UIC Institute Funds 17 Studies of Race in Health, Justice, Economics, Education

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago will use grants and fellowships from UIC’s Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy to conduct 17 year-long studies of racial and ethnic inequalities in health, justice, economics and education. All studies will conclude with reports at the end of the 2012-13 academic year.


Neighborhood Effects on African American Preterm Births. In 2009, African American women had 1.5 times more preterm births than non-Hispanic white women, perhaps because of stress, writes Carmen Giurgescu, assistant professor of family health science. She will explore whether green space moderates the stress of living in poor, violent neighborhoods.

Comfort Food and Depression among African Americans and Latinos. Shannon Zenk, assistant professor of health systems science, says African Americans tend to be less physically healthy than whites, but have lower rates of major depression. Latinos also appear to be at lower risk for depression than whites. Zenk will examine whether energy-dense “comfort” foods buffer the effects of psychosocial stress through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/cortical axis, and whether the effects differ by ethnicity.

Ethnic Culture as a Protective Factor against Suicide in African American Women. Suicide has been less common among African Americans than other racial groups, but it is increasing, particularly among young males, says Valerie Borum, assistant professor of social work. Borum will investigate how African American culture may buffer against suicide among African American women.

Advocacy for Change in Sickle Cell Disease Treatment. Sickle cell disease affects 100,000 Americans. Many physicians avoid using opioids to relieve the pain of SCD because they believe SCD patients abuse drugs and exaggerate reports of pain. Miriam Ezenwa, assistant professor of bio-behavioral health sciences, will engage African American adults affected by SCD to pinpoint policy and system barriers to pain treatment.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea in African Americans. Obstructive sleep apnea is under-diagnosed and associated with workplace and traffic accidents, neurocognitive impairment, and cardiovascular disease. African-American ethnicity is a risk factor for earlier, more severe onset. Bharati Prasad, assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, will research a home-based diagnostic test for OSA and the hypothesis that lack of physical activity affects African-Americans at risk for OSA.

SMART Girls Program. Sabine French, assistant professor of psychology, will revise the SMART Girls program of the Roseland/Pullman Boys & Girls Club to improve health, fitness, education and self-esteem among African American girls aged 13-17 in an underserved area. Part one focuses on personal values in dating relationships, date violence and rape, sexual risk-taking, sexual myths and truths, and the physical and emotional changes of adolescence. Part two covers nutrition, cooking skills and fitness.


Bias-Motivated Crime against Transgender Women of Color. Violence against transgender women of color is often attributed to sexual orientation rather than race or gender, says Paul Schewe, associate research professor of psychology. Schewe and Alicia Matthews, associate professor of nursing, will investigate police classification of crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Chicago to determine how it may increase the likelihood of bias-motivated violence against LGBT people.

The Politics of Enclosure in South Africa and Palestine/Israel. The South African elite live behind walls and fences in gated communities, while Israel builds walls and fences to surround Palestinians, says Andy Clarno, visiting assistant professor of African American studies and sociology, who compares the Palestinian enclaves to U.S. prisons. He will analyze the relationships among political and economic restructuring, marginalized populations, and the politics of security.

The Impact of Race and Ethnicity on Release from the Juvenile Justice System. The U.S. Department of Justice mandates that states address disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile system. Christine Martin, assistant professor of criminology, law and justice, will do a comprehensive literature review to determine how ethnicity influences points of release from the Illinois system.

Race, Masculinity and Class Politics in Contemporary Hyderabad. Habshis or Siddis — people of Abyssinian/Ethiopian heritage who came to India between the ninth and 20th centuries — were seen as both Indian and African; low-caste and marginalized; hyper-masculine ex-soldiers and asexual eunuchs; and Muslims in a Hindu country, says Gayatri Reddy, associate professor of anthropology and gender and women’s studies. She will research their descendants’ sense of belonging in Hyderabad, and racial differences in ideas of masculinity, religion and caste politics.


Partnering and Parenting Among Newly Middle-Class Latinos in Chicago. The literature on Latinos in the U.S. has focused on the poor and the working class. Lorena Garcia, assistant professor of sociology, will investigate what constitutes middle-class status among Latinos who identify as middle-class, and how class mobility informs their approaches to partnering and parenting.

Racialized Roles in Globalized Corporate Environments. Sharon Collins, associate professor of sociology, used “racialized” to describe jobs in affirmative action and community relations that managed the progress of black people in the 1960s and 1970s. Twenty years ago, she interviewed black executives who benefitted from social protest and federal mandates. She will study achievement among current black executives to determine whether roles are racialized in a global economy.

Ukuphanta: South African Women in the Informal Economy. Ukuphanta is Zulu slang meaning “to get by.” It often refers to illegal means of making ends meet, says Claire Decoteau, assistant professor of sociology. In the squatter camps around Johannesburg, she heard it used to refer to transactional sex. Decoteau will explore how African women in post-apartheid South Africa ukuphanta, and thus transform their identities, gender relations and markets.


Language Ideologies of Teachers in Bilingual Schools. Students learn about language not only in school, but through language itself. Zitali Morales and Victoria Trinder, assistant professor and clinical assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, will investigate beliefs about language among teachers in bilingual school settings and how those beliefs relate to their theories and practices of teaching.

Collaborative Research for Justice in Education in Chicago. Chicago’s Board of Education recently voted to close, phase out and turn around 17 public schools serving low-income African American and Latino students, despite opposition from parents, teachers, students and local residents. Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy studies, will work with the Kenwood/Oakland Community Organization on a series of policy briefs grounded in the lives of the people affected by this decision.

Training in Social-Emotional Learning. Most students of social work and urban elementary education at UIC are white women preparing to work in schools that are 85 percent African American and Latino. Marisha Humphries and Cassandra McKay, assistant professors of educational psychology and social work, respectively, will develop training to raise awareness of racial inequalities in education; how social-emotional learning and racial identity influence outcomes; and how to support social-emotional development and positive racial identity.

Equity in Inclusive Education. Federico Waitoller, assistant professor of special education, will write on partnerships between schools and universities to improve teachers’ and schools’ capacity to work with students facing multiple layers of difference; e.g., a Spanish-speaking Latino student identified for special education.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

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