Research Projects

Research Projects

PhD in Human Development and Social Policy Claudia Hasse

Faculty in the School of Education and Social Policy conduct research that investigates how people learn and develop over the course of the life span. Research themes focus on individual development and the personal narrative; the life course and culture; development, intervention and culture; the life course and policy; analysis of policy effects on lives. The results of such research become powerful tools to shape education and social programs that make a difference in schools and communities and change the lives of children and families. The School of Education and Social Policy is a member of the University-Based Child and Family Consortium.


Cities Stress and Learning Study

In an NIH-funded study involving 300-plus Chicago Public Schools students between ages 11 and 18, Emma Adam and her collaborators are validating a new comprehensive measure of adolescent stress and examining associations between adolescent stress exposure and a wide range of emotional, health and academic outcomes. One area of particular focus is examining associations between stress, stress hormones, sleep and executive functioning, measured with computer tasks in the laboratory setting and the home. Variations in executive function will also be linked to adolescent health and academic outcomes.


Histories of Perceived Discrimination and Health

In a project funded by an NIH Grand Opportunities award, Emma Adam and colleagues are examining 20 years of prospective data, gathered from adolescence through young adulthood, to understand how histories of exposure to perceived racial/ethnic discrimination relate to a newly gathered set of biomarkers of stress and health in young adulthood. Detailed information on exposure to race-related and non-race-related stressors, as well as measures family functioning, and racial/ethnic identity and coping are available over a 20-year period. These are being related to a wide range of stress-sensitive biological measures in young adulthood.


Maryland Adolescent Development in Context Study

In this study, funded by an NIH Grand Opportunities Grant, Emma Adam, along with collaborators at Michigan, UCSF and Harvard, examines whether perceived racial discrimination, reported over a 20-year period (from ages 12 to 32), is related to biological markers of stress and health in young adulthood. Biological stress markers are measured during an in-home interview, in response to experimental computer-based stress tasks, and over the course of a one-week daily diary. With this research, Adam and colleagues will examine whether perceived discrimination and factors such as racial/ethnic identity and coping styles, which may modify responses to discrimination, help to explain racial/ethnic disparities in biomarkers of stress and health in early adulthood.


Two-Generation Education Interventions

Lindsay Chase Lansdale’s research program addresses the influence of two-generation interventions on the psychological health, educational attainment and economic well-being of families and children. Chase-Lansdale is collaborating with Jeanne Brooks-Gunn of Columbia University, Christopher King of the University of Texas at Austin, Hiro Yoshikawa of Harvard University, and Community Action Program (CAP) of Tulsa to expand and study a model program called CareerAdvance®. CareerAdvance is the only sectoral workforce development program with the goal of improving outcomes simultaneously for both parents and children. Designed for low-income parents of young children enrolled in CAP’s early childhood education programs, CareerAdvance provides key supports to prepare parents for high-demand jobs in healthcare.


Intergenerational Issues in Health and Education

Using matched birth records and school records, David Figlio is studying the degree to which public policies might influence the outcomes of children from different backgrounds. With Jeffrey Roth and Sarah Hamersma at the University of Florida, he is studying the role of information in determining WIC program participation and later school outcomes. Also, with Damon Clark of the University of Florida, Heather Royer of Case Western Reserve University and Paco Martorell of the RAND Corporation, he is investigating the pathways through which the intergenerational transmission of human capital operates.


School Accountability and School Practice

Studying the effects of school accountability design on student achievement and school behaviors is another part of David Figlio's research agenda. Together with Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University and Urban Institute colleagues Dan Goldhaber and Jane Hannaway, Figlio is analyzing original survey data collected from a three-wave census of public school principals in Florida and a two-wave survey of teachers in a state-representative sample of Florida schools. The researchers hope to measure the degrees to which accountability is changing school policies and practices in an attempt to get "inside the black box" of the performance effects of accountability. With Tim Sass and Li Feng of Florida State University, he is also studying how school accountability has influenced the teacher labor market.


School Vouchers in Florida

David Figlio is evaluating the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the largest school voucher program in the United States. He follows the performance of more than 20,000 voucher recipients statewide, which involves collection of original source data from all participating private schools. Using quasi-experimental research tools, Figlio examines (1) the effect of voucher receipt on student performance and family satisfaction, (2) the effect of private school competition on public school performance and (3) how a large statewide voucher program changes the market for private education.


