2012-2013 Issue

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Volume 8 | 2012-2013

Contents Interview with Rhodes Scholar Sarah Smierciak


Interview with NSF recipient Sally Nuamah



Feature: “Catch-Up” Cognitive Growth in Filipino Children Gabija Revis



Feature: The Number One (Digital) Princess in the World: VOCALOID, Hatsune Miku, and the Blending of Humanity and Technology Sam Barker



Mental Health In A Himalayan Nomadic Community: The Impact Of A Changing Lifestyle On The Expressions and Healing of Mental Distress Harika Rayala



The Paris of Latin America: ¿Sos Bienvenido? Melissa Rothman



Examining the Political and Economic Effects of the Australian Carbon Tax Alyssa Lloyd



Higher Education Alternatives for Disadvantaged Students Andrea Marcos




From the Editors


About the Contributors


Call for Submissions


You can also view the Journal online at groups.northwestern.edu/nurj

Acknowledgements The staff of the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal would like to express its appreciation for all those who recognize and contribute to our endeavors. Without their support, we would have been unable to produce the 2012-2013 volume of the Journal. First, we would like to thank Morton Schapiro, President of Northwestern University, along with Provost Daniel I. Linzer and Ronald R. Braeutigam, the Associate Provost, for their generous patronage and unwavering commitment to undergraduate research. We are especially appreciative of our faculty adviser, Professor Allen Taflove of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, for his thoughtful and efficient guidance. It is thanks to him that we are able to produce the best possible version of the Journal. We thank our Chief Designer Logan Fassbinder and Cover Designer Lauren Guiteras for their creative and professional work, and Kathy Barnes of Creative Print Arts for a quality print job. Finally, we would like to extend a special thank you to all those who submitted to this year’s volume of the Journal. It is by virtue of your work that NURJ publishes each year.

NURJ Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal Volume 8 | 2012-2013 Staff Co-Editor-in-Chief: Co-Editor-in-Chief: Managing Editor: Editing and Review Team:

Alina Dunbar Angelica Kielbus Judith Kim Monica Blazek Monica Cheng Yujia Ding Jinhak Kim Zayn Tajamal Varsha Venkatakrishna Sophia Weber

Faculty Adviser Allen Taflove

Cover Design Lauren Guiteras

Layout and Graphic Design Logan Fassbinder


NURJ Office Technological Institute Room M471 2145 Sheridan Road Evanston, IL 60208 Contact Us For general inquiries: northwestern.urj@gmail.com For submissions: submissions.nurj@gmail.com

Creative Graphic Arts

Website groups.northwestern.edu/nurj


In last year’s volume of the Journal, we incorrectly spelled “MircoRNA-21” in the title of James Lee’s abstract. The correct title is: “Targeting MicroRNA-21 for Therapy Against Prostate Cancer Progression and Metastatis.” We apologize for the error.

Mission Statement The Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal provides students with the opportunity to write, edit, and submit original research. The goal of the Journal is to encourage the dissemination of ideas, increase undergraduate awareness of and involvement in research, and serve as a venue to showcase the impressive work being performed by undergraduates at Northwestern. The views, statements, and conclusions expressed in the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal are the authors’ own and not necessarily those of the Journal or of Northwestern University.

Letter from the Editors To the Northwestern Community: We are pleased to present you with the eighth annual volume of the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal. Whether you are an undergraduate, professor, graduate student, or administrator, we are glad you have decided to engage with this exciting and impressive area of research on the Northwestern campus. The articles and abstracts in this year’s Journal will lead you through the complexities of higher education for disadvantaged students, the cross-cultural forces at work in a nomadic Himalayan community, and the uncanny combination of humanity and technology in vocal performance. In addition, you will learn about the potential of catch-up cognitive growth in undernourished children, explore the political and legal status of informal settlements in Buenos Aires, and consider the effects of the carbon tax in Australia. We hope that this journey proves informative and engaging. While the Journal always strives to spread awareness about undergraduate research, this year’s Journal seeks to inspire potential researchers as well. The interviews with the Rhodes Scholar and the National Science Foundation grant recipient, in addition to our two featured research articles, represent the apex of research achievement. For the past three years, we have had the wonderful opportunity to serve as Co-Editorsin-Chief of NURJ, and in that time, we have encountered a diverse and talented range of students conducting creative and impactful research projects. We are honored to have learned alongside our peers in the review and editing process, an experience that has shaped us both as editors as well as the instigators of our own research projects. We hope you enjoy the 2012-2013 volume of the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal. Alina Dunbar & Angelica Kielbus Co-Editors-in-Chief


An Interview With Sarah Smierciak Rhodes Scholar Recipient Interviewed by Monica Cheng

photo courtesy of Sarah Smierciak

ISmierciak n 2011, the year of her graduation, Sarah was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, one

of the most prestigious international fellowships that is awarded to 32 Americans each year for outstanding academic achievement, leadership, character, and commitment to the common good. Rhodes Scholars receive full financial support to pursue a degree at the University of Oxford. Smierciak is currently studying international development with a Middle Eastern focus. Q: How did you learn about the Rhodes Scholarship?

A: I probably wouldn’t have even thought to apply had it not been for Sara Vaux and her team at the Office of the Fellowships: Beth Pardoe, Steve Hill and Brad Zakarin. The Office of Fellowships does an amazing job of promoting a range of scholarships. I had been going there for help with grant applications since freshmen year. They walked me through the whole process of putting together the application and preparing for the interviews. I will never forget the call I got in my room in Cairo the night the Rhodes application was due. It was something like 3am Egypt time and I was frantically trying to finish my thousandth draft, thinking about not submitting it. I answered the unknown number and all I heard was, “JUST GET IT IN!” I wish I had that voice of reason for everything I do, really.

Q: What does your typical day look like? Is it different from Northwestern?

A: I actually feel a bit like I’m back in junior high in that I’m with the same group of 24 students every day. We have a set of four classes that we all share for the most part: economics, anthropology, quantitative research methods, and the core international development course. Each day of the week is assigned a subject and mornings are typically lectures followed by afternoon classes (similar to Northwestern’s discussion sessions). The only exception is my 6

Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal

Turkish course that’s outside of my department, which I’ve kind of snuck into. The Rhodes community has also been a huge part of my “Oxford experience.” This is probably the biggest difference from my time at Northwestern-- just the way an enormous group of really interesting individuals from a smattering of backgrounds are constantly brought together at the various Rhodes House events. It’s really been a locus of much of my experience here-- as much as I try to branch out.

Q: How did you discover your interest in Middle Eastern studies? A: I actually started out in pre-med and cognitive science, but during my freshman year I took Introduction to Modern Middle Eastern History with Professor Carl Petry. I really knew nothing about the Middle East before that course. On the first day of class I remember a moment of panic when we had to go around the room and say our favorite figure in the Middle East, past or present. I couldn’t even think of a name. I finally came up with former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Buhtto, only to be informed by the TA that actually Pakistan was not in the Middle East. I think I found the class so fascinating not just because of the region itself, but also because it was my first real look into colonialism, decolonization and the nationalist movements that emerged in the process. All of my previous history classes were very U.S.-Euro-centric. Dr. Petry’s course fostered a deep academic curiosity for the Middle East, and that academic curiosity transformed into something even more meaningful after living in the region.

Q: Have you had any other experiences abroad?

A: My parent’s were not in love with the idea that I go to Morocco-- where I was planning to study Arabic in the summer after my Freshman year-- so as a consolation I was allowed to study in Spain. (I did not complain about that one.) The next summer I did an intensive Arabic course in Cairo, and stayed in Egypt for another four months to study

Interview Interview at AUC-- the American University in Cairo. And then, I split the following summer between Syria and Egypt doing more language work mostly, and went back to Cairo after I graduated from Northwestern.

Q: Did anything surprising or unexpected happen while you were at Egypt? A: Something surprising and unexpected happened every day while I was in Egypt. That’s what makes it such a special place. It’s funny that when I think back about what was strange, things that were actually very familiar come to mind-- or rather people who were familiar, just out of place. I think I’ve somehow managed to separate my life in Egypt from my life in the States to such a degree that when the two worlds meet, it’s a bit odd. Two of my professors—Carl Petry and Will Reno—visited Cairo while I was there and we were able to meet up. Dr. Petry and I had lunch at one of his favorite old sandwich shops that he used to go to as a student in Cairo, and he told me about the Egypt he remembered from the 70s that looked very different from the one we were in. Professor Reno was visiting a PhD student of his, who is also friend of mine, and they came all the way out-- nearly two hours--to see me and my students in a not so nice part of town on not the best public transportation. It was serious cultural dissonance, but really nice.

Q: What was the most meaningful or memorable experience you had during your stay in Egypt?

for another year after coming back. One of the great things about Ragy is that he’s passionate about the language and really infuses it with life. In my Turkish class here at Oxford, there’s a lot of emphasis on grammar and everything is very structured. It’s rigorous and challenging, but it lacks a certain oompf that Ragy provided so well. Dr. Bienen has also become a wonderful mentor, perhaps even more so since I’ve left NU. We still keep in touch and he’s been incredibly supportive and helpful with my current dissertation research. I know just naming names is doing them a disservice, but I can go on for hours talking about the professors who influenced me at Northwestern: Professors Bushnell, Kinra, Rekhess, Lauziere, Reno-- all influenced me in a variety of ways, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Q: What’s the best thing about Northwestern? What advice would you give to current undergraduates interested in pursuing grants and fellowships in their areas of interest? A: The beautiful thing about Northwestern is the number of opportunities. I recommend becoming aware of amazing resources available as soon as possible. There are brilliant professors who are willing to open their doors and talk to you about your interests. The Buffet Center is a phenomenal place. The Office of Fellowships is an incredible asset that is, I think, underutilized-and it’s not just about getting grants; the people there help you decide how to begin projects you’re passionate about by linking you to the appropriate funding sources. I’m starting to feel like their PR person now, but they do a really great job at helping you articulate and understand what you want to do.

A: I hate to say this because I know how trite it sounds, but my experiences in Egypt changed my life on a very deep level. Still it’s hard to pinpoint one exact moment or experience that is the most defining. Q: What advice do you have for NorthSarah Smierciak I remember drinking tea in the evenings western undergraduates? Fun Facts with my neighbor on her little stoop. Her A: A basic principle I try to live by is to What activities were you involved husband owned a laundromat attached do something every day that makes you in at Northwestern? to their house and I brought a scarf to be uncomfortable. It might be something as Triathlon club cleaned once and somehow found myself simple as talking to a professor after class Middle East and Central Asia (MECA) Report Model Arab League adopted, included in their family outings about something you found interesting and wedding festivities. I also remember in the lecture, or going to office hours, or Favorite foods? the bread maker’s young sons who would deciding to study a new subject you never Quinoa deliver bread every day from house to thought to study. I find the most enriching Greek yogurt and honey house. I lived above a bread oven-- It Dark chocolate experiences tend to come from breaking out wasn’t really a bakery; they just had an of your comfort zone. Explore! oven where the put in the dough, and bread would come out on a conveyor belt. Q: What are your future plans? Whenever the little boys would see me leave in the morning A: I’m planning on staying for another two years after this for work, they’d race their bicycles down the street to say good program for a DPhil [in International Development]. As for morning, and when I’d come back, they’d be all covered with a future career, it’s hard to say. I’m leaning towards acaflour and we’d sit and joke. These little day to day interactions demia but only if I would be able to actively participate in were, to me, the most meaningful moments. the policy realm at the same time. We learn about all of the

Q: Who are the most influential people you know from Northwestern? A: Professor Petry has been extremely influential, as has my Arabic instructor, Ragy Mikhaeel. I took Arabic with him my sophomore year before going to Egypt, and then Volume 8, 2012-2013

failed paradigms of development in my program. I’d like to pursue a career where I can help do something about those failures, not just talk about them.

Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Interview An Interview With Sally Nuamah National Science Foundation Scholarship Recipient Interviewed by Yujia Ding

photo courtesy of Sally Nuamah

After graduating from George Washington University in 2011, Sally Nuamah received a National Science Foundation scholarship to continue pursuing her research interests in graduate school at Northwestern University. While an undergraduate, Sally participated in the Northwestern University Summer Research Opportunities Program, which led her to pursue her research and graduate studies here at Northwestern. The core of Sally’s research focuses on the causes of academic success among female adolescents. As an undergraduate, Sally received a research grant that allowed her to travel to Ghana and study secondary school girls. Sally has found that in Ghana, as well as in other developing countries, girls are not necessarily prompted to enter into public spaces, including school. Of her research career, Sally has mused that “you never know what will happen and you never know what an opportunity will lead you to”. Everything began with a small

grant, she pointed out, and that grant led her across the world and now into graduate school. She hopes to continue to travel and study what she is passionate about. Through her research, Sally hopes to have “a positive impact in the world”. Her advice to current undergraduate students looking to become involved in research is to keep in mind that research is an “iterative … [and] very long process and you don’t know where it will take you”. This should not in any way deter those who are interested. Research questions are constantly evolving and you must periodically look back to where you started and evaluate where you are going. But the little discoveries that you make along the way help to remind you why you got involved in the first place. Finally, Sally says that the most basic rule of thumb when it comes to research is that you “choose a topic that engages you” so that you never get tired of your project.

See her Tedx talk here: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Clapping-with-OneHand-Sally-Nu


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“Catch-up” Cognitive Growth in Filipino Children Gabija Revis Biological Anthropology

Dr. William Leonard Thesis Adviser

Dr. Helen Schwartzman and Dr. Christopher Kuzawa Secondary Advisers

Sadaf Hasnain and Jared Briggs Graduate Mentors

Children who are stunted are more likely to experience physical, cognitive, and motor skill delay. As adults, those who were stunted in childhood are at risk for increased morbidity and mortality, even after the physical symptoms of stunting have disappeared. Additionally, they are more likely to drop out of school early, be unemployed, and to have higher stress levels later in life. This study examined 1,879 children in the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, a community-based cohort in Cebu, Philippines, and compared their IQ scores at ages eight and eleven years in relation to their nutritional status at age two years. Children who were stunted at age two years had significantly lower IQ scores than nonstunted peers at both age eight and eleven years, but the gap between the two groups diminished significantly over time. This suggests that children who are stunted at age two years may be capable of “catching-up” cognitively despite early linear growth retardation. The ability to “catch-up”appears contingent on the child’s socioeconomic background, particularly the mother’s education level and household asset level (number of TVs, radios, etc). As the children grow older, nutritional status appears to be a less significant predictor of change in IQ than these socioeconomic factors. Based on this analysis, I suggest that children who are stunted are more sensitive to socioeconomic factors later in childhood, and that the conditions of poverty exacerbate the biological disadvantages associated with undernutrition.


Feature revealed that the average IQ scores for many populations have The first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) been rising at an average rate of three points per decade since developed by the UN aims to halve the proportion of people 1930 (Flynn 1987). The countries in his study mostly European suffering from hunger by 2015 but “Hunger” is difficult to de- nations such as Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium had also fine and even more difficult to measure (“Eradicate Poverty & been experiencing significant economic growth during the time Hunger” 2013). One anthropometric indicator used to monitor that Flynn noticed these climbing IQ averages (Flynn 2009). Flyprogress on the first MDG is the prevalence of undernutrition in nn’s work “Massive IQ gains in 14 nations” posed a paradox to children under age five. Linear growth retardation, or “stunting,” the world of intelligence testing: “either the people of today are is the most commonly used anthropometric index of chronic un- far brighter than their parents, or, at least in some circumstances, dernutrition. Stunting is defined as having a low height-for-age IQ tests are not a good measure of intelligence” (Flynn 1987). Flynn’s discovery, to some Z score (HAZ) less than or equal extent, transformed the meaning to 2. While it is estimated that It is estimated that as many as one in of intelligence testing. While IQ as many as one in three chilthree children suffer from undernutrition tests had largely been considered dren suffer from undernutrition an objective measure of intelliin the developing world. in the developing world, envigence, Flynn’s results suggested ronmental factors, economic that other factors influence scores. As they were too rapid to be factors, and social contexts play a central role in determining a attributed to genetic changes, Flynn theorized that changes in child’s vulnerability to growth retardation (Black et al. 2008). In IQ over the last century may be due to changes in schooling. many countries, the number of children affected by stunting is Because children now attend school longer and have become higher among the poor (Black et al. 2008). Several disciplines, much more familiar with the testing of school-related material, including anthropology, developmental biology, public health, the IQ gains over the last sixty years may be attributed to chiland international nutrition, have examined the adverse effects dren spending more time in school (Flynn 1987, Neisser 1997) of early childhood undernutrition on physical growth, cognitive T here are several other possible explanations proposed development, adult health outcomes, and human capital poten- for the Flynn effect. One theory suggests that the child’s tial later in life (Adair 1999, Martorell 1999, Brown & Pollitt 1996, general environment is much more complex and stimulatWachs 1995, Victora et al. 2008). These studies have demonstrating than a half-century ago and increases in intelligence ed that children who are stunted at an early age face numerous are due to an increase in exposure to visual media (Flynn physical, cognitive, and emotional obstacles well into adult1987). David Marks attributes the change in IQ to the rise in hood, where the same socioeconomic factors may or may not literacy rates around the world (Marks 2010). Improvement be present. These disadvantages can also be transgenerational in health (better nutrition and decreasing rate of infectious and cyclic, meaning that unhealthy and disadvantaged mothers disease worldwide) is another possible explanation for the are more likely produce unhealthy and disadvantaged children general increases in IQ scores around the world. Scientist (Martorell 1999). Richard Lynn supports the nutrition hypothesis, arguing Although IQ scores have been steadily increasing that cultural factors alone cannot explain the Flynn effect throughout the world in the last century (a phenomenon because overall IQ gains are observed even at infant and prereferred to as The “Flynn Effect”), with children today exhibschool levels (Lynn 2009). According to Lynn, this rules out iting higher IQ scores than their parents and grandparents, improvements in education, greater test sophistication, and the changes in IQ scores among the world’s poorest have other factors that have been proposed to explain the Flynn not been fully documented (Flynn 2009). Many researchers effect. Lynn hypothesizes that the most significant factor attribute this worldwide rise in IQ scores to improved nutrihas been improvements in pre-natal and early post-natal nution and increased schooling, of which familiarity with stantrition, which leads to increased brain development (Lynn dardized testing is a component. (Flynn 1987, Neisser 1997, 2009). Lynn 2009). The Flynn Effect observed throughout the world suggests that IQ scores measure a broad range of factors, not just raw intelligence level. This research examines this The Biology of Stunting relationship by analyzing children from lower socioeconom- If better nutrition can explain gains in IQ scores around ic backgrounds in the Philippines and documents the devel- the world, as the nutrition hypothesis suggests, then poor opment of individual IQ scores. Is poor nutritional status nutrition must be having damaging effects on IQ potential. at age two years a “death sentence” for a child’s cognitive The relationship between poor nutrition during early childcapacity? In addition to nutritional status, there might be hood and physical development has been well studied. The other socioeconomic factors that can effectively predict IQ “critical” period for childhood development falls between score. Although nutritional status at age two years is one of birth and age five years. Children less than three years old the best predictors of amount of schooling complet- are most vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition (Martorell ed—and possibly cognitive capacity—are some children 1999). This is because growth rates in the first few years are able to recover cognitively (Victora et al. 2008)? much higher than later years of adolescence (WHO 2009). Undernutrition during these critical growth years can mean The Flynn Effect In the mid 1980s, intelligence researcher James Flynn a reduction of energy and resources dedicated to the devel-



