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Undergraduate Research Opportunities

2019-20  Research Projects for Undergraduate Participation

(some ongoing projects)

Political Polarization and Social Change (Faculty Leader: Robb Willer)

In 2018-19 Professor Willer will be conducting a series of experimental studies of where individuals' political attitudes and behaviors come from, and how they can lead to social change. Research will include topics such as polarization, persuasion, elitism, social activism, and racial resentment. A central idea of this project is that social and psychological factors powerfully influence political views, and research in this area can help to understand our often confusing political landscape. Additionally, understanding the causal architecture of political attitudes and behavior is essential for taking effective political action, especially in this time of deep and growing political divides. Prof. Willer will test theoretical claims about these concepts in a series of laboratory and field experiments.

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, and discuss projects with graduate students and other team members.


Gentrification and Displacement in the Bay Area (Faculty Leader: Jackelyn Hwang)

Description of project: This project will examine the consequences of gentrification and declining housing affordability in the Bay Area with a focus on residential displacement. The project will involve examining anti-displacement policy efforts and analyzing patterns of residential mobility in relation to neighborhood changes and housing and development policies.

Responsibilities: The research assistant will assist with the following activities: (1) review literature on anti-displacement policies and (2) map and compile results on gentrification and displacement in the Bay Area. Experience or interest in gaining experience with spatial data is a plus.

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

Description of project: 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 focus on creating and analyzing a database of ownership records and owner characteristics in San Francisco.

Responsibilities: The research assistant will assist with the following activities: (1) create a dataset on property sales and ownership changes over time by merging multiple sources of property ownership records over time and (2) code information on property owners and property locations for analysis.

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

Description of project: This project will develop, validate, and test the reliability of automated methods (based on computer vision and deep machine learning) to develop measures of the physical conditions of neighborhoods and will use these measures to examine the impact of changes in the physical conditions of urban environments on individual- and neighborhood-level health.

Responsibilities: Research assistants will engage in the following activities: (1) develop and administer surveys of neighborhood blocks using Google Street View imagery; (2) clean and code results from crowdsourced surveys, automated methods, and health data; and, (3) assist in developing and testing algorithms for automated methods.

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 Civilian Review Boards on Deadly Encounters with Local Police (Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

Recent efforts by the Black Lives Matter movement have prompted policymakers and scholars to consider whether patterns of police violence, crime, and poverty can be countered by establishing police-oversight boards called Civilian Review Boards (CRBs). This project explores the impact of movement activities from 1980 through the present on the establishment of CRBs to see if they affect the rate of civilian deaths in officer-involved shootings. 

Responsibilities: Students will develop detailed histories of each deadly encounter reported in newspapers (archived online by Newsbank, available from Stanford Library) to code all aspects of each event. Students will cross-check these data with the user-supplied archive Fatal Encounters. Students will also explore two other archives of officer-involved deaths, published beginning in 2015, by The Guardian (“The Counted”) and the Washington Post (“Fatal Force”) that each organization has verified. 

Ethnic and Racial Conflict in the Urban U.S., 1995-present (Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

This project analyzes rates of violence directed against African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jews, and other groups. Our key idea is that factors that increases in group competition (for jobs, housing, and other resources) triggers ethnic and racial conflict. We also explore whether political rhetoric expressed by elites at the national local level increases the rate of violence.

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

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.

Company Towns and Social Mobility (Faculty Leader: Michelle Jackson)

This project focuses on company towns – that is, towns that were shaped to large extent by a company or philanthropist. We will examine the characteristics of company towns, and ask whether the social structure of company towns tends to encourage (or discourage) social mobility.

Responsibilities: An RA will carry out background research on company towns, with the aim of producing a list of all company towns in the U.S.. Subsequently, we will examine whether or not company towns display patterns of social mobility that are distinctive relative to other towns.

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.

Inequality in Silicon Valley (Faculty Leader: Forrest Stuart)

Over the last two decades, Silicon Valley has witnessed one of the most dramatic growths in inequality found anywhere in the United States. This research project will produce a fine-grained demographic and spatial analysis of this development, which will allow for an up-close ethnographic examination of the causes, contours, and consequences of “tech-driven inequality.”

Responsibilities: The research assistant will be responsible for using GIS software and census data to analyze the cities, neighborhoods, and census tracts most affected. The research assistant will also conduct preliminary fieldwork alongside residents and organizations most impacted.