Iversen, Roberta R
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PublicationHurricane Katrina and New Orleans: What Might a Sociological Embeddedness Perspective Offer Disaster Research and Planning?(2008-11-01) Iversen, Roberta R; Armstrong, Annie LaurieThe Hurricane Katrina and NewOrleans situation was commonly called a "natural disaster" - an anomalous "event" that disrupted lives, spaces, and organizations. Research and planning attention then focused on particular aspects of the event and on restoring order. In contrast, sociologists and similar-thinking scholars have increasingly viewed disaster situations from multiple locations and histories, often using systems theory. Here, reanalysis of empirical material from ethnographic research in New Orleans pre- and post-Katrina suggests that a sociological embeddedness perspective illustrates the dynamic seamlessness of past, present, and future economic contexts and social actions. The perspective's constitutive concepts of weak, strong, and differentiated ties highlight the role of local knowledge, intermediary-led workforce networks, and sustained participatory planning in creating a robust economic environment. Toward this end, disaster research, planning, and theory building could incorporate network tie assessments into social vulnerability protocols, compare embeddedness with other perspectives, and learn from related international experiences. PublicationHow Much Do We Count? Interpretation and Error-Making in the Decennial Census(1999-02-01) Iversen, Roberta R; Furstenberg, Frank F; Belzer, Alisa AlomFollowing a critique of the 1990 decennial census procedures, we conducted a field study among low-income, inner-city residents in 1991 to examine how they conceptualized and managed the civic task of census response. Interpretations about the purpose and meaning of the census, about commitment to the task, and about connection to government, singly and together with literacy skills (e.g., reading and general literacy competence), were associated with errors that are not detectable by evaluative methodologies used regularly by the Census Bureau. The validity and reliability of census data, and possibly other self-administered survey research, will be increased by greater use of knowledge about both interpretation and literacy skills in formulating data collection procedures. PublicationParents' Work, Depressive Symptoms, Children, and Family Economic Mobility: What Can Ethnography Tell Us?(2007-07-01) Iversen, Roberta R; Armstrong, Annie LaurieLow-income work, job training, depressive symptoms or depression, and children's school performance. These topics have occupied the attention of scholars and policy makers in recent years, particularly as they pertain to single mothers in the context of welfare reform. Broadening this landscape, findings from longitudinal, multi-city ethnographic research reveal that low-income fathers also experience depression or depressive symptoms that hinder family economic mobility. Further, repeated scores from a community-based depressive symptoms measure embedded in the ethnographic inquiry show that the timing of parents' training and employment pathways, economic conditions, and policies in firms and children's schools intersect with parents' depressive symptoms or depression to affect mobility. Program and policy supports seem to mediate these intersecting mobility challenges. PublicationUsing African American Narratives to Analyze Social Policy(2001-01-01) Iversen, Roberta RThis paper explores how African American literature can enrich the analysis of social policy in social work graduate courses. The historic debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois about black progress, and its reflection in subsequent works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Shelby Steele, and Cornel West, illustrate that the debate remains present in contemporary affirmative action and welfare reform policies. Using ethnic narratives can expand adult students’ ability to analyze the purposes, consequences, and values underlying social policies and help social workers formulate, document and buttress new policy positions. Such abilities are especially critical for social policies in which race remains a critical influence. PublicationReview of Dan Zuberi, Differences That Matter: Social Policy and the Working Poor in the United States and Canada(2007-09-01) Iversen, Roberta RMy chief regret is that Mettler's messages may "fall between two chairs." In striving to reach a wider readership through simple and schematic language, her book does not give serious students of public policy enough empirical and theoretical meat to chew on. (One might call the book a "tasting menu.") At the same time, to Mettler's credit, the book is just not sufficiently folksy and anecdotal to make it a likely candidate for The New York Times's best-seller list. But read it anyway. You will still learn a lot. PublicationAssessment and Social Construction: Conflict or Co-Creation?(2005-04-29) Iversen, Roberta R; Gergen, Kenneth J; Fairbanks, Robert PAssessment procedures in social work emerged within the historical context of modernist empiricism. They are lodged in assumptions of objectivity, measurement accuracy, value neutrality and scientific expertise. Within the context of postmodern constructionism, the grounds for traditional assessment are thrown into question. While such critique may seem to threaten the assessment tradition, such a conclusion is unwarranted. Rather, one may locate within the assessment tradition and constructionist writings converging lines of thought. Through the collaborative extension of two assessment exemplars — the genogram and the ecomap — we suggest new and more promising potentials for assessment practices in social work. PublicationMiddle-Income Families in the Economic Downturn: Challenges and Management Strategies over Time(2011-10-01) Iversen, Roberta R; Napolitano, Laura; Furstenberg, Frank FThe “Great Recession” has hurt many families across the United States, yet most research has examined its impact on those already considered poor or working poor. However, this recession has affected middle-income families, whose experiences with economic challenge have seldom been looked at in any detail. Such families have recently been called “the new poor,” “the missing middle,” and “families in the middle.” One in seven American children under age 18 (10.5 million) has an unemployed parent as a result of this recession, and because economic mobility for children in the U.S. is affected by their parents’ earning capacities, these children’s educational and employment futures may be permanently constrained. The research presented here, which is informed by Weberian stratification theory and capital theories, is based on a small longitudinal subset of a larger two-country, multicity, mixed-methods study. Two waves of in-person interviews between spring 2008 and late fall 2009 revealed how families experienced the economic downturn and the management strategies that parents used to try to counter its negative effects. Parents were better able to provide financially for their children’s daily needs and support children’s current school activities, despite income and job challenges and losses, but less able to continue to develop children’s future-enhancing capital.