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Undergraduate Research Opportunities

2017-18 Research Projects for Undergraduate Participation


Moral Motivations in Participation in Collective Action (Faculty Leader: Robb Willer)

Professor Willer will be conducting a series of experimental studies of the role of moral motivations in participation in collective action. Past theory and research suggest that individuals are most likely to make costly contributions to a collective effort where some moral motivation compels them to set aside self-interest.

Responsibilities:  RAs will assist in the recruitment of participants for in-person social psychology studies, run experimental sessions, assist with scheduling and study programming, and will be involved in the design of experimental materials and procedures. The team will meet weekly to discuss research design and methods.

The Impact of Urban Change on Health (Faculty Leader: Jackelyn Hwang)

This project will examine the impact of changes in the physical conditions of urban environments on individual and neighborhood-level health in Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles using longitudinal survey data, crime data, and neighborhood observations based on Google Street View imagery.

Responsibilities: Research assistants will engage in the following activities: 1) conduct surveys of neighborhood blocks using Google Street View imagery; 2) clean and code results from crowdsourcing surveys, automated methods, and health data; 3) review the relevant literature, and 4) depending on interest and skills, assist in testing algorithms for automated methods.

How Property Owners Shape Housing Market Dynamics in San Francisco (Faculty Leader: Jackelyn Hwang)

While gentrification and research on the topic has grown substantially in recent decades, there is limited understanding of the role of property owners, both owner-occupants and investors, in shaping housing market dynamics. This project will draw on ownership records, sales data, and interviews in San Francisco to better understand this.

Responsibilities: The research assistant will clean and code data on property tax rolls from 2007-present, develop and apply algorithms to assess characteristics of property owners, and scrape historical property records.

Relationship Dynamics and Break-up (Faculty Leader: Michael Rosenfeld)

This project will examine subject’s relationship histories (and the stories of relationship breakup) through in-depth interview.

Responsibilities: The undergraduate RA will interview subjects, always together with Professor Rosenfeld. The undergraduate RA will be responsible for transcribing the interviews, and the undergraduate RA, together with professor Rosenfeld, will work on interpreting the interviews.

Social Adaptations of Cancer Patients through the Life course Phase II (Faculty Leader: Karen Cook)

This is a continuing project that examines the patterns of social adaptation of cancer patients at various stages of their lives, including effects on family formation, education, career aspirations, and finances.

Responsibilities: Undergraduate research assistants will assist in managing and analyzing survey responses.  The graduate student co-investigator on the project will train the research assistants in survey data management and some preliminary analysis.

Care Givers of Cancer Patients (Faculty Leader: Karen Cook)

We will study the care-givers of cancer patients and the effects of care-giving on their relationships, stress levels, health, and other circumstances.

Responsibilities: Undergraduate research assistants will assist in managing and analyzing survey responses.  The graduate student co-investigator on the project will train the research assistants in survey data management and some preliminary analysis.

Trust and Sharing in the new Sharing Economy (Faculty Leader: Karen Cook)

This is a study of trust in the sharing economy focusing on platforms like AirBnB, Uber and other similar companies. This project involves collaboration with researchers in the companies for both data access and analysis of key topics.

Responsibilities: Undergraduate RAs will collaborate with researchers at the sharing economy companies, and with researchers at Stanford, to build a database on resource sharing.

The Impact of Protest on Gay and Lesbian Business Organizations (Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

This project explores the impact of social protest activity mobilized by LBGT organizations. Our key idea is that protest and organizational vitality (of ordinary businesses serving the LBGT community) shape anti-discrimination policies and ordinances at the municipal level.

Responsibilities: Students will be engaged in collecting and coding information on protest and attacks using online archives of local newspapers. Previous students have used these data for senior theses, term papers, and presentations in department undergraduate research colloquia.

The Impact of Ideological Categories and Specialization on the Longevity of Environmental Social Movement Organizations (Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

This project examines a comprehensive dataset to explore the impact of a wide variety of “social movement frames” (e.g., “wilderness preservation”) on the fate of over 2000 environmental social movement organizations that existed from 1900-present. 

Responsibilities: Students will develop detailed histories of each environmental social movement organization in the dataset and code aspects of each organization. We will meet weekly to discuss ongoing progress. 

The Impact of Unemployment and the Great Recession on Social Institutions (Faculty Leader: Cristobal Young)

Large scale joblessness can have wide ranging impacts on society, influencing patterns of marriage, divorce, crime, education, immigration, health, charitable giving, and political engagement. This research project will collect current data on how the Great Recession has diffused into many areas of social life.

Responsibilities: Students will focus on exploring data sources, searching through newspaper articles, and reports from government offices and social service agencies. The goal will be to collect descriptive data and identify possible data sets that would allow more detailed statistical analysis. Progress and ideas will be discussed in bi-weekly meetings.

Millionaire Migration and State Taxation of Top Incomes (Faculty Leader: Cristobal Young)

Do millionaires migrate to avoid high state income taxes? This project draws on confidential income tax data from California’s Franchise Tax Board and the Internal Revenue Service to study cross-state migration at the very top of the income distribution.

Responsibilities:  Research tasks will include conducting case studies of different states, collecting state-level data, writing memos on findings, working on the project website, and attending regular meetings to discuss the project.

Immigration in History Textbooks (Faculty Leader: Tomás Jiménez)

This project will examine how US history high school textbooks from 1930 - 2008 have discussed immigration as part of the American national narrative.

