at the county level in the United States. I use population data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Decennial Censuses, and finance data from the Census of Governments from 1977 through 2002, as well as average property tax rates from the National Association of Home Builders. Using ordinary least squares and panel regressions, I examine various specifications of this econometric model. The empirical results suggest that there is a negative relationship between property taxes and elderly residential locations overall. The relationship between education expenditure and elderly residential location is somewhat blurred, suggesting that the widely held view that seniors oppose education spending may not hold true. Taken as a whole, these findings imply that elders focus more on property taxes rather than the allocation of these taxes.
Third Place - ICPSR
Student/Author:Caroline M. Savello
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Yale University
Paper Title:Manipulating the "Truth": The Unintended Consequences of Truth-in-Sentencing Laws in California, 1992-1996 (528K)
Abstract:Determinate sentencing policies have changed the face of the criminal justice system over the past 30 years, but the most recent trend-Truth-in-Sentencing-aims not to readjust sentencing conditions, but rather to ensure that convicts serve most of their assigned prison sentences. However, this study finds that TIS has unexpectedly influenced sentencing behavior. After the adoption of Truth-in-Sentencing laws in California in 1994, violent offenders saw fewer convicted counts, less severe convictions, and decreased assigned prison sentences. Moreover, robbery and aggravated assault offenders are spending less time in prison after the implementation of Truth-in-Sentencing, suggesting that the law has not achieved its aims and may have even worsened the situation in California.
2007 Award Winners
Student/Author: Scott M. Noveck
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Princeton University
Paper Title:Testing the Theory of Rational Crime with United States Data, 1994-2002 (1MB)
Abstract: Do criminals in the United States respond rationally to changes in incentives, or is crime inherently an irrational phenomenon? Building upon models used by Ehrlich (1973), Levitt (2002), and others, this paper uses a model of rational crime to examine the elasticities of seven index crimes with respect to changes in law enforcement expenditures and economic incentives using state-level United States data from the years 1994 through 2002. Our empirical results are consistent with the economic model of criminal behavior first proposed by Becker (1968), in which higher levels of law enforcement reduce crime through a deterrence effect, and other recent studies suggesting that aggregate crime rates have a significant rational component.
Student/Author: Jonathan Robert Young
Undergraduate School Affiliation: Union College
Paper Title:Vaccinating the Next Generation: Are Children with Foreign-Born Mothers Less Likely to Receive Recommended Immunizations? (524K)
Abstract: Immunizations improve the health of the population and reduce health care costs by preventing the onset of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, many children in the U.S. are undervaccinated. Using cross-sectional data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey, this paper investigates whether foreign-born mothers are less likely to vaccinate their children. The number of children born to immigrants has increased substantially in recent years, and they form a significant portion of the population. Because they are typically unfamiliar with the U.S. health care system, immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to seek medical care. This paper finds that foreign-born mothers are less likely than native mothers to take their children to health care professionals for the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccination and the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis vaccination. Thus, to improve childhood vaccination rates, physicians should target foreign-born mothers and educate them about the importance of these immunizations.
Student/Author: Kristian Voss
Undergraduate School Affiliation: State University New York at New Paltz
Paper Title:Support for the Far Right: The Desire for Cultural Preservation in an Increasingly Globalized and Multicultural Europe (512K)
Abstract: In this study I set out to explain support for far right parties in countries of Western Europe that have been democratic since the end of World War II. Using individual level analysis of survey data from the European Social Survey 2004/2005 and country level analysis of aggregate and survey data from the Eurobarometer 59.2, I am able to offer an explanation of support for the far right. The results show that cross-national differences in support for far right parties are particularly the result of public opinion on cultural preservation as a reaction against increased immigration of foreign peoples.
The links between maternal employment in the first year of a child’s life and later child development have received a great deal of attention from developmental psychologists as well as researchers from other disciplines. Yet, many questions remain about whether and how maternal employment in the first year of life affects children’s later outcomes. In this monograph, we provide an intensive examination of this topic, drawing on interdisciplinary theory and research and taking advantage of a unique longitudinal data source, the NICHD Study of Early Child Care.
In this chapter, we review the theory and prior research on the links between first-year maternal employment and child development, identifying the key hypotheses and findings as well as the unanswered questions that motivate this research. This review, and the analyses that follow, draw on several disciplines. We review theory from developmental psychology (on issues such as attachment, parenting, and the home environment), sociology (on issues such as time allocation, role strain, and family stress), and economics (in particular, drawing on models of investment, human capital, specialization, and selection). We also draw on empirical research from each of these disciplines, as well as the fields of demography, public health, and public policy.
We should say a word at the outset about why our focus here is on maternal employment, rather than both maternal and paternal employment. There are two distinct but related reasons for this. The first is that patterns of fathers’ employment have not altered substantially in recent years, in contrast to the situation for mothers, whose employment rates have increased dramatically, particularly when children are young. As we discuss below, the normative American family, which used to have a stay-at-home mother, now has a mother who works in the labor market, often beginning shortly after giving birth. This change has occasioned much concern and prompted numerous analyses. In contrast, paternal employment continues to be a stable feature of family life (in families where a father is present), and thus how young children are affected by having a father who works has not been a subject of inquiry. Second, and relatedly, existing data sources do not allow us to estimate the effects of paternal employment, because they do not provide sufficient numbers of fathers who are present in the home but do not work and because the few fathers who do not work tend to be highly selected. Thus, although our analyses will take into account the influence of fathers’ characteristics (including their earnings), we will not be focusing on the effect of their decisions to work or not work. In addition, although we are keenly aware of the juggling that both mothers and fathers experience in trying to balance the demands of work and family, examining such processes is beyond the scope of this study.
