Race, Inequality, and Social Mobility Projects
Through Celebrating Strengths of Black Girls: An Intersectionality Approach, CSD is working to advance equity for women and girls of color. The primary goal of the current research focuses on building resiliency that involves identifying assets and resources that serve as protective factors. The project explores culturally relevant interventions and mathematics curricula and the impact on the personal assets (e.g., self-esteem), cultural assets (e.g., racial identity beliefs), and school performance of Black girls.

The center’s work in Costs of Upward Social Mobility examines racial/ethnic differences in depression, including the effects of socioeconomic position (SEP), racial discrimination, and social context on depression. The research focuses on the relationship between of income level and depression among African American men; whether racial discrimination undermines the effects of higher SEP; and the intersection of life course SEP, depressive symptoms, and self-rated health.

Mental health services are underutilized and African Americans are half as likely to use services for any mental health problem compared to Whites. The center’s work in Estimating Mental Health Needs examines the prevalence of mental disorders in African Americans in a primary care and community settings. The research also studies whether common predictors of mental health problems—particularly gender, income, employment status, marital status, and insurance type—were associated with mental health disorders in this population.

This randomized experiment tests whether a brief social belonging intervention will increase retention rates at a community college. Preliminary research showed positive results of increased retention and grade point average. A sample of 200 first year freshmen entering Forest Park are assigned to either a treatment or control group. Treatment group students receive a 30 minute social belonging intervention consisting of a 13 minute video, You are college material – You belong, and 15-17 minute discussion. Students in the control group receive the school's standard 30 minute educational session on social services within the college. Institutional data will track whether students reenroll in the following semester, and followup interviews with 10 in each group will provide reasons for enrollment decisions.

The center’s work on Strengths-Based Assets of Black adolescents explores how Black youth draw on personal and cultural resources to thrive despite challenges to their identities from institutional racism. The research considers how youths’ self-efficacy and racial group identity beliefs function to promote academic and psychosocial adjustment. A greater understanding of such processes has the potential to improve Black adolescents’ lives in a variety of tangible ways, from increases in their school grades and higher rates of higher education attainment, to enhanced psychological and socioemotional well-being.

CSD is working to expand the audience of testimonies from youth and children affected by the cycle of incarceration, violence, and disenfranchisement. To that end, The Criminal Brand project has four goals: (1) focusing greater attention to the effect mass incarceration on families, youth, and children; (2) providing a digital interface and interdisciplinary platform to explore the effects of parental incarceration on youth; (3) compiling a digital archive of sound based testimonials of youth, children, and adult children of incarcerated individuals; and (4) conducting research forums to develop success strategies that empower and support youth affected by parental incarceration.

In collaboration with researchers from Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, CSD is testing a theoretical model—the Environmental Affordances Model—that examines poor health behaviors as coping mechanisms for the stress of social disadvantage. The High Cost of Mental Health researches the association of high levels of racial residential segregation in the United States with the adoption of unhealthy behaviors in African American neighborhoods. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this project examines the relationship between social context, stress, mental health and physical health using data drawn from the Missouri Family Study, a longitudinal study of African American and white families from the state of Missouri.