ICPSR spread data love and awareness during Love Data Week and Endangered Data Week

ICPSR hosted several notable events during both Love Data Week and Endangered Data Week in February.

During Love Data Week, ICPSR officially launched its new data dissemination system, complete with a launch webinar and great pre-launch video (below), streamed live on Facebook. Also, ICPSR hosted its first Data Story Contest, won by Rob O’Reilly, Data Services Librarian at Emory University, and Lynda Kellam, Data Services and Government Information Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s University Libraries.

Among highlights of Endangered Data Week were a webinar marking the one-year anniversary of DataLumos, ICPSR’s repository created in 2018 to preserve valuable government data. The webinar, “DataLumos: A Tool for Improving the Future Accessibility of Valuable Government Data,” is now viewable on YouTube. ICPSR finished out the week with a Save the Data with DataLumos event, described by Linda Detterman as “kind of like a telethon/hackathon — but for endangered data!!” The event yielded at least 20 new uploads to the DataLumos repository. See ICPSR’s David Bleckley and Johanna Bleckman talk about how to get involved in this fun Facebook Live video recording (below) from the event. Also, during Endangered Data Week, ICPSR’s Piper Simmons went live to share a story about a data-rescue-in-progress.

Antisocial children more likely to end up chronically unemployed and in poverty

Young children in class

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Ann Arbor—Live fast and die young—it’s a popular saying that could ring a little truer than is comfortable, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

Jukka Savolainen of the U-M Institute for Social Research found that people who, as children, were aggressive, hyperactive and struggled in school, with what the researchers called “antisocial behavior,” are more likely to end up in persistent poverty, require welfare assistance, experience chronic unemployment and suffer premature death.

In fact, this kind of persistence in antisocial behavior proved to be a strong independent indicator, along with reduced cognitive skills, for individuals to become permanently unable to participate in the workforce by age 50, Savolainen says.

Research on socioeconomic attainment has traditionally focused on cognitive ability and educational performance as key individual factors. Lately, researchers have begun to understand that such noncognitive factors as mental health, behavioral problems and personality traits play an important role in academic achievement, employment and related outcomes.

“We wanted to understand the life course process whereby individuals end up dropping out of the labor force or training during their prime working ages,” said Savolainen, a research professor in the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research and director of the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. “We are investigating pathways to persistent poverty and disadvantage.”

Savolainen used data from the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development, which follows individuals from a city in central Finland from ages 8 to 50 and beyond. The region, which is ethnically and socioeconomically homogeneous, provides a valuable backdrop against which social scientists can study how personality traits influence people’s lives.

“In these Nordic welfare states, where opportunities are relatively equal and the social safety net is very strong, that’s when we should expect individual differences to become much more important in determining life outcomes,” Savolainen said.

Savolainen and colleagues examined data of 369 individuals, who have been tracked at ages 8, 14, 27, 36, 42 and 50. At age 8, the study collected teacher and classmate assessments of the children’s antisocial propensity—or whether they were aggressive and unable to regulate their behavior—as well as teacher-assessed school performance, and control variables such as gender and family socioeconomic status.

At age 14, the study gathered teacher reports about problem behavior and school data about academic performance. In early adulthood, the study measured the participants’ socioeconomic status and deviant behavior such as criminal behavior, heavy drinking and alcoholism based on a self-reported questionnaire and government administrative records. In midlife, at about age 50, socioeconomic status was measured using information from government tax, health and population records.

“There’s a strong antisocial pathway which starts from having a type of lack of control, which later on manifests in persistence in delinquency and rule breaking,” Savolainen said. “While others grow up and mature, some people remain leading the fast life, drinking, fighting and divorcing at an earlier rate.”

While the researchers didn’t find a direct line of cause between childhood antisocial propensities to socioeconomic exclusion, antisocial tendencies set in a motion a cumulative pathway to adolescent problem behavior, adult criminal behavior and, ultimately, midlife socioeconomic exclusion.

“The real meat of this contribution is to document the noncognitive, or antisocial behavior pathway, through these life stages as an influential cause of persistent poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage,” Savolainen said. “Although differences in human capital are very important, personal capital matters too.”

The study is published online in the journal Developmental Psychology.

New DataLumos archive aims to preserve government data

DataLumos Logo

The UM-ISR Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) is establishing an open-access archive, DataLumos, where the public can archive valuable government data resources, ensuring their long-term availability.

ICPSR, a center within the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, has joined widespread efforts to preserve valuable US government data that may be hard to find or inaccessible in the future.

“We are committed to ensuring that valuable data resources remain accessible and discoverable in the future,” said ICPSR Director Margaret Levenstein, who added that members of the research community can help prioritize a list of valued data resources via the ICPSR DataLumos Recommendation Form.

Data preservation efforts have mounted at libraries and universities around the US to keep federal government datasets available to the public. More than 275 volunteers from U-M and around the community gathered in Ann Arbor in January in local efforts to preserve government data.

ICPSR had a webinar at noon (EST) on Friday, Feb. 17, to talk about efforts to ensure data remains available, and to answer attendees’ questions about the DataLumos project.

Coincidentally, this data archive launch coincides with “Love Your Data Week 2017.” The webinar takes place on Friday, which is dedicated to “Rescuing Unloved Data” More on this international data event is found here.


ICPSR is an international consortium of more than 760 academic institutions and research organizations. The world’s largest archive of digital social science data, ICPSR maintains more than 500,000 files of research, including specialized collections of data in education, aging, criminal justice, substance abuse, terrorism, and other fields.