Developmental psychology is a natural starting point for identifying theories as to how maternal employment in the first year of life might affect child development, because in order to understand how maternal employment (or any other factor) might affect child outcomes, it is important to begin with an understanding of how child development normally unfolds and the social factors that influence it in the early years (Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Bornstein, 2002; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Sroufe, 1979; Thompson, 2006).
The importance of relationships in development is stressed by almost all theorists. Attachment, phenomenology, psychoanalytic, and family theorists, while using different frames, consider how and why enduring relationships are critical for developing a sense of self, of other, and of trust (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Bowlby, 1969, 1973; Cooley, 1912; Hinde & Stevenson-Hinde, 1987; Lewis & Brooks-Gunn, 1979; Mead & Morris, 1934; Parke & Buriel, 2006; Sroufe & Waters, 1977; Thompson, 2006). These early trusting relationships give children a secure base from which to explore, learn, and develop, and also lay the groundwork for future relationships. Thus, attachment is important to cognitive, social, and emotional development.
But parenting goes beyond providing security. Parents are also children’s first teachers and play an important role in cognitive and language development; parents provide language input, provide enriching materials and activities, directly teach skills, and offer the scaffolding needed to solve cognitive tasks (Bradley, 2002, 2004; Brooks-Gunn & Markman, 2005; Collins et al., 2000; Hart & Risley, 1992, 1995; Huttenlocher et al., 2002, 2004; Maccoby, 1992; Weizman & Snow, 2001). Parents also provide the context in which emotional regulation develops, so that children are able to inhibit pre-potent responses (age appropriately), comply with certain requests, learn persistence in the face of sometimes frustrating challenges, and delay gratification (Blair, 2000; Eisenberg & Valiente, 2002; Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007; Kochanska, 1995; Raver, 2002; Sroufe, 1979; Thompson, 2000). Parental harshness and punishment as a method of managing behavior (sometimes seen as the flip side of sensitivity but also viewed by some as a separate construct) as well as intrusiveness also contribute to children’s behavior (most notably aggression but also withdrawal and anxiety; Deater-Deckard et al., 1996; Gershoff, 2002; Halgunseth et al., 2006; Ispa et al., 2004; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; McLoyd & Smith, 2002).
Given the role that parents play, it is not surprising that psychological theory has a lot to say about the influence that parental employment in early childhood might have on subsequent child development. In particular, concerns have been raised about employment in the first year of life, when children are so dependent on their parents for care. Indeed, until relatively recently, the typical child reared in the U.S. was cared for exclusively or primarily by his or her mother for the first year of life. Theory took for granted that infants would have an exclusive maternal caregiver.
As this pattern changed, and more women began working in the first year of their child’s life, theorists had to address how this might affect child development (see, e.g., Erel, Oberman, & Yirmiya, 2006; Gottfried & Gottfried, 1988; Gottfried, Gottfried, & Bathurst, 2002; Hoffman, 1979; Hoffman & Youngblade, 1999). The initial response from psychologists was that maternal employment in the first year of life was cause for concern, primarily because of the threat it posed to the establishment of a secure attachment relationship (Belsky, 1988; but see also Clarke-Stewart, 1989 for an alternative view). Debates about links between maternal employment and attachment raged for many years (Thompson, 1998, 2006), but the best current evidence, from the landmark NICHD Study of Early Child Care, is that the use of non-maternal child care in the early years of a child’s life does not necessarily affect attachment (aNICHD Early Child Care Research Network [NICHD ECCRN], 1997a, 2001). In the most comprehensive study to date, the NICHD ECCRN group found no significant main effects of early child care on attachment security or avoidance at 15 months, although long hours in early child care did affect attachment for boys, and more hours in care, as well as poor quality care or multiple arrangements, did affect attachment security for infants whose mothers were rated low in sensitivity (NICHD ECCRN, 1997a). Following up the same children at 36 months, the NICHD ECCRN group again found no significant main effects of early child care on attachment security, and found that only one of the three interaction effects – less secure attachment for children experiencing more hours in early child care along with a mother rated low in sensitivity – persisted (NICHD ECCRN, 2001; see also NICHD ECCRN 2006b). However, links between maternal employment per se (rather than use of non-maternal child care, since the two are not analogous; Lamb, 1998) have not been examined directly using this data set (so that our understanding of such links is mainly due to small samples of families, often seen prior to the rapid rise in maternal employment in children’s first year of life, with results being mixed across these studies; Barglow, Vaughn, & Molitor, 1987; Belsky & Rovine, 1988; Chase-Lansdale & Owen, 1987; Hoffman, 1989; Stifter, Coulehan, & Fish, 1993; Thompson, 1991).
Moreover, parents do more in the first year than promote attachment, and there is still concern among developmental psychologists about possible deleterious effects of parents working in the first year (see, for example, Belsky, 2001). Two of the most likely possible mechanisms by which parental employment in the first year might adversely affect later child outcomes are that parents who work might provide lower quality parenting and home environments, or might place their children in poor quality care. (It is also possible of course that parents who work might provide improved quality parenting and home environments, or might place their children in care that benefited their development). One hypothesis has to do with sensitivity, in that working outside the home might be linked with less responsive maternal parenting. If this were the case (and there is little evidence to support or refute this premise), then infants of working mothers might be less likely to be securely attached, given the links between responsivity (or sensitivity) and attachment classification (Bakermans-Kranenburg, van Ilzendoorn & Juffer, 2003; Berlin, Ziv, Amaya-Jackson, & Greenberg, 2007; Bretherington & Waters, 1985; de Wolff & van Ilzendoorn, 1997). Another hypothesis has to do with the provision of cognitively stimulating activities for the child (Bradley, 2002; 2004). If mothers who work are less likely to talk to their infants, to take them on outings, or to provide teaching through play activities, then one might find a link with cognitive development. Both premises are investigated here.
