Indiana University Bloomington

IU research presented at the American Sociological Association meeting

  • Aug. 12, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK -- Researchers from Indiana University are participating in the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, held Aug. 10 to 13 in New York. Below are examples of some of the studies presented.

Social media and politics: Tweets can signal election outcome
Better-performing elementary students receive disproportionate attention from parents
Loan debt can shape students' college years, experiences


Social media and politics: Tweets can signal election outcome

An Indiana University study found that the percentage of votes for Republican and Democratic candidates in 2010 and 2012 races for the U.S. House of Representatives could be predicted by the percentage of tweets that mentioned those candidates -- and it didn't matter whether the tweets were positive or negative.

"Think of this as a measurement of buzz," said Fabio Rojas, an associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. "We call this the 'all publicity is good publicity' finding. Even if you don't like somebody, you would only talk about them if they're important."

Rojas and colleagues in the Department of Sociology and School of Informatics and Computing analyzed a sample of 537 million tweets to examine whether online social media behavior could be used to assess real-world political behavior.

Study lead author Joseph DiGrazia, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology, presented the findings Monday.

Until now, DiGrazia said, polls and surveys were the primary way to gauge public attitudes.

"Our findings show there is massive, untapped reliable data out there that can give insights into public opinion," he said.

Unlike other studies that have looked at the influence of social media on election outcomes, their study, "More Tweets, More Votes: Social Media as a Quantitative Indicator of Political Behavior," took into account such variables as incumbency, partisanship, media coverage and socio-demographic makeup of the electorate.

They say Twitter provides another tool for analyzing races, particularly when other data is in short supply. The study drew from an extensive Twitter database compiled by the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at Indiana University's School of Informatics and Computing. The Indiana Twitter database contains the largest sample of tweets in the world that is available to academic researchers.

"With the right planning, someone could monitor races in 2014 on their personal computer," said Karissa McKelvey, a co-author and doctoral student with the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. Co-authors also include Johan Bollen, an associate professor in the School of Informatics and Computing.

Rojas can be reached at 812-369-5242 or frojas@indiana.edu. DiGrazia can be reached at 574-707-0108 or jdigrazi@indiana.edu.

To obtain a copy of the paper, contact Daniel Fowler, ASA's media relations and public affairs officer, at 202-527-7885 or pubinfo@asanet.org. During the annual meeting, ASA's public information office staff can be reached in the on-site press office, in the Hilton New York Midtown's Clinton Room, at 212-333-6362 or 914-450-4557 (cell). Top


Study finds that better-performing elementary students receive disproportionate attention from parents

An Indiana University study found that higher-performing elementary school students received a disproportionate number of resources from their parents, compared to their lower-performing peers.

Lower-performing students received resources geared toward improving their academic performance, said study author Natasha Yurk, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences. Higher-performing students received greater and more diverse resources, such as shared meals or enrollment in extracurricular activities. Parents of higher performers were also more likely to be involved in school activities and networking opportunities that could improve their child's social standing.

"It's encouraging that lower-performing children are getting the resources they need to improve their school performance. But the high achievers may continue to outpace their peers simply because their parents are investing more frequently and in a more diverse way," Yurk said.

The difference was notable through fifth grade but faded by the time students reached eighth grade.

Yurk presented her study, "When Children Affect Parents: Children's Academic Performance and Parental Investment," on Monday.

Her study is unique because it examines the effect of children's academic performance on parents' behavior, rather than the effect of parents' behavior on children. Yurk analyzed a data sample from the National Center for Education Statistics' Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort. The sample consisted of about 12,000 students as they progressed from first to eighth grade.

Yurk can be reached at nmyurk@indiana.edu.

To obtain a copy of the paper, contact Daniel Fowler, ASA's media relations and public affairs officer, at 202-527-7885 or pubinfo@asanet.org. During the annual meeting, ASA's public information office staff can be reached in the on-site press office, in the Hilton New York Midtown's Clinton Room, at 212-333-6362 or 914-450-4557 (cell). Top


Study: Loan debt can shape students' college years, experiences

An Indiana University study found that college students' experiences are largely shaped by the debt they accrue, with debt-free students more likely to live the "play hard" lifestyle often associated with the college years, where social lives can trump academics.

Sociologist Daniel Rudel said this is one of the first studies to examine how student loan debt affects students' college experiences. He and colleague Natasha Yurk, also a graduate student in the Department of Sociology in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences, found "real and significant differences in experiences," with students falling fairly easily into one of three categories.

  • Play hard. Students without loan debt appeared most likely to live a lifestyle characterized by relatively little time studying but also characterized by a rich social life. Students tended to be much more involved in extracurricular activities and spent more time partying, developing relationships and networks that could last long after college.
  • Disengaged students. Some students with debt appeared to see it as a liability that kept them from partaking in campus life. They spent relatively little time on campus activities, including studying.
  • Serious students. Some students with debt appeared to accept the challenge and responsibility of the debt. They studied more than the other two categories of students, worked but also participated in extracurricular activities to prepare themselves for a good job after graduation. These students did not party much.

"These patterns could affect the social connections and networking students develop in college, where these relationships can lead to friendships, employment, marriage partners and other benefits," Rudel said.

Rudel and Yurk discussed the study, "Responsibility or Liability? Student Loan Debt and Time Use in College," on Saturday.

Rudel and Yurk examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, housed in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. Students interviewed from 1999 to 2003 attended one of 28 selective U.S. institutions: nine liberal arts colleges, 14 private research universities, four public research universities and one historically black college.

Rudel said college and university staff might want to consider whether their programs address challenges students face as they manage their financial obligations. Many people, in general, might not be aware of what college really is like for students with loan debt.

"We aren't saying what college students should or should not be doing," Rudel said. "But the lifestyles of students with debt diverge from the script people have of what college should be like."

Rudel can be reached at drudel@umail.iu.edu. Top


For additional assistance, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or traljame@iu.edu. Follow health and wellness news at Indiana University on Twitter, Google Plus and the Health & Vitality blog.