DPLS News, March 1995

Please note: Older issues of the newsletter are likely to contain
broken links -- the newsletter is presented here "as published."

March 1995

Table of Contents

ICPSR Summer Training

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) and the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, co-sponsor an annual Summer Training Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research. The Summer Training Program offers a comprehensive, integrated program of studies in research design, statistics, data analysis, and social methodology. The Program provides an environment where methods of quantitative analysis are studied within the broader context of substantive social science research. In addition, instruction is coordinated with and reinforced by active, participatory data analytic experience.

The program is designed to meet the diverse methodological needs and interests of most college and university faculty and graduate students. Three instructional tracks are defined. Track I provides basic integrated instruction to assist researchers to develop quantitative competencies and offers prerequisite skills for Track II. Track II offers courses on introductory statistics and data analysis, regression, modelling, nonlinear systems and analysis of variance. Track III offers courses on multivariate methods, categorical analysis, LISREL, longitudinal analysis, and other advanced topics.

In addition, the Summer Program offers courses that are substantively oriented. The focus in these courses is on the application of quantitative methods of analysis to particular substantive areas. These courses include: Quantitative Historical Analysis, Quantitative Analysis of Latin America, Criminal Justice Methodology and Analysis, and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. These specialized workshops vary from year-to-year, and because of limited enrollment and high demand they tend to fill up early. There is an April registration deadline. A few offer stipend support for qualified students.

The Program is partitioned into two four-week sessions, the first being June 26 - July 21, and the second being July 24 - August 18. The instructional staff is comprised of research scholars who have made important contributions to the development of social methodology. The Traveling Scholar program enables doctoral-level students at the University of Wisconsin to register for these courses and pay only the regular fees charged by their home university. Credits earned are automatically accepted by the home university.

Descriptions of courses and registration material can be obtained from the DPLS. We also offer a small stipend to assist one individual in defraying living expenses. If you are interested in attending the Summer Training Program we suggest that you visit the Library soon.

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Stanford Child Custody Data

The Stanford Child Custody Project embodies two studies. The first, Study I, focuses on the evolution of child custody arrangements in divorcing families and is comprised of two data sets (family focused and child focused). Study II is a follow-up and is not available for public distribution at this time. Study I is a three-wave, longitudinal study of post-divorce child custody arrangements.

The study is based on a sample of 1,124 families who filed for divorce in two California counties between September, 1984 and April, 1985. The first interview, conducted shortly after the divorce filing, provided information on family background; number, age, and sex of children; financial resources; and education, occupation and work schedule of the two parents. It also inquired extensively into the negotiation and dispute-resolution process the couple engaged in as they tried to arrive at an agreement on financial and custodial matters. Particular attention was given to the involvement of attorneys, mediators, and other professionals.

In addition, the questions explored the degree of conflict between the former spouses, any logistical problems associated with maintaining custodial and visitation arrangements, the children©s reaction to the divorce, and the presence or absence of coordination between parents with respect to the child©s upbringing.

In Wave II (conducted one year after the filing) and Wave III (conducted three years after the filing), many Wave I items were replicated, some dropped, and several new items introduced, including court records and additional items on child-support. These data are available at DPLS. There are a number of articles and books that include analyses of these data. See What's New at DPLS for details.

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1995 Census Test

This March a test census will be carried out in two urban sites and a rural site. Its goal is to determine if the fundamental changes being considered for the 2000 census show promise of reducing the differential undercount while also reducing the cost of the census. The introduction of sampling and estimation techniques is by far the most controversial of the proposals, representing a turning away from the commitment to a complete count by the Census Bureau. Some of the changes to be implemented in the 1995 pre-test are outlined below.

Multiple sample forms will replace a single lengthy form to collect long form data. A Spanish language questionnaire will be used in Spanish-speaking areas. The U.S. Postal Service will assist the Bureau in compiling and maintaining an address list and geographic files. Census respondents may use telephones to answer census questions. A new data capture system will use electronic imaging to convert responses directly from paper to computer-readable form.

One fly in the ointment to these plans is current activity on Capitol Hill. For example, on the House side, the oversite Subcommittee on Census and Population is about to disappear. It is unclear whether the previous Subcommittee's expertise will be retained, or where oversite will occur. Similar activity is taking place in the Senate, where the Subcommittee on Government Regulations and Information is to be abolished. Considering Republican criticism of the cost of the census, it is clear that the census has lost important ears in Congress. Stay tuned.