Other hypotheses that emerge from psychological as well as sociological theory relate to time (Bianchi, 2000). First, do mothers who work spend appreciably less time with their infants than mothers who do not work outside of the home? If mothers do spend less time with the infant, this might result in less provision of stimulating activities, talking, holding, or responding sensitively to the child’s needs; alternatively, mothers might reduce time spent in routine care of the child but not their more intense interaction time (talking, playing). These hypotheses were explored in a recent study using the NICHD-SECC (see Huston & Aronson, 2005); mothers who worked did spend less time with their 7-month olds, and time spent with children was associated with HOME scores, but not sensitivity scores or child outcome scores (see also Sayer, Bianchi, & Robinson, 2004, for a comparison of time spent with children from the 1960s to the 1990s by mothers and fathers, and Bianchi & Wight, 2010 for contemporary evidence on this question). Another hypothesis is that mothers who work would have difficulty juggling roles and would as a consequence be more distressed and harsher in their parenting. This premise has been explored by psychologists in small studies of low-income mothers who left welfare and entered the work force when their children were preschoolers or infants (Chase-Lansdale et al., 2005; Gyamfi, Brooks-Gunn, & Jackson, 2001; Smith et al., 2001; Zaslow & Emig, 1997; see also studies by sociologists discussed below) although in general, links between working and harsh parenting are not found in these samples.
It is important to note that psychological theory as to the effects of parental employment is often very nuanced, taking into account differences having to do with child and family characteristics (Hoffman, 1979; Hoffman & Youngblade, 1999). The implication of this theory is that analysts should consider the possibility that any effects of parental employment are not uniform. An excellent example of this kind of nuanced analysis, with particular attention to child gender, is provided by the article by the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network that appeared in Child Development in 2003, reporting links between more time in child care and externalizing behavior problems in the kindergarten and first grade years, and several thoughtful articles and commentaries that were published along with it (Langlois & Liben, 2003: Love et al., 2003; Maccoby & Lewis, 2003; Miller et al., 2003; Newcombe, 2003). In addition to child gender, which was a focus in the above-mentioned article as well as in many prior studies of maternal employment or early child care, theorists have also called for attention to child temperament as a possible moderating factor (Kagan & Fox, 2006; Rothbart & Bates, 2006). As we discuss further below, it is possible that maternal employment may have differential effects for children with more difficult temperaments who may be more vulnerable to the instability or tensions associated with changes in maternal employment.
Psychological theory is also increasingly pointing to the importance of race and ethnicity as possible moderating factors. While it is certainly true that the process of human development unfolds in similar ways across race and ethnic groups, theorists are also increasingly calling attention to the fact that childrearing practices and contexts do vary considerably across racial/ethnic groups and recommending that analysts should take this variation into account (Brooks-Gunn & Markman, 2005; Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Mistry, Vandewater, Huston, & McLoyd, 2002; Parke & Buriel, 2006; Raver, Gershoff, & Aber, 2007; Roosa, Dumka, Gonzalez, & Knight, 2002; Quintana et al., 2006). With regard to the effects of maternal employment, it may be important to take into account that African-American women have historically had higher levels of employment than white or Hispanic women, and thus working by 12 months may be seen as more normative in African-American families than it is in white or Hispanic families (Berger, Brooks-Gunn, Paxson, & Waldfogel, 2008; Blau, Ferber, & Winkler, 2006). It is also possible that maternal employment leads to fewer changes in the home environment or child care arrangements for the typical African-American child than it does for the typical white or Hispanic child. Researchers have long noted the greater involvement of kin in the rearing of African-American children (see, e.g., Chase-Lansdale, Zamsky, & Brooks-Gunn, 1994; Stack, 1974). If friends and family members are already caring for children part of the time, alongside the mother, the impact on the child of the mother going to work in the first year may be less consequential than in situations where the mother was providing sole or primary care with less involvement on the part of kin (Berger et al., 2008).
Another potential moderating factor emphasized by psychological theory is the nature of the parent’s job, in particular, its quality and complexity, as well as the income it provides (see review in Repetti, 2005). Job-related factors are emphasized in sociology as well, which also shares with psychology attention to contextual influences on development, as well as variation across individuals and families (see, for example, Menaghan, 2005; Menaghan & Parcel, 1995; Parcel & Menaghan, 1984; see also overview in Glass, 2005). Together, therefore, both psychological and sociological theory point to the critical role that may be played by moderating factors, whether at the level of the child, family, or job.
Sociologists have also developed theories regarding the roles that individuals play and how roles at home and work may conflict or be complementary (Presser, 2003). This literature nicely overlaps with the literature in psychology on role strain and spillover (see e.g. Barnett & Hyde, 2001). An important implication of this line of theory for our work is the impact that employment may have on the way a parent interacts with his or her family and children. If work is rewarding and challenging, parents may be more sensitive and responsive to their children. Conversely, if work is stressful or numbing, parents may be less sensitive and responsive when they come home. Thus, quality of parenting is likely to be a key mediator for how parental employment affects children’s outcomes. And, as discussed above, characteristics of the parent’s job or occupation may moderate associations between parental employment and child outcomes.