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Feature opment of the brain. This causes deceleration of growth as an adaptive response to suboptimal nutrition (Georgieff 2007). Slowing of growth can not only lead to visible physical underdevelopment (in height and weight), but also lead to less visible underdevelopment of certain areas of the brain, such as the motor speech cortex and anterior cerebellum (connective regions of the brain were linked to higher IQ scores in one study) (Ramsden et. al. 2011). The most important cause of nutritional growth retardation (NGR) worldwide is poverty-related malnutrition involving multiple macro-and-micro nutrient deficits (Cole & Lifshitz 2008). Nutrients and growth factors regulate brain development during fetal and early postnatal life. Certain nutrients, including protein, certain fats (notably longchain polyunsaturated fatty acids [LCPUFAs]), iron, zinc, and vitamin A are critical to brain development (Georgieff 2007). For example, protein-energy malnutrition causes not only general developmental deficiencies, as demonstrated by intelligence testing, but also area-specific effects on the hippocampus and the cortex (Georgieff 2007). A lack of protein compromises the body’s ability to build cells that make muscles, membranes, cartilage, and hair. Additionally, without protein, cells struggle to carrying oxygen throughout the body, to transport and absorb nutrients, and to produce antibodies and enzymes that are needed for most of the body’s day-to-day functions (Victora et al. 2008). Malnutrition due to lack of calories or protein in the diet can also have a variety of effects on the body. Calories are essential for involuntary homeostasis (breathing, blood circulation, digestion, maintaining muscle tone and body temperature), physical activity, mental activity, immune system function, and growth. Iron deficiency alters myelination, monoamine neurotransmitter synthesis, and hippocampal energy metabolism in the neonatal period (Georgieff 2007). Zinc deficiency alters autonomic nervous system regulation and hippocampal and cerebellar development (Cole & Lifshitz 2008). Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are important for synaptogenesis, membrane function, and, potentially, myelination (Georgieff 2007). Lacking the fatty acids necessary for membrane function can stall cell growth in early development stages and severely limit the child’s ability to develop higher cognitive ability. Biologically speaking, the effects of undernutrition are detrimental to child development. However, the effect of nutrient deficiencies in the diet, such as those listed above, is dependent on the timing and severity of deficit (Mendez & Adair 1999). The specific effects of several nutrients have been traced to certain areas of the brain that develop during early postnatal life. A diet that lacks proper nutrients can manifest itself in measurable ways, such as stunting, but a full understanding of the harmful effects on the brain cannot be fully measured. The analysis below attempts to quantify the relationship between stunting and the developmental potential of children by linking stunting to IQ scores, but it should be stressed that the influence of malnutrition on development can affect the body in many more ways than non-verbal intelligence scores. Volume 8, 2012-2013

T he biological effects of stunting can persist long after the child’s “critical” years; children who are stunted may also experience higher cortisol levels (a marker of stress) and higher heart rates later in life, contributing to overall poorer health than their nonstunted peers (Fernald & McGregor 1998). Stunting has also been associated with several adult health outcomes, including delayed motor and behavior skills, increased morbidity, and higher risk of obesity (Martorell 1999). O ne Guatemalan study, (the classic INCAP study), found that while two year old children given a nutrition supplement every day performed at about the same level on cognitive tests later in childhood regardless of economic status, the test scores of children given a less nutritious supplement varied with poverty levels (Brown & Pollitt 1996). The same study found that malnutrition hindered cognitive abilities through several interacting pathways, including increased morbidity, delayed physical growth, lethargy and social withdrawal, and brain damage. In addition, this study confirmed that low economic status exacerbated all conditions by demonstrating that impoverished children are at particularly high risk for cognitive impairment later in life (Brown & Pollitt 1996).

Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Health

s the Guatemalan study described above demonstrates, soA cioeconomic status is consistently associated with health outcomes. Individuals with higher socioeconomic status typically exhibit better health than those with lower status (Martorell 1999). Socioeconomic differences are found for rates of mortality and morbidity for almost every disease and condition (Adler 1994). But the many variables linking socioeconomic status and health are dynamically intertwined and often difficult to detangle from one another. Lower-income families generally consume poorer-quality foods and experience higher daily stress levels (Adler 1994). In turn, these families are also

Figure 1: The transgenerational, cyclical nature of poverty. Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Feature more likely to experience poor health outcomes. However, since these families come from lower socioeconomic status, they often cannot afford quality medical care or gain access resources to help improve their quality of living. The result of this lifestyle is a cyclic, inter-generational transmission of poverty and poor health from mothers experiencing poor health to children born into poor environments. A visualization of this cycle can be seen in Figure 1. St udies on a variety of populations distributed across geographic time and space have corroborated that socioeconomic and demographic factors are associated with stunting in early childhood (Frongillo et al. 1997). As discussed above, young children have demanding nutritional requirements during the “critical” first five years of life as their bodies and brains develop. These young children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of malnutrition because they are, for the most part, unable to care for themselves and are more vulnerable to environmental factors such as poor parenting (Martorell 1999). Because young children have less-developed immune systems, they are also more susceptible to disease and infection than older children (Martorell 1999). This vulnerability can be intensified by poverty, where a sick child may not have access to health care due to a family’s financial or time constraints. The result is an undernourished, immuno-compromised child that has little ability to escape the vicious cycle of poverty later in life.

Child Undernutrition & Human Capital

U ndernutrition in poor societies is best viewed as a “syndrome of developmental impairment,” which can include growth failure, delayed motor, cognitive, and behavioral development, decreased immune function, and increased morbidity and mortality (Martorell 1999). More importantly, it can be considered a multi-generational impairment, as suggested by research that links grandmother’s height to grandchildren’s birthweight (Victora 2008). As Martorell points out, disadvantages stemming from malnutrition can persist into adulthood, as previously malnourished children may exhibit lowered work capacity, decreased intellectual performance, and increased risk of childbirth complications as adults (Martorell 1999). While child growth is internationally recognized as an important public health indicator for monitoring nutritional status and health in children, it is also an important indicator for overall population health. Although the United Nations has stressed the importance of child health in the first Millennium Development Goal, which aims to dramatically reduce the number of children suffering from stunting, an understanding on lasting effects of undernutrition is not complete. Children who suffer from linear growth retardation tend to be at a greater risk for illness and death, thus, globally increasing the burden of disease (Martorell 1999). But perhaps the greatest burden of child undernutrition lies in the inability of previously stunted adults to make a significant contribution in terms of global human capital. From an economic perspective, human capital refers to 12

Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal

the economic value of an individual’s skill set. As a nation, aggregate growth of human capital is critical to economic development. Human capital is traditionally measured by a nation’s standard of education, employment rate, and strength of economy. Overall health, though not included in human capital measurements, can often predict a nation’s economic productivity (Gluckman et al. 2009). Poorly developed nations often feature a productive capacity that has been limited by disease burden, mortality, or social factors. Not surprisingly, many studies have found that nutritional status at age two years is one of the best predictors of human capital, as measured by work status and schooling completed (Carba et al 2009, Victora et al 2008). Like many biological factors, human capital must be understood within a transgenerational context. Societies benefit from children who can learn skills from adults. Uneducated adults offer little in terms of current human capital themselves and, in the absence of quality schooling and healthcare, almost no future human capital through their children (Victora et al 2008).

Developmental Plasticity

Although an overwhelming portion of literature is dedicated to the harmful short-term and long-term effects of early childhood growth trauma, there is also an increasing emphasis on postnatal developmental and neural plasticity in individuals throughout life. Developmental plasticity stems from the idea that the structure of one’s brain demonstrates different levels of adaptability during the course of development. It provides individuals with the flexibility to adjust their developmental life course in response to their environment, an adaptive feature that was critical during the course of human evolution (Gluckman et al. 2009). The brain is most elastic during the critical period from birth to age five years (Stiles 2000). It may be because of this elasticity that the developing brain is less vulnerable to trauma (from injury or, perhaps, chronic malnutrition). But at the end of the fifth year, the brain’s organization is not set in stone. In fact, neural plasticity continues to play a role in adults long after the critical first five years and the capacity for change is a critical feature of neural development (Stiles 2000). The children in this study suffered trauma (nutritionally speaking) during the “critical period” but were tested at an intermediate point in adolescence. Whether or not the children can “catch-up” cognitively may in fact be a demonstration of neural plasticity in late childhood.

“Catch-up” IQ

Many factors have been associated with cognitive development—exposure to early illness, postnatal nutritional deficiencies, inadequate attention from care givers, and less time spent in school all are strongly associated with lower IQ scores (Brown & Pollitt 1996, Connally & Kvalsvig 1993, Pollitt 1996, Ceci 1991). There is no doubt that children who are exposed to early childhood undernutrition will experience cognitive delays. This research fits within the broader scope of early child development by questioning whether or

Feature not these delays are permanent. Despite a growing emphasis on developmental plasticity in the literature, the extent to which children exposed to early environmental stressors have the ability to “catch-up” cognitively to their peers has not been fully explored. The factors that may contribute to being able to “catch-up” are even less understood. “Catch-up” IQ as a concept stems from a trend observed in the Cebu Cohort that some stunted children were able to physically recover from early childhood stunting (Adair 1999). Although Adair demonstrated that stunted children could exhibit “catch-up” physical growth by age eleven, this ability is dependent on a variety of social and dietary factors, as well as the severity of stunting and timing in early development. These results have also been found in other populations, leading researchers to theorize that children who experience early childhood growth trauma gain more nutrients and energy from each gram of food consumed (Couzin 2002). But “catch-up” physical growth is less common if children who were stunted in early childhood remain exposed to poor social and environmental factors throughout later childhood. The ability to “catch-up” cognitively, which likely depends on many of the same social factors, will be treated similarly to Adair’s “catch-up” physical growth variable in this analysis.

The Population

The Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS) is a community-based, prospective study of a one year birth cohort in the area surrounding the second-largest and fastest-growing city in the Philippines, Cebu (Adair et al. 2011). Beginning in 1983, CLHNS collected anthropometric, dietary, household data on over 3,000 pregnant mothers in Cebu. The survey continued through pregnancy and into early motherhood where similar anthropometric and household information was collected bimonthly on the mothers and their children during the first two years of life. Follow-up surveys, which gathered anthropometric measurements, household information, cognitive test scores, and schooling characteristics, were administered when the children were eight and eleven years old (1991 and 1994, respectively). The sample for this particular analysis includes 1,879 children from the Cebu cohort who have complete data on stunting, cognitive test scores collected ages 2, 8 and 11, and information on a variety of household characteristics. The Philippines represents a rewarding location for long-term research linked to early childhood because the population itself is becoming increasingly younger (Victora et al. 2008). This is due to rising fertility rates and declining childhood mortality rates throughout the region over the last sixty years. Additionally, the nation, which has experienced significant economic growth over the past century, is undergoing a nutrition transition. A nutrition transition is driven by forces such as urbanization, modernization, and globalization and occurs when a country is experiencing these forces, while still carrying the burden of high rates of undernutrition (Victora et al. 2008). Simultaneously, the diet and activity patterns of the population change. The result is Volume 8, 2012-2013

a country dealing with dual burden of obesity and undernutrition. While undernutrition will be the focus of this analysis, the fact that the Philippines is a rapidly expanding and developing population makes this region a dynamic location for analysis. The cognitive test used to measure the children’s non-verbal IQ score was the Philippines Non-Verbal Intelligence Test. George Guthrie developed the test for children specifically in the Philippines, placing great emphasis on cultural relevance in creating rudimentary questions (Guthrie et al. 1977). Rather than rely on verbal communication, the test assesses children’s ability to recognize certain shapes and form associations through a series of cards that show five objects. The children are to pick out the object that does not fit with the others on the card. The objects are culturally appropriate for the Philippines, including recognizable local farm animals and daily activities (Mendez & Adair 1999).

Variables & Methodology

For a child to be considered “stunted,” as defined by the World Health Organization, that child must have a height-for-age z-score (HAZ) two standard deviations below the mean population HAZ. In this analysis, mean height and standard deviations for children at age two years were determined by the WHO Child Growth Standards. According to the WHO, the mean height for children at age two years is 86.4 cm (SD = 3.2 cm) for girls and 87.8 cm (SD = 3.0 cm) for boys (WHO 2009). For this analysis, girls will be considered stunted at age two years if their height is below 80.0 cm and boys will be considered stunted at age two years if their height is below 81.8 cm. The decision to use height-for-age rather than weightfor-age or BMI as an indicator for child undernutrition stems from literature that suggests HAZ scores better reflect a child’s long-term nutritional status (Black et al. 2008, Victora et al 2008). Linear growth is a more useful indicator Stunted


Lowest Maternal Education Tertile

Middle Maternal Education Tertile

Highest Maternal Education Tertile

Lowest Maternal Education Tertile

Middle Maternal Education Tertile

Highest Maternal Education Tertile


# of children at age eleven (# of children at age eight)

815 (803)

174 (179)

274 (281)

242 (243)

88 (82)

286 (291)


% of total sample at age eleven (% of total sample at age eight)

43.4% (42.7%)

9.2% (9.5%)

14.6% (15.0%)

12.9% (12.9%)

4.7% (4.4%)

15.2% (15.5%)


Average IQ scaore at age eight years







51.3 (SD=12.4)

Average IQ score at age eleven years







68.9 (SD=11.5)

Average change in IQ between age eight and eleven years







17.6 (SD=11.0)

Figure 2: Descriptive statistics and IQ scores of stunted vs. nonstunted children, stratified by maternal education level. Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Feature of nutrition, compared to BMI or weight-for-age, because it can reflect chronic, rather than acute, undernutrition. Additionally, monitoring length-for-age in young children appears to be more appropriate than monitoring weight-forage or body-mass-index-for-age, because weight gain can be misleading, reflecting children becoming taller, fatter, or both (Victora et al 2008). To account for differences in educational, health, and social resources that might confound the relationship between stunting and IQ score, this analysis adjusts for several socioeconomic factors. This includes adjusted household income (for number of people living in the household), maternal education, type of settlement (urban/rural), sex of the child (boys and girls attend separate private schools which may affect quality of schooling), and assets in the home (i.e. number of televisions, radios, etc. as an alternative measure of household income). The statistical analysis was run using STATA in an attempt to better understand the association between stunting and IQ scores. Linear models were generated controlling for a variety of socioeconomic factors discussed above to determine if any of these factors have confounding effects on the relationship between stunting and IQ scores. T-tests were used to analyze significant differences between mean IQ scores of stunted vs. nonstunted children, as well as the mean changes in IQ between age eight years and age eleven years for both stunted and nonstunted children. Lastly, STATA-generated regression models testing for interactions between nutritional status and various socioeconomic factors were also used to predict IQ scores of stunted vs. nonstunted children at both ages eight and eleven years and to test the significance of different socioeconomic factors in predicting change in IQ.


The 1,879 children in this sample represent a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. As expected, this cohort features families largely from a low-income, low-education socioeconomic level. There were 1,263 children (67.2%) who qualified as stunted at age two years, according to the WHO Child Growth Standards used, and the severity of stunting ranged from mild

Figure 3: IQ scores of stunted vs. nonstunted children at different ages. 14

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to severe ( > 3 standard deviations below WHO standard). Of the children who were stunted at age two years, 63% of them had mothers in the lowest tertile of education level. Meanwhile, only 39.3% of nonstunted children had mothers from the lowest tertile of education level. (See Figure 2 for detailed statistics). Although some families stated that their income levels, education levels, and asset levels changed between the time when the children were born and eleven years old, these differences are not significant and we can assume that families experienced roughly the same socioeconomic conditions from the time the children were born until they were eleven years old. A simple T-test reveals that, at age eight years, children who were stunted at age two years had significantly lower IQ scores than children who were nonstunted (P=0.0001). The range of IQ scores at age eight years was normally distributed but highly variable, spanning from 12 to 91 points. Stunted children had a mean IQ score of 49.5 points while nonstunted children had an average of 55.1 points, a difference of 5.6 points. As Figure 3 demonstrates, the difference between stunted and nonstunted children’s IQ scores decreased when the children were retested at age eleven years. At this age, there was only a 3.93 point difference in mean IQ score between stunted and nonstunted children (P=0.0001). While the range of IQ scores at age eleven years once again was normally distributed and highly variable, with IQ scores spanning from 21 to 99 points, children who were stunted at age two years appear to be “catching-up” to some extent to their nonstunted peers. Two regression models were generated to show the relationship between IQ score at ages eight and eleven years. At age eight years, nutritional status, maternal education level, household income level, assets level, and type of settlement (urban/rural) are all significant predictors of IQ score (See Figure 4). The model shows that, while these socioeconomic factors are significant predictors of IQ score at age eight years, there is still a large amount of variation unaccounted for (R2=0.1818). At age eleven years, only maternal education level and assets level continue to be significant. Figure 5 shows that IQ score at age eight years becomes the strongest predictor of IQ score at age eleven years. But again, even with IQ score at age eight years accounted for, the model fails to explain all of the variation in IQ score (R2 = 0.3707). According to Figure 3, despite having a lower IQ score at age eight years, children who are stunted early in life will have a 1.52 point greater change in IQ score between age eight and eleven years than children who are nonstunted (P=0.0024). The final phase of this analysis attempts to better understand which children were “catching-up” and why. Further examination of the change in IQ between ages eight and eleven years reveals that children are more likely to catch up than others if the child’s mother had a higher education level. Generated using multivariate regressions, Figures 6 and 7 show predicted IQ scores at age eight and eleven years based solely on maternal education level and nutritional status (all other socioeconomic variables held

Feature constant). Although IQ score steadily increases as maternal education level increases in all children, children who were stunted have lower predicted IQ scores at age eight years than nonstunted peers from the same tertile of education. By age eleven years, stunted children from the highest maternal education tertile have managed to completely “catchup” to nonstunted peers. Stunted children from the middle tertile of maternal education level halved the gap between their IQ scores and nonstunted children’s IQ scores (suggesting some degree of “catch-up”). Meanwhile, the predicted IQ score of children from the lowest maternal education tertile who were stunted (66.8 points) still lags significantly behind non-stunted peers with the same maternal education (68.7 points) at age eleven years.


