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American teens more cautious about using synthetic drugs

December 19, 2013 Comments off

American teens more cautious about using synthetic drugs (PDF)
Source: University of Michigan (Monitoring the Future)

—The use of synthetic marijuana by the nation’s teens dropped substantially this year, and a sharply increasing proportion of them see great risk in using so-called “bath salts.”

Both of these drugs are synthetics sold over the counter in many outlets such as gas stations and convenience stores, as well as on the Internet. They have been the subject of great concern because of their serious and unpredictable consequences for the user’s health. These and other findings come from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, which is funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

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The Effect of Social Security Auxiliary Spouse and Survivor Benefits on the Household Retirement Decision

September 24, 2013 Comments off

The Effect of Social Security Auxiliary Spouse and Survivor Benefits on the Household Retirement Decision
Source: University of Michigan (Knapp)

In 2011, 12.9 million age-qualifying Americans received $112 billion in spouse and survivor benefits from Social Security based on their husband or wife’s earnings history. Despite their large impact on annual Social Security disbursements, little is known about how these benefits impact household work and retirement behavior. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, this paper estimates a structural life-cycle model of household savings, labor supply, and benefit claiming, where future health, mortality, and medical expenses are uncertain. The model accounts for the complexity of Social Security benefits, the heterogeneity of couples’ earnings histories, and private pensions. It predicts that spouse and survivor benefits decrease female labor force participation while increasing male labor force participation. I find that eliminating Social Security spouse and survivor benefits cause a large, 1.27 years, increase in female labor force participation, while decreasing male labor force participation by more than 0.53 years. Furthermore, the model, accounting for preference heterogeneity, finds significant variation in how households respond to the reduction or elimination of these benefits. I find non-linear savings to Social Security’s trust fund from reducing spouse and survivor benefits amongst the married, non-disabled population in this study: when these benefits are reduced by 50%, it achieves 74.1% of the savings from eliminating these benefits.

Stop Being Evil: A Proposal for Unbiased Google Search

September 17, 2013 Comments off

Stop Being Evil: A Proposal for Unbiased Google Search (PDF)
Source: Michigan Law Review

Since its inception in the late 1990s, Google has done as much as anyone to create an “open internet.” Thanks to Google’s unparalleled search algorithms, anyone’s ideas can be heard, and all kinds of information are easier than ever to find. As Google has extended its ambition beyond its core function, however, it has conducted itself in a manner that now threatens the openness and diversity of the same internet ecosystem that it once championed. By promoting its own content and vertical search services above all others, Google places a significant obstacle in the path of its competitors. This handicap will only be magnified as search engines become increasingly important and the internet continues to expand.

In order to mitigate the potential damage to competition, we must prevent Google from leveraging its power in core search to steal market share for its downstream vertical search services. Requiring Google core search to integrate its competitors’ vertical offerings would promote competition without intrusive administrative interference. But action must come soon. Search is taking shape very quickly. Once the next generation of online search emerges, the dominant players will have already cemented their positions. Let us hope that when the dust settles it isn’t too late.

82 percent of adults support banning smoking when kids are in the car

July 22, 2013 Comments off

82 percent of adults support banning smoking when kids are in the car
Source: University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital

According to the latest University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, support is strong for prohibiting drivers and passengers from smoking when kids are in the car. However, only seven states nationwide have laws banning the practice.

Also in this month’s poll, 87 percent of adults said they’d support a ban on smoking in businesses where children are allowed. Seventy-five percent expressed support for banning smoking in homes where children have asthma or another lung disease.

Older drivers more likely to buy new vehicles

June 3, 2013 Comments off

Older drivers more likely to buy new vehicles

Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

Adults under 50 have long been the ideal target group for advertisers, but when it comes to buying new vehicles, older consumers may be a marketer’s best bet, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute, examined the differences in the probability of licensed drivers purchasing a new light-duty vehicle (car, pickup truck, SUV or minivan) as a function of their age for the years 2007 and 2011.