What can a discipline such as economics add to the already rich body of theories provided by psychology and sociology? Economic theory offers useful concepts that supplement those from psychological and sociological theory on four key points (see overviews in Leibowitz, 2005; Waldfogel, 2005). The first is how parents decide to allocate time within families and households and in particular, the extent to which they specialize in home production versus labor market activity. The classic works on this topic are Gary Becker’s (1981)A Treatise on the Family (see also Becker, 1965) and articles by Jacob Mincer and co-authors (Mincer, 1962; Mincer & Polachek, 1974; Mincer & Ofek, 1982). Because earnings grow with experience and time at a specific job (and because breaks in employment and part-time hours are penalized in the labor market), economic theory points to the advantages to families of adopting “corner solutions” – whereby one parent specializes in the labor market, while the other specializes in home production. This theory suggests that there will be trade-offs involved in parents’ decisions to work or not work in the labor market, or to work full-time versus part-time, and points to the need for our empirical work to distinguish full-time from part-time employment, as well as non-employment.
The second key insight from economic theory has to do with how parents make decisions about investments in children and the impacts of those decisions. Economists emphasize that the direction of effects of parental employment on child health or development is not clear a priori. Parental employment may improve child health and development by raising family income and resources available to the child, but at the same time, the effects on the quality of parenting and the quality of non-parental care might be positive, negative, or neutral (Leibowitz, 2005). This is of course a point made by developmental psychology as well (see, e.g. Duncan & Chase-Lansdale, 2002, who offer a perspective informed by both disciplines). This point is crucial for our analysis, as it suggests the importance of looking at the role of key mediators such as income, quality of parenting and the home environment, and quality of non-parental child care.
Third, economic theory offers insights about the process by which human capital accumulates over the lifecycle. Again, there is overlap on this point between the perspective of economists and developmental psychologists, but economists perhaps emphasize more strongly the role that early investments play in boosting the returns to later investments and future learning (see, e.g. Carneiro & Heckman, 2003; Heckman & Lochner, 2000; Heckman & Masterov, 2007). Economic theory, like psychological theory, would lead us to expect the effects of early parental employment to persist over time, and points to the importance of conducting longitudinal analyses such as those we carry out here.
Fourth, economic theory emphasizes processes of selection into behaviors such as employment, and how analysts must address these selection processes if they are not to provide biased estimates in drawing causal inferences. James Heckman (1978) was the first to systematically address the problem of selection bias and to propose a solution to it. Although a large literature on causal inference, featuring numerous methodological advances, has developed since that time both in economics and other disciplines (see reviews by Angrist & Krueger, 1999; Currie, 2005; Heckman & Smith, 1995; Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Winship & Morgan, 1999), the fundamental challenge of addressing selection bias remains. It is widely recognized that few studies will satisfactorily address selection bias, but it is expected that studies will recognize the potential for such bias, take steps to address it, and acknowledge limitations.
Integrating across these various disciplines, several key insights emerge that inform our analyses. The first is that the effects of maternal employment may vary depending on when that employment occurs and for how many hours. To the extent that infants are more dependent on adults than children at later ages, and less able to communicate with different adults, we might expect the effects of employment in the first year to differ from the effects of employment after the first year, and for the effects of full-time employment in the first year to differ from the effects of part-time employment. There may even be differences depending on timing within the first year (although these may be difficult to detect if there is not sufficient variation in the data).
The second insight is that changes in the families’ economic resources, changes in the home environment, and changes in child care are likely to be key mediators by which the effects of first-year maternal employment, if any, might operate. Changes in attachment, which were the focus of much early work in this area, may also be potential mediators.
Third, theory suggests that the effects of first-year maternal employment, if any, will not be constant across groups but rather may vary by characteristics of the child, family, or job. In particular, it is likely that any effects of first-year maternal employment may vary by race and ethnic group and thus an important implication for our work is that we should conduct the analyses separately by race and ethnic group. Theory also points to the role of child characteristics such as gender and temperament, and to possible differences by parental job or occupation.
Fourth, theory points to the importance of recognizing and addressing the potential for selection bias. There are many factors that will influence a mother’s decision to go to work in the first year of life, when to go to work, and whether to work full-time or part-time, and some women will have more choice in such matters than others. Selection bias may play a role in explaining differences across racial and ethnic groups as well as within groups. As discussed below, we control for an extensive set of covariates in an effort to control for selection bias, but it is important to state here that we recognize that in the absence of experimental data, we can not be sure that women who work or do not work in the first year, or work at different times or intensities, are otherwise identical. Thus, we can not place a causal interpretation on our results and instead consider them as associational.
Prior Research and the Contribution of the Current Study
Drawing on the theoretical perspectives discussed above and using phase 2 data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (NICHD-SECC), following children to first grade, this study provides new evidence on the links between maternal employment in the first year of life and later child outcomes. In the preceding section, we reviewed the theory that informs our research approach. In this section, we summarize the findings from prior research and their implications for our study.
The first question we address is whether there are any associations between first-year maternal employment and cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes for children at age 3, age 4 ½, and first grade. Prior work using the first phase of data from the NICHD-SECC examined cognitive outcomes to age 3 and reported some negative associations between full-time maternal employment during the first year of life and children’s performance on the Bracken assessment of school readiness at age 3 for non-Hispanic white children (Brooks-Gunn, Han, & Waldfogel, 2002). However, that study did not examine any social or emotional outcomes, as we do here. A further limitation of the prior study is that it did not explicitly compare the effects of full-time and part-time work, but rather focused on the distinction between the effects of full-time work and no work in the first year. This is an important shortcoming, as theory would suggest that we should distinguish between part-time work and full-time work, as we do here.
Moreover, in the prior study’s examination of cognitive outcomes, it was not clear what, if any, associations might be seen between maternal employment in the first year of life and cognitive outcomes beyond age 3 or whether, if found, those associations would be larger or smaller. The prior study was also not able to test very well whether the cognitive associations continued to be present after controlling for an earlier child cognitive test score. (The prior study did test this with a control for an age 2 test score; however, cognitive assessments become more reliable and predictive as children age, so the early control used in that study might understate the possibility that later associations might simply reflect earlier associations, where present).
