Electoral Collegiality?: The Right Way

From time to time, INCITE and its research affiliates will share their thoughts on a range of topics. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions of each post are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of INCITE. The following piece was written by William McAllister, Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellows Program at INCITE.

To meet its constitutional obligation as envisioned by the founders of the republic, a majority of the Electoral College must vote for someone other than Donald Trump to be president. The founders created the Electoral College in part because they feared national, direct election by the “people”—white men, 21 and over who owned property!—could result in an unqualified president. The wise men of the Electoral College would avoid choosing such a man.

Ah, irony. Trump is precisely the unqualified man the founders feared from direct election. In Federalist 68, Hamilton writes that the Electoral College ensures against a President with “talents for low intrigue” and the “little arts of popularity”—traits that define Trump; and that it guarantees a person with the “esteem and confidence of the whole Union,” “pre-eminen[ce] for ability and virtue,” “aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration”—Trump?, not so much. That Hamilton did not include disqualifiers like being a crook, a charlatan, an authoritarian, and mendacious may only indicate he couldn’t imagine someone with all these malevolent traits being taken seriously as a candidate.

Political conservatives and the right generally assert their sacred protectorate over the constitution as the founders understood it. Since Trump is clearly anathema to the founders and since the founders established a mechanism for preventing Trump from becoming President, the right must be urging the Electoral College to vote for someone other than Trump: Tea Partiers, carrying copies of the constitution close to their hearts; politicians and legal scholars, promoting “originalism” in constitutional interpretation; right-wingers, deifying the founders; and conservatives, claiming to revere the values and norms that, they say, the founders were embedding in government by eschewing direct election and erecting the Electoral College.

Don’t hurt yourself trying to find any of these kinds of people taking this position. Prominent advocacy organizations (Federalist Society, Judicial Watch), think tanks (Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation), publications (Weekly Standard, National Review), online and other media (Fox, Breitbart), like all on the right, have all failed to do so. We expect everyday political disingenuousness, among the commentariat as we do among politicians and ourselves, but the current situation is not everyday. This is arguably the most threatening electoral result to the political system and the national government since 1860. At such a moment, our everyday disingenuousness—ok, hypocrisiessimply won’t do. And liberal declarations that getting the Electoral College to not vote for Trump is a “moonshot,” while almost certainly correct, miss the point. This moonshot is exactly the vote the founders would expect from the Electoral College. So too should the political right and the Republican Party.

Twice in the last sixteen years the candidate chosen by the Electoral College has differed from that chosen by the nation as a whole. The first time indeed proved to be tragedy, for Iraqis, Afghanis, U.S. soldiers and their families, and for Americans blown up by the Great Recession; now the second occurs as farce. Liberals and the left have long opposed the Electoral College; and evidently the right does not believe it should function as their sacred founders intended. This suggests we should replace the Electoral College’s state-by-state, winner-take-all method with an alternative that better reflects the plurality winner of the vote of the nation as a whole. That is, we need a more democratic method. Our country should not fear such democracy, especially now that those voting include women, the descendants of enslaved people, those who do not own property.

To accomplish this, alternatives to an unlikely constitutional amendment have been proposed. The initiative furthest along at the state level—each state’s pledging its Electoral College vote in proportion to its popular vote—has been approved by ten states. But these are deeply blue states so that for this, or another proposal, to succeed will almost certainly require a powerful political impetus. This can and should come from those who have benefitted from the current system. We will soon have three former presidents from the Democratic Party, and we currently have two from the Republican Party. It is up to these former presidents to come together in declaring against the Electoral College, agreeing on an alternative, and using their political talents and fund-raising abilities to put a democratic remedy into law. Our former Presidents have rightly been concerned with ills and elections elsewhere in the world. Now they should focus on the U.S. 

Add Health researchers receive the first Golden Goose Award

Researchers behind landmark Adolescent Health Study – a study that almost didn't happen – will receive Golden Goose Award, announcement at event this evening in Washington, D.C.

Nearly Blocked by Political Concerns, Study Has Had Major Impact on Understanding of Social Factors Affecting Adolescent Health, and on Effect of Adolescent Health on Long- term Adult Well-being

Read an interview with Dr. Bearman on this landmark study

Five researchers whose determined pursuit of knowledge about the factors that influence adolescent health led to one of the most influential longitudinal studies of human health—with far-reaching and often unanticipated impacts on society—will receive the first 2016 Golden Goose Award.

The researchers are Dr. Peter Bearman, Barbara Entwisle, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Ronald Rindfuss, and Richard Udry, who worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) in the late 1980s and early 1990s to design and execute the  National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health for short.