T his cohort-based analysis points to several noteworthy trends in early childhood development. Nutrition and child development literature has been adamant about the detrimental effects of early childhood stunting on physical and cognitive development later in life. If two children (one stunted and one nonstunted) grow up in similar households with similar parents, the child who is stunted is more likely to develop delayed motor and behavior skills, decreased cognitive ability, and increased morbidity (Martorell 1999, Victora et al. 2008). We expected that stunted children in this cohort would exhibit decreased cognitive ability throughout childhood. While the analysis presented here does not directly oppose the findings above, it does suggest that the effect of stunting on cognitive development is not as clear-cut as one would expect. Children in this study who experienced early childhood growth trauma did in fact have lower IQ scores at both ages. Not surprisingly, these children were also more likely to come from impoverished families with lower household income, asset, and parental education levels. At age eight IQ score at age eight Stunted at age two (Stunted=1) Highest grade level achieved by mother Adjusted household income level Household assets score (0 ->11) Urbanicity Score (Rural (0) ->Urban (60)) Constant R2 Value

Coefficient (P-value) -5.46 -3.15 -2.66 -2.34 -2.30 (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) 1.04 (P-0.0001)

0.74 0.64 0.60 (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) 2.51 1.60 1.57 (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) 0.74 0.70 (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001) 0.047 (P=0.015)

55.01 0.0425

45.7 0.1360

37.7 0.1687

37.7 0.1792

36.67 0.1818

Figure 4: Influence of various socioeconomic factors on IQ score at age eight years. Volume 8, 2012-2013

years, the difference in predicted IQ score between stunted and nonstunted children was 5.46 points. This difference is correlated to whether or not the child was stunted at age two years, which suggests that stunting may diminish the cognitive ability of children at age eight years regardless of socioeconomic status. However, a significant portion of the variation has not been accounted for (R2=0.1818), and I theorize this largely due to two factors: unfamiliarity to standardized testing the genetic component of intelligence capacity which could not be measured here. Maternal education, adjusted household income, and asset level are also significant predictors of IQ score. These factors may influence IQ score in their own way: a mother with an extended vocabulary shares it with her child, a household with a TV exposes the child to more visual stimulation, etc. This aligns with Flynn’s hypothesis that increases in IQ over the last century have been attributed to a child’s world increasingly dominated by complex, visual media (Flynn 1987). But the significance of these factors may also be due to the fact that stunting, in addition to being a marker of chronic malnutrition, often takes place in the context of poverty. What stands out in this analysis is the capacity for “catchup” growth in previously stunted children. Indeed, this analysis has found that children who are stunted at age two years have the ability to overcome lower initial IQ scores and “catch-up” to nonstunted peers by age eleven years. “Catch-up” growth, though, is conditional. Unstable home conditions can make the child more susceptible to poor academic performance. Children who have better educated mothers were much more likely to “catch-up” and, in some cases, surpass nonstunted peers. Stunted children whose mothers fell into the lowest tertile of education level appeared to be the least likely to exhibit “catch-up” growth, often remaining far behind nonstunted peers. It appears as though stunted children are demonstrating a trend of hypersensitivity. In the presence of positive socioeconomic factors, it IQ score at age eleven Stunted at age two (Stunted=1) IQ score at age eight Highest grade level achieved by mother Adjusted household income level Household assets score (0 -> 11) Urbanicity Scale (Rural (0) ->Urban (60)) Constant R2 Value

Coefficient (P-value) -3.94 (P=0.0001)

-1.03 (P=0.030)

-0.15 (P=0.757)

-0.012 (P=0.980)

0.21 (P=0.649)

0.21 (P=0.654)

0.53 (P=0.0001)

0.49 (P=0.0001)

0.48 (P=0.0001)

0.47 0.47 (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001)

0.49 (P=0.0001)

0.43 (P=0.0001)

0.34 0.36 (P=0.0001) (P=0.0001)

1.01 (P=0.0010)

0.54 (P=0.061)

0.53 (P=0.063)

0.44 (P=0.002)

0.47 (P=0.001)

-0.03 (P=0.110)

71.59 0.0256

42.28 0.3407

40.45 0.3623

35.16 0.3686

37.95 0.3719

38.60 0.3707

Figure 5: Influence of various socioeconomic factors on IQ score at age eleven years. Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal



Figure 6: IQ Scores at age eight years, predicted by stunting and maternal education level (while controlling for adjusted household income, assets level, and urbanicity).

hibiting the potential for “catch-up” cognitive development, particularly when the child’s mother has a higher education level, but appears that a child’s ability to “catch-up” from early childhood growth trauma is contigent on socioeconomic factors, not biological ones. National health, education, and economic agendas will all benefit from interventions that not only aim to improve the quality of life of children susceptible to poverty and undernutrition, but also target the children in whom undernutrition has already occurred. As this analysis demonstrates, even those children who have been subject to early childhood growth trauma have the ability to improve cognitive abilities in late childhood and should not be “pushed under the rug.” A revised version of the cycle of poverty discussed earlier (Figure 1) is presented in Figure 8. Children who have the opportunity to “catchup” cognitively represent a break from the cycle, a chance to escape. While preventing undernutrition and stunting in young children continues to be a focus of policies around the world, the results presented here also emphasize the dire need to dedicate resources towards the education of young women and mothers. Improving the education of a young mother not only helps her reach new economic opportunities, but also helps her children—who may be benefit from her socioeconomic stability and exposure to her expanded vocabulary. Aid agencies working with populations from low socioeconomic backgrounds that wish to maximize each dollar and hour spent should strongly consider focusing relief efforts on these young women.

Figure 7: IQ score at age eleven, predicted by stunting and maternal education level (while controlling for adjusted household income, assets level, and urbanicity).

seems as though stunted children can almost reverse the effects that stunting may have had on their earlier IQ score. For those not fortunate enough to have educated mothers or a television and radio, it appears that stunting at age two years predisposes poorer children to have diminished cognitive ability. From this analysis, the conditions of poverty can dramatically exacerbate the effects of stunting. Lastly, the ability of an individual to “catch-up” physically deserves to be addressed here. In Adair’s analysis of physical growth in this Cebu population, as many as 30% of stunted children exhibited some form of “catch-up” physical growth between age two and eleven years (1999). While HAZ scores were not examined at age eleven years, a “taller & smarter” trend was found in this analysis. The mean height of children at age eleven years from the highest tertile of maternal education level was 3.35 centimeters taller than children with less educated mothers. While not the focus of this research, this suggests that physical growth, like cognitive growth, appears to be inextricably linked to factors of socioeconomic status. This research sends a rare message of positivity and optimism among the depressing, deterministic literature of nutrition and child development. Children are indeed ex16

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T his research was made possible with great thanks to the Northwestern University Department of Anthropology and the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey.

Works Cited

Adair, L. S. (1999) Filipino children exhibit catch-up growth between ages 2 and 11. Journal of Nutrition. 129: 1140–1148.

Figure 8: Cycle of Poverty, with a new pathway to escape.

Feature Adair et al. (2011) Cebu cohort profile: The Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey. International Journal of Epidemiology, 40: 619-625. Adler, Nancy et al. (1994) Socioeconomic status and health. American Psychologist. 49.1: 15-24.

World Health Organization. (2009) WHO child growth standards and the identifica tion of severe acute malnutrition in infants and children. Accessed online: http://www.who.int/childgrowth/en/.

Black, Robert E. et al. (2008) Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. Accessed online: thelancet.com. Brown, J. L. & Pollitt, E. (1996) Malnutrition, poverty and intellectual development. Scientific American, Feb. 1996: 38–43. Carba, D., Tan, V. & Adair, L. (2009) Early childhood length-for-age is associated with work status of Filipino young adults. Economics and Human Biology. 7.1: 7-17. Ceci, S. J. (1991) How much does schooling influence general intelligence and its cognitive component? A reassessment of the evidence. Developmental Psychology, 27: 703–722. Cole, C.R. & F. Lifshitz. (2008) Zinc nutrition and growth retardation. Pediatric Endocrinology Review. 5.4: 889-896. Connally, K. J. & Kvalsvig, J. D. (1993) Infection, nutrition and cognitive performance in children. Parasitology 107: S187–S200. Couzin J. (2002) Quirks of fetal environment felt decades later. Science 296: 2167-2169. De Onis, Mercedes et al. (2012) Worldwide implementation of the WHO Child Growth Standards. Public Health Nutrition. 1-8. “Eradicate Poverty and Hunger.” (2013). United Nations. Accessed Online: http://www.mdgmonitor.org/goal1.cfm Fernald L.C. & Grantham-McGregor, S.M. (1998) Stress response in school-age children who have been growth retarded since early childhood. Journal of Nutrition. 68.3: 691-698. Flynn, James R. (2009). What Is Intelligence: Beyond the Flynn Effect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Frongillo, E.A., de Onis, M. & Hanson, K.M.P. (1997) Socioeconomic and demographic factors are associated with worldwide patterns of stunting and wasting of children. Journal of Nutrition. 127.12: 2302-2309. Georgieff, M.K. (2007) Nutrition and the developing brain: nutrient priorities and measurement. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 85.2: 614S-620S. Guthrie, G. M., Tayag, A. & Jimenez, J. P. (1977) The Philippine Non-Verbal Intelligence Test. Journal of Social Psychology. 102: 3–11. Lynn, Richard. (2009). “What has caused the Flynn Effect? Secular increases in the development quotients of infants.” Intelligence 37.1: 16-24. Marks, David. (2010). “IQ variations across time, race, and nationality: an artifact of differences in literacy skills.” Psychological Reports, 106.3: 643-664. Martorell, Reynaldo. (1999) The nature of child malnutrition and its long term impli cations. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 20.3: 288-292. Mendez, Michelle and Linda S. Adair. (1999) Severity and timing of stunting in the first two years of life affect performance on cognitive tests in late child hood. The Journal of Nutrition. 129: 1555-1562. Neisser, Ulric. (1997) Rising Scores on Intelligence Tests. Scientific American, 85: 440- 447. Pollitt, E. (1996) Timing and vulnerability in research on malnutrition and cognition. Nutritional Review, 54: S49–S55. Ramsden, Sue et al. (2011) Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brain. Nature, 0.0: 1-4. Stiles, Joan. (2000). Neural plasticity and cognitive development. Developmental Neuropsychology, 18.2: 237-272. Victora, C.G. et al. (2008) Maternal and child undernutrition: consequences for adult health and human capital. 371 (9609): 340-357. Wachs, T. D. (1995) Relation of mild-to-moderate malnutrition in human develop ment: correlational studies. Journal of Nutrition. 125: 2245S–2254S.

Volume 8, 2012-2013

Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Feature Feature

The Number One (Digital) Princess in the World*: VOCALOID, Hatsune Miku, and the Blending of Humanity and Technology

Sam Barker Musicology

Dr. Scott Paulin Adviser


ocoder and Auto-Tune technology are both revered and reviled; while they give music producers the opportunity to creatively manipulate the human voice, they are also widely criticized for both ruining the verity that the listener is hearing an unaltered performance by the singer and for blending the human with the technological to produce a sound that does not fit comfortably in either category. However, there are other technologies at work that split the divide between human and digital in an entirely different way. Enter VOCALOID, software developed by Yamaha that simulates a human voice and gives users an opportunity to create their own fully vocalized compositions. Through Yamaha’s partnership with Crypton, they created various cartoon personas based on different VOCALOID sound samples, the most popular of these personas being a sixteen-yearold girl with teal pigtails by the name of Hatsune Miku. This research delves into the question of Hatsune Miku’s “humanity,” comparing the lyrics and musicality of her songs as well as her human-like choreography to her impossibly fast rhythmic ability and technical aptitude. It also analyzes the instances in which these two aspects come in direct conflict with each other. Ultimately, it contributes to current musicological dialogues on the role of technology in the distinctly human phenomenon of music. 1

* A reference to the Hatsune Miku song “World is Mine,” in which she states, “世界で一番お姫 様” or, “I am the number-one (best) princess in the world.” 20 18

Feature In an article entitled “Software Sequencers and Cyborg Singers: Popular Music in the Digital Hypermodern,” Nick Prior discusses how popular American singers (particularly females) are transforming into something not quite man and not quite technological. Programs such as Auto-tune can vastly alter the timbre of a singer’s voice, purposely making it sound more computerized. Prior comments, “It’s not that the voice has disappeared, but that its register is meshed with the machine to produce a third entity—a cyborg voice that breaches certain expectations about where the ‘human’ is or can be” (Prior 92). In effect, he argues that the human voice in popular music is being transformed by technology, changing it from a purely human trait to something that is neither completely human nor completely digital. In Japan, however, there is a different phenomenon occurring: Japanese technological institutions have created digital voice programs that can emulate human vocals. Despite the musical stigmas surrounding the digitalization of human voices through the use of Auto-Tune, VOCALOID and Crypton Future Media in Japan have developed computerized programs that seek to create a human (or even superhuman) musical experience through relatable vocal timbre, emotional lyrics, and impossibly fast vocal rhythms. VOCALOID is a software program created by the Japanese company Yamaha that takes small vocal samples from various singers and allows home consumers to compose both music and lyrics to be sung by the program. Users can browse a library of data extracted from various singers, compose original songs, and upload these songs to YouTube and Nico Nico Douga (a Japanese website similar to YouTube) (Vocaloid 1). Although the voices start as something human, the original singers do not sing different musical notes in order to create these digital tones. Instead, they sing straight tones on every syllable in the Japanese language (typically about 42 in all), which are then manipulated by the programmers to create a full vocal scale. As a result, VOCALOID is marketed as a brand of technology in its own right as opposed to a tool for the manipulation of the human voice. Crypton, another Japanese company, is a subsidiary of Yamaha’s VOCALOID that has created specific characters based around the VOCALOID program. One of the most popular of these characters is a girl by the name of Hatsune Miku, a sixteen-year-old, forty-two kilogram girl (Crypton 1) with bright teal pigtails and technological headgear. Like other Crypton personas, Hatsune Miku is the product of a Japanese singer’s voice (in this case, Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita) and VOCALOID mediation. Users purchase the program as an add-on to their VOCALOID software and compose songs with it just as they would with the original VOCALOID program. Along with an update to the program in 2010, Hatsune Miku also contains programmable timbres so that users can create “dark,”- “light,”- or “vivid”-sounding tones, along with a host of other timbre options. On the surface, it would seem that Hatsune Miku simply provides another type of voice to use in song composition. However, Hatsune Miku and other Crypton singers are utiVolume 8, 2012-2013

lized not only for their vocal timbre but also for their visual characteristics and personalities. As Takeda, Hamasaki, and Nishimura explain in their study on this cultural impact, the character Hatsune Miku attracts not only songwriters and lyricists but also illustrators and fiction writers2 interested in fleshing out both her physical appearance and her personality (Hamasaki 167). She has become a musical idol in Japan, someone who is treasured not only for her voice but also for her physical presence, even though she has no physical presence to speak of. For this reason, it is important to analyze the phenomenal power of the Hatsune Miku Movement in Japan. The character first gained popularity through the Japanese website Nico Nico Douga. Through the site, people were able to edit songs uploaded by other users in various ways, such as changing the lyrics, the chord structure, or the singer, and could then re-upload their edited versions of the song to the same site (Kenmochi 3). Since then, all sorts of Hatsune Miku paraphernalia have been created and sold, including key chains, figurines, plush toys, and t-shirts. An unofficial anime was released on the Internet in 2010, and the original artist of the animated character created a manga (Japanese comic book) series detailing the day-to-day lives of these VOCALOID characters. Hatsune Miku even has a game entitled Project DIVA that was released in Japan on the Playstation 3 gaming system; it is a rhythm-style game based on some of her most famous tracks. This is comparable to the fan culture of bands in America. The band KISS starred in their own movie in the 1970s, Backstreet Boys backpacks were all the rage during the 1990s, and Britney Spears had her own Playstation 2 game, Britney’s Dance Beat, in the early 2000s. In this respect, the Hatsune Miku movement in Japan emulates the culture surrounding other famous (human) pop stars and rock bands. Although the commercial exploitation of Hatsune Miku emulates the merchandising of human figures, the timbre of her voice also possesses human characteristics. As previously stated, newer Hatsune Miku software includes options to control the style in which she sings, using various adjectives as descriptors of the sound. One of the most human qualities of music is the emotionality of the musician and the message he or she conveys through his or her performance. With Hatsune Miku, the programmer not only can compose music and lyrics for the character to perform, but can also control her emotions while she is singing, allowing her to convey a “humanness” that a purely technological experience would not be able to provide. Videos of the characters also show them dancing in a human-like fashion; that is to say, their choreography is not technologically precise or clean-cut, but neither is it entirely unprofessional. It provides just enough error to be classified as “human” (see Footnote 3 for a detailed example). Hatsune Miku has juxtaposed her digital and human characteristics on stage as well. Though it may seem impos1

2 Although the quality of most of these is questionable at best, many fan-made stories about Vocaloid characters can be found at this website: http://www.fanfiction.net/misc/Vocaloid/ Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Feature sible, there have been a handful of Hatsune Miku concerts on the fact that Miku is, in fact, a cartoon character who in which a live band plays her most popular songs while the represents composition software, Hsu also puts her perforcharacter herself (not a person in a costume, but the actual mance the same level of other American pop stars by calling character) sings and dances before a crowd of thousands them, as a collective, “fake,” suggesting an overlap with of fans. A transparent screen acts as the stage on which the cyborg singer phenomenon discussed by Nick Prior. Hatsune Miku is projected, allowing the character to di- Hsu also highlights the fact that female vocalists are now rectly perform for the audience, synthesized voice and all. utilizing Vocoder and Auto-tune technology more than ever Despite a few miraculous costume changes and a humanly before, and Miku’s singing style is not far removed from impractical final song, the concert resembles that of any these human voices. Hsu also comments, albeit humorously, other human Japanese idol. The idol craze, which began on the proficiency of her singing, describing her as “(a) synin the early 1980’s, consists of music producers investing thesized songstress that sounds better than you ever have in money in a person who has an image fit for public consump- your shower.” Again, the juxtaposition of the adjective “syntion, which then turns he or she into an instant superstar thesized” and her comparison to living people by addressing regardless of singing talent. This shift in musical and cul- her audience directly blurs the line between the human and tural tastes occurred during a time when Japanese people, the digital, even from a journalist’s perspective. having grown accustomed to the availability of concrete However, not everyone is as accepting of Hatsune Miku. goods, turned instead to the possession of psychological Dismayed by this mixture of humanity and technology, tech concepts, or subjectivity (Stevens, 49-50). In this, Hatsune writer koichi’s article entitled “Vocaloid Rock Stars Are Where the Miku represents the ultimate idol, for her human elements Creepy Is At”4 and Inside Line’s article, “Toyota Still Using Creepy are not removed from an already existing person but rather Vocaloid to Sell Corolla,”5 postulate that this sixteen-year-old added to a digital creation, allowing for more control over female cartoon character with large, unassuming anime eyes her image by her creators. is distinctly “creepy.” Eric Sofge proposes that Crypton personas An example of Hatsune Miku’s particular abilities can be may make viewers uncomfortable because of the “Uncanny Valseen in her performance of the song “World is Mine” in a Tokyo ley.” This term describes a seldom-studied social phenomenon concert3. The song starts as Miku appears to rise out of a trap in which technology (usually robots) attempt to look lifelike but door. It takes a moment for the casual observer to register the ultimately become either so lifelike that it makes onlookers feel fact that she could not have appeared out of the floor and rather self-conscious about their own humanity or so artificial that that just rose onto the screen and into place, but as Miku starts her they take on an eerie, undead quality (Sofge 1). Although the song the crowd cheers—technological illusions are relatively phenomenon has not yet been sufficiently studied even by the unimportant in the concertgoer’s mind. The instrumentation at original theorist, Masahiro Mori, many people still experience the beginning of the song involves more technological sounds an inexplicable sense of dread when they encounter mysterithan analog, with techno bleeps and bloops overshadowing the ously lifelike or curiously un-lifelike technological beings. It is as demure bass line and drums. Then the balance changes when if the technology is trying to disguise itself as a substitute for the electric guitar and drums exhumanity, an unsettling prospect plode into the song, providing a for people who live in a culture Miku’s movements are programmed realistic backdrop for the digital with movies such as “I, Robot” and diva. The live band is yet another books such as “How to Survive to look realistic: she looks, waves, and method of humanizing the exa Robot Uprising.”6 Do the same even winks at the audience... perience of the concert for the criteria hold true for Hatsune Miku audience. If the band is real, it and other synthetic singers? Alis easier to believe that the character’s movements and actions though their appearance is decidedly cartoonish (with exaggerare candid instead of pre-programmed. Miku’s movements are ated eyes, unnatural hair colorations, and unrealistic costumes), programmed to look realistic: she looks, waves, and even winks they still have many human qualities that have been explored at at the audience as if to say, “I know you came to see me, and I length in this paper. am going to make sure that you have the best personal experi- However, the idea of the Uncanny Valley only exists as ence during your stay.” In addition, most of her movements are long as there is an air of deception: If the robot or synthetic from left to right as opposed to forward or back, another subtle being in question acknowledges that it is not human, the technique in order to mask the fact that there is no depth to the Uncanny Valley is “filled” and the being is no longer viewed projection screen. as unsettling (Sofge 2). In one of Hatsune Miku’s most im In an article for the L.A. Times, Tiffany Hsu briefly de- pressive and heartbreaking songs, “The Disappearance of scribes the Hatsune Miku concert experience for an American audience. “[L]ike many of her hot young singer peers,” 4 http://www.tofugu.com/2010/11/10/holograph-hatsune-miku-vidHsu writes, “Miku is extremely, proudly fake.” This single eo/ statement holds many implications, including the fact that 5 http://blogs.insideline.com/straightline/2011/07/toyota-still-usingMiku is authentically inauthentic. While she comments creepy-vocaloid-to-sell-corolla.html 3



