CRSC Research

CRSC provides an intellectual home for research and collaborative projects on social change, with a particular focus on structures of inequality and relationships of power. CRSC’s work places issues of race, gender, and class at the center of the agenda and capitalizes on Berkeley’s history as the birthplace of transformative social movements as well as California’s unique status as a bellwether for race relations, sexual politics, and socioeconomic divisions.

CRSC is committed to an ethic of interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and inclusive research. Working collectively, researchers draw on a wide range of scholarly perspectives and methods. Faculty join with graduate, professional, and undergraduate students to examine pressing questions of theory, policy, and practice. This work not only advances academic knowledge but also has practical social implications that can enhance the life chances of California’s increasingly diverse population. By doing research with a conscience, CRSC bridges the gap between academic inquiry and community needs.

Current Research Projects and Collaborations

Solidarity in Scholarship: How Working Groups Support Doctoral Students of Color

This research examines working groups as a structural intervention to support the success of minority PhD students. While universities tout diversity as a core value, the academy’s faculty remains overwhelmingly white, and studies confirm that students of color are less likely to complete doctoral programs in a timely fashion. The obstacles facing minority doctoral students are significant, ranging from pervasive institutional racism, to feelings of alienation and isolation, to the all-important challenge of developing effective mentor relationships. While scholarship has emphasized the role of mentorship, this study looks to an alternative intervention for supporting doctoral students of color: professionalization and working groups. This qualitative study uses open-ended surveys, interviews, and a participatory research model to examine the tangible and perceived benefits of involvement in working groups designed specifically for minority doctoral students. This study has the potential to unpack mechanisms that enhance the experiences and success of doctoral students of color, and eventually improve diversity in the academy.

Principal Investigators: Tina Sacks, Social Welfare, UC Berkeley & Nicole Arlette Hirsch, Visiting Scholar, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley

Research Team: Renee Mack, Social Welfare, UC Berkeley; Kristen Nelson, Sociology, UC Berkeley; Fithawee Tzeggai, Sociology, UC Berkeley

Night Out / Night Off for Graduate Students of Color 

The Night Out/Night Off (NO/NO) initiative, founded in the fall of 2016, is a series of arts-focused events held in both the fall and spring semesters annually to build community amongst graduate students of color.  NO/NO creates a space where there are no expectations of graduate students of color being any more or any less than ourselves; no expectations of leadership, representation, lobbying, or mentoring. Students are invited to engage a treasured familiar art form or experience a brand new genre while sharing in community. Please email Naniette Coleman ( for more information.

To make a gift in support of Night Out / Night Off please visit the online giving site and in the "In Honor of:" section list "NO/NO".

Evaluating and Measuring Governing Power: Case Studies in Police Reform

This study examines how residents, community leaders, organizations and other stakeholders engage in democratic governance. Focusing on the issue of police reform, this research unpacks the perspectives of those with governing power – local and state agencies – to understand how they partner with, learn from, listen to, or otherwise work with various community stakeholders. This qualitative study answers the following questions: How do communities participate in local governance with regards to improving policing? How do local agencies and institutions partner with community stakeholders? And what metrics can be used to evaluate best practices for community-agency partnerships? Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews, this exploratory study aims to provide new insights into best practices for incorporating the voices of communities that are most directly impacted by law enforcement practices into efforts to improve policing. Beyond this case of policing, this research has the potential to improve democratic governance practices at the local level. This study is being conducted in partnership with the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California.

Principal Investigator: Nicole Arlette Hirsch, PhD, Visiting Scholar, ISSI

Gender Dynamics and SNAP/CalFresh Enrollment among Immigrant Households in California

The research explores gender dynamics as a barrier to participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/CalFresh among eligible Latino immigrant households in California. There are numerous barriers to SNAP participation, including long applications, burdensome verification requirements, onerous reporting procedures, and perceived stigma. Additional barriers affecting immigrants include concerns about impacts on immigration status. An additional yet largely unexplored barrier is the role of gender dynamics, particularly in immigrant communities. First-person reports by food stamp outreach providers suggest that it is not uncommon for immigrant Latina women to start the SNAP enrollment process without completion due to opposition from their husbands, who are concerned about stigma and impacts on immigration status. This exploratory research, based on qualitative data, will shed light on an unexplored barrier to SNAP participation. A greater understanding of this phenomenon will contribute to the development of more effective policies and outreach strategies, with the goal of increasing SNAP enrollment rates in California.