He found that in 2011, the peak probability of buying a new vehicle per driver was among those between 55 and 64 years of age—a shift from four years earlier that peaked with the 35-to-44-year-old age group.

In 2011, one vehicle was purchased for every 14.6 drivers aged 55-64. By comparison, the rates for other groups of drivers were: 14.9 for ages 65-74; 15.0 for ages 45-54; 15.9 for ages 35-44; 19.7 for all age groups combined; 26.6 for age 75 and older; 34.9 for ages 25-34; and 221.8 for ages 18-24.

"There were substantial increases from 2007 to 2011 in the number of drivers 55 to 64 years of age and 65 to 74 years of age," Sivak said. "This trend likely reflects the aging of the general population, coupled with the increased probability of older persons having a driver’s license."

The Media Economics and Cultural Politics Of Al Jazeera English in the United States

March 4, 2013 Comments off

The Media Economics and Cultural Politics Of Al Jazeera English in the United States (PDF)

Source: University of Michigan (Youmans)

Before scholarship can consider the greater implications of AJE’s brand of reporting on world affairs, it is necessary to begin with a mapping of the actuality of AJE’s circulation – the focus of this thesis. This immediately generates a problem. The United States is the key market implied in these theoretical approaches given its centricity in international communication. Yet, AJE is not reachable by the vast majority of Americans’ remote controls. This necessarily dampens analysis of wider effects on power and inter-cultural conflict. Before considering impact, we must take an inventory of where and how AJE travels in the country – and why. There are distributional exceptions to its absence, including large centers, such as Washington, DC and parts of New York City, as well as limited cities such as Burlington, VT and Toledo, OH. While it is fully available online, an increasingly key avenue for American news viewership, Internet news consumption is still secondary to TV – one motivation for AJE’s active pursuit of cable deals in the largest majority English-speaking news market. For AJE, distribution in the United States has been a primary goal and source of frustration, despite its easy availability via the Internet. AJE sees cable in particular as the best way to reach, and therefore influence, a wide American audience – which is one of the most vital news markets in the world, given the country’s disproportionate role in world affairs. The primary question of interest is why has it failed to gain wide TV availability and therefore a large audience? A second question is, what does AJE’s absence mean for international communication, US-Arab relations and the channel itself? This study seeks to identify and examine the factors and constraints that keep AJE largely off of American televisions and relate these to the larger theoretical questions posited in AJE and global communication scholarship. Also, there are key junctures, such as the Arab Spring, which rejuvenated the network’s reputation in key quarters of American society. These moments illuminate further how the factors work in explaining AJE’s lack of distribution.

Why is road safety in the U.S. not on par with Sweden, the U.K., and the Netherlands? Lessons to be learned

February 6, 2013 Comments off

Why is road safety in the U.S. not on par with Sweden, the U.K., and the Netherlands? Lessons to be learned

Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

This study compared road safety and related factors in the U.S. with those in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, in order to identify actions most likely to produce casualty reductions in the U.S. The reviewed topics were basic country statistics, road fatalities and various fatality rates, national road-safety strategies, and selected road-safety issues. The main differences concerned structural and cultural factors (such as vehicle distance driven), and procedural factors (such as road-safety strategies and targets, alcohol-impaired driving, exceeding speed limits, and use of seat belts). The main recommendations for improving road safety in the U.S. are as follows: (1) lower states’ BAC limits to 0.5 g/l and introduce effective random breath testing, (2) reexamine the current speed-limit policies and improve speed enforcement, (3) implement primary seat-belt-wearing laws in each state that would cover both front and rear occupants, and reward vehicle manufacturers for installation of advanced seat-belt reminders, (4) reconsider road-safety target setting so that the focus is on reducing fatalities and not on reducing fatality rate per distance driven, and (5) consider new strategies to reduce vehicle distance driven.

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