3 The performance can be viewed on YouTube via this link: http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=DTXO7KGHtjI 20

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6 Yes, this actually exists: http://www.amazon.com/How-Survive-Robot-Uprising-Defending/dp/1582345929/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1323191814&sr=8-2

Feature Hatsune Miku,”7 she tosses aside the concept of being hu- admitting that humans ultimately control her existence and man in many ways. This is one of the last songs in Miku’s that she lacks free will, even though she expresses this idea concert; during the ultimate bars of the song, Miku does not in an emotional, human manner. simply disappear, but fades out in a cloud of TV static. The final juxtaposition of her human and synthetic qual “ The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku” starts with a 16-measure ities occurs in her final 32-bar finale (starting at the 1:22 mark long string of rapid-fire syllables that sounds even more robot- in the video). When she starts reciting what she calls her “final ic and inhuman than her other songs. The tempo is about 240 farewell,” she experiences a visually noticeable change in expresBeats Per Minute, and Miku is able to state a triplet of syllables sion as her eyes grow wider, her hands fall to her sides, and she in each beat, meaning that she is looks forward at the audience. A singing at a rate of 720 syllables few seconds later, she loses her The line between the human and the per minute. This is much faster balance and tumbles to her right digital are being blurred more in this than even the accelerated rate of but fights the urge to fall on the an average human’s speech. This floor. This sequence repeats as scenario than anywhere else in the musequence may not be impossible Miku fights the inevitable end of sic world today. for a human, but it would take a her program. At about the 1:40 talented, well-trained human to mark, she loses the power in her perform it. . This is one of the “superhuman” aspects of Hatsune legs and falls to her knees, pleading with the audience to listen Miku and other VOCALOID performers. Programmers can design to her final words. Her next act is particularly astounding: She songs such that the singers’ voices become almost percussive literally starts beating her fist against the screen on which she in quality without pauses to take a breath. The end of the song is projected, desperate to break free from the machine that has features a similar string of syllables, but this time, it is 32 mea- trapped her for so long in the digital world. Finally, unable to sures long, meaning that she is able to recite approximately 378 escape her fate, she slowly climbs to her feet and addresses syllables without taking a breath. the audience by saying, “Thank you… and… goodbye…” and, However, it is not simply the technical aspects of the song just as she begins to fall, her character freezes in place while a that highlight Miku’s technological qualities. The lyrics of disembodied voice repeats the words “A fatal system error has the song deal with the character’s struggle of being clas- occurred” and Miku disappears from view. At the end of the sified as a “VOCALOID” when she has a myriad of human video, even the audience that recognizes she is a product of thoughts and feelings: technology seems stunned by this turn of events. Although there are several media outlets that testify “After I’m born, I finally realize I exist to imitate humans/VO- to the evil, unfeeling nature of robots, etc., there is also a CALOID fated to sing forever/Even if a song has already existed, special place in media for the synthetic being who displays a programmed toy accepts it just fine/Gnawing on a leek, looking human emotions and thoughts. Returning to the “I, Robot” up at the sky shedding tears/Noticing that even all that is fading. example, in which the main robotic character grows and Even songs depend on personality/an unsteady source as foun- changes as he learns more about humans and what it is like dation. The place I came from already destroyed/When everyone to feel. This is what helps the other main characters and forgets me, the thing that represents my heart will die. I can see the audience sympathize with the robot. In the same way, the out of control outcome of the ending world… [VOCALOID]” the fact that Hatsune Miku is deteriorating right in front of (Rough English Translation)8 the audience’s eyes is heartbreaking. She is portrayed as a person who only desires to continue singing but is subject This introduction conveys Miku’s realization that she is only to the whims of the technology with which she was created a computer program, to which she responds emotionally— and by the human individuals who compose music with her as would a human—about her fate. She is “shedding tears” voice. The scene is tragic, yet ironic, because not only was and lamenting the fact that she is “fated to sing forever.” this performance staged to begin with, but humans were She also combines the two feelings. In Japanese, she literal- also the ones who programmed her human emotions and ly states, “When everyone forgets me, my object that seems actions. Even though the actions were staged, there is no like a heart will die.” With this statement, she admits that denying that if it draws sympathy from the viewer, there she does not actually have a human heart, but still has some must be some humanity to her performance. sort of representation of human sentiment that will disap- Although it is impossible to fully capture this astoundpear when people have forgotten about her and no longer ing phenomenon in a single paper, I believe that it is an compose songs with her software. This is also her way of area of music technology and sociology that warrants significantly more research. Hatsune Miku is a humanoid pro7 The performance can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/ gram, developed by humans from human vocals that have watch?v=qVRJQQlvx1k undergone digitization, and she displays both human and 8 Most of this translation can be found here (http://www.youtube.com/ digital characteristics in both her persona and the culture watch?v=uEhuCZzVKOM&feature=fvst), but I retranslated the final line surrounding her. However, are the reactions to her humanso that it was closer to what Miku actually says in Japanese: 皆に忘れ去 ity isolated within Japanese and certain American cultures, られた時、心らしきものが消えて暴走の果てに見える終わる世 or can the sympathy created by her performances break free 界…「VOCALOID」 6


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Feature of those cultural boundaries? What does the future hold for these technologies? Is an even more lifelike Hatsune Miku in development? No matter the case, one thing is clear: The line between the human and the digital are being blurred more in this scenario than anywhere else in the music world today.


Many thanks to Dr. Scott Douglas Paulin, without whom I would not have found the passion and excitement in the world of musical technology and cultural theory.

Works Cited Crypton. 2011. Crypton. 15 Nov. 2011 http://www.crypton.co.jp/miku_eng. Digital. Hamasaki, Masahiro, Hideaki Takeda, and Takuichi Nishimura. “Net work Analysis of Massively Collaborative Creation of Multimedia Con tents.” uxTV’08 (2008): 165-168. Digital. Hsu, Tiffany. “Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku takes the stage—as a 3-D hologram.” The L.A. Times 10 Nov. 2010, Technology. http://latimesblogs.latimes. com/technology/2010/11/japanese-pop-star-takes-the-stage-as-a-3-d-holo gram.html. Digital. Kenmochi, Hideki. “VOCALOID and Hatsune Miku phenomenon in Japan.” ISCA Archive (Oct. 2010). Digital. Prior, Nick. “Software Sequencers and Cyborg Singers: Popular Music in the Digital Hypermodern.” (Class Document). Sofge, Erik. “The Truth About Robots and the Uncanny Valley: Analysis.” Popular Mechanics 20 Jan. 2010. http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/ engineering/robots/4343054. Digital. Stevens, Carolyn S. Japanese Popular Music: Culture, authenticity, and power. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print. Vocaloid. 2011. Yamaha. 15 Nov. 2011 http://www.vocaloid.com/about/. Digital. Photo courtesy of Emmando Music; wikicommons


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Abstract Mental Health In A Himalayan Nomadic Community: The Impact Of A Changing Lifestyle On The Expressions and Healing of Mental Distress Harika Rayala

Department of Anthropology Adviser: Helen Schwartzman

The nomadic Bakarwals are a community of goatherders based in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan ranges of southeast Asia. Their lifestyle is transhumant in that each summer they migrate to the high valleys of the Himalayas in search of proper grazing area for their herds. Through an ethnographic lens, I studied the expressions and treatments of mental health problems, most commonly anxiety and depression, in a Bakarwal community in Jammu and Kashmir, India. I used a holistic approach to mental health to analyze the impact of nomadism and increasing contact with Western biomedicine on the way they perceive suffering. This research hopes to aid in better integrating Western psychiatric methods with traditional healing practices to improve mental health services to the Bakarwals and similar Himalayan communities. My fieldwork took place in a Bakarwal community located about 60 kilometers away from the main town of Drass in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The community studied was a group of 13 families that migrated together and consisted of about 100 members, with each family having between 5-12 members. Through informal interviews and participant observation, I recorded the social causes and expressions of distress as well as the healing practices. Conversation with local Indian army members, army health workers, local government officers, and traditional healers within the community gave me added perspectives on the impact of external ecological and sociopolitical factors on the way many Bakarwals managed their mental well-being. Because I was not fluent in Hindi, I used a translator for the interviews. Previous research on nomadic communities focused primarily on explaining idioms of distress through spirit worship and religious rituals. This is especially true in India where scholars such as Sudhir Kakar have closely observed and recorded practices of spirit worship to explain the idioms of distress in nomadic communities.

My research focuses on how such expressions of distress and coping strategies have evolved with the advent of modern psychiatry and increasing availability of biomedicine. Furthermore, the recent emergence of narrative approaches to understanding mental illnesses provide valuable alternatives to the clinical framework of past research. Due to the contributions of medical anthropologists such as Arthur Kleinman, these narrative approaches highlight the importance of understanding the life stories and past experiences of community members to understand the way they perceive suffering. This framework of life histories and narratives of motivations and past experiences elucidates the impact of a nomadic lifestyle on the mental illnesses most common amongst the Bakarwals. The Bakarwals are one of the few communities in the Himalayas that still follow a nomadic lifestyle, despite the trend toward a settled lifestyle of agriculture. Particular means of expressing distress specific to the Bakarwals are discussed in relation to recent geopolitical pressures along this border region such as an increased army presence, decreased availability of pastureland, and a changing climate. I focus on how such pressures have placed the Bakarwals in a transition state between nomadism, their current lifestyle, and settlement, a lifestyle that they are increasingly beginning to desire. Through subsequent analysis, it becomes evident that the notion of being “stuck� is reflected in the way Bakarwals both live and express distress in their lives. Somatization and frequent escapes from the community are specifically analyzed as symptoms of distress. Furthermore, the Bakarwals are rarely studied in anthropology, and research on their mental health problems is almost nonexistent. Therefore, it is crucial and timely to understand the impact of their nomadic lifestyles and increased contact with Western psychiatric methods on the way many Bakarwals express and treat mental illnesses.

photo courtesy of ignat/wikicommons Volume 8, 2012-2013

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The Paris of Latin America: ¿Sos Bienvenido? Melissa Rothman Anthropology

Elisa Baena Faculty Sponsor and Mentor

Helen Schwartman Thesis Adviser

This paper presents a social and political study on the Argentine squatter settlements, or villas de miseria/emergencia, of Buenos Aires and the citizens, migrants, and immigrants who live there. In present-day Buenos Aires, the villas and villeros, as the residents of the villas are called, play an important role in the city’s economy. Villas continue to exist because they have value to Buenos Aires and to the villeros. It is economically profitable for both parties to preserve the villas and is made politically and socially acceptable through cultural tropes that mark villeros as outsiders and unwanted residents. The combination of these separate interest groups and cultural barriers between the villas and the city prevent the squatter settlements from being eliminated either through urbanization or destruction. Introduction

“This is the true Argentina,” Fernando told me, gesturing with his arm outstretched at the dilapidated, self-constructed homes in front of us. Fernando, the founder of Corazón de la Ciudad [“Heart of the City”], a cultural group working in the squatter settlements of Buenos Aires, had just finished giving my research partner and me a tour of the La Matanza, the slum he called home. Some might think that living in a villa, the Argentine word for their slum-like squatter settlements, would be a cause for shame. Fernando had lived in the villas his whole life and related this fact to us with pride. At one point, he mused, “Whenever I get out of the city and smell this, I know I am home. The villa is home.” In the past decade or so, international interest on the so-called ‘problem’ of squatter settlements and urban slums has grown exponentially. However, Buenos Aires has had excluded neighborhoods and urban areas since the nineteenth century. The economic and cultural trends that 24

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have kept villas around for so many years are complex, and individuals from different parts of Argentine society have an interest in maintaining the villas’ informal status. In the 1880’s during times of economic prosperity and growth, Buenos Aires was considered one of the most beautiful and European cities in all of Latin America. With its ornate buildings, elegant cafés, and opulent homes it seemed to fit this description perfectly. Yet beneath this refined veneer, serious issues of inequality and social discrimination continue to persist in this city trying to define itself on a global scale. Since the late nineteenth century, immigrants and migrant workers have played an important role in the formal and informal economies of Buenos Aires. However, these workers have generally been labeled outsiders who do not belong to the elite of Buenos Aires society. While the ethnic and national composition of this group of “others” has changed over time, the discourse of ostracization has

Research remained relatively constant from the late 1800’s when im- water, electricity, heat, and many other basic necessities. Howmigrants first began living together in boarding houses in ever, villas exist in Buenos Aires because political leaders, as well as some villa residents, have a vested interest in keeping the Buenos Aires to the present day. This paper presents a social and political study on the villas slums illegal and informal. Overall, the combination of interests de miseria/emergencia of Argentina’s capital city and the Argen- from these distinct groups, along with the perceived cultural tine citizens, migrants, and immigrants who currently live there. boundary separating the villeros and the city residents, makes The name literally translates to villas of misery or emergency. it nearly impossible to smoothly incorporate the land and the Villas exist on government-owned or public lands that have people as part of the formal city of Buenos Aires. In this paper I will connect existing been ‘taken’ and turned into informal research about marginalized popuneighborhoods. Older villas are more Villeros are denied fundamental lations and anti-immigration sentiorganized, while newer areas might ments to a case study of the villas and rights because they are not consist of nothing more than boxes villeros of Buenos Aires. In 1998, “40% in a field. In general, according to considered true citizens. of the population of the major cities of Argentines I interviewed and the evAsia, Africa, and Latin America ‘[were] idence from the political campaigns living in illegal conditions’ in terms of land tenure, infrastructure of Buenos Aires mayoral candidates, the villas are considered a requirements, and building standards” (Smart 31). This proporblight on the city. The Argentine media plays a crucial role in tion continues to grow, making studies on why and how urban promoting a negative image of the villas and villeros because slums persist particularly relevant. Brodwyn Fischer has written of the way it focuses on the violence and crime associated with about the contemporary shift toward slums in urban areas. these areas and does not discuss any of their positive aspects. She discusses how political and economic trends, such as the Today, no politician will openly support eradicating the slums, increasing popularity of neoliberal policies and their negative but there are plans in development to urbanize the villas and consequences on poorer populations, combined with cultural make them presentable. In the past, governmental leaders interest in slums generated by films like Slumdog Millionaire, have constructed walls to hide the villas, which resulted in one have contributed to the new fascination with slum neighborbeing nicknamed la ciudad oculta, or the hidden city. Through hoods. Fischer goes into depth about the value that Brazilian interviews with porteños, the residents of Buenos Aires, I gained slums, favelas, have to the Brazilian economy and the different the sense that most of the city residents look down upon the villeros and the slums. Porteños believe that the villeros are groups that have much to gain from favelas’ continued exisuneducated, dangerous drug addicts and want little to do with tence. My case study speaks to her research because many of them. However, I will demonstrate that in present-day Buenos the same issues Fischer explored can also be found in the ArgenAires the villeros and villas play an important role in the city’s tine villas. While there is some research on the villas and slums economy. Villa residents have found ways to survive in a social of Argentina, much of the work in the field focuses on the favelas and economic system that does not meet their needs formally. I of Brazil. By presenting an alternative study, I hope to contribargue that the space itself in which villeros live indexes historical ute to a greater understanding of the similarities and differences tensions between the elites and the working class by racializing between shantytowns in distinct Latin American countries. I will them and marking them as outsiders and unwelcome citizens. also provide evidence of the ways in which villa residents, such This sentiment of “otherness” has had strong political and so- as the cartoneros and proprietarios, contribute to the survival of cietal consequences and justifies the deplorable conditions in villas. Drawing upon the work of Stephen Castles and Alastair which these marginalized populations must live. Villeros are Davidson, I will show how the villeros are framed as unwelcome denied fundamental rights because they are not considered citizens undeserving of rights. Furthermore, through an analysis true citizens. As a result, many villeros hold jobs in the informal of Saskia Sassen’s book on tropes of immigrant populations, I will economy in order to survive, which in turn gives them a vested show how xenophobic and exclusionist discourses separate villa interest in maintaining their neighborhoods’ illegal status. Car- residents from the rest of the city. I will begin with a description toneros, or garbage collectors, act as a recycling system for the of my field research and a section detailing the history of Argencity. They sift through Argentina’s garbage and sell valuables tine villas before reviewing the relevant literature and exploring and recyclable materials in the informal market and elsewhere how those theories connect to my work in the villas. Ultimately, in the city. Proprietarios make a living by renting lands that they I will show that the villas contribute value to Buenos Aires, that, do not technically own. On the opposite side of the social hi- in turn, are valued by the villeros. It is economically profitable erarchy, political leaders also have much to gain from allowing for both parties to maintain the villas and is made politically and villas to persist. They can justify denying the villeros social and socially acceptable through cultural tropes that mark villeros as public services because they are officially considered squatters, outsiders and unwanted residents. yet through the work villeros provide, such as that of the cartoneros, the city gains a valuable service without having to add Field Research employees to its payroll. While present-day politicians would I received an Undergraduate Research Grant in June-Aunever destroy the villas, they do use the legal system and hous- gust 2011 as part of a two-person research team from Northing laws to prevent villeros from becoming full-fledged citizens. western University to complete an eight-week study on Villa 31 Villas are far from ideal places to live. They lack running located in the Retiro neighborhood of Buenos Aires. I focused

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Research on a new urbanization plan that had been initiated by a law, city was going through a mayoral election. I observed first-hand ley 3.343, which was passed in 2009. While my summer project the propaganda and political advertisements, and I also studied focused on this specific law, I was also able to enrich this paper student movements and initiatives to support specific parties. with additional information I gathered during the project. Most interestingly, I observed the candidates’ relationship with For two months I lived in the Retiro neighborhood of Bue- the villas and the villeros. Politicians who did not support social nos Aires and conducted research within the city boundaries as welfare programs for the villas still recognized villeros as a valuwell as the surrounding area known as the perifería. By the end able pool of voters. This argument is corroborated by the fact of eight weeks I had interviewed the following individuals: a city that the walls of many villa buildings, especially those in Villa 31, representative with a personal inwere covered with campaign postvestment in the new urbanization ers. One of the candidates even Politicians who did not support plan for Villa 31; a member of the held a rally in Villa 31. national government and support This project did have some social welfare programs for the er of the current President of Argenpotential ethical issues. My projvillas still recognized villeros as a tina, Cristina Kirchner; a lawyer that ect was reviewed and approved valuable pool of voters. worked for the NGO Justicia en la by the Northwestern Institutional Ciudad (JC); an amateur American Review Board, which emphasized filmmaker creating a documentary on villa culture; a diputado, that I must protect the confidentiality of my subjects. In order or an elected villa liaison to the city government; the architect to ensure that villa residents did not feel uncomfortable with who had designed the urbanization plan for Villa 31; various me sharing their personal stories and observations, I have used students that were completing projects on villa culture or villas’ pseudonyms and omitted identifying characteristics. In addirelationships with the city government; and many members of tion, before conducting any interviews, I obtained verbal conthe cultural group Corazón de la Ciudad. sent from the subjects and made certain that they understood I The other main component of my research is the field was working on a project that might be published and read by notes I recorded in the villas. Through a volunteer service others. Some of the other individuals that I interviewed, such as organization, ALMA, I gained access to several of the villas the political representatives, may have had similar reservations spread throughout the city and was able to observe the liv- about their identities being used in this manner. While I do not ing conditions of many of the families as well as gain an feel that any of them responded to my questions in such a way understanding of how the area was organized. My research that could jeopardize their jobs or political relationships, I will partner and I also spent a significant amount of time with not specify the names of the politicians or their parties with the the members of Corazón, who were incredibly helpful and exception of President Cristina Kirchner and Mayor Mauricio from whom I learned a great deal through informal conver- Macri, neither of whom I interviewed directly and both of whom sations. I was also able to accompany them into the villas who are considered international public figures. and help put on talleres, or lessons, for children living in the area. These ventures provided me with ample time to Villas de Miseria observe villa residents and villa practices. I also recorded There is no clear demarcation between a villa de misemy observations about La Matanza, located in the perifería ria or emergencia and a city-sanctioned barrio. Rather, the of the city. La Matanza is home to many workers with jobs transition is gradual. Unpaved streets appear, along with in the capital. Corazón’s headquarters were located in a sec- narrow roads and unstable homes. Businesses and stores tion called Arroyo. I spent a significant amount of time with grow less frequent, and the ones that are present are inforthe founder of Corazón, Fernando, discussing villa politics mally constructed. The majority of the buildings are made and the main goals of his organization. out of cement blocks and scrap wood piled on top of each Another group of subjects included in this paper are up- other almost and give the impression that they are about per-middle class and middle class Argentines. The neighbor- to fall over. Yet it is clear that residents take pride in these hood in which I lived, Palermo, is known as a tourist hotspot. dwellings. In the older, more established villas especially, Many American and European expatriates live in the area, and residents often hang plants or wind chimes outside of their richer porteños flock to Palermo. As a result, the restaurants, homes and decorate with furniture inside. The newer areas bars, and clubs are new, popular, and cater to these populations. appear much less durable. Families have constructed makeThrough my daily interactions, I was able to gain a perspective shift dwellings from whatever materials they can find. Old on how members of this demographic perceive the villeros and tarps or pieces of fabric form tents, while sheets of plywood the working population. I also noted many of the cultural and and scrap plastic are used to make box-like homes. The physical differences between the richer porteños and the villa sidewalks form tierras tomadas, or public lands, illegally residents. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I learned that many of the ‘taken’ by villa residents on which they build their homes. richer porteños’ political views were in conflict with the villeros’ These dwellings often share common walls and stretch the views. length of a city block. Some of the dwellings consist of noth The final aspect of Buenos Aires and Argentine culture I ing more than a mattress on the ground and house families studied during my project was the contemporary political en- with several children. vironment in the nation. During my stay in Buenos Aires, the At the same time, there is a sense of community in the


