By Fumiya Uchikoshi
Throughout this summer, I participated in ICPSR summer program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) is an association among universities in the world which plays a role in archiving various kinds of political and social survey data and providing tools and opportunities for researchers to analyze these data. ICPSR summer program is one of the core programs in this organization which holds many workshops on applied statistical methods and modeling in the social sciences over two sessions during the summer.
The purpose of studying at ICPSR summer program was to obtain skills in applied statistical methods and modeling in the social sciences. I am interested in social aspects of inequality: how social positions such as class and education influence people’s life chances. My research focuses on effects of family formation on inequality in contemporary industrial societies. In my master thesis, I would like to examine how family formation such as marriage and having children contributes to (re)constructing inequality not only in Japan, the country where I was born, but also in other developed countries.
To answer these questions, I attended two workshops (each of which has a 4 week course with assignments) and one lecture (10 days course without assignment). Teachers in both workshops, longitudinal studies and causal inference, have taught us a novel but very important statistical methods and mathematical thinking, while I learned quite a lot practical advices in a lecture on matrix algebra. Intensive courses for four weeks in the sessions with supportive instructors and environments where relatively small number of students joined discussions actively provided me a strong foundation as well as application of these methods.
Another purpose of attending this summer program was to establish a fruitful relationship with incoming students in this program to increase possibilities for future research. One of the advantages of ICPSR summer program is its diversity: participants in this program each year include students and researchers from more than 40 countries, 300 institutions, and 30 disciplines. I met and talked with other students not only through class discussion, but other occasions outside the courses. These experience were also important resource I obtained through this course. Graduate students I met study not only in the U.S, but in other countries and I was able to share various kinds of experiences regarding academic careers in their countries with them. Disciplinary diversity in ICPSR also provides me with a broad understanding of methodology in social sciences. Since a number of fields in inequality studies are becoming more interdisciplinary, opportunities to meet people of these diverse backgrounds encouraged international and interdisciplinary communications boosted future perspectives for my research and careers.
What I achieved throughout this course is beyond my expectation and I believe I’m studying the right thing to move my research project forward. I am very grateful for this opportunity and would like to express my sincere gratitude to FUTI for providing financial support.