STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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U of M's long-running economic mobility survey to add new generation of kids to the mix

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We're data geeks here at State of Opportunity. And there's a treasure trove of data (and more to come!) housed at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID)has been around since 1968 and is the longest-running household panel survey in the world. We're talking tens of thousands of data points from more than 70,000 individuals over more than four decades. 

Researchers have mined PSID data for all kinds of economic mobility studies. My colleague Dustin Dwyer blogged about it back in 2012 before he went to a U of M conference where social scientists presented their findings using PSID data across three generations: 

I've already had a chance to look at some of the papers that will be presented, and there are some tantalizing findings. Jean Yeung of the National University of Singapore and two co-authors from New York University looked at the black-white achievement gap across three generations. They found evidence that discrimination in the grandparent's generation had an impact on children's outcomes decades later. Other papers look at the effects of extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins – to see how they affect economic mobility in other countries.

And now there's a new generation to add to the mix. All of the children in the original cohort will have reached adulthood by this year, so PSID researchers will collect information on this new generationof kids ages 0 to 17. 

Paula Fomby is an associate research scientist for U of M's Population Studies Center. She and her colleagues will survey the primary PSID caregivers about a variety of topics including parenting style, their own mental health, and extracurricular activities for the kids.

For those kids aged 12-17, the PSID researchers will talk to them directly about "what kinds of learners they are, expectations for how far they'll go in school, what kind of work they want to do," among other things, says Fromby. And unlike previous PSID surveys, this new generation of kids will have to answer questions about computer and media use.

Fromby says the goal is to get "an early snapshot of where these kids are" now, and eventually compare this cohort of children to the cohorts before "to get a sense of how childhood has changed and how children are using their time." And of course the new data will also be used to measure disparities by social class, gender, race and ethnicity.

PSID researchers will start collecting data from this new cohort in October, and it'll be made available to the public sometime in 2015.

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.