FOR WORKING PARENTS, arranging childcare can be difficult under the best of circumstances; when work schedules are unstable or unpredictable, the logistics become even more complex. In his recent paper, “Who Cares If Parents Have Unpredictable Work Schedules?: Just-in-Time Work Schedules and Child Care Arrangements,” published in the September issue of Social Problems, Professor of Public Policy Daniel Schneider explores survey data from more than 3,000 parents working in the retail and food service sector. In the United States, this sector accounts for 17 percent of jobs and employs the parents of one in 10 children. It is also often characterized by low wages and just-in-time (such as on-call or last-minute) scheduling practices. Schneider and his coauthors find that parents with just-in-time schedules are more likely to rely on informal sources of childcare, such as family members, babysitters, young siblings, or the children themselves. Given the extent to which quality of care impacts children, the researchers found, just-in-time scheduling is likely to have consequences for children’s development and safety and to contribute to the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage.
“Cancel Culture” and Academic Freedom
THE RECENT RISE of reckoning around issues of racism and ethnicity, sexual harassment and misogyny, and gender questions has led to much debate about the risks and benefits of “cancel culture,” the term used to describe the ostracization of those who are perceived to violate specific social norms. In her new working paper, “Closed Minds? Is a ‘Cancel Culture’ Stifling Academic Freedom and Intellectual Debate in Political Science?,” Pippa Norris, the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, explores claims that cancel culture is taking over college campuses, silencing conservative voices and diverse perspectives, and threatening classic liberal values at the heart of academic life. Using extensive data to examine this phenomenon within the discipline of political science, Norris explores the important social progress that can be achieved through liberalization, the risks in stifling differing opinions, and essential questions about the role academic freedom can play when social progress is at stake.
Chinese Public Opinion Through Time
China is home to the world’s largest population and its second-largest economy, and its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been in power for more than 70 years. Yet because of a lack of public and nationally representative data, it has been difficult to know how ordinary Chinese citizens feel about their government—until now. New research from the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, “Understanding CCP Resilience: Surveying Chinese Public Opinion Through Time,” lays out the findings of an extensive longitudinal survey tracking Chinese citizens’ satisfaction with the performance of their government at the town, county, provincial, and national levels. The authors—Anthony Saich, the Daewoo Professor of International Affairs and Ash Center director; Edward Cunningham, an adjunct lecturer in public policy; and Jessie Turel, an Ash Center postdoctoral fellow—find that satisfaction with the Chinese government increased from 2003 to 2016 overall, especially (perhaps surprisingly) among poorer and more marginalized inland groups. Additionally, the authors find that changes in attitude, both positive and negative, have corresponded to real changes in people’s material well-being. The survey’s results make clear that as China and the rest of the industrial world face the twin challenges of declining economic growth and environmental difficulties, the CCP cannot afford to take its citizens’ support for granted.
Putting Human Subjects First
POLITICAL VIOLENCE—including war, terrorism, and other forms of unrest—is among the most ethically complex topics studied by social scientists. Because direct interviews with victims, perpetrators, and witnesses can be difficult and dangerous for researchers and their subjects alike, many studies rely on “desk research”—the use of secondary sources such as newspaper articles, NGO reports, and other sources of qualitative data—which is often thought to be ethically unproblematic. But as Dara Kay Cohen, the Ford Foundation Associate Professor of Public Policy, and her coauthor argue in “Centering Human Subjects: The Ethics of ‘Desk Research’ on Political Violence,” published recently in the Journal of Global Security Studies, desk research based on secondary sources can involve significant ethical complexities. They write that scholars must carefully consider the risks these sources may pose for people and communities affected by violence and recommend a new framework for evaluating desk research, highlighting issues of vulnerability and inequity and calling for greater recognition of its potential consequences.
Pooled Testing in Developing Countries
THROUGHOUT THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC, one of the most frustrating constraints has been a lack of available test kits. Several policy proposals have put forth plans to advance mass testing in developed countries; however, that remains out of reach in many developing countries, owing to cost, distance, and supply considerations. In a recent article in the Lancet Microbe, “Optimising SARS-CoV-2 Pooled Testing for Low-Resource Settings,” Asim Khwaja, the Sumitomo-FASID Professor of International Finance and Development, and coauthors explore the potential benefits of group testing—testing samples from multiple people at the same time and taking further action only if there is a positive result—in developing countries. They use data to examine how well group testing, as compared with individual testing, can estimate the disease’s prevalence and help relax lockdown restrictions. The authors find evidence that group testing is not only an effective solution for developing countries but also more efficient and more socially responsible, given the global shortage of tests.
IN THE CURRENT CONGRESS and historically, political party leaders have played an essential part in setting both the substance of legislation and the broader legislative agenda. So why do party leaders tend to tilt more extreme than typical party members do? A new working paper, “Why Party Leaders Tend to Be Extremists,” explains this ideological phenomenon in terms of negotiation theory. Authors Richard Zeckhauser, the Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy; David King, a senior lecturer in public policy; and Benjamin Schneer, an assistant professor of public policy, argue that party members strategically select leaders who are extreme enough to aid in negotiations—where parties typically begin at the outer fringes and meet somewhere in the middle—but not so extreme as to lead to total breakdowns in negotiation. They explore the implications of this idea in terms of members’ electoral longevity and of how it manifests in different contexts, such as times of extreme polarization or majority-party advantage, finding significant evidence for their theory.
Photos by Martha Stewart, Markus Spiske, Tim Wimborne/Reuters