UW News

Social science


December 6, 2017

Martin Luther, Steve Jobs and aspirational faith: Q & A with UW sociologist Steve Pfaff on ‘The Spiritual Virtuoso’

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Alongside the political polarization that has permeated seemingly every issue in American life, there is a similar dichotomy in religion.On one side are those who suggest religion is dying, that’s it’s irrelevant, a force for ill and oppression, explains University of Washington sociology professor Steve Pfaff. On the other are those who say religion is…


November 30, 2017

Explore India’s ‘informal economies’ at symposium Dec. 1-2

A symposium will examine the lives of workers in India's "informal economies." Here, a woman known as Aunty Mummy is considered a go-to person in her village.

The labor of India’s lower castes — in areas such as agriculture, transportation, construction and the sex trade — occupies about 90 percent of the country’s workforce. Many of these urban jobs draw workers from rural villages, people who struggle to make a living not only for themselves, but also for the relatives they’ve left…


November 28, 2017

UW students win Amazon’s inaugural Alexa Prize for most engaging socialbot

The UW Sounding Board team (left to right: Hao Fang, Hao Cheng, Ari Holtzman, Mari Ostendorf, Maarten Sap, Elizabeth Clark, Yejin Choi) wins Amazon's first Alexa Prize.

A team of University of Washington students and faculty has won Amazon’s inaugural Alexa Prize, a university competition designed to produce an artificial intelligence agent capable of coherent and sustained conversation with humans.


November 27, 2017

UW’s Doorway Project kicks off services for homeless youth

The University District includes a significant portion of King County's homeless youth population. A new effort by the University of Washington aims to help homeless young people become more self-sufficient.

  Seattle’s homeless crisis isn’t confined to one part of town – nor does it hinge on one solution. The University District community includes as much as one-third of King County’s homeless youth over any given year. It’s a neighborhood where a food bank and youth shelter are available, and where young people on the…


November 22, 2017

Two UW professors named to the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare

2016 SPEP Thank You Photos

Edwina Uehara, dean of the University of Washington School of Social Work, and social work professor Karen Fredriksen Goldsen have been named fellows of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. The two are among 14 new fellows to be inducted by the organization, which honors scholarship, leadership and high-impact work in the…


November 21, 2017

Pitch imperfect? How the brain decodes pitch may improve cochlear implants

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    Picture yourself with a friend in a crowded restaurant. The din of other diners, the clattering of dishes, the muffled notes of background music, the voice of your friend, not to mention your own – all compete for your brain’s attention. For many people, the brain can automatically distinguish the noises, identifying the…


November 15, 2017

What counts as nature? It all depends

The environment we grow up with informs how we define "nature," UW psychology professor Peter Kahn says. Encounters with truly wild places inspire people to preserve them.

    Think, for a moment, about the last time you were out in nature. Were you in a city park? At a campground? On the beach? In the mountains? Now consider: What was this place like in your parents’ time? Your grandparents’? In many cases, the parks, beaches and campgrounds of today are surrounded…


November 13, 2017

New tool quantifies power imbalance between female and male characters in Hollywood movie scripts

graphic showing power comparisons between Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen with Cinderella

UW researchers who used machine learning tools to analyze language in 800 Hollywood movie scripts found subtle but widespread gender bias in the way male and female characters are portrayed.


November 2, 2017

How air pollution clouds mental health

A University of Washington study finds that people who live in areas with high levels of air pollution also report higher levels of psychological distress.

  There is little debate over the link between air pollution and the human respiratory system: Research shows that dirty air can impair breathing and aggravate various lung diseases. Other potential effects are being investigated, too, as scientists examine connections between toxic air and obesity, diabetes and dementia. Now add to that list psychological distress,…


October 26, 2017

Serious study of comic art: International conference comes to UW Nov. 2-4

"My Favorite Thing is Monsters," by conference participant Emil Ferris, published by Seattle's Fantagraphics Books.

Comics and graphic can be serious business. Scholars, critics, historians, teachers, curators of comic art and graphic publications will gather at the UW and locations in Seattle Nov. 2-4 for the 2017 International Comic Arts Forum.


October 25, 2017

UW among top 10 in US News Best Global Universities ranking; No. 2 among US public institutions

Globe in Suzzallo Library

The University of Washington climbed to the No. 10 spot on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities rankings, tied with Johns Hopkins University and Yale University. The UW is now second among American public institutions — an improvement from last year’s No. 3 slot. “I am proud to see the University of…


October 16, 2017

Tweeting rage: How immigration policies can polarize public discourse

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  Before a border wall became a budget bargaining chip, before the presidential pardon of a controversial sheriff and before federal policies were announced on social media, there was Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the “show me your papers” law. And of course, there was Twitter. To René D. Flores, an assistant professor of sociology at…


October 12, 2017

Using Facebook data as a real-time census

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    Determining how many people live in Seattle, perhaps of a certain age, perhaps from a specific country, is the sort of question that finds its answer in the census, a massive data dump for places across the country. But just how fresh is that data? After all, the census is updated once a…


