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Minnesota Population Center announces IPUMS Research Awards

Scientists from around the globe honored for research based on MPC data

July 18, 2013

The Minnesota Population Center (MPC), a leading developer and disseminator of demographic data based at the University of Minnesota, is excited to announce the winners of its annual IPUMS Research Awards. The awards honor the best of 2012’s published research and self-nominated graduate student papers that used MPC data to advance or deepen our understanding of social and demographic processes.

The Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), developed by and housed at the MPC, is the world's largest individual-level population database, making freely available harmonized data on people in the U.S. and around the world. IPUMS-USA provides data from the U.S. decennial censuses, the American Community Survey, and the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1850 to the present. IPUMS-International includes information on 480 million people in 211 censuses from around the world, from 1960 forward. The Integrated Health Interview Series (IHIS) makes available the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, from the 1960s to the present.

Over 1,100 publications based on MPC data appeared in journals, magazines, and newspapers worldwide last year. From these publications and from self-nominated graduate student papers, the award committees selected the 2012 honorees.

IPUMS-USA Research Awards
The IPUMS-USA committee co-awarded this year’s published paper prize to Jeffrey Lin and Hoyt Bleakley for their article "Portage and Path Dependence" (Quarterly Journal of Economics 127.2 (2012): 587-644) and to I-Fen Lin and Susan L. Brown for their article "Unmarried Boomers Confront Old Age: A National Portrait" (The Gerontologist 52.2 (2012): 153-165).

In "Portage and Path Dependence" Lin and Bleakley used IPUMS-USA census data from 1850-1930 to analyze the persistence of American cities located on natural portages long after technological advances made these cities’ natural advantages obsolete. Lin, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and Bleakley, an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, took a multidisciplinary approach to their historical economic analysis. Drawing on perspectives from economics, environmental history, and geography, they argue that portage cities remain economically significant and that path dependence explains this persistence.

For "Unmarried Boomers," I-Fen Lin and Brown used IPUMS-USA data from 1980-2009 to analyze the health outcomes of baby boomers based on their marital status across the life course. Lin and Brown’s cross-sectional analysis convincingly argues that  "unmarried Boomers faced greater economic, health, and social vulnerabilities compared to married Boomers." Lin is an associate professor and Brown is chair of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University.

For best graduate student paper, the IPUMS-USA committee unanimously selected Ryan Brown’s paper "On the Long Term Effects of the 1918 U.S. Influenza Pandemic." Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Duke University, collaborated with Dr. Duncan Thomas to revisit Dr. Douglas Almond’s classic 2006 study of the impact of in-utero exposure to the 1918 influenza to question the negative impacts hypothesis. Using IPUMS data from the 1920 and 1930 Censuses, Brown and Thomas build a compelling argument that when socio-economic status is taken into account, the deleterious impacts of in-utero exposure become statistically insignificant, suggesting that Almond’s conclusions about the long-term impact of in-utero exposure to influenza "are, at best, premature."

The selection committee was equally impressed by the quality of each publication and felt that all made novel and extensive use of MPC data.

IPUMS-International Research Awards
The IPUMS-International committee awarded this year’s published paper prize to Carlos Gradin, professor of applied economics at the University of Vigo, for his article "Occupational Segregation of Afro-Latinos" (Research on Economic Inequality 20 (2012): 63-88). Drawing on IPUMS-International data from fiveLatin American countries, Gradin analyzed occupational segregation of afro-latinos in Latin American countries. Gradin’s results suggest a high level of segregation across occupations, generally into less-skilled fields, but also a lot of heterogeneity among countries. Further, he found that in several countries segregation is due to disparities in education and that in other countries segregation would be even greater if black and white populations were more evenly distributed geographically.

For the best graduate student paper using IPUMS-International data, the prize committee selected Aude Bernard’s article "Cross-National Comparison of Internal Migration Age Profiles: Measurement Issues and Solutions" (Forthcoming in Population Studies). Bernard, a Ph.D. candidate in population research at the University of Queensland, employed IPUMS-International data from 25 countries to develop measurements to explain the international differences in the age at which internal migration occurs. The committee was impressed with the large number of countries employed in this study and strongly felt that Berndard’s analysis would be widely cited in future studies of intranational migration patterns.

The IPUMS-International selection committee felt that both of these papers made extensive use of international data to make meaningful comparisons of demographic issues across a large number of countries.

IHIS Research Awards
The IHIS committee awarded this year’s published paper prize to Katy Backes Kozhimannil, Jean M. Abraham and Beth A. Virnig for "National Trends in Health Insurance Coverage of Pregnant and Reproductive-Age Women, 2000 to 2009." (Women's Health Issues 22(2) 2013: e135-e141). The Kozhimannil, Abraham, and Virnig paper analyzed ten years of IHIS data to portray how health insurance coverage for childbearing-aged and pregnant women has changed over time. They found that the share of women of childbearing age with any insurance coverage significantly declined over the past decade, and that childbearing-aged women are increasingly likely to be covered by public, rather than private, health insurance. Their findings hold important policy implications for issues related to access to prenatal care and pregnancy coverage for U.S. women. Kozhimannil is an assistant professor and Abraham is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, where Virnig is associate dean for research.

For the best graduate student paper, the committee selected Tapan Mehta, Raymond McCubrey, Nicholas M. Pajewski, Scott W. Keith, David B. Allison, Carlos J. Crespo, and Kevin R. Fontaine’s paper "Does Obesity Associate with Mortality among Hispanic Persons? Results from the National Health Interview Survey." (Obesity 2012: Doi: 10.1002/oby.20105). Mehta, a Ph.D. candidate in statistical genetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his colleagues used seven years of IHIS data linked to the public-use mortality files to investigate whether the relationship between overweight, obesity, and early mortality observed in non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black populations holds in Hispanic adults. They found no association between overweight, obesity, and early mortality among Hispanics, a finding that compels future research into the health of this rapidly expanding segment of the U.S. population.

The committee strongly felt that both of this year's winners represent excellent examples of how IHIS data can be used to answer pressing public health and policy questions.

About the Minnesota Population Center
The Minnesota Population Center (MPC) is a University-wide interdisciplinary cooperative for demographic research. The MPC serves more than 80 faculty members and research scientists from eight colleges and institutes at the University of Minnesota. As one of the world’s leading developers and disseminators of demographic data, the MPC also serves a broader audience of some 50,000 demographic researchers, policymakers, teachers and students worldwide. All MPC data are available free over the internet. For more information, visit or

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