For more information

ICPSR Data Lumos Recommendation Form
Data Lumos repository in openICPSR


Dory Knight-Ingram, dkni@umich.edu
Kory Zhao, koryzhao@umich.edu, 734-647-9069

New ICPSR Director breaks the mold

Maggie LevensteinANN ARBOR—While Margaret Levenstein is the first female director at the Institute of Social Research’s (ISR) Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), she is quick to point out — with a laugh — that she’s also the first economist to take on the role. “Over the last few decades, ISR and ICPSR have become more diverse, as women have taken on important roles in research and in leadership, “ she says. “My becoming director is a reflection of the work that women have been doing in this organization for a very long time. Fifty years ago, women were involved in the founding of ISR, but perhaps weren’t given the titles. We’re seeing the results of the work of generations by women and by men, and a more equitable acknowledgment and integration of women into leadership, at ISR and across social sciences.”

There’s still work to be done, Levenstein acknowledges. She serves as associate chair of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, where she sees firsthand opportunities for improvement. But Levenstein believes ISR is helping achieve more equitable results for women in the field. “ISR is committed to research that is the basis for progress toward greater equity for women and other underrepresented groups,” she says. “Because of that work, I think we’re better able to change things. I’m proud that ISR plays that role.”

Her deep passion for the intersection of economics and social issues cemented Levenstein as the ideal candidate for director ICPSR, the world’s largest archive of digital social science data and a leading source of research training and policy. A joint committee composed of ISR faculty and members of the ICPSR Governing Council, who represent the consortium’s 760 members worldwide, chose her after a thorough national search. Levenstein stepped into the new role in July and will hold the position for five years.

“We are thrilled to see Maggie take on this role, and for the strategic vision and excitement she brings with her,” says David Lam, director of ISR. “She will do an outstanding job navigating ICPSR through the ever-changing landscape of data archiving and dissemination, while continuing ICPSR’s tradition of service to the scientific community.” Levenstein says she’s excited about what lies ahead. “For half a century, ICPSR has been  a leader in curating, preserving and disseminating data,” she says. “In the ‘big data’ revolution, ICPSR is positioned to play an even larger role in social and behavioral sciences.”

Icons representing personal and business data being fed into a funnel above a computer with graphs on the screen - representing 'big data.'

Photo credit: stephanamer/Thinkstock

Levenstein’s vision for ICPSR revolves around building on the institute’s impressive traditions while pursuing new opportunities. ICPSR will continue its efforts to archive and distribute data, as well as to train researchers, graduate students and faculty in statistical methods. Levenstein also wants to dive into new kinds of data, such as naturally occurring or organic data, pulled from social media activity as opposed to formal surveys. “People are generate all kinds of data during the course of their daily lives, and these data are being analyzed by social scientists,” she says. “We need methods to compare the old and new data sets. And we need to develop software and tools, such as those that will allow community curation of naturally occurring data. That’s particularly important for naturally occurring data, which do not come with documentation.  Without that kind of transparency, analyses using naturally occurring data are difficult to replicate.” The new director’s enthusiasm for projects like these is effusive. Before she officially started the job, she and other ICPSR staff created a list of all of their new ideas. “It’s great that the staff and faculty at ICPSR are ready to jump in and work on these exciting new things,” says Levenstein.

In addition to her position at ICPSR, Levenstein is a research professor for ISR’s Survey Research Center (SRC) and an adjunct professor of business economics and public policy in the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Levenstein first joined the SRC in 2003 as the executive director of the Michigan Census Research Data Center, a joint project with the U.S. Census Bureau. She has taken an active role in the institute over the years, joining the director’s Advisory Committee on Diversity in 2009 and serving as the chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic planning committee and as the liaison to the larger university program.

Levenstein’s own areas of research include recent work using Twitter data to measure economic outcomes, like unemployment or changes in the demand for labor. She also works with ISR’s Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationwide survey of Americans over age 50 to better understand health and economics over time. HRS participants provide information about their families, daily activities and retirement plans. But there is limited information about their work lives or their employers.

cartoon image of a businessman trying to balance his life on a teeter-totter.

Photo credit: ojogabonitoo/Thinkstock

To better situate respondents within their work context, Levenstein is linking HRS data to the characteristics of respondents’ employers. Her efforts aim to help fill a gap in research; she says the United States has little tradition of studying people in their workplaces, despite their significance. “We spend so much of our waking time at work,” says Levenstein. “It’s important to examine work life not only for its impact on our economic well-being, but also on physical, social and emotional well-being — on our sense of identity and community.”

Levenstein’s other research interests include collusion and cartels, what determines the intensity of competition, and the impact on economic performance. One of her recently published studies examines a new dataset of illegal price-fixing cartels from the early 1960s to 2010s, nearly 50 years of collusion. The study analyzes a number of things, including whether or not cartels are more likely to form during recessions. (They’re not.) In another recent study, she explores the role of vertical relationships in facilitating collusion, the cooperation between producers and distributors, and how that affects competition.

Outside of her work with the ICPSR, Levenstein is a mother of two children, her youngest of whom just graduated high school. “For the first time in many years, I am no longer organizing my life around a school bell schedule,” said Levenstein. “It’s exciting for my daughter and also for me. We will miss the volleyball games and French horn concerts, but we’re looking forward to this next stage of life.”

With her children out of the house, perhaps Levenstein will have more time for her favorite activity: going dancing with her husband on Friday nights. She says it’s for fun, but knowing the new ICPSR director, she might just be scoping out the dance floor for social data.


Kory Zhao, koryzhao@umich.edu, 734-647-9069

Project enhances open access to research data

research data

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ANN ARBOR — The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research are joining forces to encourage open access to research data and closer links between publications and the data on which they are based.

A grant from the foundation will allow ICPSR to work with editors of peer-reviewed social science journals, leaders of data repositories, and research funding agencies to foster new standards in research transparency, data citation, and sustainable funding models for open access to data. Continue reading