October 11, 2017

In Seattle, cost of meeting basic needs up $30,000 in a decade

map of washington state with county boundaires

A Seattle family of four must bring in $75,000 annually to pay for basic housing, food, transportation and health and child care – an increase of 62 percent since 2006, based on a new report from the University of Washington. The city’s escalating cost of living may not be a surprise. But across the state,…


October 4, 2017

Asking kids about drugs doesn’t prompt drug use, study finds

A University of Washington study has found that asking preteens about substance use doesn't prompt them to try alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

    It is an oft-repeated fear, particularly among parents: that discussing an undesirable behavior, or even an illegal or dangerous one, may encourage kids to try it. But when it comes to asking pre-teens about alcohol, drug and tobacco use, a University of Washington-led study finds no evidence that children will, as a consequence…


September 26, 2017

Scientists come to the aid of Puerto Rican community, research station

The Cayo Santiago Research Station in Puerto Rico was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the buildings, feeding corrals, and all but one of the water cisterns necessary to support a free-ranging population of monkeys. A University of Washington faculty member is among the researchers who study there and are mobilizing a relief effort for the community.

    Researchers from the University of Washington and seven other institutions are working together to restore a Puerto Rican research station and its nearby community following the damage wrought last week by Hurricane Maria. The research station known as Monkey Island is located on Cayo Santiago, off the southeast coast of mainland Puerto Rico,…


September 14, 2017

Poverty decreases, income increases in Seattle area and Washington state

Census data released Sept. 14 show that poverty declined between 2015 and 2016 in Washington state and in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area, specifically.

The share of Washingtonians living in poverty dropped from 12.2 percent to 11.3 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to new Census data released Thursday. This is the third straight year that poverty has decreased since the post-recession high of 14.1 percent in 2013.


September 13, 2017

Offhand comments can expose underlying racism, UW study finds

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        Blatant racism is easy to identify — a shouted racial slur, a white supremacist rally, or the open discrimination, segregation and violence of the pre-civil rights era. But more subtle forms of bias, called microaggressions, emerge in the everyday exchanges among friends and strangers alike and can offend racial and ethnic…


September 7, 2017

Q&A | Sanne Knudsen: Consumers need more protection from chemicals and pesticides

Regulation of chemicals and pesticides effectively leave it to consumers to manage their own risk of exposure, writes Sanne Knudsen, a University of Washington associate professor of law.

  Sanne Knudsen was an undergraduate in Chicago when she got her first close-up look at environmental justice. As an environmental engineering student at Northwestern University, Knudsen answered an attorney’s call for volunteers to study several neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side, communities that had endured more than their share of pollution and exposure to chemicals….


September 5, 2017

Gun dealers, suicide-prevention advocates partner to save lives

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  With 80 percent of firearms deaths in Washington related to suicide, the scenario isn’t hard to imagine: A person thinking of ending their life enters a gun store to buy the means to do it. Unfortunately, other scenarios play out, as well: A person filling a lethal dose of a prescription medication at a…


How governments can maintain strong public-private partnerships: Guide from Evans School’s Justin Marlowe

Justin Marlowe's fourth -- and likely final -- guide to financial literacy was published in August by Governing magazine.

The biggest risk to public-private partnerships in governing is not financial or technical, but political, says UW Evans School professor Justin Marlowe in his fourth guide to financial literacy, published by Governing magazine.


August 28, 2017

Home prices up, supply down in second quarter of 2017

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Washington state’s housing market showed the continuing effects of high demand in the second quarter of 2017, according to the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington The statewide median sales price rose to $337,700 in the second quarter, 6.6 percent higher than the same time period last year. This represents…


August 24, 2017

Lesbian, gay and bisexual older adults suffer more chronic health conditions than heterosexuals, study finds

A new University of Washington study funds that lesbian, gay and bisexual older adults are more likely than heterosexuals to suffer chronic health conditions.

  Lesbian and bisexual older women are more likely than heterosexual older women to suffer chronic health conditions, experience sleep problems and drink excessively, a new University of Washington study finds. In general, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) older adults were found to be in poorer health than heterosexuals, specifically in terms of higher rates…


August 17, 2017

Q & A: Sarah Quinn lifts the curtain on the ‘hidden state’

The general public is often confused about what the government is and does, University of Washington Sarah Quinn writes in a new anthology published by Cambridge University Press.

  Given today’s political climate, one might assume that terms like “administrative state” and “deep state” are merely examples of polarized rhetoric. But the wariness underlying those terms goes back much further, said Sarah Quinn, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Try colonial America. “Some historians will say this is something…


August 15, 2017

Evans School’s Scott Allard notes poverty’s changing landscape in ‘Places in Need’

"Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty" by Scott Allard was published by the Russell Sage Foundation.

The number of poor people living in America’s suburbs has more than doubled over the last 25 years, with little attention from academics or policymakers, says Scott W. Allard, a professor in the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, in his new 2017 book “Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty,”


August 3, 2017

Evans School researchers analyze Seattle’s competing arena proposals

Photo by Katherine Turner.