The social scientists’ landmark, federally funded study has not only illuminated the impact of social and environmental factors on adolescent health—often in unanticipated ways—but also continues to help shape the national conversation around human health. Their work has provided unanticipated insights into how adolescent health affects wellbeing long into adulthood and has laid essential groundwork for research into the nation’s obesity epidemic over the past two decades.

The award will be announced this evening at 7:00 PM EDT at an event at the Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C. celebrating the 50th anniversary of the University of North Carolina Population Center, in conjunction with a meeting of the Population Association of America. Some of the awardees will be in attendance.

“Four bold researchers wanted to learn more about adolescent health. Who knew that one federal study would change the way doctors approach everything from AIDS to obesity?” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who first proposed the Golden Goose Award. “Decades later, this work is still paying off, helping Americans lead longer, healthier lives. America always comes out ahead when we invest in scientific research.”

The pathbreaking nationally representative Add Health study has answered many questions about adolescent behavior, with particular attention to sexual and other risky behaviors, but it was almost stopped in its tracks by political concerns.

The study’s design grew out of the American Teenage Study, a project developed by Drs. Bearman, Entwisle, Rindfuss, and Udry. This initial adolescent sexual health study was designed to look at adolescents’ risky behaviors in a social context, rather than focusing only on individuals, in hopes of helping the nation address the growing AIDS epidemic and other public health concerns. After two years of planning work funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Teenage Study passed peer review and was funded by the NIH in 1991. But the grant was subsequently rescinded due to objections regarding the study’s focus on sexual behaviors.

In 1993, Congress passed legislation forbidding the NIH from funding the American Teenage Study in the future, but at the same time mandating a longitudinal study on adolescent health that would consider all behaviors related to their health – implicitly including sexual behavior.

“I congratulate Dr. Rindfuss and his colleagues on this award, which underscores the vital importance of federal funding for research,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC), who was a key advocate in the House of Representatives in the 1990’s for continuing to pursue this research. “Federally supported research projects not only produce new life-saving treatments and expand our understanding of the world around us, they also spur economic growth and innovation in ways we cannot always anticipate.”

In 1994, Drs. Udry and Bearman, now joined at UNC by Dr. Harris, proposed Add Health to meet Congress’s new mandate. The new study maintained the American Teenage Study design’s strong focus on social context, but significantly expanded the scope of inquiry to include all factors influencing adolescent health.

The study has followed its original cohort for over 20 years, and it is now providing valuable information about the unanticipated impacts of adolescent health on overall wellbeing in adulthood. For this reason, the researchers recently changed the study’s name to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, and it is a landmark example of how longitudinal research can yield extraordinary and unexpected insights.

"Science often advances our understanding of the world in ways we could never have foreseen,” Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) said. "Regardless of how this research began, it has served as a breakthrough for understanding the way society molds our personal health.  That’s why congressional funding and support for breakthrough research is so important to push us forward as a country.”

The nationally representative sample and multifaceted longitudinal data paired with a revolutionary open-access model have enabled more than 10,000 researchers to publish almost 3,000 research articles on human health. These scientific studies have strengthened an understanding of the importance of family connectedness to adolescent health, allowed researchers to track and scrutinize the rising tide of the obesity epidemic, and demonstrated the social, behavioral, and biological importance of adolescence to lifelong health and wellbeing

What began as a study driven both by social science curiosity and public-health concerns has been central to shaping the national conversation around adolescent health for more than two decades.

The Golden Goose Award honors scientists whose federally funded work may have seemed odd or obscure when it was first conducted but has resulted in significant benefits to society. Drs. Bearman, Entwisle, Harris, Rindfuss and Udry are being cited for their extraordinary multidisciplinary, longitudinal study of the social and biological factors that influence adolescent health, and their work’s wide-ranging and often unexpected impacts on society.

The five researchers will be honored with two other teams of researchers – yet to be named – at the fifth annual Golden Goose Award Ceremony at the Library of Congress on September 22. Descriptions of the past winners can be found  at the Golden Goose Award website.

About the Golden Goose Award

The Golden Goose Award is the brainchild of Rep. Jim Cooper, who first had the idea for the award when the late Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) was issuing the Golden Fleece Award to target wasteful federal spending and often targeted peer-reviewed science because it sounded odd. Rep. Cooper believed such an award was needed to counter the false impression that odd- sounding research was not useful.

In 2012, a coalition of business, university, and scientific organizations created the Golden Goose Award. Like the bipartisan group of Members of Congress who support the Golden Goose Award, the founding organizations believe that federally funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to our economic growth, health, global competitiveness, and national security. Award recipients are selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.

