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2018 CRDCN Emerging Scholars Grant Recipients


Batholomew Chireh

Affiliation: University of Saskatchewan, SKY RDC

Project title: Dimensions of aging: Chronic conditions, Multi-morbidity and Self-rated health in the context of an aging population in Canada

Project summary: Mental illness and cognitive impairment are diseases that are of substantial burden to Canada and the world at large. They are chronic and persistent conditions with considerable associated disability. The links between mental and physical health are well-established. The primary goal of this thesis is to use nationally representative population-based survey data sets to establish the distinctive risk factors and trends of chronic conditions (both physical and mental) and multi-morbidity among middle aged and older adults in Canada. Understanding the evidence surrounding chronic diseases and their determinants is key to interpreting trends and crucial to developing public health interventions that can effectively reduce rates of chronic diseases and improve the population's health and quality of life. 



Michela Planatscher

Affiliation: University of Ottawa, COOL RDC

Project title: The effect of charitable activity on Aboriginal communities

Project summary: The purpose of this research is to advance the existing literature in the area of Aboriginal economics, by studying empirically the interaction between charitable organizations and the welfare status of Aboriginal peoples. Hence the key question of the study is to investigate whether charitable organizations exert a causal effect on communities’ well-being and other socio-economic outcomes. 

 Aboriginal peoples represent 4.9 % of the Canadian population. There is historical evidence of disadvantage between non-Aboriginal and First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations. Despite improvements in the quality of life in the past decades, severe discrepancies between the two groups still exist. Data from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) show, for instance, that 94.3% of First Nations communities have a below-average community well-being score compared to other Canadian communities. As a consequence, the notion of “closing the gap” has become of major concern for all levels of governmental authorities and policy makers in Canada. Moreover, the philanthropic sector is playing an increasingly important role in helping provide much-needed services to communities. 

The first step of my research consists of combining administrative data on charities from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with Census and Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) data through a geographic linkage, that will allow me to have fine details on the characteristics of individuals living in different communities. I will then study empirically the impact of charitable organizations on communities’ well-being using appropriate statistical (econometric) procedures. I expect that endogeneity will be an issue that will need to be addressed. For instance, it is possible that the access to charities variable is endogenous and an Instrumental Variable (IV) approach is the most likely procedure to use in this case.

I expect that I will be able to say how the charitable sector is currently able to help improve community prosperity, especially for Aboriginal communities. Moreover, my results have the potential of identifying another policy lever to help eliminate the existing Aboriginal social problems in the context of the aforementioned notion of “closing the gap”.



Audrey Minta Appiah

Affiliation: University of Ottawa, COOL RDC

Project title: Essays in Health Economics

Project summary: Rising income inequalities continue to be of major concern for policy makers. Due to the concerns about income inequality, measurements have been developed to monitor not only income inequalities but the socioeconomic inequalities in health over time. Popular indices of socioeconomic inequalities in health, like the concentration indices, are used for analyzing ratio scale variables such as weight and life expectancy. However, when population health is measured using life expectancy, the quality of life is often ignored. Because researchers are interested in quality of life, the use of self-assessed health status which is ordinal in nature as a measure of health has become popular in this literature. Researchers also interested in other well-being measures also use categorical variables such as happiness, life satisfaction etc. However, using the popular socioeconomic inequality measures for a categorical variable raises another issue since these indices are not readily applicable to ordinal variables (Erreygers, 2006; Makdissi and Yazbeck, 2017). Also, these inequality indices are "mean based", in that, they measure deviations from the mean. 

Allison and Foster (2004) argue that using the mean as the reference point for the measurement of health inequality in the presence of categorical variable is not robust because of the sensitivity of the mean to any chosen numerical scale for the ordinal variable. To illustrate, the Canadian community health survey has 5 categories to the question, "Would you describe yourself as being usually": happy in life, somewhat happy, somewhat unhappy, very unhappy with little interest in life and so unhappy that life is not worthwhile. Consider two numerical scales [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and [1, 2, 3, 4, 10]. Assume that the distribution of health is [2, 2, 2, 2, 2], then the mean under the first and second scales are 3 and 4 that is "somewhat unhappy" and "somewhat unhappy" respectively but the median is "somewhat unhappy" in both cases. The authors suggest using the median as the reference in ordering inequality in health (univariate measure). Following this approach, this research aims at extending the idea of robust ordering of socioeconomic inequalities in health for categorical variables using the median as the reference point and empirically estimating median based socioeconomic inequalities in wellbeing (happiness and life satisfaction) using the indices that will be developed in the theoretical section and data mainly from the Canadian Community health Survey and the General Social Survey. This can be achieved by considering a socially weighted average deviation about the median.

The main contributions of this research are, first, we intend to derive properties for the social weighted function so that it follows the principle of income-related transfers. Second, our aim is to provide dominance test for robust ranking of median based inequalities and finally, to suggest statistical inference.



