January 2021: Examining associations between poor marital functioning and stress eating behaviors that exacerbate weight gain

Stress eating contributes to being overweight. MPC Member Chalandra Bryant’s new project addresses the need for a shift in current thinking about (and to change current approaches to) programs aimed at reducing the risk for being over-weight and obese. Although stress is intricately tied to obesity, to date the implementation and evaluation of obesity prevention/intervention programs have been limited by ignoring potential proximal stressors such as family relations. Outdated paradigms fail to acknowledge how integral subsystems within the family can serve as agents for promoting or inhibiting stress, which in turn may exacerbate or ameliorate weight gain. This study differs greatly from studies of weight/obesity that focus on helping families prepare healthy meals together or even exercise together. Such studies, by their nature/structure, are working with family members who have positive relationships. This is the critical difference of this study: it focuses on couples experiencing relational discord. The goal is to examine associations between poor marital functioning, affect, and stress eating behaviors. Because African American’s report higher rates of marital dissatisfaction, including thinking about divorce, and higher rates of obesity than their White peers, the project will focus on this population. The researchers will test the effect that two competing interventions--(1) PREP, Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program and (2) Virtual Reality (VR) Exposure to Nature--have on those associations. To accomplish this goal, they will collect pre- and post-intervention data about marital functioning, affect, and emotion-driven stress eating. Data will be collected in the form of questionnaires and ecological momentary assessments.

This project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


December 2020: Failing the Least Advantaged: An Unintended Consequence of Local Implementation of the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Housing Policy Debate

New research from MPC Postdoc Huiyun Kim argues that local administrative practices of managing a waitlist disadvantage residentially unstable applicants. Further, Dr. Kim's analysis reveals that among those who are income-eligible for program participation, poorer individuals have a greater likelihood of experiencing residential instability, thus compounding their disadvantage in the competition for a housing voucher. Read more in Housing Policy Debate.

November 2020: Apply to participate in workshops on people-powered science research

MPC Member Evan Roberts, assistant professor of Sociology, (with Ben Wiggins at the University of Minnesota Libraries and Samantha Blickhan at the Adler Planetarium) was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Advanced Institutes in the Digital Humanities to run workshops on building and managing crowd-sourced transcription platforms. The project brings together MPC experience in historical data with the University of Minnesota’s and Adler's leadership in the Zooniverse citizen science consortium. The workshops--to help others build virtual engagement for people-powered science--will now be virtual meetings, at least during the pandemic. Applications are open through December 9, 2020 at Researchers working with historical population and social science data are encouraged to apply.

October 2020: New global temperature data will inform study of climate impacts on health, agriculture

A seemingly small one-to-two degree change in the global climate can dramatically alter weather-related hazards. Given that such a small change can result in such big impacts, it is important to have the most accurate information possible when studying the impact of climate change. This can be especially challenging in data-sparse areas like Africa, where some of the most dangerous hazards are expected to emerge.

A new data set published in the journal Scientific Data provides high-resolution, daily temperatures from around the globe that could prove valuable in studying human health impacts from heat waves, risks to agriculture, droughts, potential crop failures, and food insecurity. 

Data scientists Andrew Verdin and Kathryn Grace of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota worked with colleagues at the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California Santa Barbara to produce and validate the data set.

“It’s important to have this high-resolution because of the wide-ranging impacts – to health, agriculture, infrastructure. People experiencing heat waves, crop failures, droughts – that’s all local,” said Verdin, the lead author.

By combining weather station data, remotely sensed infrared data and the weather simulation models, this new data set provides daily estimates of 2-meter maximum and minimum air temperatures for 1983-2016. Named CHIRTS-daily, this data provides high levels of accuracy, even in areas where on-site weather data collection is sparse. Current efforts are focused on updating the data set in near real time. 

“We know that the next 20 years are going to bring more extreme heat waves that will put millions or even billions of people in harm’s way. CHIRTS-daily will help us monitor, understand, and mitigate these rapidly emerging climate hazards”, said Chris Funk, director of the Climate Hazards Center.

Additionally, the people who are most vulnerable are often located in areas where publicly available weather station data are deteriorating or unreliable. Areas with rapidly expanding populations and exposures (e.g. Africa, Central America, and parts of Asia) can’t rely on weather observations. By combining different sources of weather information, each contributes to provide detail and context for a more accurate, global temperature dataset. 

“We’re really excited about the possibilities for fine-scale, community-focused climate-health data analyses that this dataset can support. We’re excited to see researchers use it,” said co-author Kathryn Grace. 

September 2020: Structural Racism More Deadly than COVID

Recent research by MPC Faculty Member Elizabeth Wrigley-Field demonstrates that “US racial inequality may be as deadly as COVID-19.” In an article published in the September 8 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Wrigley-Field uses historical data to estimate that, for white mortality in 2020 to rise to the best mortality ever recorded among Blacks, the COVID pandemic would need to produce 400,000 excess white deaths. Based on her findings, Wrigley-Field argues, “[I]f Black disadvantage operates every year on the scale of Whites’ experience of COVID-19, then so too should the tools we fight to deploy it.”

For more information, read the full open access article in PNAS, and check out media coverage by, Slate, and New York Times.

August 2020: New Grants Announced

IPUMS Health Surveys 

MPC Members Lynn Blewett (Professor, Health Policy & Management)  and Julia Drew (Research Scientist, IPUMS) have received funding from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to support the IPUMS Health Surveys project for another five years. Highlights of the new grant include 1) the expansion of IPUMS MEPS to include the 1996-2023 medical conditions and health care event files; 2) a new variable construction system on the IPUMS MEPS website to facilitate the creation of downloadable, user-defined variables based on the condition and event data; and 3) two three-day, in-person MEPS training workshops geared towards early-career scholars. Congratulations to the Health Surveys team! 



MPC Members Elizabeth Heger Boyle (Professor, Sociology), Miriam King (Research Scientist, IPUMS), and Matthew Sobek (Research Scientist, IPUMS) have received a new grant from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a five-year project to harmonize and disseminate the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) fielded by UNICEF. Focused on the health and well-being of women and children, more than 300 MICS surveys have been conducted in over 100 countries since the late 1990s. Despite its remarkable potential for comparative research, MICS has been underutilized due to data inconsistencies between countries and over the six rounds of the survey. IPUMS MICS aims to rectify this situation! 


Big Microdata Network

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded the Big Microdata Network to support the emerging interdisciplinary community of scientists using vast new collections of census data, including IPUMS full count data. The goals of the Big Microdata Network are to connect existing census data researchers and to expand and diversify the user community, thereby increasing access to these data and facilitating new research. We’ll eventually be hosting in-person conferences in Minneapolis, which should be a great way for the IPUMS team to connect with full count data users. MPC Member Catherine Fitch (Associate Director, ISRDI) will serve as project PI along with Co-PIs Steve Ruggles (Director, ISRDI) and Rob Warren (Director, MPC) and a steering committee of IPUMS users from across the world.