Additional Research Projects

CHW Mini Grants

CHW provides small grants to support affiliates' research relevant to health and health policy. Current projects supported by CHW mini-grants include:

Provincializing Science: Mapping and Marketing Diversity from Lab to Legislature

Ruha BenjaminPI: Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University
In a project tentatively titled, Provincializing Science: Mapping and Marketing Diversity from Lab to Legislature, Ruha Benjamin asks how the field of human population genomics reflects, reinforces, and sometimes challenges socio-political classifications such as race, caste, and citizenship. Drawing upon in-depth interviews, participant observation, and a mixed archive of documents and media, she is examining how different national imaginaries shape the impact and meaning of this field in distinct ways, and increasingly through the idiom of ‘sovereignty’ in which governments claim to be the custodians of a population’s genetic inheritance. Ultimately, this project aims to further our understanding of how science and society are mutually constituted and how both are influenced by processes of globalization, nation-building, and ethnoracial stratification.

Digitization of vital statistics publications from early and mid-20th century America

Ilyana KuziemkoPI: Ilyana Kuziemko, Princeton University
This seed grant will be used to digitize vital statistics birth and death records from the early 20th century US, which currently exist only in hard copy.  We are especially interested in creating datasets that have these statistics by locality (city, county or state, depending on the detail provided in a given year) and by race.  Our hope is that these data can be used by researchers to better understand state-to-state migration patterns during this period and black-white mortality (in particular infant mortality) differences by year and locality.

Defining and overcoming the species barrier of Plasmodium falciparum blood stage infection

Alexander PlossPI: Alexander Ploss, Princeton University
Annually, infectious diseases cause nearly one quarter of all human deaths worldwide. This large burden of mortality and morbidity is due to steady and significant background level of established infections, periodic emergence of new infectious diseases, and to sudden surges in infection of old established infections. Many pathogens exhibit very strong human tropism, meaning that only human tissues can be infected with these pathogens. This tropism poses unique challenges for studying host-pathogen interactions and for testing intervention strategies. Research in the Ploss Lab focuses on systematically identifying barriers preventing transmission of human hepatotropic pathogens to non-primate species, and translating our discoveries into devising experimental systems that will allow us to understand and dissect host responses to these diseases.

Parasites causing malaria in humans are a prime example of clinical highly relevant pathogens that infect only humans and some great apes. With particular focus on Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite species that is most virulent in humans, it is our goal to establish proof-of-concept for overcoming genetically the barriers of interspecies transmission of plasmodial parasites to rodents. A mouse model with inbred susceptibility to P. falciparum infection would open unprecedented opportunities to study this important human pathogen. Furthermore, it could be used to assess the efficacy of novel drug and vaccine candidate.

Losing Hope, Losing Years: An Ethnographic Study of Declining Life Expectancies in White Rural America

Carolyn RousePI: Carolyn Rouse, Princeton University
Understanding declining life expectancies within certain white populations is important not simply because it represents a public health concern, but it also speaks to failures in social policy since the 1980s. My ethnographic research will focus on nine rural communities in a county in Northern California. The goal is to understand the loss of hope, the normalization of drug use and prison, and the lack of coherent political critiques focused around real policy reforms. In order to capture the relationship between political and social beliefs and declining life expectancy, I will research family histories (genograms) with respect to jobs, income, health, religion, education, incarceration, and expectations for the future.

Other featured projects

CHW affiliates engage in an array of research initiatives at the intersection of health, wellbeing and policy. Below are selected highlights:

Dimensions of Subjective Well-Being: Aging, Religiosity, and Adaptation

Angus DeatonPI: Angus Deaton, Princeton University
The project, funded in August 2011 by the National Institute on Aging, is directed by Angus Deaton, in collaboration with Arthur Stone, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Stony Brook University, and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Public Policy at Princeton. The project will study the use of self-reports as measures of well-being, with a view to advancing the measurement of subjective well-being and to advancing the understanding of whether and how such measures can and should be used in policy. The analysis rests on the distinction between different concepts of “happiness.” One concept relates to hedonic well-being, the continuous flow of feelings that is experienced on a moment to moment basis. The other is an overall view of how life is going, which comes from a considered judgment. Accumulating evidence suggests that these two concepts capture different aspects of human well-being, and that they respond differently to different circumstances. 

The project will explore this distinction using large new data sets for the United States and for more than 150 countries around the world. It will look at how the different measures of self-reported well-being are related to life circumstances, with a particular focus on age. There are several hypotheses in economics and psychology about how subjective well-being should change over the life-cycle, and these will organize the investigations.

Another major line of investigation is the role of religiosity in well-being; the research will seek to better understand both the determinants of religiosity—why people become more religious as they age, why women are more religious than men—as well as the benefits or costs of religion and whether they are or are not universal around the world. The final topic is the extent to which subjective well-being is relative: for example, whether well-being depends on a person’s own income, or instead on income relative to the income of others. One hypothesis is that the well-known phenomenon of adaptation can often be mistaken for relativity, and that this has important consequences for thinking about economic policy for the elderly, including such issues as the taxation of social security benefits or incentives for postponing retirement. 

An overarching theme of the work is to understand whether self-reports of well-being can be defended as guides to policy, or whether the criticisms of them by some philosophers and economists are sufficient to rule them out. A better understanding of adaptation is also a key for this last endeavor.

Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

Sara MclanahanPI: Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is following a cohort of nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000 (roughly three-quarters of whom were born to unmarried parents). The Study consists of interviews with both mothers and fathers at birth and again when children are ages one, three, five, and nine, plus in-home assessments of children and their home environments at ages three, five, and nine. The Study provides new information on the capabilities and relationships of parents, particularly unwed parents, as well as the effects of parental resources and public policies on children's wellbeing. The Study is a joint effort of the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, CHW, Columbia University's Columbia Population Research Center, and the National Center for Children and Families. The Principal Investigator is Sara McLanahan at Princeton University and Irwin Garfinkel and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn at Columbia University. It is funded through grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), and a consortium of private foundations and other government agencies.

Future of Children

Sara MclanahanEditor-in-Chief: Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
The Future of Children
 is a journal that seeks to promote effective policies and programs for children by providing policymakers, service providers, and the media with timely, objective information based on the best available research. The journal is a collaborative effort between the Woodrow Wilson School and The Brookings Institution. The journal draws on the expertise of three Woodrow Wilson School research centers, including the Center for Health and Wellbeing. Sara McLanahan, director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, is editor-in-chief; senior editors include Janet Currie, Director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing, and Cecilia Rouse, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins, both Senior Fellows and Co-Directors of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, fill out the journal's permanent editorial staff. Kris McDonald, Program Manager of the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW), is the associate editor of The Future of Children. The journal is published twice a year. Each issue serves as a basis for a graduate course offered at the Woodrow Wilson School. The Future of Children website is