The theory reviewed above is not clear on this point. One hypothesis is that any differences in cognitive, social, or emotional development associated with children’s experiences of maternal employment in the first year will be relatively short-lived and will thus show weaker associations with cognitive outcomes over time, as the influence of early experiences fades out. This perspective is supported by research showing that associations between early experiences in early childhood education programs often diminish over time (Brooks-Gunn, 2003; Karoly et al., 1998; Karoly & Bigelow, 2005). Another hypothesis is that experiences in the first year may alter children’s trajectory as well as initial levels, in which case differences in child outcomes might be maintained or even grow over time, if higher initial levels of skills make children more adept at picking up later skills. This latter perspective rests mainly on theory as opposed to empirical evidence at this point (see e.g. Carneiro & Heckman, 2003; Heckman & Lochner, 2000; Heckman & Masterov, 2007; but see the research on parental verbal output and reading as they are associated with child language in young children; Hart & Risley, 1995; Love et al., 2005; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998; in addition, if sensitive parenting behavior shows continuity over time, initial trajectory changes are likely to be reinforced; Belsky & Fearon, 2002; Landy et al, 2001). We test these competing hypotheses by comparing the magnitude of the associations at age 3, 4 ½, and first grade. Relatedly, we will also assess whether any associations remain at age 4 ½ or first grade after controlling for the child’s score on an earlier measure of the relevant outcome at age 3. These additional models will test whether any associations between first-year maternal employment and later outcomes work mainly through changes in initial levels or whether they also work through changes in later trajectories.
Few previous studies of the links between first-year maternal employment and child outcomes have followed children beyond age 3 or 4. Studies that have done so have primarily relied on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Child Supplement (NLSY-CS). Work using the NLSY-CS found negative associations between first-year full-time maternal employment and child cognitive outcomes measured as late as age 7 or 8 (Han, Waldfogel, & Brooks-Gunn, 2001; Ruhm, 2004; Waldfogel, Han, & Brooks-Gunn, 2002; but see also Harvey, 1999 who does not find significant associations). Associations between first-year maternal employment and later child behavior scores in the NLSY-CS are mixed. Results from studies conducted in 1980s and early 1990s indicate that maternal employment in the first or second years of a child’s life and/or the quantity of non-maternal care (which is highly correlated with the intensity of maternal employment) are associated with more problem behaviors (e.g., Bates et al., 1994; Baydar & Brooks-Gunn, 1991; Belsky, 1986, 1990; Belsky & Eggebeen, 1991; Haskins, 1985; Vandell & Corasaniti, 1990), and that these adverse associations may persist over time (e.g., Vandell & Corasaniti, 1990). At the same time, not all studies report similar findings (e.g., Crockenberg & Litman, 1991; Greenstein, 1993). In one, full-time maternal employment was associated with greater compliance at home and in the lab for 2-year-olds (Crockenberg & Litman, 1991). Using the 1986 and 1988 NLSY sample of 1,657 four-and five-year olds, Greenstein (1993) found that children whose mothers began working sometime following the child’s birth and continued through the child’s fourth birthday had significantly fewer mother-reported behavior problems than children whose mothers had never been worked, and that use of non-maternal care in the first year was related to fewer behavior problems.
The second question we consider is whether associations between first-year maternal employment and later outcomes, if found, are moderated by family, child, or job characteristics. First, at the level of the family, we consider race/ethnicity as a possible moderator. Because we are concerned that the effects of maternal employment and the other covariates may vary by race/ethnicity, we carry out all our analyses separately for non-Hispanic white families and for African-American families (regrettably, we have too few Hispanic families or families of other racial/ethnic groups to examine them separately). Thus, effectively, we are estimating fully interacted models, where we allow all the coefficients to vary by race/ethnicity (not just the coefficients on maternal employment) (for a recent example of this approach, see Raver, Gershoff, & Aber, 2007). We do this because theorists (e.g. Greenfield et al., 2006; Parke & Buriel, 2006) increasingly are drawing attention to the fact that childrearing practices and contexts may vary considerably by racial/ethnic group (see Bingenheimer et al., 2005; Leventhal et al., 2004 for examples of racial differences in the HOME scales; see Brooks-Gunn & Markman, 2005 for a review of racial differences in parenting of young children). A second compelling reason for analyzing racial/ethnic groups separately is that we need to take into account the possibility of differential selection into employment across racial/ethnic groups. In particular, it has been hypothesized that African-American women who work in the first year may be positively selected (in terms of factors that are not observed in the data and that are correlated with their child’s outcomes) in comparison to those who stay at home in the first year, while the opposite may be true for non-Hispanic white women; if so, the non-working comparison group for non-Hispanic white mothers may be more highly skilled than the non-working comparison group for African-American mothers (Berger et al., 2006; Hill et al., 2005). Support for this hypothesis is provided by research on racial/ethnic gaps in women’s employment and earnings (Neal, 2004). An alternative, but not mutually exclusive, hypothesis, drawing on sociological and psychological theory, would predict differential associations between maternal employment and children’s outcomes across racial/ethnic groups because of differences in factors that may mediate the links between first-year maternal employment and later child outcomes. If, for example, non-Hispanic white children whose mothers work in the first year are more likely to be moved from exclusive maternal care into (often poor-quality) non-parental child care arrangements, while African-American infants are more likely to stay with kin caregivers who were participating in their care anyway, then it would stand to reason that the links between first-year maternal employment and child outcomes might differ across the two groups.
