Seminar Series

Yu Xie, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Sociology, Princeton, presents, “The Impact of Economic Inequality on Social and Demographic Outcomes in China.”

In this presentation, Professor Yu Xie first documents a sharp rise in economic inequality in contemporary China, drawing on newly available survey data collected by several Chinese university survey organizations. He then presents results from his research program on the impact of rising economic inequality on a variety of social and demographic outcomes in China: intergenerational mobility, mortality, marriage age, marriage partner choice, and fertility.

Vadim N. Gladyshev, Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, presents, "Systems Aging and Rejuvenation."

What is aging? When does it begin? How to control lifespan? Can we rejuvenate organisms in addition to slowing down the aging process? There is no consensus, but recent developments in the field allow to begin answering these questions. In particular, DNA methylation of defined sets of CpG dinucleotides emerged as a critical and precise biomarker of the aging process. Multi-variate machine learning models, known as epigenetic clocks, can exploit quantitative changes in the methylome to predict the age of bulk tissue with remarkable accuracy. The first epigenetic aging clock that works at the level of single cells has also been recently developed. Together with advances in genomics and intervention strategies, these tools support accurate quantification and manipulation of the aging process. Additional topics to be covered in the talk will include development and application of molecular signatures of longevity and research on different types of rejuvenation.

Kenneth M. Langa, Cyrus Sturgis Professor of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, presents, “Cognitive Aging, Dementia, and the Future of an Aging Society.”

Recent news and debate regarding the FDA approval of Aduhelm, a new medication aimed at slowing the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), has brought to wider attention major shifts in the understanding and approach to diagnosing and treating AD and other causes of dementia. This seminar will review accumulating data and new approaches over the last twenty years to define and classify cognitive decline and dementia, including the importance of vascular contributions to the risk for cognitive decline, racial and ethnic differences in risk, and trends in dementia incidence and prevalence over recent decades. Recent focus on the biological pathways that are thought to cause the cognitive and functional decline associated with AD will be reviewed, as well as their implications for diagnosis and treatment, as highlighted by the current debate regarding the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of Aduhelm and other similar treatments currently under review.

Demography of Health and Aging Seminar: Ruth Wygle, Predoctoral Student, Duke Department of Sociology and Garrett Baker, Predoctoral Student, Sanford School of Public Policy

Ruth Wygle, Predoctoral Student,  Duke Department of Sociology, presents. “Identifying Current and Future Uses of Standardized Jail Data Collection Efforts for Healthcare Practitioners Serving Justice-involved Individuals.” It is estimated that upwards of 10 million unique individuals experience jail incarceration each year in the US. In most states, there is no standardized, centralized mechanism for collecting information from local jails. In contrast, State prisons do have centralized administrative systems, which have the capacity to generate data that can be accessed by myriad actors in the criminal justice system, including practitioners, researchers and advocates. These data are routinely used to identify population trends, target resources to inmates and facilities and evaluate correctional policies and programs. In recent years, a growing number of States have implemented standardized data collection from local jails. Most statewide databases collect information on population counts and demographics, jail staffing and budgets, healthcare utilization, morbidity, and mortality. This type of data collection and analysis can be an important factor in policy innovation and research on a state’s correctional landscape. We sought to understand the context by which States come to develop such databases, as well as their content and their uses. We did so by conducting a thorough review of existing databases in the U.S. by searching state websites, reviewing public documents and interviewing officials in each state correctional office about the history and usage of their databases. Further, we interviewed multiple healthcare professionals serving justice-involved individuals to ascertain their thoughts about what data should be collected in a standardized way in order to improve the health care available to individuals experiencing jail incarceration and the health outcomes of these individuals. Through these efforts, we have developed a list of recommendations both for States considering implementing standardized data collection efforts and for local authorities wanting to improve their data collection efforts even in absence of a State mandate.  Garrett Baker, Predoctoral Student, Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, presents,  “The Consequences of Paternal Incarceration for Youth’s Expectations and Aspirations” Children’s future orientation—their expectations and aspirations—has a consistent and substantial effect on a variety of life course outcomes. However, little research to date has considered empirically how future orientation is shaped by adverse events such as experiencing a parent be incarcerated. I leverage the unique nature of Add Health’s retrospective parent incarceration questions to employ an innovative analytic strategy that accounts for selection bias and unobserved heterogeneity above and beyond typical observational methods in this area. Results indicate that paternal incarceration reduces youth future orientation by nearly a full standard deviation and are robust to a variety of models and specifications. Given that parental incarceration is increasingly common and disproportionately experienced by disadvantaged youth, the large magnitude and causal nature of my results reveal an important pathway through which mass incarceration has contributed to the intergenerational transmission of inequality in the U.S. in recent decades.