Golden Goose Award Founding Organizations:

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Association of American Universities (AAU)

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Breakthrough Institute

Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) Richard Lounsbery Foundation The Science Coalition (TSC)

Task Force on American Innovation

United for Medical Research


Golden Goose Award Congressional Supporters

Representative Jim Cooper Representative Suzanne Bonamici Senator Christopher Coons

Representative Charlie Dent Representative Bob Dold Representative Donna F. Edwards

Representative Randy Hultgren


Golden Goose Award 2016 Sponsors

Benefactor Elsevier Partner
United for Medical Research 


American Mathematical Society
American Physical Society
Association of American Medical Colleges


American Astronomical Society
American Physiological Society
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Texas Instruments


INCITE's REALM project releases its Request for Applications

After hosting three meetings that convened migration researchers from all over the world, INCITE's Research on Empirical Analysis of Labor Migration (REALM) project released its Request for Applications on March 15, 2016. The REALM team looks forward to reading proposals as they come in on June 15.


REALM will fund a series of substantively interlinked projects that share a data and administrative core. REALM aims to shed light on the processes that sustain unfair migrant labor by improving our empirical understanding of the structures and dynamics implicated in recruitment for temporary work in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. While the focus is on sending countries, our analytical scope is expansive, ranging from individual motivations and expectations to meso-level processes of job matching and recruitment, and to the broader dynamics of labor supply and demand. Our goals are to review and collate existing knowledge, identify key empirical questions for further study, and support collaborative research that will advance our understanding of labor migration processes. In particular, we look to innovative ways to build data structures that can provide the foundation for robust, substantive and empirically grounded insights.

For more information, visit the project page.

Fall semester 2015 begins with two workshop series and new fellows

To begin the 2015-2016 academic year, INCITE is pleased to welcome its new cohort to the Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellows Program. Read more about them here.

Two exciting workshop series begin on September 24, 2015. Check out the Oral History and Public Dialogue workshop series, hosted by our Oral History Master of Arts (OHMA) program at Columbia University, lineup for Fall 2015:

Thursday, September 24, 2015, 6 - 8 PM
Roots and Fruits of Activism in Washington Heights and New York City
Laura Altschuler, Sixto Medina, and Rob Snyder

Thursday, October 1, 2015, 6 - 8 PM
The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project: Oral History, Radical Mapping and Displacement in San Francisco
Manissa Maharawal

Thursday, October 8, 2015, 6 - 8 PM
Oral History and Cross-Cultural Dialogues: Building Bridges with Artistic Projects
Judith Sloan

Thursday, October 22, 2015, 6 - 8 PM
When Truth Is Justice: Narratives of Black Women and Sexual Assault Across Generations
Farah Tanis

Thursday, November 12, 2015, 6 - 8 PM
This Muslim American Life
Moustafa Bayoumi

Thursday, December 3, 2015, 6 - 8 PM
How You Sing Your Song: Miguel Zenón's Oral History-Based Music
Miguel Zenón with Erica Wrightson


Additionally, our Networks and Time lecture series continues:

September 24, 12:00 - 2:00 pm (Thursday), Knox Hall 509
Elizabeth Roberto, Princeton University
Spatial Boundaries and the Local Context of Residential Segregation

October 15, 12:00 - 2:00 pm (Thursday), Knox Hall 509
Benjamin Cornwell, Cornell University
A Day in the Life Course: Demonstrating a Network Approach to Studying the Social Structure of Time 

October 27, 12:00 - 2:00 pm (Thursday), location TBD
Robb Willer, Stanford University
The Declining Status of White Americans and the Rise of the Tea Party


Please mark your calendars - we look forward to seeing you in the room.


RWJ Health & Society Scholars Program Study Published in Journal of Infectious Diseases

A team of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars, led by Dr. Jonathan Zelner, published a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Identifying hotspots of multidrug resistant tuberculosis transmission using spatial and molecular genetic data


The authors aimed to identify and determine the etiology of ‘hotspots’ of concentrated multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) risk in Lima, Peru. Methods: From 2009-2012, we conducted a prospective cohort study among households of TB cases from 106 health center (HC) areas in Lima, Peru. All notified TB cases and their household contacts were recruited and followed for one year. Individuals with TB symptoms were screened by microscopy and culture; positive cultures were tested for drug susceptibility (DST) and genotyped by 24-loci MIRU-VNTR.

Findings reveal that localized transmission is an important driver of the epidemic of MDR-TB in Lima. Efforts to interrupt transmission may be most effective if targeted to this area of the city. 

Read the article.

Jonathan L. Zelner, Megan B. Murray, Mercedes C. Becerra, Jerome Galea, Leonid Lecca, Roger Calderon, Rosa Yataco, Carmen Contreras, Zibiao Zhang, Justin Manjourides, Bryan T. Grenfell, Ted Cohen. 2015. "Identifying hotspots of multidrug resistant tuberculosis transmission using spatial and molecular genetic data." Journal of Infectious Diseases. Published July 14, 2015.


