David Peters co-PI on fall 2017 Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Seed (PIRS) Grant Program

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David Peters, associate professor of sociology, has been named co-principal investigator on the recently announced fall 2017 Presidential Interdisciplinary Research Seed (PIRS) Grant. The goal of PIRS is to support new interdisciplinary research which may bring in external funding.

Peters will be conducting research on the project “Resilient Micropolitan Areas: Evaluating Coping Mechanisms After Economic Shocks,” on a team with principal investigator Cristina Poleacovschi, assistant professor of construction engineering and co-principal investigators Mônica Haddad, associate professor in community and regional planning and Eric Rozier, assistant professor of computer science.

The research focuses on microplitan cities. In 2010, there were 576 micropolitan areas in the U.S. Micropolitan cities are those with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, making up 10 percent of the U.S. population and comprising of 21 percent of the nation’s land area. Micropolitan areas are experiencing strong immigration growth, predominantly of Latino/a, and Hispanic-white residential segregation is being observed.

Despite their importance, micropolitans are not part of public policy discussions nor are they of the topic of academic research. Few research projects have been conducted in the last five years focusing on micropolitan areas in the social sciences.

"Micropolitan areas’ importance should not be neglected, as they have the promising potential to fulfill the needs of the migrants who are moving out of small towns and/or out of metropolitan areas, and prefer the life style of medium size cities. The dearth of research on micropolitan areas is especially problematic when their existence is threatened by economic shocks which can happen, for instance, when a major employer decides to leave a community," said Peters.

The project proposes a foundational framework, based on an inter-disciplinary approach to identify the coping mechanisms that help micropolitan areas become resilient after the time of an economic shock. The project integrates multiple perspectives from engineering, social, behavioral and economic sciences, and computational science and asks: “Why are some micropolitan areas more resilient than others after experiencing an economic shock?”

Co-PI Peters’ role will be to analyze existing data on economic shocks and resiliency. Shocks are sizable jobs losses from the preceeding year. Resiliency is measured along two scales: job resiliency and social resiliency. Job resiliency is the recovery of jobs lost since the shock. Social resiliency is the recovery of earnings and no sizable gains in poverty rates since the shock. Along with the research team, he will conduct interviews in select micros to better understand how collection action, civic engagement, and social capital in the community is used to promote resilience.