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Research villas that is absent in the more formal parts of Buenos Aires. When people move to the villas from other countries or from other parts of Argentina, they often do so in large family groups. Relatives who get married move into or build homes very close to the homes where they grew up. In the older villas, some families have been there for more than 80 years and have multiple generations living together in a single house or group of houses. On a warm afternoon, residents may sit outside together and enjoy a Quilmes beer while their sons play fútbol in an open square. Children play near their homes or run around in groups, chasing dogs through the pasillos. The villas are not only distinct from the heart of Buenos Aires because of their architecture and lack of public services, but they are also physically separated from the main barrios or neighborhoods. With the exception of Villa 31, which is located in the Retiro neighborhood adjacent to Buenos Aires’ port, the majority of these informal settlements are in the outer fringe of the city’s limits. Villeros are truly spatially excluded from Buenos Aires. Even though the majority of the residents hold jobs in the city and send their children to public schools, they are considered an unimportant part of porteño culture. They are welcome in the city as workers, but not as makers of society. However, the proliferation and growth of villas in modern times has strengthened the discourse of “not belonging.” Villas are portrayed as dangerous, filled with violent criminals and drug addicts, or alternatively completely ignored by the media. The physical separation of the villeros and the unappealing aesthetics of the villas themselves make it easy to racialize the residents and malign them as dirty and undeserving of the rights of citizenship.

of their size and occasionally because of their foreign composition”, especially during disease outbreaks including the yellow fever epidemic of 1871 (Scobie 153). The 1870s also represented a time when the social division between the elite population and the working population became very prominent. There were “two main divisions: gente decente, the upper class…and gente de pueblo, the common people” (Scobie 208). The gente de pueblo were welcome to work in the city, but not to participate in its ‘true’ society and culture. This tradition can be seen today in the porteños’ treatment of villeros, a connection made even stronger by the fact that during the 1870s, 80% of unskilled laborers and two-thirds of blue-collar and white-collar workers were immigrants (Scobie 217). Foreigners composed a large percentage of the gente de pueblo in the past, and immigrants continue to occupy the bottom of the social hierarchy in Argentina today. Another important practice in modern-day Argentina that stems from a historical precedent is the ways in which foreigners are able to gain citizenship. The Argentine Constitution hypothetically encourages immigration. Anyone who wants to live in the country should be able to do so. However, this “extreme liberality…toward the foreigner admirably served the gente decente’s interest in keeping the immigrant out of the body politic. The foreigner, because of his many privileges as a resident alien, felt no pressure to become a citizen” (Scobie 237). Even when immigrants did want to gain citizenship, “red tape…ensnarled and stopped most applications” and the time-consuming process “frustrated most potential citizens” (Scobie 238). Overall, from the late 1880s through the early 1900s, most porteños were of the opinion that conventillo residents and immigrants “were welcome to develop the country economically, but not to participate in its political evolution” (Scobie 249). Historical Introduction to Villas Present-day “attitudes toward At the beginning of the manual labor, social distinctions, nineteenth century, Buenos There is no clear demarcation between and materialism recall those of the Aires was “flowering” (Scobie a villa de miseria or emergencia and late nineteenth century” (Scobie 12). During this era, “the city’s 256). a city-sanctioned barrio. increasing wealth and cosmo Today, Buenos Aires, like politan air had…put Buenos many other Latin American cities, Aires on the schedule of many celebrity tours” (Scobie 13). Celebrities compared the beautiful has numerous squatter settlements or shantytowns where imcity to Paris, which earned Buenos Aires the nickname ‘The Paris migrant and migrant workers live. Villas first appeared in Buenos of South America,’ “a recognition eagerly sought by porteños” Aires in the 1930s when the city, and the nation, was in political (Scobie 13). Porteños “contrasted sharply with the black and and economic turmoil. After the United States stock market mulatto mixtures seen in Brazil, or the Indian elements com- crash, many Latin American countries suffered because of their monly associated with the rest of South America” and appeared connections to the US economy. Since then, villas have continued to grow and emerge in more European to outsiders (Scobie 35). However, despite appearances, during this time there different parts of Buenos Aires. They have been an especially was a significant population of poor immigrant workers in contentious political issue since 1976 when Argentina ended Buenos Aires. The city has a long history of spatial seg- rent control, causing thousands of Argentines to move into regation, and in the late 1880’s neighborhoods to the north squatter settlements (Bendiner-Viani 48). Through interviews and south of Plaza de Mayo varied greatly in their socio-eco- with national and city political leaders, I learned that since 1976 nomic status. Before villas were formed, poor and newly there have been many governmental attempts to get rid of the arrived immigrant workers congregated in conventillos villas to make room for highways and other industrial projects or tenement houses. In 1869, 66% of conventillo residents (Bendiner-Viani 48). Specifically, “between 1977 and 1980, the were immigrants (Scobie 152). Celebrities visiting the city Military Government of Argentina ran a virulent squatter setlargely ignored these pockets of poorer foreigners. At times, tlement eradication program, for which tenants received no conventillos attracted negative attention, “largely because compensation” (Bendiner-Viani 48). According to Sebastián

Volume 8, 2012-2013

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Research Rodriguez, a city politician and supporter of the Villa 31 urbanization plan, even through current open plans to “eradicate” the settlements are not politically acceptable, leaders find still find veiled ways to push the neighborhoods far outside of the city or ignore plans to improve and urbanize them. Santiago Blan, a politician connected to the national government and the President’s party, elaborated upon the complicated politics of contemporary Buenos Aires. The Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner have opposing political views, with respect to the future of the villas. The city of Buenos Aires is technically independent from the national government, so Macri takes action within the city limits without Kirchner’s approval. Kirchner, on the other hand, is supportive of social services and welfare. She has spearheaded successful urbanization projects in villas outside of the city limits that allowed villeros to stay in their homes. Macri would rather push all of the villas out of the city and use the land for public work projects that would generate revenue for Buenos Aires. The complex history of the villas is tied to many traditional views held in Argentine culture. In modern times, even the term villero carries negative connotations and can be an insult depending on how and where it is used. I will continue to use this term throughout the paper, but only as a reference to someone who lives in a villa. The villas are not stagnant; they grow or shrink depending on the political and economic situation. During my stay in Buenos Aires, I saw evidence of many new families moving into the villas, especially in the southern-most part of the capital.

the decisions that affect their lives” (Castles & Davidson 11). Castles and Davidson emphasize that individuals who experience de facto exclusion are usually members of a racial, ethnic, or indigenous minority, characteristics that apply to many of the villeros, many of whom are indigenous or darker skinned than city dwellers. Denigrating stereotypes further separate villeros from Buenos Aires porteños. Villeros are treated like second-class citizens both legally and culturally. Many villeros are immigrants, and their foreign-born status is often a source of negative stereotypes. International migrations have led to the “formation of distinct ethnic communities, which may in certain circumstances become ethnic minorities” (Castles & Davidson 54). Villeros arguably have become a minority group in Buenos Aires. Since the late nineteenth century, there has been a global trend through which nations pass laws excluding immigrants based on race and express preference for immigrants of European descent. Countries felt that “European immigrants could be easily assimilated, but that non-Europeans would threaten national identity and social cohesion” (Castles & Davidson 56). In Guests and Aliens, Saskia Sassen explores why certain immigrant groups have historically been welcomed into nations while others are feared or ostracized. Sassen’s analysis extends to many other parts of the globe that have participated in similarly xenophobic and exclusionist discourses. In the past, Argentine governments have actively encouraged immigration from Spain, Portugal, and Italy because they felt they had a shared culture with those nations (Castles & Davidson 56). In contrast, newer migration waves into Buenos Aires from countries like Perú, Paraguay, and Exclusion via Culture, Citizenship, Stereotypes, and Bolivia have exacerbated, and in some cases created, xenophobic sentiments. In Buenos Aires, many upper class porteños I Space spoke with expressed open In Citizenship and Midisdain for the poor and foreign gration, Stephen Castles and Many of the villa residents are immiworkers living in the villas. Alastair Davidson examine grants from surrounding nations, but Another important factor how current migration and have lived in the villas for years without that exacerbates feelings of solabor trends have influenced cial exclusion and undesirability gaining citizenship. the meaning of citizenship in with the villeros is their connecnations. They argue that the tion to rural culture. There is a present form of citizenship no longer meets the needs of a significant portion of the global widespread conception that villa residents are backwards counpopulation. There are many Argentine citizens who live in the try folk who are uncivilized and almost savage. Historically, Latvillas and are unable to exercise their rights because of where in Americans have exhibited “anti-rural prejudices [that] rested they live. Some residents hold jobs in the city and should by successively on fears of Indian, slave, or peasant rebellion; shame about African and Indian cultures and lifeways; or horror at rural right be citizens, but are unable to gain naturalized status. As a result of all of large-scale global economic chang- disease, ignorance, and hunger” (Fischer 25). When discussing es, large groups of residents, like villeros, do not fit the my plans to study and enter the villas, many of the students idealized role of a citizen in a nation-state. There are now and Argentines I met while living in Palermo were appalled. A populations “of resident non-citizens…who belong to society common warning was, “Don’t go in there, you won’t come back!” as workers, tax payers and parents, yet are denied full polit- Others were disgusted: “Why would you want to study those ical participation” (Castles & Davidson 11). Many of the villa people? Why would you go there?” As a woman entering a residents are immigrants from surrounding nations, but slum I was told to wear “iron underwear” because if I was not have lived in the villas for years without gaining citizenship. killed, I would surely return from the villas raped and pregnant. Other groups experience “de facto exclusion” in which they While some of these conversations happened under the guise “are denied full participation as citizens” (Castles & David- of humor, it is still essential to note the intense prejudice against son 11). As citizens, they “have the right to vote, but social, anyone living in a villa. In Villa 31, many of the residents have economic and cultural exclusion denies them the chance of lived in the neighborhood for generations with their families. gaining political representation or of having any real say in There is also a significant portion of the population of Villa 31


Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal

Research that is Argentine. Yet porteños still view anyone who lives in a Villas also have political value to Buenos Aires politicians. villa as corrupt, dangerous, and uncivilized. Clearly, the spaces Politicians, “by simply protecting illegal settlements from eradiin which the villeros live are a crucial characteristic. Stereotypes cation…could win the loyalty of legions of urban voters, without are not just associated with immigrants. They are connected to spending a cent on public infrastructure or ever recognizing all villeros. shantytown dwellers as urban citizens” (Fischer 6). This politi These factors have created cal strategy figured prominently strong feelings of separation in the 2011 Buenos Aires mayoral There is a widespread conception that from the rest of Buenos Aires elections. Mauricio Macri, the within the villa and also a deincumbent mayor, is generally villa residents are backwards country sire by the rest of the city to known to despise the villas. One of folk who are uncivilized and almost keep the villeros “in their place,” the politicians I interviewed who savage. so to speak. As an ostracized worked for the President told me population, the villeros who are that Macri was campaigning in the naturalized citizens are not able to exercise all of the rights they villas simply to garner votes. He spent money refurbishing an deserve. Their land is toxic, they do not have access to clean old soccer field, a cheap fix that would gain him voter popularwater or heat, and many die from toxic fumes each winter while ity, instead of making a real improvement like modernizing the trying to heat their homes. While villeros may be able to vote, medical center. Villeros know that their homes are inherently they have no real say in governmental policies that affect their unstable. They are therefore willing to show political support lives and are not considered deserving of the rights of citizen- for anyone that promises to keep the villas around. As Fischer ship. These sentiments of “otherness” and undesirability allow comments, villa “residents’ public statements [are] scrupulously the government of Buenos Aires and porteños to continue to ideologically neutral” (13). While some villeros may campaign support the current economic system which creates marginal- for more rights and better public services, the majority of the ized populations and villas. residents try to remain politically neutral to survive.

Value of Villas to Buenos Aires

Even though many porteños consider the villas a problem and think that Buenos Aires would be a better city if they were eradicated, these neighborhoods are of significant economic value to the city. Brodwyn Fischer discusses these issues in Urban Poverty and the Urgency of Now: Latin America’s Shantytowns and the Distortions of Crisis Thinking. She also explores many of the cultural perceptions and misconceptions associated with squatter settlements in Latin America. While Fischer focuses mainly on favelas and mocambos in Río de Janeiro and Recife, respectively, many of the issues she mentions are also applicable to villas in Buenos Aires. Fischer argues that shantytowns “[survive] not despite their illegality, but because of it: while no one would have admitted it openly, illegality offered opportunities for multiple levels of Brazil’s urban society, and became intimately entwined with important networks of survival and power” (Fischer 6). As long as they are considered ‘illegal,’ the government can more easily abdicate itself from taking responsibility for the land and the residents. These illegal areas are also home to a large informal economy that benefits the rest of the city. Cartoneros, or waste pickers, play an important role in the informal economy of Buenos Aires by operating as an unofficial recycling system. They sift through the city’s garbage and then either trade it in the villas or sell it in the city. Some of the materials are as building supplies for the villeros’ homes. In Villa Soldati there is an entire street that serves as an informal market. Carts line the sides of the street where villeros trade and sell their findings. Other materials, like copper wire, are removed from discarded items and sold for a profit. These workers have created an elaborate system that suits their economic needs as well as the needs of Buenos Aires. Ultimately, they work for free even though the city should be paying or their services. Volume 8, 2012-2013

Value of the Villas to the Villeros

In the same way that the villas provide economic benefits to the political leaders of Buenos Aires and the city, the villas are very valuable to the villeros. Villas and squatter settlements represent a solution rather than a problem. Immigrants and migrants that move to Buenos Aires in search of work need places to live. Access to urban land is crucial for economic prosperity, and “the conditions of poverty and functioning of the legal land market defines who has the possibility to live in a particular urban area” (Clichevsky 2). It is extremely difficult and even impossible in some cases to acquire housing in the formal parts of the city. Because the villas are informal and technically illegal, individuals are able to find places to live where they would not be able to normally. Villeros are not simply victims in the process of villa proliferation and maintenance. Many residents, rather than fighting the villa system, attempt to find a place for themselves within it. Proprietarios rent dwellings in villas to residents who cannot find apartments in the formal sections of the city. One of the student volunteers with Corazón told me that many villeros make their living off of the corruption. Proprietarios ‘own’ several dwellings or plots of land in the villas and earn money by ‘renting’ out the homes. They have found a way to survive economically, and as a result they also have a stake in keeping the system the way it is. Furthermore, because this real estate system is informal, it is by definition not regulated at all. The proprietarios can ask any price they want for their lands (Clichevsky 3). Villeros’ participation in this informal renting market further ingrains the squatter settlements and makes it that much more difficult to improve the villas into true neighborhoods. A concrete example demonstrating how difficult it may be to change the ways in which the villas function and Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Research the villeros live is the new urbanization plan. The city government passed ley 3.343 in 2009, which set up a specific procedure for urbanizing one of the villas, Villa 31. Fernando from Corazón told me that he believes every Argentine deserves a dignified home—not a large home—but one that is safe and habitable. The Villa 31 plan budgeted one small home per family. Although the plan had not yet been approved, it was based on similar projects in villas outside of Buenos Aires in which each family was provided with construction materials and then allowed to build its own home. Some Villa 31 residents strongly supported the plan. Why would anyone want to continue living in substandard conditions? In reality, only a minority of the villeros were in favor. If the area were urbanized, the proprietarios who ‘rent’ homes would no longer be able to do so because the law allowed for only one home per family. Villas not only have economic value to the villeros, but as evidenced by my conversations with Fernando, personal and cultural value as well. The politicians I interviewed who were involved in the urbanization plan told me that about one third of the residents strongly supported the plan, one third strongly opposed it, and one third had had neither heard of it nor cared. They just wanted to survive as best they could in whatever conditions—which they assumed meant staying out of politics. With all of these competing opinions and positions within the villa, it seems unlikely that the slum will change significantly in the near future. Villa politics are further complicated by the government’s interest in perpetuating the slums’ status and using them a source of cheap or free labor and easily acquired votes.

mately, the positive economic benefits for Buenos Aires, the government, and villeros, in conjunction with disparaging tropes that separate villeros from the rest of the city, will make it very difficult to ever solve the ‘problem’ of squatter settlements in Buenos Aires and rid the city of slums.


Mangin, William. Latin American Squatter Settlements: a Problem and a Solution. Austin, Texas. Print.