Prior research has found that the associations between first-year maternal employment and later child outcomes do vary by racial/ethnic group (i.e., significant negative associations have been reported for white but not African-American or Hispanic children in the NLSY-CS, see Han et al., 2001; Hill et al., 2005; Waldfogel et al., 2002; the same has been found in the NICHD-SECC, see Brooks-Gunn et al., 2002). Most recently, analyses of data on a large sample of urban 3-year olds from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study have found that first-year maternal employment is linked to lower cognitive scores for non-Hispanic white children, but not African-American or Hispanic children, and to higher levels of behavior problems for Hispanic children, but not non-Hispanic white or African-American children (Berger et al., 2008). Therefore, in this study, we carry out all the analyses separately by racial/ethnic group. Due to sample size constraints, our main results are for non-Hispanic white children, but we also provide some selected results for the small sample of about 100 African-American children (as noted above, we do not have sufficient sample size to analyze other groups).
It is important to note that the families of the approximately 100 African-American children differ in many respects from the families of the larger and generally more advantaged sample of white children. We do not have sufficient variation in the African-American sample to construct a sample that would have the same overall characteristics as the white sample. Thus, any differences we find between the white and African-American samples may reflect differences associated with family characteristics as well as differences due to race or ethnicity.
Second, we take into account differences related to child characteristics. As Shonkoff and Phillips (2000) point out, there is no reason to assume that all children will be similarly affected by the same experiences. They particularly emphasize the importance of studies of maternal employment paying more attention to child-specific characteristics as potential moderators.
We examine two potential child characteristics as moderators here. The first is gender. Theory and prior research suggest that, compared to girls, boys may be more affected by early experiences (see, e.g., Rutter, 1979; Zaslow & Hayes, 1986) and by non-maternal child care as well (see Bornstein et al., 2001, 2006; Bornstein & Hahn, 2006; Crockenberg, 2003; Miller Brotman et al., 2003; Tout et al., 1998; Watamura et al., 2003; Weinberg et al., 1999). Although our focus is on maternal employment rather than child care, the two are related, and so we draw on both literatures to inform our research design and hypotheses; however, it should be kept in mind that maternal employment in the first year is not synonymous with child care in the first year, because some children whose mothers work do not use any non-maternal child care, while some children use non-maternal child care even though their mothers do not work. One reason cited in the child care literature as to why early child care might have different effects on boys and girls is that boys may be less likely than girls to form secure attachments to child care providers (Ahnert & Lamb, 2003; Ahnert, Pinquart, & Lamb, 2003). Second, boys may be less able than girls to self-regulate and cope with negative arousal (Crockenberg, 2003; Weinberg, Tonick, Cohn, & Olson, 1999). Third, girls may be better-equipped than boys to adapt to the large group sizes that often characterize non-parental child care, or may benefit more from group experiences in terms of developing behaviors that are more often expected of girls than boys (Bornstein & Hahn, 2006: Bornstein et al., 2006; Maccoby, 1988). A fourth potentially relevant distinction between the experience of boys and girls in non-maternal child care is the children with whom they play, and the nature of their play (Fabes, Hanish, & Martin, 2003; Maccoby, 1998; Maccoby & Lewis, 2003). By the age of 30 to 36 months, children begin to play mostly with others of the same sex, and the play of boys is more aggressive and rough than the play of girls. However, because this difference does not emerge until the third year of life, it is not likely to explain gender differences in the effects of non-maternal child care experienced in the first year of life.
A number of prior studies of first-year maternal employment or child care have reported differential effects by gender; in particular, studies have tended to find larger associations between early and extensive child care and behavior problems for boys than for girls (see reviews by Belsky, 2001, and Crockenberg, 2003; although see also the NICHD ECCRN, 2003, which did not find significant gender interactions). However, this pattern has not always been found in studies of cognitive outcomes, and prior work with the NLSY-CS has produced contradictory results (Desai et al., 1989; Han et al., 2001; Ruhm, 2004; Waldfogel et al., 2002). However, the NLSY-CS may be inadequate for studying such gender differences, if boys and girls whose mothers work experience different types or quality of child care, which can not be controlled for in the NLSY-CS (Waldfogel et al., 2002).
Prior work with the NICHD-SECC, which was able to control for child care type and quality as well as maternal sensitivity, found that the association between first-year full-time maternal employment and school readiness at age three was more negative for boys than girls (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2002). In this study, we estimate models interacting first-year maternal employment with child gender to explore whether that gender difference is also observed for cognitive outcomes at age 4 ½ and in first grade. We hypothesize, based on the theory and prior research reviewed above, that to the extent associations between first-year maternal employment and later cognitive outcomes are found, they should be larger for boys, at least at early ages. As discussed above, prior evidence on social and emotional outcomes suggests that we should expect larger effects for boys for these outcomes as well. Therefore, we hypothesize that, if associations are found, they may be larger for boys.
The second potential child-level moderator we examine is child temperament. Differential associations between first-year maternal employment and later cognitive or social and emotional outcomes by child temperament have not been studied, but theory and prior research on related topics provide ample reasons to think that such differences may be important (see, for example, Crockenberg, 2003; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). A recent illustration of the potentially important role that temperament might play as a moderating factor comes from the work of Watamura et al. (2003), who found that infants and especially toddlers who attended full-day center based child care had higher levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) in the afternoon during the days they were at child care than during days when they were at home. However, cortisol levels were significantly lower for toddlers who were more socially competent and less socially fearful, which suggests that some pre-school age children may find child care more stressful than others (see also Dettling et al., 2000; discussion by Crockenberg, 2003; Langlois & Liben, 2003; and recent work by Li-Grining et al., 2004). Examining the moderating role of temperament is also important, because when links between gender and child care or maternal employment are found, such associations may be due to hypothesized gender differences in temperament (Rothbart & Bates, 2006).
