Lloyd Johnston and Richard Miech

Lloyd Johnston and Richard MiechMore teens are smoking electronic cigarettes than traditional cigarettes, according to the latest Monitoring the Future survey. The survey, released at a D.C. press conference in mid-December, received widespread news coverage, with articles by the Associated Press and others appearing in the International Business Times, NBC News, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Global Post and many other print, broadcast and online media around the world. ISR researchers Lloyd Johnston and Richard Miech also reported that marijuana use by teens appeared to level off, despite legalization of that drug in several states in 2014. Binge drinking and abuse of prescription painkillers also dropped. Read more about the latest Monitoring the Future findings and watch videos on the findings at http://bit.ly/MTF-1 and http://bit.ly/MTF-2.

Richard Curtin

Richard CurtinConsumer confidence reached the highest point in eight years in December, according to ISR economist Richard Curtin, who directs the U-M Surveys of Consumers, now sponsored by Bloomberg. The good economic news from the Surveys, reported in late December, spurred major news coverage by NPR, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report and other media in the U.S. and around the world. “Consumers have much to be thankful for in this holiday season: renewed job growth, larger anticipated wage gains, and the steep decline in gasoline prices,” said Curtin. “Importantly, rather than basing their renewed optimism on volatile oil prices, consumers have become convinced that growing strength in the national economy will result in continued gains in jobs and wages during the year ahead. Learn more: http://bit.ly/UM-surveys.

Vicki Freedman

Vicki FreedmanNo matter where they may live, older adults with limitations are likely to have unmet needs for help with daily living and personal care, according to a study by ISR researcher Vicki Freedman and Brenda Spillman of the Urban Institute. But according to Freedman, some needs, like those related to grocery shopping, laundry, and making hot meals, are more likely to go unmet for those in retirement or senior housing communities. The study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, highlighted research findings from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), based on data from more than 8,000 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older. The findings were covered by a number of news media, including The New York Times “New Old Age” blog, written by journalist Paula Span.

Helen Levy and Kenneth Langa

Helen Levy and Kenneth LangaThe Internet has evolved into a potent tool for providing information on health. But according to a recent study featured Nov. 14 in Medical News Today, elderly Americans who are rarely or never online may be left at a disadvantage as different kinds of medical information migrate to the Internet. A study by ISR researchers Helen Levy and Kenneth Langa found that of Americans aged 65 and over, those with low health literacy were also the least likely to use the Internet. When they did go online, they generally didn’t use the computer to look up health information. Levy and colleagues analyzed data from 1,400 participants in the 2009 and 2010 Health and Retirement Study. Almost 32 percent of participants with good health literacy got health information from the Internet, in contrast with fewer than 10 percent of those with low health literacy. The findings suggest that other ways should be found to boost health literacy among the elderly, Levy said.

Pamela Smock

Pamela SmockThe American family is changing, and the biggest change is the number of women having babies outside marriage. That’s what ISR researcher Pamela Smock told Michigan Radio’s Cynthia Canty in a Nov. 18 interview on Stateside. Once the sexual revolution removed the stigma attached to premarital sex, new family structures began to emerge. Now more than 40 percent of births occur outside marriage, Smock told Canty, and a majority of those are born to cohabiting couples. “The connection between childbearing and marriage… sort of got decoupled, so people were more accepting of different kinds of family formation patterns,” Smock said. Some 70 percent of people who get married live together first, she said, and that figure is likely to rise to 80 percent, with only those with strict religious convictions not cohabiting. Smock’s research appeared in an article on the evolving American family featured in ISR’s Sampler newsletter and in Michigan Today.

Sandra Tang and Pamela Davis-Kean

Pamela Davis-KeanChildren of teen mothers generally don’t do as well in school as children born to women aged 19 or older, according to research featured in a Nov. 12 article in The Huffington Post. The differences in performance are already apparent by kindergarten, the study shows, and the gap continues in students’ math and reading scores in third, fifth, and eighth grades. ISR researchers Sandra Tang and Pamela Davis-Kean, authors of the study, said their research also indicates that if a teen mother kept going to school after having kids, her children would likely do better academically. “However, these children—and other children born to the mother [once she’s older]—never catch up in achievement across time to children whose mothers had them after completing their education,” said Davis-Kean. “This group continues to carry a risk for lower achievement.” The researchers followed more than 14,000 U.S. students between 1998 and 2007.

Shawna Lee

Shawna LeeSpanking is back in the news since a child abuse charge was brought against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. Evidence has been mounting that spanking is counterproductive and can even alter the brain chemistry of children, according to a Sept. 17 article in the Detroit Free Press. Nevertheless, ISR researcher Shawna Lee told the Free Press, about two out of three American parents spank their children, with 30 percent of parents spanking kids as young as age 1, according to her research. “It’s troubling because it’s viewed as harmless, and it’s viewed as discipline,” said Lee. “People say, ‘My mom did it and I turned out OK.’ Most of us were spanked as kids… But what we should be telling parents is to use other strategies and not to spank. What we would consider normal discipline in a moment of anger or frustration can become excessive pretty easily.”

Jason Owen-Smith

Jason Owen-SmithThe current funding crunch is threatening the health of the nation’s research enterprise. But an equally important threat is the lack of understanding of “where science dollars really go or how research actually works,” according to ISR researcher Jason Owen-Smith. In a Sept. 19 opinion piece in CQ Roll Call, Owen-Smith and colleague Julia Lane called for greater and more insightful scrutiny of the research process. “Science funding isn’t likely to be stable until science agencies find the will and way to provide evidence on whether the current national investments are too low or too high,” the researchers wrote. “They also need to ensure that the funds the U.S. spends on research are being wisely allocated.” Owen-Smith and Lane called on federal agencies to adopt more meaningful approaches to science reporting and to demand modern tools to understand “how science funding works and generates results.”

Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks

Jeffrey Sanchez-BurksSweatpants? Jeans? Onesies that look like business suits? Work clothes aren’t what they used to be, according to a Sept. 19 article in Marketplace. Although some industries still want clothes to communicate expertise and tradition—think medical and finance—fewer businesses are using dress codes to signal the division between work and home, said ISR researcher Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks. “One of the things you find is a trend of trying to blur this boundary more—part of it’s a generational shift, part of it’s a cultural shift.” In fact, a casual or unorthodox dress code can be one way for a business to show its verve and creativity. “By breaking people’s expectations you’re literally signaling a sense that something new is to be learned, you’re trying to accomplish something that’s not necessarily mainstream, you’re focusing on issues from a new perspective, you’re signaling a break from tradition,” Sanchez-Burks said.

Jon Miller

Jon MillerFewer Canadians get degrees in science and engineering than the residents of most countries with a comparable standard of living, and fewer Canadians have science and technology jobs, according to a recent study. So it was surprising when the same study showed that Canadians are particularly knowledgeable about science and view it positively, according to an Aug. 28 Globe and Mail article. The report, which compared a survey of Canadians with surveys done in other nations, found that Canada ranks first in scientific literacy, and that Canadians are the least worried about science and its impacts. One explanation for the good showing is that Canadians keep learning about science long after graduation. “It’s not something that you learn in school and put behind you,” said ISR researcher Jon Miller, a member of the Council of Canadian Academies, which issued the report. “Canada has been particularly adept at responding to that notion.” Miller cautioned that science literacy is on the rise broadly, and that Canada’s ranking may depend in part on how recently the survey was done relative to other countries.