Preventing Truancy in Urban Schools 

The high school dropout problem almost always starts much earlier with truancy from school. To shed light on the risk factors that lead to truancy and remedies, Jonathan Guryan is leading the first large-scale randomized effectiveness trial of Check & Connect, a structured mentoring, monitoring and case management program that has shown positive results. This intervention focuses on reducing chronic absenteeism and improving school engagement by pairing a mentor with students at risk for dropping out of school. Guryan is studying second, third, fourth and ninth graders who have a record of chronic absences in the Chicago Public Schools.


Reducing the Achievement Gap through a Summer Reading Program

Once children enter school, a reading gap between students of high and low socioeconomic status appears and grows, likely exacerbated by loss of instruction over the summer months. Jonathan Guryan is leading a five-year, multi-district randomized controlled trial to evaluate the Reading Enhances Achievement During the Summer (READS) program, which has shown moderate effectiveness. It will be administered to approximately 10,000 students over the course of the study. In addition to monitoring student achievement and overall progress, Guryan will also examine different how to improve its effectiveness, measure cost-effectiveness, and identify elements useful for expanding the program.


Reducing Juvenile Delinquency by Building Noncognitive Skills

Each year between 300,000 and 600,000 youth spend time in juvenile detention facilities, with a disproportionate number being low-income and minority youth. Jonathan Guryan and Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago are examining the underlying problems that cause youth to become involved with delinquency and violence. Previous research indicates that deficits in noncognitive skills — such as self-regulation, impulse control, social information processing and moral reasoning — might account for involvement with and relapses into delinquency. Using a randomized experimental design, Guryan and Ludwig are collecting data on all the approximately 4,000 male juveniles, most of whom are Latino or African American, entering a county juvenile detention system over 14 months. These youth have been randomly assigned to either a typical residential center or one providing a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to promote noncognitive skill development.


Clearing and Cleaning Criminal Records

The availability and accessibility of criminal records has increased dramatically over the last decade. As a result, many individuals find themselves forced to deal with a publicly available record of previous arrests, convictions and prison spells. Drawing on in-depth interviews with over 50 expungement-seekers, and in collaboration with Charles Loeffler,  Simone Ispa-Landa is analyzing how individuals who are seeking to remove the record from public view understand their criminal records  and the legal remedies available to them.  


Effects of Charter Schools on Teachers at Public Schools

Using data from North Carolina, Kirabo Jackson is analyzing how the opening of a charter school affects teacher turnover, hiring, effectiveness, and salaries at nearby traditional public schools. By analyzing a variety of teacher outcomes, he hopes to paint a relatively comprehensive picture of how charter school entry affects both the demand for and supply of teachers at pre-existing traditional public schools.


Effects of Single-Sex Schools in Trinidad and Tobago

Existing studies on single-sex schooling suffer from biases due to the fact that students who attend single-sex schools differ in unmeasured ways from those who do not. In Trinidad and Tobago, students are assigned to secondary schools based on an algorithm allowing one to address self-selection bias and estimate the causal effect of attending a single-sex school versus a similar coeducational school. Kirabo Jackson’s preliminary findings show that while students (particularly females) with strong expressed preferences for single-sex schools benefit, most students perform no better at single-sex schools.


Paying Students for Performance

Kirabo Jackson and Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote are examining the short- and long-term effects from a New York City program that pays high school seniors for achieving a score of  3, 4, or 5 on an Advanced Placement exam. He has also evaluated the Texas Advanced Placement (AP) Incentive Program, which pays low-income and minority students for scoring well on their AP tests. The Texas study shows that schools offering students $100 to $500 for scores of 3 or higher have more students taking AP courses, more scoring well, and more going to college — an increase of 8 percent. In addition, the Texas students’ SAT and ACT scores rose by 30 percent. A follow-up study finds that affected students attend college in greater numbers and are more likely to remain in college and have improved college GPAs.


Foley Center for the Study of Lives

Funded by a grant from the Foley Family Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Foley Center for the Study of Lives is an interdisciplinary research project committed to studying psychological and social development in the adult years.

See Dan P. McAdams.