Researchers at the UW’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance have released a public finance analysis of two competing proposals to develop an NBA/NHL arena in Seattle.


July 31, 2017

University of Washington’s Livable City Year program completes inaugural partnership with Auburn

photo of downtown auburn

University of Washington students have been working with city of Auburn staff and community members throughout the past year on a wide range of projects tackling challenges around livability and sustainability in the city. Livable City Year is continuing in the 2017-2018 year in partnership with the city of Tacoma. These projects were part of the UW…


Heavier Asian Americans seen as ‘more American,’ study says

A University of Washington-led study has found that for Asian Americans, those who appear heavier not only are perceived to be more "American," but also may be subject to less prejudice directed at foreigners than Asian Americans who are thin.

  What makes people look “American”? The way they dress? Maybe their hairstyle, or mannerisms? How much they weigh? A University of Washington-led study has found that for Asian Americans, those who appear heavier not only are perceived to be more “American,” but also may be subject to less prejudice directed at foreigners than Asian…


July 27, 2017

Six UW faculty elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences

Suzzallo Library and Red Square on the University of Washington campus.

Six scientists and engineers from the University of Washington have been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences.


Even babies can tell who’s the boss, UW research says

Videos featuring puppets introduced to toddlers the concept of social dominance.

This video acquaints the viewer with the puppets and introduces the idea of which is socially dominant.   The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party – all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish and earn more, from accolades…


July 20, 2017

Bringing a ‘trust but verify’ model to journal peer review

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In a commentary published in the journal Science, Carole Lee, associate professor of philosophy and co-author David Moher identify incentives that could encourage journals to “open the black box of peer review” for the sake of improving transparency.


July 19, 2017

Artifacts suggest humans arrived in Australia earlier than thought

These three axeheads and a square grinding stone were among the finds at Madjedbebe. A team that included researchers from the University of Washington dated artifacts from the dig site in Australia's Northern Territory.

  When and how the first humans made their way to Australia has been an evolving story. While it is accepted that humans appeared in Africa some 200,000 years ago, scientists in recent years have placed the approximate date of human settlement in Australia further and further back in time, as part of ongoing questions…


July 17, 2017

Bilingual babies: Study shows how exposure to a foreign language ignites infants’ learning

UW student Jinnie Yi works with a toddler at one of the participating infant education centers in Madrid. A study by the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences shows that infants and young children can develop bilingual skills through interactive learning.

  For years, scientists and parents alike have touted the benefits of introducing babies to two languages: Bilingual experience has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, especially problem-solving. And for infants raised in households where two languages are spoken, that bilingual learning happens almost effortlessly. But how can babies in monolingual households develop such skills?…


July 3, 2017

Q & A: Janelle Taylor on ‘exemplary friends’ of people with dementia

Janelle Taylor

Dementia affects millions of people around the world; the World Health Organization estimates 9.9 million new cases each year, and the total number of people with dementia is expected to nearly triple by 2050. And for every person with dementia, there are family members and friends who also experience their loved one’s decline. University of…


June 29, 2017

As metro areas grow, whites move farther from the city center

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    In the middle of the 20th century, cities began to change. The popularity of the automobile and the construction of interstate highways fueled the growth of suburbs, while discriminatory housing policies segregated neighborhoods and helped create the phenomenon of “white flight” away from downtowns. Decades later, the average white person still lives farther…


June 26, 2017

The New York Times recognizes UW student policy recommendations

photo of the four team members

Seeking to protect coastal communities from these devastating impacts, an interdisciplinary team of UW students authored a policy case for lawmakers. Their case won the inaugural APRU-New York Times Asia-Pacific Case Competition, besting submissions from 31 universities across the Americas, Asia and Australasia


June 16, 2017

What the bond between homeless people and their pets demonstrates about compassion

Spirit lives in Los Angeles with his two dogs. He is one of the homeless people featured in the My Dog is My Home exhibit.

A video camera captures an interview with a man named Spirit, who relaxes in an outdoor plaza on a sunny afternoon. Of his nearby service dogs, Kyya and Miniaga, he says, “They mean everything to me, and I mean everything to them.” In another video, three sweater-clad dogs scamper around a Los Angeles park, while…


June 13, 2017

Tribal gaming certificate addresses economic reality of Indian reservations

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Managing a casino might not be the first career path envisioned with a degree from the University of Washington. But 22 tribes across Washington state depend on tribal casino resorts to provide jobs, generate revenue to operate tribal governments and promote economic development. So for UW students who call those reservations home – or simply…


June 7, 2017

‘Scales of Struggle’: Historians of labor, working class to convene at UW

Photo by Katherine Turner.

Issues of social justice, incarceration and the politics of race and gender — past and present — will be the focus as hundreds of scholars, teachers, labor activists and artists gather at the UW June 22-25 for the annual conference of the Labor and Working-Class History Association.


June 1, 2017

Scientists launch global agenda to curb social and human rights abuses in the seafood sector

fishing boats in thailand

As the United Nations Oceans Conference convenes in New York, a new paper calls on marine scientists to focus on social issues such as human rights violations in the seafood industry



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