American Academy of Social and Political Science

2015 Moynihan Lecture: What Drives American Competitiveness?

Rebecca Blank, Chancellor of University of Wisconsin–Madison and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, has been named the 2015 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize Winner, by AAPSS. Blank’s commitment to informed policy-making, as evinced by her research, teaching, and public service, is aligned with the spirit and intention of the Moynihan Prize. As part of the Prize ceremony, Dr. Blank will give a public lecture on May 7, 2015, in Washington, DC, in which she will identify the critical levers for economic competitiveness. The lecture will take place at 2:30 p.m., at the National Press Club. If you plan to attend the lecture, please register here. If you cannot join us in person but would like to participate, visit the AAPSS website on May 7 to watch the lecture live.

AAPSS/AEI Co-Host Event on Social Mobility

On Tuesday, April 21, AAPSS held an afternoon seminar on social mobility in the U.S., centered on work presented in ANNALS 657, “Monitoring Social Mobility in the Twenty-First Century”, which was co-edited by Drs. David Grusky, C. Matthew Snipp, and Timothy Smeeding. Like the ANNALS volume, the seminar was dedicated to reviewing what we know about mobility in the U.S. and, critically, what we don’t know or can’t know for lack of good data. A new American Opportunity Study (AOS) was proposed as a solution for developing a more robust capacity to monitor mobility. The proposed AOS would use existing data from the Census Bureau and link it to administrative records already held by other government agencies to create a new data infrastructure for mobility research in the U.S. The creation of this type of infrastructure would enable a more nuanced understanding of social dynamics that inhibit or encourage mobility, which in turn would drive evidence-based policy in arenas such as child-development, safety net programming, and labor markets. The data, however, would enable research on more than just opportunity or mobility; many social conditions and their effects could be studied by using the AOS data. The seminar was co-sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and held at AEI’s offices in Washington DC.  

In Memoriam: Barbara Bergmann

Barbara Bergmann, passed away.  She was 87 years old. Throughout her career she held faculty positions at the University of Maryland and American University. Beyond her academic positions, Dr. Bergmann was a co-founder of the International Association for Feminist Economics, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. Her 1986 work The Economic Emergence of Women is an oft cited history of women’s contributions and shifting role in the labor force during the twentieth century. Dr. Bergmann was known for using her academic prowess to advocate for a level playing field across gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Her academic contributions, commentary, and advocacy will certainly be missed.

Anti-Science Bias: A Bipartisan Concern

“Science Denial is Bipartisan,” as its lead opinion story.  Its author, Liz Suhay, a professor of government at American University, grounded her findings in the research presented in ANNALS 658, of which she was a co-editor with James N. Druckman. The US News piece presents in brief what the volume explores at length; namely, that partisanship is not enough to explain the pervasive science bias observed in public life.  A multitude of factors, such as economic values, religious orthodoxy, and liberal/conservative ideology, shapes the ways that individuals understand and perceive scientific information. In most cases, the public reveres scientific opinion, but there is a handful of topics that have become hotly politicized (e.g., climate change). While both liberals and conservatives deny science they do so in distinct ways. Liberals are less inclined to trust scientific evidence about fracking and genetically modified organisms while conservatives are skeptical of scientists’ views on evolution and stem-cell research. There are dire consequences to accepting scientific information only when it aligns with a party’s political, economic, and religious outlooks. Of this trend Suhay notes, “This leads to a dangerous distortion of scientific understanding. It inhibits our ability to see the world clearly, to formulate science-based policy to meet important challenges and to reach across the political aisle to implement that policy.”

Robert Putnam Explores Upward Mobility in Our Kids

putnamAAPSS Fellow Robert Putnam’s newest book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, cogently synthesizes many of the issues that are plaguing our nation: the consequences of widening income inequality, disparities in educational outcomes, neighborhoods entrenched in poverty, and the struggle for equal opportunity. He shows how the advantages of class are coupled with diverging rates of access to extracurricular outlets, single-parenting, and academic performance between rich and poor children; he also demonstrates that while these chasms have been much researched, they are becoming larger more quickly than ever before. Our Kids analyzes the crisis for our nation’s future generations from a standpoint that is divorced from partisan rhetoric. Putnam’s newest work is emblematic of the bipartisan approach to policy issues that is core to the Academy’s mission.

Coming Up in The ANNALS

Toward Computational Social Science: Big Data in Digital Environments
Special Editors: Dhavan V. Shah, Joseph N. Cappella, and W. Russell Neuman
Volume 659; May 2015

How do we interpret “big data”? Across all disciplines, scholars are questioning the role of such data in relation to conventional research methods, theory building, and formal scientific reasoning. The exponential growth in social data has confronted fields such as political science, sociology, psychology, information systems, public health, public policy, and communication. How can scientists best use computational tools to analyze such data, problematic as they may be, with the goal of understanding individuals and their interactions within social systems? This volume of The ANNALS explores the unprecedented availability of information on discrete behaviors, social expressions, personal connections, and social alignments and the key issues confronting social scientists analyzing this information in the age of big data.