Current Projects

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Current Research Projects and Collaborations

Academic Partnership on Research and Training Inputs to the PHE Learning Lab in East Africa (APRILL)

Beginning in June 2016, this project will foster collaborative research and training on integrated approaches to women's empowerment and sustainable livelihoods in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) through the development of a cross-disciplinary UCB-UCSF Affinity Group of interested faculty and students. Research partners on and off campus will provide support on metrics to evaluate the value added of multi-sectoral approaches, and will assist in the design of curricula for short course training in the region. Classes in ESPM, SPH, GSPP and other departments will incorporate original case studies for discussion and interactive student projects. Funded by the non-profit organization Pathfinder International, the project contributes to Pathfinder’s Population, Health and the Environment (PHE) Learning Lab Initiative in East Africa.

Principal Investigator: Robin Marsh, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues


California Supreme Court Oral History Project

The California Supreme Court Oral History Project carries out research interviews with retired justices to create an archival complement to the written record of California's highest court and, by extension, the lower California courts. Recent work with the Supreme Court appointees of Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson centers on the court's work since the mid-1980s, exploring specific events (such as the changes wrought by the 1986 statewide election, when California voters declined to retain three sitting justices) and also such themes as capital punishment, victims' rights, legal challenges to key ballot measures, sentencing guidelines, alternative dispute resolution, state constitutionalism, and reforms to the statewide judiciary.

With generous partial support from the California Supreme Court Historical Society, the Administrative Office of the Courts' "Administration of Justice Fund" and law firms, the project operates under the leadership of Project Director Laura McCreery (mccreery@berkeley.edu) in consultation with Berkeley Law.

McCreery's oral history of the former chief justice of California, The Honorable Ronald M. George, was published by Berkeley Public Policy Press as Chief: The Quest for Justice in California and was named a California Book Award winner for 2013 by the Commonwealth Club of California.


Risky Brains: The Neurobiology of Aggression and Violent Behaviour and Its Social Implications

The project will provide a comprehensive overview and critical analysis of the neurobiology of violence and aggressive behaviour from a social science perspective. The key objective is to analyse how violence and aggression are studied in the neurosciences, and to outline the social and political implications associated with this research. With its interdisciplinary focus at the intersection of the neurosciences and the social sciences, the project will open up new perspectives in the study of violent and aggressive behaviour that transgress traditional disciplinary boundaries. It will make a contribution to the theoretical reflection of science and technology in society and also inform future neurobiological research. In order to study the neurobiology of aggression and violence from a social science perspective, the project combines document and literature analyses, interviews, and participant observations in neuroscience laboratories.

 Principal Investigator: Troy Duster, Chancellor's Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

 Co-Investigator: Torsten Heinemann, Professor of Sociology, Universität Hamburg; Marie Curie Fellow, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley


African Alumni Project

The African Alumni Project is a collaboration among six educational institutions to learn about the career and life trajectories of their African alumni, an idea that evolved from their participation in The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. The multi-disciplinary study (2013-2016) is advancing understanding of the myriad ways that Africans who study abroad pursue their careers and relate to their home countries and the African continent. Lessons learned from this study will guide partners to improve the environment for current and future African students and will shed light on the barriers and enabling factors related to return. Preliminary results are available in this post in the Association of Commonwealth Universities' "Measuring Success" blog series.

 Lead researcher: Robin Marsh, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues


Financial Crises

Professor Fligstein has written a series of papers with Adam Goldstein, Jacob Habinek, Jonah Stuart Brundage, Michael Schultz, and Alex Roehrkasse about the financial crisis that has swept the industrialized world since 2007. The papers with Adam Goldstein consider the history of the mortgage securitization industry and its development in tandem with the government. One of the papers also chronicles how investment, commercial, and savings and loans banks converged on a vertically integrated model of producing mortgages and securities and it was their lockstep move into the subprime market that ultimately set off the collapse. The work with Jacob Habinek considers how the crisis spread to other countries. Using a quantitative data set, they show that the main cause of the crisis was the purchase of American mortgage backed securities by banks in the developed world. The work with Jonah Stuart Brundage and Michael Schultz take up the question of when the Federal reserve recognized they the crisis was brewing. We show that as late as the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy in September of 2008, the Federal reserve still did not recognize the seriousness of the situation. The paper with Alex Roehrkasse considers why so many banks committed illegal acts like predatory lending and securities fraud. We show that banks needed to keep their mortgage pipelines full in order to be able to produce mortgages securites even as the supply of mortgages dried up. This caused them to originate more and more questionable loans which they then packaged into securities. Professor Fligstein is working on a book that will document with more archival materials what happened. 

