October 2022: Steven Ruggles Named MacArthur Fellow

Dr. Steven Ruggles, Regents Professor of History and Population Studies and Director of the Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation at the University of Minnesota, has been honored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as one of this year’s MacArthur Fellows. Commonly known as the “genius grant”, the fellowship is regarded as one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for intellectual and artistic achievement. 

As a historical demographer, Dr. Ruggles is renowned for building the world’s largest publicly available database of population statistics—IPUMS—an invaluable tool for comparative research across time and space. 

“I first met Professor Ruggles when I was working at the National Science Foundation. We have since served on working groups together, and I have been repeatedly impressed by the intellectual rigor and human caring he brings to any problem,” said U of M Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel T.A. Croson. “His dedicated work on IPUMS has significantly advanced our scientific understanding of the human experience, and has provided data for untold numbers of scholars. This recognition is well-deserved and I am proud that Professor Ruggles is a member of our academic community."

Ruggles’s scholarship on changes in family composition and living arrangements in the United States has analyzed the decline of multigenerational households and the rise of single parenthood and divorce. To investigate these and other changing characteristics of the population over decades and centuries, Ruggles required massive quantities of individual and household-level census data from manuscript collections dating back to the mid-19th century. 

“In the early 1990s, the available historical data had limited coverage and what did exist was difficult to use because of incompatibility across time, nonstandard documentation and inaccessibility” Ruggles explained. 

To provide researchers with free and easy access to harmonized data, Ruggles launched IPUMS at the University of Minnesota in 1991. Today, IPUMS includes U.S. census data from 1790 to 2021, as well as international census and survey data from 157 countries spanning from 1703 to the present. The data provide detailed information on a wide range of demographic and economic characteristics of more than two billion people, including fertility, family composition, migration, education, employment and housing. 

By creating a framework for locating, analyzing, and visualizing the world's population in time and space, IPUMS enables researchers worldwide to investigate the drivers of change, assess their implications for human society and the environment and develop policies to meet future challenges. 

The MacArthur Fellowship is a recognition of Ruggles’ outstanding career and is intended to continue to encourage his creative, intellectual and professional inclinations. The award carries a $800,000 stipend, paid in quarterly installments over five years with no strings attached on how recipients can spend the money. The MacArthur Foundation typically selects 20 to 30 fellows annually, prioritizing creative individuals with a track record of unique accomplishments. 

June 2022: U of M to study multilevel structural racism on whole person health across the lifecourse

The University of Minnesota is one of two sites awarded NIH funding to study the impact of various levels of discrimination on health outcomes and to develop interventions that will promote health equity

Kate Dodge  |  Media Relations Manager 

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (06/20/2022) — The University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia have launched a prospective study to understand how structural racism experienced at the individual, neighborhood, institutional and societal/policy levels affect whole person health. This includes mental, physical, behavioral and social health.

“Prior studies have shown individual level associations between discrimination and negative health outcomes, but less is known about how experiencing multiple levels of structural racism affect whole person health for families and individuals across the lifecourse,” said study principal investigator Jerica Berge, Ph.D., MPH, a professor in the Medical School on the Twin Cities campus. “Findings from this study will allow for developing interventions that can simultaneously intervene at multiple levels of structural racism to promote health equity.” 

A lifecourse is a culturally defined sequence of age categories that people are normally expected to pass through as they progress from birth to death.

The study is built on a prospective longitudinal cohort study of 631 racially and ethnically diverse families (i.e., African American/Black, Hispanic, Native American, Immigrant/Refugee and white) that spans the lifecourse, from childhood to adulthood/parenthood in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In Georgia, 300 more families from rural settings will be enrolled to better understand experiences of structural racism in urban and rural settings with diverse families.

Co-investigators in this project include MPC Members Rachel Hardeman, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor in the School of Public Health; Alicia Kunin-Batson, Ph.D., LP, assistant professor in the Medical School; Angie Fertig, Ph.D., research scientist in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs; David Van Riper, M.A., Minnesota Population Center; and University of Georgia faculty Allan Tate, Ph.D., MPH and Grace Bagwell Adams, Ph.D., MPA.

The parent R01 already has three time-points of mixed-methods data (i.e., ecological momentary assessment and Geographic Information System survey), that includes discrimination and neighborhood segregation measures and physical, mental and behavioral health outcomes. In addition, cardiometabolic and stress biomarker data (i.e., heart rate, blood pressure, waist circumference, hair cortisol) and multi-level measures of structural racism (i.e., individual, neighborhood, institutional, societal/policy) will be added at two time points, 18 months apart.

Link to the original article.