Villa residents represent a significant part of the population of Buenos Aires, yet are unable to exercise the rights that they deserve as city residents. They work in the city and provide necessary labor—sometimes for free. . However, political leaders as well as many villeros benefit from keeping the villas informal. Government officials are able to avoid providing costly public services because the villeros are technically squatters. They also have a readily accessible pool of voters who can be swayed easily with promises of protection. Certain villa residents make their living off of the illegal markets in the villas like the proprietarios. Other villeros simply do not want the culture of the neighborhoods to change and want to remain isolated from the heart of Buenos Aires. Even though there are legitimate villero-supported plans in the works to formalize and improve some areas, there are too many separate interest groups to put those plans into action. Negative stereotypes play an integral role in maintaining the villas as separate from the rest of the city and in marking the residents as undeserving of rights. The unwanted and dirty spaces in which villeros live, in combination with historical anti-immigrant and workingman discourses, ostracize them from the rest of the population. If they are citizens, they are prohibited from having a real role in the policy-making of the city because of their living situation and cultural discrimination. Ulti30

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“Argentina’s Modern History & Politics.” What Argentina.com. Web. 18 May 2012. <http://www.whatargentina.com/modern-history-politics.html>. “The Battle Continues: Kirchner vs. Macri.” Cornell International Affairs Review. The Diplomacist, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 May 2012. <http://www. ciartest.diplomacist.org/?p=1232>. Bendiner-Viani, Gabrielle. “Guided Tour: Villa 31.” DisClosure 11 (2002): 47-61. Print. Castles, Stephen, and Alastair Davidson. Citizenship and Migration: Globalization and the Politics of Belonging. New York: Routledge, 2000. Print. Clichevsky, Nora. “Pobreza Y Acces Al Suelo Urbano: Las Políticas De Regularización En América Latina.” Curso Pobreza Y Precariedad Urbana: Estrategias Y Programas Para Centroamérica Y El Caribe (2003): 1-26. Print. Fischer, Brodwyn. “Urban Poverty and the Urgency of Now: Latin America’s Shanty towns and the Distortions of Crisis Thinking.” Labor: Working Class Histories of the Americas (Forthcoming). Print. Frizzera, Augusín. “Bringing Down The Walls: The Urbanisation of Villa 31 | The Argentina Independent.” The Argentina Independent | Argentina, Buenos Aires and Latin America News, Features, Reviews, Interviews and Travel Information. 13 Dec. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. <Guillermoprieto, Alma. The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now. New York: Knopf, 1994. Print. Lewis, Daniel K. The History of Argentina. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Print. Lipcovich, Pedro. “Será El Barrio Carlos Mugica.” Página 12. 8 Dec. 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/sociedad/3-142934.html>.

Robinson, Kristie. “Cartoneros: Recycling the City.” The Argentina Independent. 22 Dec. 2006. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <http://www.argentinaindependent.com/ socialissues/urbanlife/cartoneros-recycling-the-city/>. Sassen, Saskia. Guests and Aliens. New York: New, 1999. Print. Scobie, James R. Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb, 1870-1910. New York: Oxford UP, 1974. Print. Smart, Alan. “Unruly Places: Urban Governance and the Persistence of Illegality in Hong Kong’s Urban Squatter Areas.” American Anthropoligist 103.1 (2001): 30-44. Print. Verbitsky, Bernardo. Villa Miseria También Es América. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2003. Print. Waste Land. Dir. Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, and João Jardim. Perf. Vik Muniz. Netflix. Online Streaming. Photo courtesty of Aleposta/Wikicommons


Volume 8, 2012-2013

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Examining the Political and Economic Effects of the Australian Carbon Tax Alyssa Lloyd ISEN

Lynne Kiesling Adviser - Department of Economics


Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal

Abstract Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges con- of retail shops, restaurants, hair salons, and other businessfronting countries today. Potential consequences of unchecked es that ranged in size from one person to 44 employees. On climate change are detrimental, ranging from crop destruction average, each business employed from 5-15 people. Of the to global trade disruptions to increases in natural disasters. The original 36 business owners, 32 returned for the second inIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that terview. by the middle of this century, average global temperatures will Based on my research I have drawn several conclusions have risen between 1.3°C and 1.8°C, and by the end of the cen- about the effect of the carbon tax on small businesses in Meltury, sea levels will rise between 0.18m and 0.59m.1 One hotly bourne that likely apply to small businesses throughout Austracontested, politically problematic lia. For the most part, the carbon approach that some countries tax did not seem to affect most Several weeks after the tax had have adopted in response to small businesses at all. Out of the been implemented, most businesses climate change is the implemen36 business owners interviewed, tation of a carbon tax. Australia is reported that the tax had affected 23 said they were not quite sure one of the most recent additions what to expect or predicted that them only minimally. to this list, as its carbon tax went it would affect them a negligible into effect in July of 2012. Current analyses of the effect of a car- amount. This intuition appeared to be correct, since several bon tax suffer from several deficiencies. Most studies have taken weeks after the tax had been implemented, most businesses place either long before a tax has gone into effect2, to simulate reported that the tax had affected them only minimally. The results, or long after, to look at long-term effects.3 Studies on car- tax increased their costs only slightly, and they were able to abbon taxes adopted in Norway and Finland have focused on how sorb the added cost. Five businesses said they would possibly consumers and big businesses are affected, and in general most increase prices in the future if their costs continued to rise, but studies also hone in on economic indicators while neglecting none expected the price increase to be drastic. Seven businessmore indirect effects. For example, a study performed in Ireland es made changes such as raising prices or cutting hours, but all failed to examine indirect effects of the carbon tax, including seven reported it was either due to factors other than the carhow retailers pass on costs to consumers.4 Another study from bon tax, or it was a combination of factors in which the carbon the United Kingdom evaluates how the public decides a policy’s tax was only a portion of the reason a price increase was necesacceptability, but ignores the politics of how the tax was imple- sary. Five business owners who wanted to avoid raising prices or mented in the first place.5 My research explores the implications cutting hours planned to turn their lights off, use energy more of the tax in Australia immediately before and after it has gone efficiently, or cut costs in other ways. The recurring 15 businessinto effect, a period of time generally underrepresented in stud- es had not and were not planning on making any changes such ies. In addition, I focus on the experience of small businesses, as raising prices or cutting hours. a vital part of the economy that is also typically excluded from Only one business made a change exclusively because research on carbon taxes. of the carbon tax. This business, ID#1048, was a metal plat While the $23 per tonne tax is technically imposed only ing company, which expected to be (and was) greatly affecton 200 of the largest polluters in Australia, there was con- ed by the tax due to the carbon intensity of their industry. In cern that the tax would still indirectly affect small business- anticipation of a large increase in costs, the company laid off es. To get a complete picture of how the carbon tax would af- one worker before the tax went into effect. They also raised fect small businesses, I carried out detailed interviews with their prices, but this was only partially due to the carbon 36 small business owners in Melbourne, Australia about the tax. The owner of this business reported, “Our price increase anticipated and actual effects of the tax, both economic and this year was across the board about 3%...About 1% of that political. I interviewed each business owner once before was the carbon tax component. The other 2% would’ve been July 1st, the date when the tax officially went into effect, and wages and the cost of consumables.”6 once afterward. Specifically, the first set of interviews took This businessman was the only one who had heard of place between June 11th and June 30th and the second set of all the government programs directed toward small busiinterviews took place between July 19th and August 9th. I nesses to deal with the carbon tax. A few other business recruited my subjects through a mix of email, phone calls, owners had heard of one or two programs, but the majorand direct request. To ensure that I gathered a wide range ity of participants were completely unaware of the governof small business types, I conducted interviews with owners ment programs. On a positive note, the owner of the metal 1 “IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007,” Intergovernmental Panel plating company said that his business was applying for a on Climate Change, accessed February 17, 2012, http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_ and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html. government grant administered by one of these programs in 2 See Lee, Lin, Lewis, and Chang (2007); Zhang, Wang, & Huang (2011); Bristow, order to invest in the production of their own energy. This Wardman, Zanni, and Chintakayala (2010). investment would save them money by reducing their reli3 See Lin & Lee (2011); Hammar & Sjostrom (2011); Wier, Birr-Pedersen, Jacobsen, and Klok (2005). ance on power companies as well as make them more energy 4 Tim Callan, Sean Lyons, Susan Scott, Richard S.J. Tol, and Stefano Verde, “The efficient since they could also use the heat their generators distributional implications of a carbon tax in Ireland”, Energy Policy 37 (2009): 409, accessed February 22, 2012, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2008.08.034. would be producing. On the whole, the experience of this 5 Abigail L. Bristow, Mark Wardman, Alberto M. Zanni, and Phani K. Chintakayala, business supports the idea that the carbon tax is pushing “Public acceptability of personal carbon trading and carbon tax”, Ecological Econom-

ics 69 (2010): 1824-1837, accessed February 22, 2012, http://dx.doi.org.turing.library. northwestern.edu/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.04.021.

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6 ID#1048, in discussion with author, August 2, 2012.vii

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Abstract had greater negative effects on their businesses than the carbon businesses toward energy efficiency, a highly desired effect. The political side of the carbon tax is also interesting tax. Owners cited the price of the Australian dollar (ID#1044 (a because voting is compulsory in Australia. Initially, I predicted plumbing business), fluctuating petrol prices (ID#1044; ID#1049, that compulsory voting would push Australians to vote based a brewery tour company), electricity privatization & infrastrucon issues rather than along party lines. After completing my ture investment (ID#1031, a millinery and accessories store; research, however, it seemed that the only people who expect- ID#1036, a bookshop), and problems facing retailers in genered and later perceived the tax to have a negative effect were al due to reduced consumer spending in the “bad” economic climate (ID#1042, a clothing also voters who generally disstore; ID#1055, a lingerie store; agreed with the political party Almost two thirds of participants agreed ID#1021, a clothing store; and that had introduced the tax. ID#1027, a record store) as more Voters who typically favored that the government should be doing profound negative factors. Simithe Liberal party were much more to promote their programs and larly, many business owners citmore likely to oppose the tax inform small businesses about the tax. ed other issues as more importthan people who voted for the ant to swaying their vote than Labor or Green parties. An illusthe carbon tax, such as asylum trative example of the way political views seemed to supersede seekers, gay marriage, and education. actual experiences took place during my interview with a hair Overall it will be interesting to see whether the effects salon owner, ID#1020. Despite observing that “To be honest, of the carbon tax remain the same as time goes on and what I’m not expecting a huge difference” regarding the increase in 7 happens in the next Australian election. While most small business costs, the owner was staunchly opposed to the carbon business owners said they would not decide who to vote for tax. He explained his views by bringing up more than once that based solely on the carbon tax, others—especially those who “every time Labor’s in, business always suffers. They always seem consider themselves “swing voters”—said they would take to empty the piggybank. Liberals come in, fill it up, Labor comes 8 it into consideration in conjunction with other issues. If in, empties it.” Many Liberal business owners also shared the bethe Labor government wants to improve its reputation and lief that the Liberal party was better for business interests than secure more votes in the next election, it would be in their the Labor party. Finally, there were two business owners who interest to try to be more vocal and encouraging towards did not believe in climate change and disagreed with the policy small businesses with regard to the carbon tax as most, if for that reason. not all, small business owners vote based on both personal Also noteworthy is the role the media has played in the and business interests. introduction of the carbon tax. Almost two thirds of particIt will also be interesting to see whether the United ipants agreed that the government should be doing more to States can learn from the Australian example. Compulsory promote their programs and inform small businesses about voting in Australia makes it a unique example. It is possible the tax. Specifically, they complained that the government that there are more “swing voters” in Australia who might should have sent them information via post or email, as had not vote if given the option. Furthermore, Australia has a been done with past initiatives, put advertisements on T.V., strong third party in the Greens, whereas the United States or done something more to show they were offering help to relies on a two-party system. Yet many respondents seemed small businesses. As one bookshop owner noted, “There’s to be fairly committed to their party in the same way Demojust such a massive focus on families. It’s all about families, 9 crats and Republicans are in the U.S. Additional research fofamilies, families! Nothing for us in this one.” Based on my cusing on the voting differences between the United States own observations, the bookshop owner seemed to be at least and Australia as they relate to environmental issues will partially correct: Several Melbourne newspapers including provide more insight into how a national carbon tax might The Age and The Herald Sun ran numerous articles about affect small businesses in the United States. how the carbon tax would affect individuals and households, and various television channels displayed public service announcements on the same topic. Yet there were no similar stories or commercials aimed at small businesses. In total, 20 of the interviewees—including a mix of business owners opposed to the tax and business owners who did not mind the tax—said the government should have done more to communicate directly with small businesses about the details and consequences of the carbon tax and what programs were available to help small businesses. Many small business owners identified other factors that

7 ID#1020, in discussion with author, August 7, 2012.

8 Ibid.ix

9 ID#1026, in discussion with author, August 2, 2012.


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James Rosenbaum Faculty Adviser

The primary research question that lead to the development of this thesis is as follows: What is the most rewarding educational degree that economically and academically disadvantaged students can pursue after graduating from high school? Using two different statistical methods that accounted for selection bias, multivariate regression analysis, and propensity score matching, the economic return of a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, and a certificate were estimated for the sub-population of interest. The results indicate that the return of a bachelor’s degree might not be worth the effort for the typical disadvantaged student to attain without considering the possibility of obtaining a scholarship. The return of an associate’s degree is also not clear unless one takes the student’s intended field of study into account. After accounting for the average real and opportunity costs involved, this thesis concludes that a lack of post-secondary degree alternatives exist for the average disadvantaged student to pursue after high school.

Volume 8, 2012-2013

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Research Introduction

Extensive research has been done to analyze the return of postsecondary education based on graduates’ employment outcomes in the United States (Beach 2009, Dale & Krueger 2002, Gill & Leigh 2000, Grubb 1993, 1997, 2004, Mishel et al. 2007, Paulsen 2001, Stern et al 1995). Nonetheless, findings from current research have failed to determine the best postsecondary education options for the population of low-achieving, low-income high school graduates—students who often fail to see the benefits of a college degree. It has been shown that more education does, on average, lead to higher earnings and more stable employment (Brand and Halaby 2006; Goodman 1978; Iwamura 1996; Monk-Turner 1994) but this does not apply to all individuals. Socioeconomic status, race, gender, and academic markers mediate the actual benefits of vocational credentials (Thomas Bailey 2004), which are the ones that low-achieving, low-income students usually pursue after high school. It may be the case that for some low-income students, an associate’s degree may have a greater payoff than a bachelor’s degree in certain occupations after accounting for the differences in costs between a two-year community college and a four-year college. Future research is needed to determine the most rewarding options of postsecondary education for disadvantaged youth to increase their possibility for upward social mobility.

Literature Review

Social reproduction is understood as the processes that perpetuate the current socio-economic structure. The theory arises from the belief that there are racial/ethnic, cultural, and institutional barriers in society that impede mobility among members of different socio-economic groups. There is a prevalent notion that a college degree is a necessary prerequisite for employment in America today. However, even though most high school students aspire to obtain a college degree, educational institutions do not provide disadvantaged students with the tools necessary to successfully complete a college degree (Bowles & Gintis 2002; Jencks 1998; Rist 1970; Roderick & Nagaoka 2008; Rosenbaum 2001). On the other hand, research findings suggest there is an unclear pay-off for academically1 and economically-disadvantaged high school graduates from achieving post-secondary education (Bailey, Kienzl, and Marcotte 2004; Beach 2009; Grubb and Lazerson 2004; Jere R. Behrman 1996). This inconsistency leaves disadvantaged students without a proper higher education alternative to pursue and, furthermore, implies that post-secondary institutions are not serving their function as mediums for an improvement in lifestyle among low socio-economic status (SES) families. Researchers have suggested that there are important demographic differences in the wage benefits resulting 1 For the purposes of this study, academically disadvantaged students are defined as those with average grades of Ds and Cs in high school, and economically disadvantaged students are those from the bottom two quartiles of their reported socioeconomic status (SES). The term “disadvantaged” is used to categorize academically low-performing students since they are at a disadvantage to obtain a scholarship to pay for post-secondary education.


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from a college education. “The estimated wage benefits from higher college quality and more time in college tend to be highest for nonwhite males, next for nonwhite females and then white females, and least for white males” (Behrman et al. 1998). The estimated net gains for these different populations suggest that there appear to be incentives for nonwhites to increase time in college, but not as many for whites, a contrast to common interpretations of earnings equations. Therefore, there seems to be unrealized potential among minorities and women to take advantage of these expected net benefits, including spending more time in college or attending a higher-quality college. The reason for this discrepancy might be caused by a number of factors, such as lack of information about college, general ignorance of financial aid options, discriminatory admissions, or low credentials. Behrman’s study, however, does not account for college selectivity and its potential impact on future earnings. Other researchers have focused on an institution’s level of selectivity as a determinant for future earnings. This is an especially important issue to examine since many of the unobservable attributes that help students gain acceptance to selective colleges may be the same attributes that influence future earnings. This selection bias has been problematic in past studies that used Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regressions to account for differences in student attributes that may be correlated with future earnings. Correlation of these unobserved student variables with future earnings tend to produce biased OLS estimates that overstate the payoff of attending a selective institution. Dale and Krueger’s (2002) analysis complements other studies that have tried to control for this selection bias. They examine the effect of school selectivity on earnings by using the College and Beyond data set and the National Longitudinal Survey of the High School Class of 1972. Their findings suggest that students who graduated from more selective colleges earned about the same as students with the same qualifications who attended less selective colleges. An interesting explanation that the authors give for this lack of return from school selectivity is that students may get a better return in terms of future earnings if they rank higher in less selective institutions. To support their hypothesis, Dale and Krueger conducted additional analyses and determined that had those high-achieving students attended a more selective school (with an average SAT admission score of 100 points higher), they would have been ranked 5 to 8 percentile points lower in rank. When class rank is incorporated into the wage equation, the researchers found that students who graduate 7 percentile points higher in their class had higher expected earnings of about 3 percent, which may suggest that the advantages of class rank offset the advantages of attending an elite college. Yet school selectivity does seem to have an effect on low-income students. When Dale and Kreuger added an interaction term to see the relationship between the average school SAT score (a measure of selectivity) and the log of parental income, the coefficient was significant and negative. This indicates that for a student of low-income

Research background, the payoff of attending a more selective college (200 SAT points higher) is higher (8 percent) compared to the insignificant payoff on earnings for a person with an average income attending a college with the same level of selectivity (Dale & Krueger 2002:1518). It is possible that a selective college’s environment or peer effects may explain the correlation between a school’s selectivity and a low-income student’s expected earnings (Goethals 2001, Gordon & Zimmerman 2003). Given the difficulty of measuring peer effects in such a dynamic environment, this outlier relationship deserves further study. Another body of literature looks more specifically at two-year or sub-baccalaureate credentials and their role in the labor market. Increasing enrollment rates at the sub-baccalaureate level has lead researchers to consider whether occupational fields offer students concrete opportunities or simply push students into fields where the potential for upward social mobility is limited. Many researchers agree that a sub-baccalaureate credential can lead to increases in earnings (Bailey, Kienzl, and Marcotte 2004). Stern et al. (1995) estimated the monetary impact of earning an associate’s degree and found its value to be between $1,000 and $2,000 more a year than a high school diploma. Interestingly, the earnings differential was greatest for women with vocational degrees, but insignificant for males (Beach 2009: 32). Paulsen (2001) also reviewed the literature on the returns to investment in sub-baccalaureate education, and his findings suggest that: “…one year of community college credit, independent of earning a degree can lead to average increased earnings between 5 percent and 8 percent, and two years of credit can lead from 10 percent to 16 percent increased earnings.The effect of a sub-baccalaureate credential, either a certificate or an associate’s degree, can lead to earnings increases between 15 percent and 27 percent.” (Gerber and Cheung 2008: 304) In addition, the average earnings potential was higher for women and low-income graduates. Even though these studies suggest that two-year college degrees may be beneficial to high school graduates from low-SES backgrounds, the results for entry-level earnings are not the same across all industries and in fact are often quite mixed. In Working in the Middle, Grubb (1996) shows the returns of certificates, associate degrees, and baccalaureate degrees by field of study. Two-year courses on technical, business, or health-related industries yielded positive returns on earnings, while other areas of study did not seem to have a significant effect on earnings. For baccalaureate degrees, returns in most areas were significant and gender consistent (SEE Grubb 1996 Working in the Middle, Table 3.3 p. 95). This study suggests that it is evident that the field of study an individual decides to enter matters significantly at the sub-baccalaureate level. Nonetheless, although Grubb separates earnings potential based on gender and field of study, he fails to account for differences of academic ability and socioeconomic background. More recent evidence supports Grubb’s findings and expands upon his research by looking at the differences Volume 8, 2012-2013

in returns of a sub-baccalaureate education based on gender and race. Bailey et al. (2004) assess the returns of the sub-population of academically and economically disadvantaged students using the NELS 1988 data set. Their findings indicate that most students do receive economic benefits from a sub-baccalaureate education, although the effects vary based on gender and level of degree completion. The average economic return for low-achieving women who attain an associate’s degree is positive and significant; they earn, on average, 44 percent more than do women who only have high school diplomas. Unlike women, low-achieving men experience positive economic returns both from earning an associate’s degree and from taking some occupational courses even if they do not complete a degree. Interestingly, both men and women who are academically low-achieving and who complete certificates do not show an increase in earning potential as compared to similar high school graduates. Bailey et. al (2004) found, however, that economically disadvantaged sub-populations gained a positive income boost from earning sub-baccalaureate degrees. Both men and women experienced a 26-28 percent return after receiving an associate’s degree and a 20 percent return from attaining a certificate. However, since Bailey et al. do not break down the differences in returns based on professions, it is impossible to assess the variability of the returns of sub-baccalaureate degrees and certificates based on occupation. Most studies that attempt to model the return of a higher education suffer from various limitations, including selection bias and inconsistent methodologies. Few studies have concentrated on sub-baccalaureate education, including certificates and associate’s degrees, or on disadvantaged populations. Further investigation is required to test the many emerging, but often varied, results of recent research on employment outcomes of sub-baccalaureate graduates from academically and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. This study will therefore expand upon the economic and sociological literature on higher education by demonstrating how educational attainment translates in the labor market for different groups of the disadvantaged sub-population. Apart from this specific focus, this paper will consider how economic and academic disadvantages interact in the labor market.