College Access and Success

With funding from the Spencer Foundation, James Rosenbaum is studying ways to improve the college access and college success of disadvantaged students. The researchers are analyzing a comprehensive survey of all students in Chicago Public Schools over a four-year time span, and conducting detailed interviews with students at the beginning and end of their senior year. They are also doing surveys and interviews with guidance counselors. By identifying poor sources of information and problematic plans, they hope to identify and remedy some of the problems that can lead to ineffective college planning and decisions. Special attention is given to new counseling models and assessment of their impact, using quantitative and qualitative analyses.


College Attendance and "Coaches"

Since 2005, James Rosenbaum has been gathering ethnographic and administrative data from a new college counseling program in Chicago public schools that targets disadvantaged students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. The program helps students overcome cultural barriers by pairing them with “college coaches,” who advise them on their options for college, demonstrate how to work with admissions counselors, and assist with scholarship applications. Following nearly all Chicago public school seniors through the fall after high school, Rosenbaum and Jennifer Stephan of the American Institutes for Research find that coaches improve the types of colleges students attend by getting students to complete key actions, with the most disadvantaged students benefiting the most, suggesting that targeting social capital might improve the high-school-to-college transition for these students.


Employers and Community Colleges

James Rosenbaum‘s project looks at the hiring process from the vantage points of both employers and educators. The researchers are interviewing administrators and staff at 12 urban and suburban schools about how the schools prepare students for the workforce and help graduates get jobs. Data from 1,200 students will shed light on their education and work training, and their career expectations. Local employers will be asked how they get information about school programs, how they decide whether these programs meet their needs, and whether they influence curricula.


The High-School-to-Work Transition

From a sample of 500 U.S. high schools, James Rosenbaum is pinpointing various links between school and work and their impact on employers, teachers, and students, especially low-income and minority youth. His research team is also interviewing school personnel and students in 12 high schools with different types of linkages to employers. They are analyzing reform experiments that use these arrangements to improve the motivation of work-bound students.


Should College Be for All?

James Rosenbaum’s research team is conducting a longitudinal study of all seniors at 82 public high schools in Chicago, seeking to extend understanding of the varied institutional procedures that shape the high-school-to-college transition process for students. Using data generated by the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the National Student Clearinghouse, it is possible to model trajectories from sixth grade through the year following high school. Results will be used to determine the effectiveness of guidance programs and provide high schools with highly relevant information about how to help their students make the transition to college.


Childhood Exposure to the Food Stamp Program

Diane Schanzenbach and economists Douglas Almond of Columbia University and Hilary Hoynes of the University of California, Davis, have been investigating the impact of the food-stamp program in several arenas, including the later-life economic and health outcomes of children born to mothers receiving food stamps. The researchers find that in utero exposure to the food-stamp program predicts better health outcomes and more years of education. The research is expanding to model exposure to food stamps throughout childhood.


Long-Term Effects of Education Interventions

In an innovative new study, Diane Schanzenbach and her colleagues at the University of California-Berkeley and Harvard tested whether kindergarten classroom quality and student test scores make a difference in adult outcomes, using data from the Tennessee Project STAR experiment from the 1980s. Project STAR randomly assigned nearly 12,000 children to kindergarten classrooms with varying class sizes and followed the student’s progress through third grade. The researchers show the impact of the students’ kindergarten class experience on their wages, total years of education, and other adult outcomes.   


School Accountability Pressures and Children's Health

Diane Schanzenbach is investigating the unintended consequences of school accountability pressures for children’s health with Patricia Anderson of Dartmouth College and Kristin Butcher of Wellesley. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), schools facing increased pressure to produce academic outcomes might reallocate their efforts in ways that inadvertently affect the health of their students, for example, by cutting back on recess and physical education in favor of more classroom time.


Distributed Leadership Study

The Distributed Leadership Study is a longitudinal study of urban school leadership. The study is designed to explore and understand leadership as a practice of instructional improvement and to examine the relations between leadership practice and teachers' classroom work. The goal is to construct a theoretical framework that is grounded in the day-to-day practice of leadership. See James P. Spillane.


Principal Policy and Practice Study

The primary goal of the Principal Policy and Practice Study is to examine the preparation, recruitment, retention and career paths of school principals through an in-depth look within Chicago Public Schools. Supported by funding from the Spencer Foundation, this work led by James P. Spillane is undertaken in collaboration with the Consortium for Chicago School Research. 

Contact Us

The Graduate Program in Human Development and Social Policy

School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-4329

Email: sesp-hdsp@northwestern.edu