June 2022: Study shows Black infants at risk for poor birth outcomes across Minnesota

Researcher Bert Chantarat found that structural racism is harming the health of Black babies no matter where they live in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, babies of U.S.-born Black pregnant people suffer twice the rate of low-birth weight and other adverse birth issues as their white counterparts. Minnesota Population Center researchers recently examined the role structural racism plays in harmful birth outcome disparities and found it’s an extensive problem statewide.

Tongtan (Bert) Chantarat led the study published in Health Services Research. The study was co-authored by Rachel Hardeman, associate professor and Blue Cross Endowed Professor of Health and Racial Equity, and director of the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity at , and David Van Riper of the Minnesota Population Center. 

Prior research has examined racial birth disparities in geographic areas using single-dimensional measures of structural racism, such as housing segregation or income inequity. However, analysis using only a single measure can fail to reveal harmful structural racism or the combined effects of multiple factors in a community.

To account for the various influences, the researchers used an analytical approach they developed called the Multidimensional Measure of Structural Racism (MMSR). The MMSR roots out structural racism by measuring a community’s level of residential segregation, educational inequity, employment inequity, income inequity, homeownership inequity, criminal justice inequity, and how those factors interact. 

To understand how structural racism harms pregnant people and their babies, the researchers deployed the MMSR using 2017 demographic data from the American Community Survey, incarceration information from Vera Institute of Justice, and 2018 birth outcomes data for nearly 50,000 babies from the Minnesota Department of Health.

 The study found:

  • Three distinct patterns of structural racism within Minnesota communities: Type A communities have high education, income, and criminal justice inequities, and moderately high residential segregation and homeownership inequity, but low employment inequity. Type B areas have high education, employment, and homeownership inequities, but moderately high levels of residential segregation, income, and criminal justice inequities. Type C neighborhoods have high income inequity, are moderately high on residential segregation, and employment,  homeownership, and criminal justice inequities, but are low on education inequity.
  • The risks of preterm birth, low birth weight and small-for-gestational-age instances for U.S.-born Black pregnant Minnesotans were always higher than for their white counterparts regardless of the type of communities in which they lived during pregnancy. 
  • The risks among U.S.-born Black pregnant people did not vary significantly across the area types. 
  • When structural racism was viewed in its totality, it had statistically equivalent harms on Black babies no matter where they lived in Minnesota. 

“If you look at structural racism from just one angle at a time, you miss the full impact on health,” said Chantarat. “For example, if you only look at income inequality, you might think, ‘Oh, this area in Minnesota has low income inequity, so it must be an OK place for U.S.-born Black pregnant people to live!’ But that just isn’t the case. When you look at the full picture of structural racism, there is no place in Minnesota where the birth outcomes of Black pregnant people are equal to their white peers.”

The authors said the results affirm that structural racism is multidimensional, which means antiracist solutions need to be multidimensional, too, such as implementing policies that raise employment, income, and home-ownership among Black residents. The researchers call on policy makers to take their findings into account as they work to improve the health of Black Minnesotans through systemic reform.

Original version published by the School of Public Health on April 26, 2022 by Charlie Plain. 

April 2022: Announcing the New MPC Associate Director

We are excited to announce Dr. Kathryn Grace has been appointed as the next MPC Associate Director. Dr. Grace, a former first generation college student, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Society. Dr. Grace’s education is grounded in theoretical mathematics, biostatistics and (spatial) statistics, providing her a solid quantitative research foundation. Her own experiences as a Medicaid recipient and low-income parent undergird her interests in the health challenges facing low-income women and families in unstable situations. She relies on a range of scientific approaches, including qualitative field work, to center the lived experiences of poor women in research on climate change impacts.  As an interdisciplinary scholar with a focus on building collaborative research teams, she has an extensive background in bringing alternative perspectives both to research issues and work environments. Dr. Grace has worked to establish collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects in a number of institutes around the world, including at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, the Stockholm University Demography Unit, the Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques in France, the Vienna Institute for Demography, and the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She has an impressive track record of publishing in domain specific and interdisciplinary journals, including Nature Climate Change, Demography, Population and Development Review, and Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Beginning with leading a NASA Early Career Grant in 2012, she continues to secure external funding, including awards from NIH, NASA, the Gates Foundation, and NSF, as well as international funding organizations. Please welcome Kathryn as she assumes this new leadership role!

February 2022: Measurement of Structural Racism Barnraising

Join us on March 14th and 15th for Improving the Measurement of Structural Racism Barnraising co-hosted by the Minnesota Population Center (MPC)  and Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity (CARHE) Barnraising.

Structural racism is complex and multidimensional, but too often measurements of racism are simplistic and one dimensional. This enables the continued false narrative that race, rather than racism, is the cause of racial inequities. This workshop will bring together researchers and data users from across the country to dynamic conversations on how to create and utilize multidimensional measures of structural racism. 

Learn more about the event.