Methods and Hypothesis

To study the labor outcomes of post-secondary education on the lives of economically and academically disadvantaged youth, this study examined the educational track and employment outcomes of a national sample of students. Specifically, the returns of a certificate, an associate’s degree (A.A.) and a bachelor’s degree (B.A.) were compared among different sub-populations of high school students based on three types of employment outcomes: 1) yearly income; 2) prestige of occupation; and 3) perceived impact of post-secondary degree attainment. As the demand and need for higher education in the United States grows, so does the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Research need for alternatives to completing a four-year degree, especially among academically and economically disadvantaged high school students. This thesis attempts to emphasize that the true goal for all students should not be to complete a four-year degree, as the “college for all” approach implies, but to successfully enter and progress in the job market. Given the growing demand for sub-baccalaureate labor (Rosenbaum 2006), this thesis will test the hypothesis that economically and academically disadvantaged graduates who achieve an A.A. in two-year colleges get a higher return than what they could have obtained from achieving a B.A. degree, taking into account the estimated real and opportunity costs of completing a four-year college degree for this sub-population of students. To avoid selection bias, this analysis consisted of a two-method approach. First, a probit model was used to estimate the probability that members of this disadvantaged sub-population would attain a B.A. degree (1 equals attaining a B.A. degree; 0 does not). A wide range of independent variables, from demographic background, college aspirations, parent’s expectations, and peer, teacher and school effects were included in this model to try to capture the influence of pre-college characteristics. These variables were included in the model because the literature has suggested that these are influential variables in the process of attaining higher education (Sewell & Shah 1967). The second stage of the analysis used employment variables from the NELS2 such as earnings, occupation3 and perceived post-secondary (PSE) degree impact. These outcomes were assessed as variables during the fourth and final follow-up wave in 2000 when respondents were 26and 27 years of age. The yearly earnings were logged and students’ occupations were divided mainly into blue- and white-collar jobs. White-collar occupations were were further categorized into specific areas, including professional and managerial, engineering, computer science and IT, medical services, clerical, education, and “other” in order to make comparable categories to the ones mentioned in the findings on the return of education mentioned above. (A detailed explanation of this process can be found in the appendix). To examine the rate of return of different levels of education, a separate regression was run using short-term income as the outcome variable, and three dummy variables for bachelor’s degree (BA), associate’s degree (AA), and certificate degree attainment to measure their labor market impact on four specific sub-populations: low-SES and 2 The National Educational Longitudinal Survey of 1988 (NELS) was used since it contains extensive data on a national sample of high school students followed for eight years after their high school graduation. This database contains information on key pre-college characteristics of respondents and their employment outcomes collected in the spring of 2000. Specifically, information on the students’ socioeconomic status and high school grades was used to compare the employment outcomes of economically and academically disadvantaged students that completed a sub-baccalaureate education with those similarly disadvantaged students who achieved bachelor’s degrees 3 Managerial and professional positions often define middle-class status, which indicate potential for upward social mobility. These occupations will be considered as outcome variables and serve as indicators for upward social mobility among the economically disadvantaged student sub-population.


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low-achieving, low-SES and high-achieving, high-SES and low-achieving, and high-SES and high-achieving. The coefficients of these three variables were compared in significance and magnitude to examine differences in the return to educational attainment. It is important to note that a fourth dummy was also included in the model for clarification purposes. This dummy controlled for the respondents who had skipped the NELS question regarding highest degree attained by 2000. This left high school graduates who had some post-secondary experience but who had not attained a degree by 2000 as the base group. Even though the return of educational attainment for the disadvantaged sub-populations of interest could be examined through the comparative analysis previously explained, another approach was taken to complement these findings. As previously described, most literature that tries to model the rate of return of higher education is polluted due to selection bias. It is therefore necessary to control for the possibility that students in educational institutions may self-select, meaning that students who actually obtain a certain type of degree may not be random. In order to account for this problem of selection bias, similar students were grouped together through a statistical method known as propensity score matching. Covariates such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, parental education, high school math and English grades and test scores, peer influence, teacher and parent support, and individual college aspiration were considered in order to group the sample into subsets of respondents who experienced similar pre-college characteristics. Through this method, predicted probabilities were obtained of completing a B.A. degree for the entire sample of disadvantaged students who did and did not attain a degree. This approach allowed for a more unbiased comparison of employment outcomes among respondents in the sample independent of their actual degree attainment.

Limitations and Student Sample Demographics

Although the NELS contains rich information on educational tracks and economic returns of a nationally representative sample of respondents, the data have significant limitations. First, the information collected after 1994 is not as extensive. Second, while earnings data is provided for up to eight years after high school graduation and six years after scheduled graduation from a two-year program, the earnings data for those with B.A. degrees can only be observed four years after scheduled graduation. It is worthy to mention that the 1999 earnings reported in the last NELS follow-up are not ideal since it may take young people some time to settle into long-term careers that best reflect their earning potential. Most respondents who achieved a bachelor’s degree were around 26 years old and had recently graduated from college. A final limitation, which various studies (Jere R. Behrman 1996; Monk-Turner 1994) have pointed out, is the importance of controlling for the number of years of education acquired when calculating the economic returns

Research to educational degrees. Unfortunately, however, most respondents in the NELS skipped the question that attempted to capture the years of full-time post-secondary coursework. Therefore, this study fails to statistically control for the years of post-secondary education. Nonetheless, a discussion on the real and opportunity costs of the different degrees, based on years of education and type of institution attained, will be included in the analysis of the results. Before analyzing and comparing the educational paths and employment outcomes of the NELS student sample, it was necessary to restrict the data that was used in the regression analysis. For obvious purposes, the researcher only kept the respondents who received their high school diploma, which represents 85 percent of the sample or 10,417 students. Additionally, since the focus of this project is on the employment outcomes of the survey respondents, this researcher excluded respondents who were enrolled in a postsecondary institution at the time of the last follow-up. I also eliminated the respondents who reported earning a graduate or professional degree. These last restrictions left me with a total sample of 7,675 students, where 34 percent of these enrolled in a sub-baccalaureate program after high school and 33 percent in a baccalaureate program.

Variable Specification

The variables from the NELS had to be recoded in order to fit the purposes of this analysis. Six key groups of covariates

Table 1 :Return of educational degrees based on short-term yearly income (logged) among the different sub-populations Volume 8, 2012-2013

were created which were defined as follows 1) general demographics, 2) parents’ academic expectations for their children while in high school; 3) academic achievements and individual academic aspirations 4) peer influence on college attainment; 5) school environment and 6) teacher influence on the respondent’s education path. Please see Appendix A for a more detailed description of these explanatory variables.

Data Analysis

Method 1: Multivariate Regression analysis To answer the primary research question regarding the return of a B.A. degree to the economically and academically disadvantaged population of interest, it was necessary to compare the coefficients of educational credentials among different sub-populations. The same model was used to measure the different impact of educational attainment on yearly income among four distinct sub-populations: 1) low-SES, low-achieving students, 2) low-SES, high-achieving students, 3) high-SES, low-achieving students, and 4) highSES, high-achieving students. The variables of interest are three dummy variables that measure the impact of attaining three levels of educational credentials on employment outcomes: bachelor’s degree (BachDeg), associate’s degree (AssocDeg) and certificate (CertDeg). Before discussing the results, it is important to understand the base group of students among the different sub-populations. A dummy variable for gender is included (Female=1 if the respondent is a female and 0 if he is a male). The demographic variables mentioned before are also included in the regressions to control for factors influencing short-run employment outcomes but are not included in these findings. All students who did not define post-secondary experience were excluded (see discussion regarding the “skipped” educational attainment question above). The base group for each sub-population is non-Hispanic white males who graduated from high school and who are in the same SES (top or bottom) and academic quartiles (low-or– high) in high school. The results of the coefficients of interest are displayed in Table 1. Using the annual income (logged) of respondents as the dependent variable, the differences in the coefficients of the different educational attainments (B.A., A.A., and certificate) among the sub-populations of interest show how the pay-offs of educational attainment differ greatly for each population. The unstandardized coefficients for the female dummy can be interpreted as percentage increases in earnings when compared to the base group population. The negative effect of being a female in the work force is unfortunately unsurprising, and the effect of being female is more detrimental within the low-achieving half of each sub-population. In the low-SES, low-achieving population (n=2,112), both the coefficients for a Bachelor’s degree (BachDeg) and an Associate’s degree (AssocDeg) are statistically significant with magnitudes of 0.32 and 0.11, respectively. This implies that a low-SES, low-achieving student attaining a B.A. degree would increase his or her short-term earnings by 32 Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Research percent. The effect of an A.A. degree is similar; A.A. degrees were found to increase the short-term yearly earnings 11 percent on average. In the low-SES, high-achieving population (n=1,030), the return of a bachelor’s degree is statistically significant but surprisingly smaller than the return for the low-achieving students in the same SES interval. The magnitude of this coefficient is (0.14), which indicates a return of 14 percent higher earnings than a low-SES, high-achieving high school graduate without a postsecondary degree. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree increases annual earnings 31.6 percent for the average low-SES, low achieving student, a greater increase of 14.2 percentage points from the low-SES, high-achieving population. This also applies to the return of an A.A., since the coefficient for this variable is insignificant for low-SES, high-achieving students, but has a significant return of 11 percent for low-SES and low achieving students. These findings imply that the most disadvantaged sub-population is the one that benefits the most from a B.A. degree. Looking at the top two quartiles of the SES student sample distribution, the returns for a bachelor’s degree are still positive and significant. A bachelor’s degree increases the annual earnings of high-SES, low-achieving (n=1,982) students about 16 percent and 31.2 percent (similar for lowSES, high-achieving students) for high-SES, high achieving students (n=2,551). Therefore, among students whose family SES is in the top quartiles, those with lower high school grades receive a smaller pay-off from attaining a bachelor’s degree than those with higher grades. In addition, an associate’s degree still exhibits a positive and significant result for the high-SES, high-achieving population (16.6 percent increase in earnings), while the coefficient is not significant for the high-SES, low-achieving students. Therefore, it does not make sense (economically speaking) for low-achieving, high-SES students to pursue an associate’s degree in lieu of a bachelor’s degree. The multivariate analysis described above rests on the key assumption that by eliminating on a sufficiently exhaustive set of pre-college characteristics, college attendance would be randomized and a consistent estimation of the coefficients on educational attainment could be achieved. A second assumption, related to the first, was that the covariates that measure these pre-college characteristics were uncorrelated with what is left in the error term. Even though an exhaustive set of covariates was used that attempted to capture such pre-college characteristics, few were statistically significant and they left the majority of the variation unexplained4. This is the reason we turn to propensity score matching. The main difference between the methods lies in the interpretation of the coefficients of the degrees attained. In regression analysis, coefficients on the educational attainment variables represent the average treatment effects within the sub-populations of interest. As will be explained, 4 The overall significance and magnitude of the educational attainment coefficients did not change significantly for each sub-population when adding the extra variables, which included academic goals, academic achievements, parental expectations, school environment, and peer and teacher effects of the respondents before attending college. Some variables changed in significance in each sub-population but are not worthy to mention given the focus on the academically and economically disadvantaged sub-population.


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propensity score matching is a stronger method because it breaks down the treatment effect between the treated (those who attained a particular degree) and the untreated. Method 2: Propensity Score Matching As its name implies, propensity score matching creates matches for students who share similar pretreatment conditions, such as educational aspirations, family background, peer and teacher influence, and high school environment. Matching estimates are derived by comparing mean levels of the outcomes of interest across respondents who achieved different educational degrees, but who shared similar pretreatment covariates that may determine their educational paths. The groups of respondents that shared the same set of covariates are given the same propensity score to achieve the educational degree of interest, regardless whether the respondents actually completed that type of degree or not. Therefore, by calculating probabilities for each outcome, propensity score matching estimates two potential outcomes for each student in the sub-population of interest: completion of treatment and non-completion of treatment.5 . The algorithm chosen was kernel matching6 since it uses 5 The main advantage of using propensity score matching to improve causal inference of educational attainment on employment outcomes is that is does not assume linear selection as is assumed through OLS regression analysis. The limitation of this method is that units that do not have a comparable unit in the opposite group are placed in the off-support and are discarded in the analysis. Therefore, this decreases the amount of observations and thus the reliability of the analysis. Nonetheless, the advantages of using propensity score matching to improve the causality of educational attainment on employment outcomes outweigh the limitations. 6 Kernel matching was chosen to use the most information as possible. While other algorithms use only a few observations to estimate the counterfactual outcomes,

Table 2: Return of educational degrees based on probability of attaining a professional or managerial position in the short-run among the different sub-populations

Research weighted averages of all individuals in the control group to estimate the counterfactual outcomes. Unfortunately, the number of observations was not enough to be able to directly compare the return of a B.A. versus an A.A. among the disadvantaged population of interest. However, a propensity score matching was completed using B.A. as the treatment for only the sub-population of interest. In other words, among the low-SES and low-performing population, similar students were grouped together based on pre-college characteristics and assigned a propensity to attain a B.A. degree. In total, 1,683 students were included in this analysis, of which 218 had completed a B.A. by 2000 and 1,184 had completed either an A.A., a certificate, or had had some PSE experience but no degree. The same method was used to test an A.A. among this sub-population, and excluded those who had attained a B.A. in order to establish a clear base group for comparative purposes. Of this group, 222 respondents had attained an A.A., while the remaining 1,232 had some PSE experience. The results for the propensity score matching using a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree as the dependent variables suggest that a B.A. degree generates significant returns for the disadvantaged sub-population of interest but an A.A. degree does not. The return of a B.A. degree (the treatment) is referred as the “average treatment effect of the treated” or ATT. The return of a B.A. degree for the students who did not complete a B.A. degree is the “average treatment effect of the untreated” or ATU. As shown in Table 4 in the Appendix, the B.A. coefficient was 0.10 and the T-statistic (1.71) was significant at the 95 percent level.7 The causal effect of completing a B.A. was higher for those who did not complete the degree (ATU) than for those who had completed a B.A. (ATT) by the time of the last follow-up in 2000. Therefore, it can be concluded that the pay-off of a B.A. degree for this disadvantaged sub-population does increase their yearly income in the short term. However, the real and opportunity costs of attaining a B.A. degree should be taken into consideration. These costs will be discussed further in the Discussion and Implications for Future Research and Policy section. The same propensity score matching was completed using the associate’s degree as the treatment. The base group composed all the other low-SES, low achieving respondents who had fewer PSE experience. The total number of observations was 1,525, of which 222 had an A.A. degree. Using the log of income as the outcome variable and the A.A. completion as the dependent variable, the observed coefficient was 0.07 but the T-statistic (1.52) was not significant at the 95 percent level. This indicated that the completion of an A.A. would not bring a significant return to the average economically disadvantaged, low-achieving high school graduate. A summary of these results can be found in Table 6 in Appendix B. kernel matching uses all the individuals in the control group to calculate these estimates. For more information see Caliendo, Marco. and Sabine. Kopeinig. 2005. “Some Practical Guidance for the Implementation of Propensity Score Matching.” IZA:32. 7 Table used to see p-value was the Student Table in < http://www.statsoft.com/ textbook/distribution-tables/> with infinite number of observations.

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These results complement the regression estimates previously discussed and strengthen the argument that a B.A. seems to generate higher salaries than an A.A. for the average disadvantaged student. Note that the matching estimated coefficient for having attained a B.A. was three times smaller (0.10) than the one from the regression estimations above (0.32). However, by definition, the average disadvantaged student probably does not have the economic means or academic achievement to complete a B.A. degree successfully (Roderick and Nagaoka 2008; Rosenbaum 2001). Considering the academically and economically disadvantaged sub-population only, the matching and regression B.A. estimates are within the range of 0.10 to 0.32, respectively, and around 0.11 for the return of an A.A. degree. Further context is needed to interpret these results and to identify the specific factors and strategies that might better inform and prepare a disadvantaged high school graduate considering post-secondary education. In order to complement the returns of the educational degrees under study, two other outcomes were used to evaluate the return of educational attainment: 1) likelihood of attaining a managerial or professional occupation and 2) perceived post-secondary impact. Using a probit model with professional and managerial occupations as the outcome, the coefficients for the different educational degrees were compared across the same sub-populations. The coefficients of the probit model can be interpreted as the marginal effects of the variables of interest, in this case educational attainment, on the likelihood of obtaining a professional or managerial degree. It is important to mention that the magnitudes of the coefficients themselves are not so much of interest as much as how these compare among the different sub-populations. The results are presented in Table 2. It is interesting that the coefficients of the B.A. dummy increase in magnitude from the economically disadvantaged populations to the high-SES, low-achieving population. This would suggest that students from the upper half of the SES bracket have a higher chance of attaining prestigious positions. Interestingly, however, the B.A. coefficient ceases to be significant for high-SES, high achieving individuals. Attainment of a B.A. degree increases the chance of obtaining a professional or managerial position by 10.4 percent for low-SES, low-achieving students, 12.5 percent for low-SES, high achieving students, 13.7 for high-SES, low-achieving students, and a negligible amount for high-SES, high-achieving students. Students from the fourth category described above, the high-SES, high-achieving group, may already be members of a valuable network that leads to professional and managerial positions. This, perhaps, explains why the coefficient of a B.A. degree is insignificant for this group. It is also important to remember that it often takes more than two years for students to attain professional and managerial positions, if we assume a standard four-year time period to complete a college degree. Therefore, the likelihood of reaching this occupational level may increase over time. Similarly, the A.A. coefficient is also significant in all the sub-populations except in the high-SES, high-achieving Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Research cohort. Attaining an A.A. degree is more beneficial for the low-SES, high-achieving student population, which enjoys a 15.1 percent increase in the likelihood of attaining a professional or managerial position in the short-run. For the other sub-populations, the coefficients are much smaller (4.8 percent in the low-SES, low-achieving and 6.8 percent in high-SES, low-achieving). Interestingly, the coefficient of a certificate degree was significant only for low-SES, high achievers with a magnitude of 11.4 percent. If one compares the coefficients of a certificate, an A.A., and a B.A. in the low-SES, high achieving sub-population, the A.A. coefficient is the greatest in magnitude (15.1 percent) followed by the B.A. coefficient (12.5 percent) and lastly by the certificate coefficient (11.4 percent). This may be because it takes half of the amount of time, on average, to complete an A.A. than it does to complete a B.A. This may give students in this cohort a greater opportunity to obtain a professional or managerial position in the short-run, as they can spend more time working for a company. Due to the lack of a specific time variable of degree completion in the database, this hypothesis cannot be verified. Finally, the perceived impact of post-secondary attainment was used as the outcome variable8. The results based on the perception of the disadvantaged sub-population of

interest, are shown in Table 3. There are a few interesting results that merit further analysis. First, note the positive trend of the perceived impact of educational attainment on improving jobs and salaries among the academically disadvantaged sub-population. A certificate increased the perceived chances of obtaining better jobs or higher salaries by 26 percent. The return of an A.A. was estimated at 31 percent, and the perceived return of a B.A. degree was the highest at 36 percent. Not surprisingly, the SkipDeg category was significant and negative for post-secondary impact of educational attainment, since these respondents were probably the ones who did not enroll in any post-secondary institution. Low-achieving students seem to perceive a greater impact from attaining a B.A. than do high-achievers (0.36 for low-SES, low-achieving students and 0.32 for high-SES, low-achieving students compared to 0.26 for both of the high-achieving sub-populations). Specifically, low-SES, low-achievers tend to value a B.A. degree. the most. These students also value certificates more than do the other cohorts. Overall, one might conclude that while members of the low-SES, low-achieving group do value higher education, they become discouraged by the process and length of time required to obtain a credential.