Maria Glymour, Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UCSF, presents, “Alzheimer's disease and dementia: learning more with instrumental variables-inspired approaches"

Progress on research to prevent or treat Alzheimer's disease and related causes of dementia (ADRD) has been disappointingly slow. The collection of diseases poses special difficulties for population research, including epidemiology.  The predominant causal inference methods in epidemiology are based on fulfilling the 'back-door criterion', i.e., accounting for shared causes of exposure and outcome, are ill-matched for many problems in ADRD. Novel insights or more convincing findings may be derived when using methods based on instrumental variables (IV), i.e., identifying sources of variation in exposures of interest that are unrelated to the potential outcomes of ADRD. One major challenge in applying IV methods has been the need for large sample sizes, but this barrier is ameliorated as large data sets become commonplace.  Another major challenge in applying IV methods is identifying plausible IVs, but because epidemiologists do not routinely use IV methods, they may not recognize potential IVs. I will discuss examples of IV-inspired approaches in ADRD research, with the goal of stimulating discussion of other potential IVs. I will also touch on the recent controversy related to aducanumab, the FDA-approved medication for treatment of AD.

Greg Duncan, Distinguished Professor, School of Education and Departments of Economics and Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California at Irvine, presents, “The causal impact of poverty reduction on infants and their families”

Early childhood poverty has long been associated with school achievement, educational attainment, adult earnings and, more recently, functional neural development. Two family-process pathways have been proposed – a “what money can buy” path consisting of the child enrichment and other time and money expenditures made by parents on behalf of their children, and a “stress” pathway that operates through parental mental health and parenting sensitivity. Unclear in these mostly correlational studies is whether poverty causes developmental and family process differences early in life. The seminar will describe early results on infant EEG power from a randomized control trial (RCT) of poverty reduction. Participants were 1000 mother-infant dyads who enrolled in Baby’s First Years, the first randomized control study of poverty reduction in early childhood in the United States. Mothers and their infants were recruited in hospital maternity wards in four U.S. metropolitan areas (New York City, the greater New Orleans metropolitan area, the greater Omaha metropolitan area, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul). Shortly after giving birth, mothers were randomized to either a “high-cash gift group,” receiving $333/month, or a “low-cash gift group,” receiving $20 per month. The presentation will focus on group differences (i.e., treatment effects) on EEG-based outcomes and mediators as well as possible policy implications of these differences.

Maria G. Rendon, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, UC Irvine, presents, “Stagnant Dreamers: How the Inner City Shapes the Integration of Second Generation Latinos.”

How does the American urban context, with high levels of poverty concentration and segregation, shape the integration process of children of Latino immigrants? Stagnant Dreamers calls attention to urban structural conditions constraining social mobility for the second-generation while highlighting how the Latinx community draws on internal resources to inhibit ‘second-generation decline.’ The book follows the lives of 42 Latino young men whose immigrant families settled in Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 1990s, a time when urban violence peaked in American cities. Rather than negative acculturation processes shaping social mobility, Stagnant Dreamers documents how exposure to urban violence hurt young men’s schooling and how segregation reinforced working poor and working class insular social networks. Kin and community ties help the second-generation get by, but a lack of cross-racial and cross-class ties complicate how they navigate institutions of higher education and broker access to highly coveted jobs. Stagnant Dreamers demonstrates how the American urban context is a place of paradox – while it constrains opportunities, it also sustains the concept of the American Dream. This book explains why despite the adversity Latino young men face, most remain optimistic about their future or determined to get ahead.

Leah Richmond-Rakerd, Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Clinical Science area at the University of Michigan, presents, "Mental disorders and population healthspan: Insights from nationwide registers”

Lifespan gains have stalled in many developed nations, since even before the COVID-19 pandemic. This concerning trend amplifies the need to identify modifiable determinants of population life and health expectancy. In this talk, I will highlight mental health as one potential determinant. Leveraging data from two prospective nationwide-register studies, I will show that as older adults, young people with mental disorders (1) develop excess age-related physical and neurodegenerative diseases, (2) accumulate more associated healthcare use and costs, and (3) die earlier than people without mental disorders. These associations are evident across different psychiatric conditions and different age-related diseases, and after addressing reverse-causation and other alternative explanations. These findings suggest that ameliorating mental-health problems in young people might extend population lifespan and healthspan, and reduce the societal burden of age-related diseases.

Amada Armentra, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA, presents, “Immigrants and the Law: Crafting Moral Selves in the Face of Immigration Control.”

US immigration laws criminalize unauthorized immigrants and render many of immigrants’ daily activities “illegal.” How does this affect immigrants’ attitudes and practices toward the law? Drawing on interviews with unauthorized Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia, this study examines how respondents resolve problems of law in their everyday lives. I show how time spent in the United States transforms migrants’ legal attitudes from one of “getting around the law” to one of “doing things the right way.” I highlight the implications of this legal transformation for the moral economy of immigration policy, for immigrant claims-making, and for Latino immigrants’ place in the racial hierarchy.

David A. Bennett, Robert C. Borwell Professor of Neurological Sciences, Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, presents, "Mixed Pathology, Risk Factors, Resilience, and Personalized Medicine for Alzheimer's Dementia.”

This seminar will introduce you to two prospective analytic cohort studies of aging and dementia in which all participants agree to donate brain, spinal cord, muscle and nerve, and more recently skin, fat, and bone, at the time of death. He will demonstrate how loss of cognition is a complex function of numerous brain pathologies that add to and interact with numerous indices of resilience. Finally, leveraging a unique platform of more than 50 induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from autopsied study participants, he will illustrate a path to personalized medicine for AD and resilience.