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Researcher's Notes: Behavior of Politicians

by David Figlio
Department of Economics

The Data and Program Library Service has provided me with a number of data sets that have helped me to answer various questions concerning the economics of institutional decision-making. For instance, the DPLS acquired Congressional Quarterly's Voting Scores of Members of the U.S. Congress through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. I have used these data for my research on the behavior of elected politicians when their incentive structures change. The data have allowed me to demonstrate that politicians systematically alter their voting behavior once they have announced an intention to retire from office. Furthermore, the data have helped me to document the changes in U.S. Senators' voting behavior over the course of their six-year terms. Using these data, I have written two journal articles, the first of which will be published this summer in Public Finance Quarterly.

The DPLS has also helped me obtain data for other projects. For example, the DPLS is assisting me in downloading data from the Annual Survey of Governments so that I can analyze the dynamic behavior of local governments in response to changes in the state©s fiscal environment.

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What's New at DPLS?

The staff has recovered from our labor-intensive move to 124 Ingraham Hall (formerly Commerce) and the library is open for business. We now have windows, too (real, not virtual), so come visit our new space! When the asbestos removal is completed in the Social Science Building this summer, we will be returning to our `home' there. In terms of new services, we would like to announce the availability of a new set of bibliographies for your use or perusal:

Spurious Scholarship--a list of timely articles on the Bell Curve controversy, originating from our popular bulletin board display.

Stanford Child Custody Study--scholarly articles by the PI's and others; essential for anyone interested in using this dataset.

Sex in the Nineties--a sexy topic for data enthusiasts if ever there was one! Popular and scholarly accounts of the results of the National and Social Life Survey, 1992.

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Selected Recent Acquisitions

  • Economic Census, 1987 [CD-ROM version] (CB-052-001)
  • National Household Sample Survey, 1990 [Brazil]: Public Use File (AH-509-005)
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1993 [CD-ROM version] (CB-053-001)
  • National Health and Social Life Survey, 1992, NORC Sex Study, 1992 (QP-011-001)
  • The Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) Database, 1990 [CD-ROM version] (AG-009-001)
  • National Survey of Unmarried Women, Age 20-29: 1983 (QP-010-001)
  • Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) File [CD-ROM version] (AH-022-002)
  • Uniform Crime Reports: National Time Series Community-Level Database, 1967-1980 (SJ-047-001)

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Internet Corner

Brush Up Your Internet Skills

As the number of Internet nodes worldwide grow exponentially, and more content is available through the networks than ever, students and faculty alike feel the need to sharpen their cyber-skills so as not to miss out on important channels of information in their field and beyond. Fortunately there are several training opportunities on campus throughout the semester for campus users.

The General Library System now offers Internet workshops along with their workshops for searching the rich array of locally-mounted databases, and the library catalog. Some of these focus on a research area, such as Women's Studies Resources on the Internet (March 1 at Memorial). Others focus on a particular tool, such as FTP & Archie or World Wide Web and Mosaic, coming up in March and April. For scheduling information, pick up a handout of library workshops called New Information Connections at a GLS library. Or, monitor the weekly listing on WiscInfo (choose The Electronic Library/Selected UW Madison Libraries/ Library Events). DoIT (Division of Information Technology) offers Internet workshops as well. Several of these revolve around using WiscINFO and WiscWorld. A series of free workshops for students are taught by student peer trainers.

Political Science Newsgroup to Start Up

A recent announcement on the SOS-DATA listserv/newsgroup states, "It is very surprising that no political science group exists on Usenet; it is virtually the only social science not to have such a group." The announcement, posted by Chris Stone, calls for support and volunteer moderators who will maintain a scholarly tone to the group. The group will be called `sci.political-sci', with plans to split into more specific sub-groups as demand warrants. Following the newsgroup creation process, the creators will be discussing the proposal on `news.groups' and `group.advice'. For news on the advancement of the group or to express interest in being a moderator, send a message including your research interests to cbstone@phoenix.princeton.edu.

New Penn World Tables at NBER

The National Bureau of Economic Research is distributing an updated version of its table of international economic comparisons, accessible for free on the Internet. The original table was developed by Robert Summers and Alan Heston, for an article in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 1991. The revised and updated version was prepared by the two U-Penn professors and others. It includes two new variables: a standard of living index (measured by private plus public consumption, minus military expenditures per capita) " designed to measure material well-being more explicitly than GDP per capita" and percent of transportation equipment to total non-residential capital stock. Twenty-eight variables are assigned to 152 countries. An additional file shows estimates of investment in 43 countries, grouped into five categories, in 1985 international dollars.

The NBER site is available through Gopher and FTP. It is convenient to read the documentation first, through the gopher site at nber.harvard.edu. Then, to actually download the data, use the anonymous ftp site at nber.harvard.edu, and cd to pub/pwt55.. Plain ASCII files are available, as are compressed files in either .Z, or .ZIP format (which includes a DOS executable extracting program). Lotus/Excel formats are in pub/pwt55.spreadsheet. Remember to use the binary switch for non-ASCII files.

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End of March 1995 Newsletter