Dylan Simone

Affiliation: University of Toronto, Toronto RDC

Project title: The Financial Inclusion Illusion: Immigrant Financial Literacy, Wealth, and Debt Trends in Canadian Cities

Project summary: My dissertation research is focused on analyzing the relationships between immigration policy, financial literacy programs, theories and practices of financial inclusion, and processes of financial innovation. I explore three over-arching topics in my dissertation. First, I analyze the socio-spatial determinants and implications of wealth and debt levels among immigrant households and neighbourhoods in Canadian cities. Second, I assess the tenets and assumptions undergirding the promise and practice of immigrant financial inclusion as it relates to homeownership, financial literacy, and asset-based welfare. Third, I probe the place of migrant and capital flows in financialization processes as they pertain to financial innovation.

My dissertation involves both quantitative and qualitative research, and I draw on these to intervene in key theoretical debates surrounding financial innovation, literacy, and inclusion. Quantitatively, I analyze the master files of two Statistics Canada surveys – the Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS: 2008, 2014) and the Survey of Financial Security (SFS: 1999, 2005, 2012, 2016), within the Toronto Region Statistics Canada Research Data Centre (RDC). From my analysis of this data I will be submitting two articles for publication in March 2019; the first targets the journal Economy and Society, while the second will be submitted to Economic Geography. Qualitatively, I provide a textual analysis of transcripts from a House of Commons investigation into the sales practices of Canada’s ‘Big Six’ banks. I demonstrate that Canadian financial policy is guided not by linear, ‘rational,’ scientific epistemologies, but rather, by resourceful improvisation, with policy innovations evolving in non-linear, path-dependent trajectories, using the tools at hand to deal with unanticipated events. My third dissertation article stems from this work and will be submitted in January 2019 to Environment and Planning A. Theoretically, I advance debates on the role of finance in political economic value theory vis-à-vis regressive redistributions of financial risk. Using the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada as example, I argue that financial literacy programs, like those designed and enacted in Canadian policy, enable the production and offloading of financial risk from the state and industry to households and individuals. The fourth and final article of my dissertation, which relates to this work, will be submitted in January 2019 to Antipode.

My dissertation research contributes to a growing body of international literature on financialization, housing and mortgage markets, and immigrant financial inclusion, literacy, wealth, debt, and integration. Immigrant wealth accumulation is increasingly seen to be more important than immigrant income in the scholarly literature as an accurate proxy for integration, and much of the published work has focused on the United States, in context of the history of racialized financial exclusion. Investigations of debt and wealth are dominated by neoclassical economic approaches, and spatial perspectives in the scholarly literature on financial inclusion and financial literacy are scarce. I aim to challenge these perspectives, drawing on the Canadian context.



Khrisha B Alphonsus

Affiliation: University of Saskatchewan, SKY RDC

Project title: Multiple sclerosis: Risk perception, symptoms and treatment

Project summary: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease of the central nervous system which causes the nerves to deteriorate over time. MS affects individuals between the ages of 20 to 45 years of age and both biological and environmental factors are associated with the disease. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS along with several European countries. The definitive cause and cure of MS had not been determined and because of this the quality of life of people living with MS is poor. Two projects with RDC will be used in my PhD thesis. 

Disease modifying medications (DMTs) can help to slow down the progression of the disease but they cannot reverse the lesions that have already taken place. Up to now there hasn’t been many studies that have been conducted on whether using complementary/alternative treatments (CAMS), rehabilitation therapy or other conditions impact medication adherence in positive or negative ways. Due to adverse side effects of medication use people often turn to CAMS such as natural health products, herbs, homeopathic medicine, vitamins, acupuncture or exercise. The first objective of the study was to examine whether use of CAM as well as other types of therapies (rehabilitation and counseling) were associated with MS medication use. This research will help practitioners be aware of the reasons behind why patients don’t adhere to medications and whether using social behavioral models could be effective in changing patient’s behaviors. The Survey on Living with Neurological Conditions (SLNCC) 2011-2012 linked to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2010-2011 will be used to perform the analysis. A logistic regression model will be used to examine these associations. 

The second objective was to examine the psychosocial factors associated with pain in people living with MS. Pain is a common problem in people living with MS. The prevalence of pain in MS patients is 50%, and 75% of patients report having pain within one month of their assessment. The presence of pain among patients with MS is associated with increasing age, a longer duration of their illness, depression and increased functional impairment and fatigue. Social support helps in three areas: the first is it provides emotional support such as love and affection, the second is instrumental support such as lending a helping hand to someone and the third is informational support such as from a physician or nurse. Learning to cope with the illness is also important in reducing disease burden. Social support is an important aspect of coping and whether lacking in one type of social support could lead to pain is an understudied area. The main objective of this study is to determine the association between amount of social support and it’s association with odds of pain among individuals with MS. The SLNCC data set (2011-2012) will be used to carry out a logistic regression model which will examine the predictors associated with pain among individuals with MS. 



Megan (Meng) Yu

Affiliation: Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland branch, NB RDC

Project title: The Emotional Well-being of Immigrants in Canada

Project summary: My dissertation research focuses on whether and how religious involvement, maintaining transnational ties, and acculturation are related to the future emotional well-being of immigrants. Using the three waves of microdata from the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), this manuscript-based dissertation devotes each of its three papers to one of the above-mentioned topics. 

