Miles Kimball

Miles KimballHow would you feel if you put $1 into the bank, and when you took it out a year later, it was only worth 95 cents? Probably like it’s not a good time to be saving money. And that’s exactly why ISR researcher Miles Kimball argues that negative interest rates should be one tool available for economic policymakers. In a Nov. 18 Q&A in The Washington Post, Kimball acknowledged that high interest rates often are appropriate, encouraging people and businesses to save. But when economies are in recession, companies become reluctant to borrow or invest and people shy away from buying automobiles and houses, exactly the kinds of activities needed to jump start the economy. Allowing negative interest rates could help spark those activities and more quickly return the economy to health. Moreover, Kimball contends that if governments did most transactions electronically, it would be easier to manage negative interest rates. “Anything you can do to firm up the legal status of electronic money as the real thing makes it easier to do what it takes to go to negative interest rates,” Kimball said.

Luke Hyde

Luke HydeKids displaying antisocial behavior can get better with the right supports, according to a Nov. 5 article in The Los Angeles Times. The Times reported the results of a study conducted by ISR researcher Luke Hyde and a group of colleagues who used neurogenetics—a combination of genetics, neuroscience, and psychology—to understand why some kids behave in extreme ways. The researchers found that when the amygdala—the part of the brain that processes fear and visceral emotions—is stimulated, children are more likely to become anxious and overreact. That link becomes stronger if a child isn’t getting help from family, neighbors, or professionals. Examples of extreme behavior include cruelty to animals, lack of guilt, lying, sneakiness, and continued bad behavior after punishment. “The results of this test aren’t really meaningful until age 3 or 3 ½,” said Hyde. “Before that, many of these behaviors are fairly common and don’t predict anything. But after age 3, if children are still behaving in these ways, their behavior is more likely to escalate in the following years rather than improve.”

Carey Wexler Sherman

Carey Wexler ShermanOlder women in blended families who are caring for a spouse with dementia are unlikely to get needed support from stepchildren, according to a recent study by ISR researcher Carey Wexler Sherman. The research was featured in The New York Times, Reuters, and other news outlets.  According to the Oct. 4 Reuters article, about a third of U.S. marriages are remarriages for at least one member of the couple, and almost five percent of the U.S. population cares for a dementia patient, so blended families increasingly confront the challenges of caregiving. The 61 study participants created diagrams of “social,” “positive,” and “negative” networks related to caretaking, and stepchildren made up 35 percent of the negative group. The women also reported that stepfamily members were more likely to criticize or interfere in care decisions. Limited chances to bond with adult stepchildren may contribute to the caregiving tensions, Reuters noted.

Lisa Neidert

Lisa NeidertThe recent recession appeared to depress more than housing starts in the United States. Recently released government data show that the birth rate fell 8 percent from 2007 to 2011. In 2012, as the economy began to recover, that trend leveled off, according to a Sept. 14 article in The Economist. But the magazine cautioned against making too much of the correlation between economic growth and fertility. After all, the U.S. birth rate dropped 27 percent between 1957 and 1973 despite a strong economy. Instead, The Economist said that the tight financial times appeared to have encouraged the already established trend for women to wait longer to start a family. But even that trend can’t be generalized for the country as a whole. According to ISR researcher Lisa Neidert, women in the Northeast now typically wait to have a first child until they are between 30 and 34. But in Oklahoma and Arkansas, women usually start their families in their early 20s. Those who start at a younger age are more likely to go on to have a big family.