Prior work on first-year maternal employment or child care using the NLSY-CS was not able to take child temperament into account. Prior work using the NICHD-SECC did examine whether child temperament moderated the association between early child care and child social and emotional outcomes, but did not find any significant interactions (NICHD ECCRN, 1997a, 1998). We are aware of no prior studies that examine the role of child temperament as a moderator of the links between first-year maternal employment and child cognitive outcomes. In this study, we estimate models where first-year maternal employment is interacted with child temperament to test whether the associations between first-year maternal employment and child outcomes, if found, vary by temperament (with links being stronger for children with more difficult temperaments). Further, we examine gender and temperament as joint moderating factors, hypothesizing that associations will be strongest for children who are boys and have difficult temperaments.
Finally, we consider mother’s occupation as a possible moderator. The theory reviewed above makes a compelling case for how the nature of the mother’s job could affect the way that employment influences her and her interactions with the child. And prior empirical work on parental employment provides supportive evidence that features such as job quality do make a difference in how parental employment affects parents and children (see e.g. Hoffman & Youngblade, 1999; Menaghan & Parcel, 1995; Parcel & Menaghan, 1984; Scheider & Waite, 2005). In light of the direction from theory, it is striking that, although prior studies of first-year maternal employment have considered several types of maternal or family characteristics as moderators (factors such as maternal education or family income), no prior study of the effects of first-year employment on child outcomes has considered maternal occupation as a moderator. In this study, therefore, we break new ground by testing for whether the associations between first-year maternal employment and child outcomes, if any, vary by maternal occupation. In particular, we focus on the distinction between women who are in professional positions, and women who are in non-professional positions. Even holding maternal earnings constant, we would hypothesize, based on theory and prior research, that first-year maternal employment by women in professional jobs would be less detrimental to child outcomes than would be first-year maternal employment by women in non-professional jobs, because women in professional jobs would be more likely to be in positions that are challenging and satisfying and that afford flexibility to address child and family needs.
The third question we analyze has to do with mediation. A common limitation of the prior NLSY-CS studies is that they could not establish to what extent observed links between first-year maternal employment and later outcomes, where present, were due to features of the home or child care environment for which the studies could not control and for which we can, using the rich NICHD-SECC data. As indicated earlier, findings have also been mixed with respect to attachment classification, based on small samples of children.
Thus, the third focus of this study is to examine in detail the role of several potential mediators, which theory points to as possibly explaining the associations between maternal employment in the first year of life, where found, and later child outcomes. The prior study did control for a variety of child and family background factors (including child gender, presence of older siblings, family income the year before the birth, whether the family was ever in poverty after the birth, the mother’s PPVT-R score, the mother’s age, education, and marital status at the time of the birth, and the mother’s depressive symptom score 1 month post-birth; Brooks-Gunn et al., 2002). However, the prior study did not explicitly test the extent to which associations between maternal employment and later outcomes, if any, worked through specific mediators (such as poorer quality home environment or child care), or were offset by changes in specific factors (such as increased earnings).
Following Baron and Kenney’s (1986) suggestions for mediation analysis, in this study we first examine whether maternal employment in the first year of life is associated with each of our potential mediators and offsetting factors, and then add the potential mediators and offsetting factors to models examining the links between first-year maternal employment and subsequent child cognitive, social or emotional outcomes. If a factor is associated with later outcomes, and coefficients associated with first-year maternal employment are reduced by the introduction of that variable, then mediation is occurring. So, for example, higher levels of maternal depressive symptoms associated with employment could mediate negative associations, where present, between employment and child outcomes, if depressive symptoms are also associated with those outcomes. Conversely, if a factor is associated with later child outcomes, but coefficients associated with first-year maternal employment are increased when we introduce the variable, then mediation is not occurring and instead this variable is playing an offsetting role. So, for example, higher income associated with employment could offset negative associations, where present, between employment and child outcomes, if income is positively associated with child outcomes.
Although estimating a series of ordinary least squares regression models has been the classic method used in developmental psychology to test for mediation as recommended by Baron and Kenney (1986), more recently developmental psychologists as well as sociologists have been using an alternative analytic approach, structural equation modeling (SEM). In SEM, the paths linking independent variables to outcomes via mediating and offsetting variables are specified and models are then estimated to test which of those paths are significant links as well as the overall magnitude of the direct and indirect effects of the independent variable(s) on the outcome(s) of interest (Biddle & Marlin, 1987). An advantage of SEM models, therefore, is that they yield an estimate of a variable’s total, direct, and indirect effects. They also explicitly take into account the covariance between the independent variable(s) and the mediating and offsetting variables(s) of interest. This is important given that different types of employment in the first year, in particular, full-time versus part-time employment, and the other covariates, are correlated. Therefore, in assessing mediation, we carry out SEM analyses for the second step of the classic Baron and Kenney (1986) two-step approach. However, we did also carry out a full set of OLS analyses. For the sake of brevity, we do not report those results here, but they are available from the authors on request.
Drawing on the theory reviewed above, we examine three sets of potential mediators. The first is the mother’s earnings. Mothers who work in the first year of life, and particularly those who work full-time, will all else equal have higher earnings in the first year than mothers who do not work that year. Moreover, it is likely that their earnings will be higher in subsequent years as well, since mothers who did not work in the first year of life often face a wage penalty that can take several years to attenuate (due to the loss of work experience and tenure on the job; see Waldfogel, 1998). Few studies have specifically examined the links between mother’s earnings and child outcomes, but there is a large literature showing that higher income in early childhood is positively associated with children’s cognitive outcomes in later childhood and adolescence (for an overview, see Duncan & Brooks-Gunn, 1997; Duncan et al, 1998; for recent evidence from the NICHD study, see Dearing, McCartney, & Taylor, 2001). Parents in low-income families may experience greater financial strain and hardship, which are in turn associated with poorer parental psychological functioning and parenting behavior (Conger et al., 1992; Elder, Conger, Foster, & Ardelt, 1992; Jackson, Brooks-Gunn, Huang, & Glassman, 2000; Linver, Brooks-Gunn & Kohen, 2002; McLoyd, 1990, 1999; Raver et al., 2007). Families with lower incomes may be less able to provide resources in the home to stimulate their children’s cognitive and language development (Votruba-Drzal, 2003; Yeung, Linver, & Brooks-Gunn, 2002). In addition, low-income families may be less able to purchase high-quality and stable child care than more affluent families (NICHD ECCRN, 1997a). These considerations lead us to expect there to be positive associations between mothers’ earnings and child outcomes. At the same time, however, these associations may be tempered by the fact that mothers’ earnings are typically only one component of family income. Particularly in couple families with working fathers, mothers’ earnings will make up only a portion of the overall family income and thus their effects on child outcomes may be attenuated.