8 Post-secondary impact was created as the average response of two questions: 1) Would you say that your schooling after high school has provided you with the opportunities for better jobs than you could have gotten had you not attended? 2) Would you say that your schooling after high school has allowed you to earn higher salaries? (NELS Codebook).

Discussion and Implications for Future Research and Policy

Table 3: Probit regressions reporting marginal effects of educational credentials on perceived PSE impact among different sub-populations. (Note: PSE impact is based on the respondents’ perceived impact of their attained postsecondary degrees on the likelihood of getting “better jobs” and “higher salaries” (NELS 88:00).) 42

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The “college-for-all” concept is highly valued in American society because it appeals to a moralistic theory of justice (Jencks 1988) and suggests equal opportunity for all members of the society. As discussed above, the economically and academically disadvantaged sub-population exhibited the highest return on a B.A. This is somewhat surprising, as a 4-year college degree seemed to carry clear payoffs for the most disadvantaged sub-population and for the most advantaged one, while the pay-off of the same degree was much lower for the mixed groups. In the matching estimates, however, the coefficients on the return of educational degrees for the economically and academically disadvantaged population of interest were much lower for the B.A. and even insignificant for the A.A. How, then, should these varied and somehow mixed results be interpreted? This study examined the pay-off of different educational degrees among different sub-populations but failed to account for the differences in costs. Further studies are needed to assess the return of a B.A. versus an A.A. with respect to the real and opportunity costs that post-secondary education implies. For example, if one considers the current average tuition of $32,976 that public four-year colleges charge and compares it to the average two-year tuition of $5,926 that a student would pay in a community college, the real return of a B.A. degree seems significantly lower (College Board). Attaining a B.A. seems even less appealing when one considers the average four-year tuition that a student would have to pay at a private nonprofit college. The average cost of such a degree is currently $114,000, or nearly

Research 20 times the tuition cost of an A.A. (College Board). These comparisons do not even account for the opportunity costs of college, which can be estimated from the foregone income that could be potentially earned by the student during the two additional years of full-time coursework that college requires. If one assumes a standard 40-hour workweek, 50 workweeks per year, and $10 hourly wage, the additional opportunity cost of college would mount to $52,976 for public four-year colleges ($20,000 + $32,976) and $134,000 for private non-profit four-year colleges ($20,000+114,000). Even though this study has demonstrated that a B.A. degree, on average, generates returns three times those of an A.A. degree, once these opportunity costs are taken into account, the magnitude of the B.A. returns may not be as significant. In sum, it makes sense why economically- and academically-disadvantaged students may not choose to pursue a B.A. degree, as Roderick and Nagaoka’s (2008) study demonstrates. The primary purpose of this study was to assess whether a B.A. degree is a suitable option for disadvantaged students. After estimating the returns of a B.A. degree with two different methods and taking into account the average real and opportunity costs for a disadvantaged student, this does not seem to be the case. Realistically, if the average low-SES student reaches senior year of high school with a C- average grade or below, it is quite unlikely that such a student will be able to obtain a scholarship (Rosenbaum 2001). Rosenbaum (2001) shows that high school seniors with poor grades (Cs or lower) with plans of completing college degrees only have a 14 percent chance of achieving these plans 10 years after high school. The regression estimate of the A.A. coefficient (0.11) indicates that community colleges can serve as a rewarding alternative for this sub-population of students. However, as the scholastic literature on the return of sub-baccalaureate education shows, the returns of an A.A. vary widely among fields of study. Grubb’s (1996) study suggests that attaining an A.A. in business and technical fields, and some health fields for females, can significantly increase a graduate’s income level in the labor market. Other A.A. degrees do not demonstrate the same level of impact on potential earnings. The matching estimate that resulted from the second method, which was insignificant at the 95 percent level, also leaves much of this variability unexplained. This second analysis seems to suggest that an A.A. degree does not seem to be the ideal option for the average disadvantaged student with the exception of the technical degrees Grubb identified. Alternate measures, including employment outcomes, likelihood of attaining a professional or managerial occupation, and PSE impact, complement the argument that equality of opportunity is far from being a reality. Completing a B.A. or A.A. degree increases the average disadvantaged student’s chances of attaining a professional or managerial occupation by 10 and 5 percent, respectively. Even though such positions are usually attained at a later stage in the average graduate’s life (ages 35-40 ), the low percentage increase does not seem to provide incentive enough to encourage this sub-population of students to complete a B.A. or A.A. degree. Volume 8, 2012-2013

Interestingly, the significant positive coefficients on the impact of PSE credentials on the labor market seem to suggest that the value of post-secondary education is actually perceived the highest by this academically and economically disadvantaged sub-population. The actual attainment of an educational credential, however, is a different story. The most obvious solution to the lack of opportunities for upward social mobility for the academically and economically disadvantaged sub-population would be to increase their academic performance in high school. Higher grades could open alternatives to better colleges, and subsequently higher wages, as other studies have suggested (Behrman 1996; Dale & Krueger 2002). Additional researchers have pointed out that the effort that students put into their coursework during high school is related to how feasible they perceive college attainment to be, how education-dependent their projected careers are, and how their identities align with such educational paths (Farkas 2000; Mesmin 2012). The inherent problem is that educational attainment is not necessarily seen as the path to future earnings and identity formation for this disadvantaged sub-population (Mesmin 2012). Even though the current study identified a significant perceived value in the attainment of educational degrees among disadvantaged students, some research has suggested that low-SES students think that schooling is irrelevant to their future employment opportunities, which causes peer pressure that discourages many from working hard in school (Ainsworth-Darnell and Downey 1998). Another reason for low academic performance among low-SES high school students may have to do with the acknowledged, but often ignored, tracking system present in most public schools. (Oakes 1986, Rosenbaum 1978). Rosenbaum’s (1978) study mentions the aspirations-achievement gap exhibited in interviews of random samples of general-track and non-college-track students. In essence, non-college-track students had the same college aspirations as the rest of the students, but were not being directed towards a college degree. On a similar note, Oakes (1986) argues that tracking reinforces inequality among already economically-disadvantaged students, and ultimately increases the academic gap. Once economically- and academically-disadvantaged students reach their senior year of high school, Oakes argues, they have already been sorted into categories. The students who are more likely to achieve a B.A. degree have already been identified. Finally, most educational policies do not take into account the different learning styles of individuals and the fact that some teaching methods may give different groups of students an advantage. For students who prefer practice to theory, vocational programs in community colleges may make more sense than the traditional liberal arts, 4-year model. Research does seem to indicate that fostering connections between vocational colleges and employers through job allocation services providing incentives to teachers to pair students in internships have beneficial effects on such disadvantaged students (Rosenbaum 2006, Lerman & Pouncy 1990). These efforts complement the findings of this study, Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal


Research which argues that a vocational program may make more sense for an economically disadvantaged student given the employment returns from an A.A. versus a B.A. degree after accounting for the costs of both. A recurrent problem throughout the literature is the education-job market gap. It may be the case that the U.S. does have appropriate postsecondary options available for disadvantaged students, but that information about these programs is not reaching its intended targets. Let us consider non-American education models. A successful apprenticeship system in Germany links high school students directly to the workplace (Stevenson & Stigler 1992, Lerman & Pouncy 1990). In Germany, some 70 percent of young people enter the job market through this apprenticeship system, and approximately 68 percent of high school graduates work in the occupation for which they were trained (Lerman & Pouncy 1990). A similar school-to-work model, once in place in the United States, would be able to encourage students to exert more effort in high school given the perceived—and real— payoffs of academic success. Apprenticeships that provide practical learning and training to students on-site might even increase their interest in advanced education.

ary degree may appear to be significant, the actual up-front costs of higher education impede disadvantaged students from attending 4-year institutions. The lack of post-secondary educational attainment of disadvantaged students is a growing concern, but the ideal of an opportunity for all seems to be just that: an ideal. Some students need more personal guidance than others to successfully complete a post-secondary education degree. The “college for all” approach is superficially appealing, but ignores the complicated socioeconomic context of economically and academically disadvantaged students. This study showed that there is a clear economic and perceived pay-off from for attaining a B.A. degree, and an A.A. degree in some cases, for the average disadvantaged student. However, many unobserved factors impede disadvantaged students from actually attaining a degree and subsequently reaping its benefits. Post-secondary education alternatives for disadvantaged students need to be strengthened and validated for this sub-population to increase their chances of upward social mobility.



This study attempted to offer guidance on post-secondary education alternatives for disadvantaged high school graduates. To generate a more holistic analysis, it also attempted to illustrate possible methods to correct for selection bias by comparing regression estimates to matching estimates of educational attainment on employment outcomes of a nationally representative sample of students. Few studies in the scholastic literature have attempted to isolate the effects of educational attainment on employment outcomes for the specific sub-populations studied here. It is worthy to mention that although the study attempted to capture as many pre-college covariates as possible to isolate the effects of educational attainment, these variables were based on those characteristics that could be measured and observed. Neither the regression nor the matching model was able to explain most (80 percent) of the employment outcome variables. This is primarily because a variety of unobservable factors, ranging from a student’s attitude toward social networks, which also affect an individual’s transition from an educational institution into the labor market. Further research is needed to determine how students’ family background, individual and parental expectations, peer influence, level of teacher attention received, and general school environment interact to produce quantifiable variations in the return of educational degrees for disadvantaged students. Isolating the effects that influence employment outcomes of disadvantaged students is challenging given the co-occurring factors that influence a single individual (Bowles and Gintis 2002, Oakes 1986). Moreover, the real return of a college degree for disadvantaged students is unclear, especially after accounting for real and opportunity costs. Even though the benefits of completing a post-second44

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“Alternatives to Universities Revisited”, in Education Policy Analysis 2004. Paris: OECD, 2005 Ainsworth-Darnell, J.W. and D.B. Downey. 1998. “Assessing the oppositional culture explanation for racial/ethnic differences in school performance.” Ameri can Sociological Review:536-553. Bailey, T., G. Kienzl, and D.E. Marcotte. 2004. “The Return to a Sub-Baccalaureate Education: The Effects of Schooling, Credentials and Program of Study on Economic Outcomes.” Beach, John M. 2009. “Critique of Human Capital Formation in the U.S. and The Economic Returns to Sub-Baccalaureate Credentials.” American Educa tional Studies Association:25-38. Brand, J. and C. Halaby. 2006. “Regression and matching estimates of the effects of elite college attendance on educational and career achievement.” Social Science Research 35:749-770. Caliendo, Marco. and Sabine. Kopeinig. 2005. “Some Practical Guidance for the Implementation of Propensity Score Matching.” IZA:32. Coleman, James S. 1961. The Adolescent Society. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press. Destin, Mesmin. 2012. IPR Colloquium: How Socioeconomic Contexts Influence Identity and Motivation. Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. February 6, 2012. George Farkas. (2000). “Teaching Low-Income Children to Read at Grade Level.” Sym posium on Utopian Visions: Engaged Sociologies for the 21st Century. Contemporary Sociology 29, number 1 (January):53-62. Gerber, Theodore P. and Sin Yi Cheung. 2008. “Horizontal Stratification in Post secondary Education: Forms, Explanations, and Implications.” Annual Review of Sociology 34:299-318. Gonzales, Jennifer. 2012 “Multiple Factors Fuel Growth of Transfers to Two-Year Colleges” The Chronicle of Higher Education March 2, 2012. <http:// chronicle.com/article/Multiple-Factors-Fuel-Growth/130978/?sid=c c&utm_source=cc&utm_medium=en> Goodman, Jerry D. 1978. “The Economic Returns to Education: An Empirical Assess ment of Alternative Models.” in Southwestern Sociological Association. Grubb, W. Norton and Marvin Lazerson. 2004. Education Gospel : The Economic Power of Schooling. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press. Iwamura, Michie. 1996. “The Private Rate of Return in Higher Education: Develop ments in the Economics of Education.” Kyoiku-shakaigaku Kenkyu/The Journal of Educational Sociology:5-5-28. Jere R. Behrman, Jill Constantine, Lori G. Kletzer, Michael S. McPherson, and Morton Owen Schapiro. 1996. “Impact of College Quality Choices on Wages: Are There Differences Among Demographic Groups?” WIlliams Project on the Econom ics of Higher Education Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Sylvia Allegretto. 2007. The State of Working America 2006/2007. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press. Monk-Turner, Elizabeth. 1994. “Economic Returns to Community and Four-Year College Education.” Journal of Socio-Economics 23:441-441-447. Oakes, Jeannie. 1986. “Keeping Track” Phi Delta Kappan. September/October 1986.

Research Paulsen, Michael B. 2001. “The Economics of Human Capital and Investment in High er Education.” In The Finance of Higher Education: Theory, Research, Policy, and Practice, ed. M. B. Paulsen and J.C. Smart, 55–94.New York: Agathon Press. Rist, Ray C. 1970. “Student Social Class and Teacher Expectations: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Ghetto Education.” Harvard Educational Review. Vol 40. No 3. Roderick, Melissa and Jenny Nagaoka. 2008. “Increasing College Access and Grad uation Among Chicago Public High School Graduates”, in College Success: What it Means and How to Make it Happen, Michael S. McPherson and Morton Owen Schapiro, Editors, The College Board, New York, pp.19-66. Rosenbaum, E. James et al. 2006. “After Admission: From College Access to College Success”. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 267 Rosenbaum, J. E. 2001. “Beyond College For All: Career Paths for the Forgotten Half”. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Rosenbaum, E. James. 1978. “The Structure of Opportunity in School” Social Forces, September 1978, Vol 57:1. Sabine. Kopeinig. 2005. “Some Practical Guidance for the Implementation of Propen sity Score Matching.” IZA:32. Sewell, William H. and Vimal P. Shah. 1967. “Socioeconomic Status, Intelligence, and the Attainment of Higher Education.” Sociology of Education 40(Winter):1-23. Schneider, Barbara, and Stevenson. 1999. “The Ambitious Generation.” New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. Stern, David, Neal Finkelstein, James R. Stone, et al. 1995. “School to Work: Research on Programs in the United States.” The Stanford Series on Education & Public Policy, no. 17. London, England: Falmer Press. Stevenson, H. W. and Stigler, J. W. (1992). The learning gap: Why our schools are failing, and what we can learn from Japanese and Chinese education. New York: Summit Books. Thomas Bailey, Gregory Kienzl, Dave E. Marcotte. 2004. “The Return to a Sub-Bacca laureate Education: The Effects of Schooling, Credentials and program of Study on Economic Outcomes.” National Assessment of Vocational Education, U.S. Department of Education:1-85.

The variables for occupations were categorized as follows:

Appendix A: Categories of variables The variables for pre-college characteristics where categorized as follows:

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Research Appendix B: Propensity Score Matching Results

Table 5: Propensity score matching estimates using A.A. as dependent

Table 4: Propensity score matching estimates using B.A. as dependent variable, ln(Income) as outcome

9 Since tbe standard errors do not take into account the extra variation that the propensity score matching generates, the standard errors are not correct. These were corrected using a method called bootstrapping, which takes into account the variance that is added to the normal sampling variation from the procedure of calculating the propensity score and the common support. What bootstrapping does is that it re-estimates the results N times and then averages the standard errors of each bootstrapp to get the modified standard error. The underlying assumption here is that the distribution of the N estimated average treatment effects that come from the N bootstrapp samples approximate the sampling distribution (and thus the standard error) of the population mean. In this case, there were 50 replications. (see ibid.).


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About the Contributors Gabija Revis Gabija Revis will graduate from Northwestern in 2013 with a degree in Anthropology (Human Biology) and Global Health. Ever since beating her father, a physician, in an IQ test at age eleven, she has questioned the legitimacy of standardized testing. This honors thesis represented an opportunity to further explore the sociocultural and biological factors that contribute to IQ scores. After graduation, she plans to apply to dental schools in hopes of working in public health.

Harika Rayala Harika Rayala is a senior majoring in anthropology. During her time at Northwestern, she developed a strong interest in storytelling and global health, specifically in how narratives of illness and healing affect health-care service delivery in societies. In addition to her research on healthcare in the Kashmir Valley, she also conducted fieldwork with the Iraqi refugee population in Chicago looking at issues of access to psychiatric services. She serves on the national board of GlobeMed to lead its communications with its 50 partner organizations and writes for the GlobeMed Blog

Alyssa Lloyd Alyssa Lloyd is a senior studying Social Policy and International Studies. Her time studying abroad in Australia during her junior year and her concern for the environment inspired her to return to Melbourne and study the effects of the new carbon tax. She has thoroughly enjoyed her experience at Northwestern and after graduation, she plans to work in the nonprofit world.

Volume 8, 2012-2013

Sam Barker Sam Barker is a senior at Northwestern, studying English Literature. His broad investigatory experiences in the field of literature have paved the way to more artistic pursuits, such as research into technological musical phenomena and the aesthetics of music in video games. After graduation, he plans to work in the law field for a year before tackling law school.

Melissa Rothman Melissa is originally from Massachusetts, but has lived in the Chicago area for five years. While studying at Northwestern University, Melissa lived and researched abroad in Spain, Chile, and Argentina. She also volunteered as a Youth Counselor at the Warming House Youth Center in Wilmette, IL. After graduating with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Psychology, Melissa joined the Chicago Health Corps where she currently serves with Erie Family Health Center.

Andrea Marcos Andrea Marcos studied Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences and Sociology at Northwestern University. She graduated in June 2012 with joint honors after completing her thesis entitled “Higher Education Alternatives for Disadvantaged Students.” This research was inspired by her work with a group of highly motivated Chicago public high school girls who desperately wanted to attain the best post-secondary education they could manage. This experience opened her eyes into a different reality, which she tried to show through a quantitative approach.

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Call for Submissions

NURJ Have you done Independent Research? Wrote a URG report? Have an abstract of a current project? Struggled through a senior thesis? NURJ is now accepting manuscript submissions for consideration in the 2013-2014 volume of the Journal.

Email to submissions.nurj@gmail.com Details: Research papers must be the independent work of the author. Multiple authorships/co-authors are permitted. Papers must be no longer than 20 double-spaced pages, not including bibliography, in 12 pt Times New Roman font with 1 inch margins Abstracts should be 2-4 pages and include a short bibliography. NURJ accepts research papers from all fields of study, including the life and physical sciences, engineering, social sciences, and the humanities. This research must have been performed independently at Northwestern University (or during an NU-sponsored project) while the author was a student at NU (thus students who have already graduated can submit their undergraduate work for consideration). More information about submissions is available on our website at groups.northwestern.edu/nurj/submit.


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