Research questions:
1) Does religious participation predict better emotional well-being for immigrants in the future? If so, how does frequency of participation, gender, and religious affiliation affect this relationship? 
2) Does maintaining transnational ties predict better emotional well-being for immigrants in the future? Transnational ties are conceptualized as keeping contact with family and friends in the home country, sending remittance outside Canada to relatives or friends; receiving income from outside Canada; and immigrants’ settlement plan. 
3) Does acculturation predict improved emotional well-being for immigrants? Acculturation is conceptualized as host country education and language training.

My research employs quantitative methods. For each of my three papers, data are analysed with descriptive statistics and a series of longitudinal logistic regression models. Random effects models are used because I am also interested in predicting how differences between groups of people identified via such time-invariant characteristics as gender, visible minority status, and immigration class relate to the dependent variable. Interaction terms are used to examine the moderating effects of certain variables on the key independent variables. All-item-interacted models with each of the independent variables interacted with the wave variable were conducted, allowing for a comparison of regression coefficients obtained from different waves of data.



Jeffrey Hicks

Affiliation: University of British Columbia, BCI RDC

Project title: Essays in Taxation and Social Insurance

Project summary: In Canada, and many other countries, unemployment insurance beneficiaries can receive part-time earnings without a full claw-back of their unemployment insurance benefits. Such earnings allowances promote part-time workforce participation and, consistent with the core mandate of Employment Insurance (EI), offer an additional avenue for the liquidity-constrained unemployed to smooth their consumption through income shocks. Aside from promoting part-time work, earnings allowances may also affect how long beneficiaries continue to draw benefits. Simultaneous receipt of earnings and EI benefit increases the payoff of part-time work relative to searching for full-time employment which may cause longer overall claim durations. Selection into unemployment insurance also becomes more attractive. Alternatively, if part-time jobs serve as stepping-stones to full-time employment, earnings allowances could decrease claim durations by putting claimants on track for full-time work. The built-in incentives for part-time work have undergone multiple changes over the past 15 years, offering an opportunity to examine the causal effects of such incentives. In this project, I examine i) the effects of part-time work incentives on work behavior while on claim, and ii) the relationship between work behavior and overall claim duration. I exploit a novel administrative dataset on Employment Insurance claims in Canada and a series of natural policy experiments. 

First, I examine how the pre-2012 non-linear claw-back schedule shapes the distribution of reported earnings. Prior to 2012, claimants could earn up to some threshold without any reduction in their benefits. Additional earnings reduced benefits dollar-for-dollar. This very large discontinuity in the marginal tax rate creates a large incentive for claimants to alter their real work behavior and to mis-report their earnings. I document substantial “`bunching" around these thresholds, suggesting that individuals have substantial flexibility to adjust their earnings levels or that mis-reporting is a non-trivial issue. The potential for mis-reporting raises the practical consideration of how well part-time work incentives can be enforced. Since EI benefits are calculated on a weekly basis, part-time earnings are required to be self-reported at the same frequency, providing ample opportunity to mis-report. The presence of such evasion has real economic consequences. Verification is costly to the government and imposes a compliance burden on firms. Evasion also increases the fiscal cost to the government by effectively increasing net-payments to EI recipients without a corresponding increase in labour supply. 

Second, I examine how increasing the thresholds affects reported work behavior. In 2005 and 2008, the earnings thresholds were increased by 60 percent in subsets of EI regions. These changes altered incentives on both the intensive (how much to work) and extensive (whether to work) margins. Exploiting these policy changes, I estimate the response on both. 

Third, I examine the relationship between work behavior and claim duration. Descriptive evidence suggests that part-time work does not reduce claim durations by improving transitions to full-time employment. Rather, part-time work may increase overall claim length. However, causal inference in this setting is very difficult, and correlation-based evidence should be interpreted with caution. Ongoing work aims to identify the causal effects.



Said Yousef Abdelrazeq

Affiliation: University of Ottawa, COOL RDC

 Project title: Association of Vitamin D Deficiency and Risk of Health Deterioration Among Canadian Immigrants

Project summary: A growing body of literature indicates that, worldwide, immigrants experience health deterioration after their arrival into their adopted country, and moreover, they have lower vitamin D compared to the native-born population. 

The overall objective of this thesis is to evaluate the global vitamin D status of immigrants in a systematic review and meta-analysis. Moreover, the CHMS data will be used to compare the concentration levels of vitamin D among immigrants to native-born population, to investigate the major risk factors for low vitamin D and possible association with disease status (health deteriorations). To our knowledge, no previous studies used the CHMS data, or any other national data to find a possible association between immigration/disease status and vitamin D levels.

This work may partially help clarify vitamin D-related health deterioration in migrants; moreover, to develop a global guideline that specifies sub-populations, in which the evidence and vitamin D-related recommendations might differ from the overall immigrant population.