Prior research on the role that income plays in the associations between first-year maternal employment and child outcomes is limited. Studies to date have mainly used data from the NLSY-CS and have examined family income, rather than mother’s earnings per se (see, for instance, Baydar & Brooks-Gunn, 1991; Desai et al., 1989; Greenstein, 1995; Han et al., 2001; Waldfogel et al., 2002). Prior work examining first-year maternal employment and child cognitive outcomes at age 3 in the NICHD-SECC (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2002) controlled for family income only by including a control for whether the family had been in poverty up to the time of the assessment. Here we control for income in a more detailed manner than in any prior studies on this topic, controlling for mothers’ earnings separately from fathers’ earnings and other family income, and we also examine maternal earnings as a mediator of links between employment and child outcomes. We hypothesize that mothers who work in the first year, and particularly full-time, will have higher earnings, and that those higher earnings will be associated with better child outcomes. Thus, mother’s earnings are a potential mediator for positive associations between first-year maternal employment, where found, and later child outcomes. Conversely, if there are any negative associations between first-year maternal employment and later child outcomes, we would expect mother’s earnings to play an offsetting role.
The second set of potential mediators suggested by theory has to do with the home environment. Specifically, we look at maternal depressive symptoms, maternal sensitivity, and the overall quality of the home environment as measured by the HOME scale. There are large literatures linking each of these aspects of the home environment with child cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes (for evidence on the links between maternal depressive symptoms and poorer child cognitive outcomes, see NICHD ECCRN, 1999; Peterson & Albers, 2001; Teti et al., 1995; for evidence on maternal sensitivity and improved child cognitive outcomes, see Berlin et al., 2007; Bretherington & Waters, 1995; NICHD ECCRN, 1999; Thompson, 2006; and for evidence on the home environment as measured by the HOME scale and improved child cognitive outcomes, see Bradley, 1995; Bradley et al., 1989; Bradley et al., 2001a and b; Brooks-Gunn, Klebanov, & Duncan, 1996; Huston & Aronson, 2005). Prior studies have provided some evidence that these aspects of the home environment may be affected by maternal employment in the first year of life. For instance, in prior analyses of the NICHD-SECC for children up to age 3, children whose mothers worked full-time by age nine months had mothers who were rated as providing less sensitive care by age 3 than children whose mothers had not worked at all in the first nine months (Brooks-Gunn et al, 2002), while analyses of maternity leave found that women who worked earlier in the first year had higher subsequent levels of depressive symptoms (Chatterji & Markowitz, 2005). It is likely however that the links between first-year maternal employment and aspects of the home environment are complex and will depend on factors such as the quality of that employment and how satisfying and rewarding it is for the mother (Menaghan, 2005; Menaghan & Parcel, 1995; Parcel & Menaghan, 1984) as well as the mother’s preferences (Hock & DeMeis, 1990). And, prior research has not examined this set of factors together as mediators for outcomes beyond age 3. Thus, we can not hypothesize in what way full-time maternal employment in the first year might be associated with later levels of maternal depressive symptoms, maternal sensitivity, and quality of the home environment as measured by the HOME scale, or the extent to which these factors in turn might be associated with different scores on later measures.
The third set of potential mediators that theory points to have to do with child care. We look at both the type of care and its quality. With regard to type, prior studies including analyses with the NICHD-SECC (see NICHD ECCRN, 2002, 2004b, 2006a; see also analyses of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort by Magnuson et al., 2004; Loeb et al., 2005) have found that children who attend center-based care have higher cognitive scores than otherwise comparable children. High-quality care has also been found to be associated with children’s cognitive development, although the size of these links varies across studies (e.g. Burchinal et al., 2000; NICHD ECCRN, 2002, 2005, 2006a; Vandell & Wolfe, 2000). We hypothesize that if there are associations between maternal employment in the first year and later child cognitive outcomes, child care type or quality may play a role in mediating or offsetting those associations. The links between child care and social and emotional outcomes also have been studied, although the findings are mixed (Belsky et al., 2007; Bornstein et al., 2001, 2006; Langlois & Liben, 2003: Loeb et al., 2005; Love et al., 2003; Maccoby & Lewis, 2003; Magnuson et al., 2007; Miller et al., 2003; Newcombe, 2003; NICHD ECCRN 2003, 2004b, 2005b, 2006a).
In summary, drawing on the rich body of theory reviewed earlier, this study extends prior research on first-year maternal employment and child outcomes in several ways. First, we follow children to first grade, utilizing data from phases 1 and 2 of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (NICHD-SECC). Second, we examine whether any associations between first-year maternal employment and child outcomes, where present, are moderated by family race/ethnicity, child gender or temperament, or maternal occupation. Third, taking advantage of the rich data on mothers’ earnings, the home environment, and child care, we analyze potential mediators that might explain or offset associations between first-year maternal employment and later child outcomes, using SEM models.