Megan Patrick

Megan PatrickThe good news is that teen binge drinking declined significantly between 2005 and 2011. The bad news is that extreme binge drinking—quaffing ten or more drinks in a sitting—is at an alarmingly high level and is not on a similar downward trend. According to a recent study featured in a Sept. 16 article in the Los Angeles Times, 1 in 5 high school seniors drinks, and a quarter had 15 or more. The national survey of more than 16,000 high school seniors, led by ISR researcher Megan Patrick, showed that boys were more likely than girls to binge drink, whites binged more than blacks, and those who reported going out more often at night with heavy drinking friends were also more likely to overdo it. It was the first such study to look at high schoolers. “The rates are alarming when you think of a class of 30 students, that several kids in the class will be drinking at very dangerous levels,” Patrick said. “That’s a big cause for concern.”reported binge drinking in the past two weeks. Half of those had consumed at least 10

Ren Farley

Detroit’s recent bankruptcy won’t necessarily be repeated by the nation’s other economically distressed cities because Detroit has a very particular mix of problems that sets it apart, ISR researcher Ren Farley told NPR’s Weekend Edition. Unlike cities such as Cleveland and Chicago, Detroit’s economic base has been highly dependent on just one industry—automobiles, Farley said in an August 10 interview. In addition, Michigan’s home rule system—which makes each city responsible for its own taxes and services—has caused the more than 130 municipal governments in the Detroit area to focus on their own economies rather than metropolitan-wide planning that could benefit Detroit. Add to that the racial divide that resulted from white flight and you get a city that has been largely abandoned by the surrounding communities, Farley said. “This long history of the racial divide and the animosity associated with it distinguishes Detroit from many of the other cities that are facing fairly similar economic problems,” Farley said.

Ethan Kross

The more that young people go on Facebook, the less happy they feel, according to an August 15 CNN report. The article described a study by ISR researcher Ethan Kross in which researchers tracked how a small group of young adults were feeling over a two-week period and correlated those feelings with their Facebook usage. The more time participants spent on the social media site, the less good they felt about their own lives. But face-to-face contact with actual people was an antidote to those negative feelings. CNN theorized that Facebook usage could drag people down because of the perception that their friends lead more fabulous lives. “Over a billion people belong to Facebook, and over half of them log in every day,” Kross said. “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. But rather than enhancing well-being, our findings demonstrate that interacting with Facebook may have the opposite result for young adults.”

Sarah Burgard

Negative conditions at work are a key contributor to depression among working-age adults, according to a Sept. 3 article in Science Daily. The article cited research by Sarah Burgard and ISR colleagues, who analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of working-age adults. Almost 1,900 respondents took part in the study, which included four waves of data collection over 15 years. The researchers didn’t separate out specific risk factors, such as job strain or hours. Instead, they looked at the sum total of adverse working conditions. “These findings add to the growing body of evidence that employment is an important source of divergence in mental health across midlife,” the report stated. The results “suggest the need to consider the role of good jobs in enhancing worker productivity and reducing the costs of depression for workers, their families, and healthcare systems,” the report said.

Arline Geronimus

Infant mortality in Michigan is well above the national average, and a baby born to a Black mother in the state is three times more likely to die before its first birthday than a white baby. In fact, Michigan’s mortality rate for African-American babies puts it behind all advanced nations, in line, instead, with countries like Malaysia and Syria, according to a May 14 report on Michigan Radio’s Stateside with Cynthia Canty. According to ISR researcher Arline Geronimus, African-American women are more likely to develop conditions that affect pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or hypertension, and that puts their babies at greater risk. A key reason that Black women develop these conditions at higher rates is the degree of stress they routinely encounter, Geronimus said. “If you think about hypertension as a stress-related disease, you can begin to understand why groups who have less and are subject to marginalization would have more exposure to and need to cope actively with stressors.”

Sara Konrath

More than 100 global media outlets from the North Korea Times to Mashable covered research by ISR’s Sara Konrath and U-M Communication Studies collaborators Elliot Panek and Yioryos Nardis exploring how social media both reflect and amplify growing levels of narcissism. The research found that young adults and middle-aged adults use different social media for different narcissistic purposes. Among the middle-aged, narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook, while among college-age narcissists, the social media tool of choice was the megaphone of Twitter. “Young people may overevaluate the importance of their own opinions,” Panek said. “Through Twitter, they’re trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues.” The study was published online this month in Computers in Human Behavior. Funding for the study came in part from The Character Project, sponsored by Wake Forest University via the John Templeton Foundation.