Principal Investigator: Neil Fligstein, Class of 1939 Chancellor’s Professor, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley; Director of the Center for Culture, Organization, and Politics at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UC Berkeley


Inequality

Professor Fligstein has begun to explore the role of consumers in the more general process of financialization. Scholars have argued that consumers have had to become more financially savvy since the 1980s as they have taken control of their pensions, used their houses as investments, and managed large amounts of debt. The purpose of this project is to explore the degree to which this was true and to understand who and under what conditions various households began to act more and more like financial economists. In a paper with Adam Goldstein, they have shown that while everyone in America has more relaxed attitudes towards taking on debt to support their lifestyles, risk taking is resiircted to the top 20% of the population. They also show that the main source of new indebtedness is housing where people in the middle and upper middle classes are competing with the top of the income distribution for positional goods. There are two other papers in the pipeline. One shows how the financial situations of American households were affected by the crisis by examining data based on households surveyed during 2007-2009 (co-authored with Zawahdi Rucks Ahidiana). The other considers the role of lifestyle in attempts to "keep up with the Jones" as housing prices ballooned from 1997-2007 9with Pat Hastings and Adam Goldstein)

This project is being supported by a grant from the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Principal Investigator: Neil Fligstein, Class of 1939 Chancellor’s Professor, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley; Director of the Center for Culture, Organization, and Politics at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UC Berkeley


Unaccompanied Migrant Children

Since 2014, there has been a large increase in the numbers of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America entering the U.S. across the U.S. Mexico border. While these children have been at the center of a media firestorm, little is known about their health, mental health, and educational needs, and how U.S. communities are responding to those needs. This research project investigated the national, state, and Bay Area contexts to identify how many children are in detention, how many children have been released to family members and other sponsors, and the general patterns of their needs, as well as Bay Area community responses. The results are available in a Fact Sheet, as a downloadable pdf in both English and Spanish, as well as a web version in both English and Spanish.

Sponsoring Organizations: Center for Research on Social Change, Center for Latino Policy ResearchBerkeley Center for Social Medicine

Principal Investigator: Patricia Baquedano-López, Associate Professor, Education, UC Berkeley

Project Director: Deborah Lustig, Research Associate, CRSC, UC Berkeley

Undergraduate Student Researcher: Darlene Olmedo


The Bancroft Seminar in Latino and Borderlands History

This occasional seminar provides a forum for work in progress that explores topics in Latino and Borderlands History.  The purview includes not only traditionally defined historical research but also historically oriented work in the social sciences and humanities.  Thus topics may run the gamut from labor history to literary or art history; they may be single case studies of communities or transnational and comparative in scope.

One of the primary goals of the Bancroft Seminar is to provide constructive feedback on manuscripts in progress, with emphasis given to work by junior faculty and recent PhDs.  Another goal is to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and information among those working in Latino Studies.  We wish to break down the isolation that many of us find ourselves in.

The seminar’s cosponsors are the Chicano-Latino Studies Program, the Center for Research on Social Change, the Center for Latino Policy Research, and the Bancroft Library.  For 2014-2015, the coordinators are Professors David Montejano (montejano AT berkeley.edu) and Genaro Padilla (gpadilla AT berkeley.edu). 

Current plans call for convening at least twice a year.  For those wishing to propose a paper or manuscript, or simply to learn more about the Bancroft Seminar, please contact the seminar coordinators.


Social Insurance, Social Change

The Social Insurance, Social Change project conducts research on issues related to private and governmental programs and proposals to provide insurance for residents of the United States, examining different occupational and non-occupational medical insurance areas, different public and private payer sources, and different levels of state and federal governmental regulation. One branch of the project uses large administrative data sets to help design statutory and regulatory changes at the federal and state level that improve the efficiency of social insurance programs. Another focus has been on improving the outcomes, both economic and health, of beneficiaries of these programs. Current activities include developing a pilot for the State of California integrating occupational and non-occupational medical treatment under standard health insurance coverage, testing for the Social Security Administration whether early intervention with workers at the onset of disability could cost-effectively reduce transitions to Social Security Disability Insurance, and modeling alternative designs for long-term care insurance that the broad public wants to purchase and insurers want to sell. Principal Investigator Neuhauser is quoted in this Los Angeles Times article on injury claims among LA police officers and firefighters.

Principal Investigator: Frank Neuhauser, Senior Researcher in Residence, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues


Food Culture, Food Systems, Food Justice

In September of 2013, CRSC convened “Growing Food, Growing Justice: Making Connections,” a gathering of about 40 food justice scholars and activists from the Bay Area and Denmark. This event, co-sponsored by Aalborg University, University College Lillebaelt,  and Innovation Center Denmark, provided the foundation for an ongoing effort to incubate collaborative research on food justice. Since then, CRSC has hosted two Visiting Student Researchers from Denmark investigating school lunch and school gardens.


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