Responsibilities: An RA will locate, scan, and code relevant portions of text from high school US history textbooks and will also be involved in the preliminary analysis of these texts.  Jimenez will meet with the RA bi-weekly to discuss progress on the project, and to map out the broad trends in portrayal of immigrants and immigration in the texts.

RV Living (Faculty leader: Tomás Jiménez)

We study the daily strategies and potential institutional support mechanisms that enable individuals and families to sustain living in campers/RVs/vehicles in the Bay Area. 

Responsibilities: RAs will assist in the recruitment of participants for in-person interviews, interview scheduling, conducting interviews, and reviewing and coding data files. RAs may also be asked to assist in conducting literature reviews and collecting additional materials related to the study. 

What Affects Attitudes towards Sexual Assault on College Campuses? (Faculty leader Shelley Correll)

Many universities have recently surveyed their students to assess the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. Universities have responded to their survey results with press releases and letters from their presidents.  This project asks how the content of these communications affects students and community members.

Responsibilities: The student RA will collect and compile university sexual assault reports and university communications from the dozens of universities who have recently conducted sexual assault surveys.  The RA will then assist in devising experimental materials that vary several key features of these communications and measure respondents' attitudes towards sexual assault and its remedies. 

Financial Aid and College Rhetoric (Faculty Leader: Michelle Jackson)

The cost of a college education has increased substantially in recent decades. Financial aid represents an effort, on the part of both government and colleges, to encourage applications from disadvantaged students.  This project examines the rhetoric that colleges use to describe financial aid.

Responsibilities: The RA will gather information on financial aid and social background diversity policies from college websites and identify key themes in the material.  The RA will attend bi-weekly meetings and will help to transform the written material into quantitative data for analysis.

Elite Mobility in the Chinese Bureaucracy (Faculty leader: Xueguang Zhou)

We will collect data on patterns of cadre mobility in selected Chinese regions and examine, through the flow of personnel, the interconnectedness of bureaucratic offices in the Chinese bureaucracy.

Responsibilities: The RA’s main responsibility is to collect data and conduct data analysis on this project. The student can learn real processes of conducting social science research, from data collection, data cleaning, to data analysis and report writing. I will have weekly meetings with my RA and graduate assistant together.

Stanford Class of 2017 (Faculty Leader: Doug McAdam)

What factors predict which members of a college class come to participate in various forms of campus activism?  By surveying the member of the incoming Stanford class of 2017 before their arrival on campus and then following up with 6 survey and 2 interview waves spanning their 4 years at Stanford, we hope, through this research to answer this question.

Responsibilities: Undergraduate RAs will be hired to help with two key project tasks: the transcription of interviews and the cleaning of survey data.

Work and Opportunity in the “New Economy” (Faculty Leader: David Pedulla)

How does working in a nonstandard or mismatched employment situation affect a worker’s employment opportunities? We will drawing on experimental data and qualitative interviews.

Responsibilities: For this project, the student would be involved in three primary research areas: 1) conducting targeted literature reviews on key issues related to the overarching argument of the book, 2) collecting, and potentially analyzing, secondary data related to nonstandard and mismatched employment, and 3) depending on interest and experience, conducting qualitative interviews with employers.

The Organizational Bases of Hiring Discrimination (Faculty Leader: David Pedulla)

This project draws on novel data to examine questions such as: Do employers with more structured personnel practices discriminate less during the hiring process? And, are employers with “family friendly” policies more or less likely to discriminate against mothers?

Responsibilities: The student would be involved in the process of designing the fictitious job applications for the pilot audit study, sending out applications to employers as part of the study, and tracking employers’ responses to the fictitious job applications. Students may also write code to automate key components of the audit study process.

Changing Sources of Inequality at the Starting Gate of Life: Stratification of birth weight in the U.S. (Faculty Leader: Florencia Torche)

Birth weight predicts later development and wellbeing. Birth outcomes are not equally distributed: Children born to women with low education, and who are racial minorities are more likely to be born low-weight than more advantaged infants. These socioeconomic gaps early in life signal an “initial disparity” that may contribute to the persistence of poverty and inequality across generations.

Responsibilities:  Research tasks will include reviewing the relevant literature, writing reports, and assisting Professor Torche in the quantitative analysis, including data cleaning, coding, and basic analysis.

The Effect of Immigration Policy on Infant Health. (Faculty Leader: Florencia Torche)

Several states across the country have considered legislation against undocumented immigrants. These policies may have an effect on the health and wellbeing of the targeted populations and beyond affecting even the in-utero experience of fetuses. The project will examine the effect of these policies on different racial/ethnic groups, with a particular focus on foreign-born Latino populations.

Responsibilities: Student RAs will examine media and other sources describing the immigration policies and their implementation. They will also assist Professor Torche in the preparation and analysis of the data, including data cleaning, coding, and quantitative analysis.

The History of Race in U.S. Vital Statistics (Faculty Leader: Aliya Saperstein)

Today, we take for granted not only that statistics on births, deaths, and marriages should kept by the government but also that these records should include information on the race and ethnicity of the people involved. However, the U.S. national vital statistics system is barely a century old and prior data collection was not standardized at all.

Responsibilities: Research assistance on this project will involve gathering contemporary information (e.g., sample birth and death certificates), as well as archival research to catalogue variation in past practices. RAs may also be asked to assist in conducting a literature review, and will write up memos and attend biweekly meetings to discuss progress on the project.