INCITE Faculty and Staff Teach Three Day Workshop in Beijing

From March 11 to 13, 2015, INCITE faculty and staff traveled to Beijing to teach a three-day social science research introductory workshop, introducing the topic of "urban change" to high school students from all over China. This workshop was condensed version of our Social Sciences Summer program for Chinese high school students, in which students use the neighborhood of Harlem as a laboratory to begin to tackle complex social realities such as gentrification.

Students from Beijing 101 Middle School and their advisor, Emerson Miller

After reviewing the basic concepts of social science research in a lecture entitled The Social World, and learning Chicago-style field note-taking in Introduction to Fieldwork in Urban Environments, students sorted into smaller groups to explore a neighborhood in Beijing and practice taking their own field notes.

INCITE Assistant Director Michael Falco leads a discussion on his group's neighborhood, Qianmen

Students also practiced their interviewing skills with handheld audio recorders.

Two students interview each otherINCITE Mellon Fellows and TAs Abby Coplin and Kristin Murphy demonstrate an interview

Students also tried a hand at interview coding, using an excerpt of an interview from the Columbia Center for Oral History Research's Apollo Theater Oral History Project.

Audrey Augenbraum and Abby Coplin explain codes

The pleasure of working with such fabulous students made us very excited for the two upcoming iterations of our Social Science Summer program this year, from July 12 to July 28 and July 30 to August 12!

Special thanks to ICProjects and the Columbia Global Center East Asia for facilitating and hosting this workshop. All photographs by Zhuang Han.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Autism Study Published in American Journal of Public Health

The latest study in INCITE's ongoing Understanding Autism project has been published in the American Journal of Public Health!

In this study, the authors assessed the association between assisted reproductive technology (ART) and diagnosed autistic disorder in a population-based sample of California births. They concluded that the association between ART and autism is primarily explained by adverse prenatal and perinatal outcomes and multiple births.

Read the article.



Assisted Reproductive Technology and Autism Study Published in Human Reproduction



Are assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment factors or infertility diagnoses associated with autism among ART-conceived children?

Our study suggests that the incidence of autism diagnosis in ART-conceived children during the first 5 years of life was higher when intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was used compared with conventional IVF, and lower when parents had unexplained infertility (among singletons) or tubal factor infertility (among multiples) compared with other types of infertility.

Read the article.

Kissin, D.M., Y. Zhang, S.L. Boulet, C. Fountain, P. Bearman, L. Schieve, M. Yeargin-Allsopp and D.J. Jamieson. 2014. "Association of assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment and parental infertility diagnosis with autism in ART-conceived children," Human Reproduction; doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu338.

Anand Gopal's No Good Men Among the Living a Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award

In a breathtaking chronicle, Anand Gopal traces in vivid detail the lives of three Afghans caught in America’s war on terror. He follows a Taliban commander, who rises from scrawny teenager to leading insurgent; a US-backed warlord, who uses the American military to gain personal wealth and power; and a village housewife trapped between the two sides, who discovers the devastating cost of neutrality. Through their dramatic stories, Gopal shows that the Afghan war, so often regarded as a hopeless quagmire, could in fact have gone very differently. Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist—yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict, resurrecting the insurgency that persists to this day.

This book was recently announced as a finalist in the 2014 National Book Awards for Nonfiction.

Publication of Adam Reich's New book, Selling Our Souls

Selling Our Souls is an in-depth investigation into how hospital organizations and the people who work in them make sense of and respond to the modern health care market.  Health care costs make up nearly a fifth of U.S. gross domestic product, but health care is a peculiar thing to buy and sell. Both a scarce resource and a basic need, it involves physical and emotional vulnerability and at the same time it operates as big business. Patients have little choice but to trust those who provide them care, but even those providers confront a great deal of medical uncertainty about the services they offer. Selling Our Souls looks at the contradictions inherent in one particular health care market—hospital care. Based on extensive interviews and observations across the three hospitals of one California city, the book explores the tensions embedded in the market for hospital care, how different hospitals manage these tensions, the historical trajectories driving disparities in contemporary hospital practice, and the perils and possibilities of various models of care.

Health & Society Study of the Commodification of Hospital Care Published in the American Journal of Sociology

A study by Health & Society scholar Adam Reich was published in the American Journal of Sociology.  The “moralized markets” school within economic sociology has convincingly demonstrated variation in the relationship between economic activity and moral values. Yet this scholarship has not sufficiently explored either the causes of this variation or the consequences of this variation for organizational practice. By examining different moral-market understandings and practices in the context of a single market-based organizational field, this article highlights the contradictory character of processes of commodification, as different historically institutionalized ideas conflict, in different ways, with the market logic that increasingly organizes the field as a whole. The article examines the contradictory commodification of hospital care in three hospitals within one Northern California community.