This project is funded by the Berkeley Food Institute

Principal Investigator: Tina Sacks, Social Welfare, UC Berkeley

Research Partners: Nutrition Policy Institute; California Department of Social Services; California Association of Food Banks; Maria Echaveste, Law, UC Berkeley; G. Cristina Mora, Sociology, UC Berkeley; Elizabeth Katz, Economics, University of San Francisco

Understanding Organizing Ecosystems: Case Studies in Civic Engagement and Power Building through Community-Driven Ballot Initiatives

While studies have documented how ballot initiatives shape voter turn-out and political knowledge, less is known about the relationship between power-building efforts, organizing and ballot initiative campaigns. We ask: What role do ballot initiatives play in driving civic engagement, especially among women, low-income communities and communities of color? Who are the primary actors involved in ballot-centered civic engagement? What do the maps of these organizing ecosystems look like and how do they develop? This research uses a case study model to investigate the relationship between organizing ecosystems and ballot initiatives centered on criminal justice reform, Medicaid expansion and affordable housing in the 2018 midterm elections. Through in-depth interviews with key players as well as analysis of digital and textual data – including campaign materials and websites, opinion editorials and organizational documents – we examine two ballot initiatives, measures or amendments for each issue area: Medicaid expansion in Montana and Nebraska, criminal justice reform in Florida and Louisiana, and affordable housing in Alameda County, California, and Oregon. This study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will help bridge our knowledge of how theories of organizing from social movement scholarship can support electoral politics. Findings also have the potential to encourage broader participation in democratic politics.

Principal Investigators: Nicole Arlette Hirsch, PhD, Visiting Scholar, ISSI, and Esperanza Tervalon-Garrett, Founder & CEO of Dancing Hearts Consulting, LLC

Language and Emotion Development Project (LEAD)

The U.S. population of dual language learners (DLLs), or children who are exposed to and learning through two languages, has grown rapidly in the last decade. DLLs from low-income families lag significantly behind their monolingual English-speaking peers on school readiness measures at kindergarten entry, and the achievement gap continues to widen with age. Despite the critical role of socio-emotional development (SED) in children's long-term health and achievement, significant gap exists in our knowledge on how bilingual experience shapes SED. By integrating assessment of language, executive functions, and SED, this project takes an interdisciplinary approach to study the reciprocal relations between bilingual (English and heritage language) development and SED in a longitudinal study. We are following 400 DLLs (50% girls, initially 3-4 years of age) from low-income Spanish-speaking Mexican American families (N = 200) and Cantonese-speaking Chinese American families (N = 200) annually for three years. Read more about Professor Zhou and her research

This project is funded by an R01 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (National Institute of Health)

Principal Investigators: Qing Zhou, Psychology, UC Berkeley & Yuuko Uchikoshi, Education, UC Davis

Interdisciplinary Research Group on Privacy 

The Interdisciplinary Research Group on Privacy meets weekly on Fridays at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, home of CRSC. With funding from the Social Science Matrix, Center for Long-term Cybersecurity, the Center for Technology Society and Policy, the SMART program, and the Graduate Division, this research project seeks to understand the deeper cultural logics inherent in shifting views on privacy in the modern world as well as the evolution of its meaning historically in the US context. The group gives undergraduate students at all stages the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience as research assistants. Students learn in a diverse, supportive, small group environment. Still trying to figure out if graduate school is for you? Students also learn skills relevant and marketable outside of the research space. If you are an undergraduate student seeking more information on volunteering as a research assistant, please email Naniette Coleman ( for more information. Students interested in being considered for either credit or volunteer positions can apply at the beginning of each semester.

To make a gift in support of the IRGP, please visit the online giving site and in the "In Honor of:" section list "IRGP.

Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative

CRSC is one of the founding partners of this new initiative to investigate human mobility, immigrants’ integration and the ways migration transforms societies around the world. The initiative seeks to bring together UC Berkeley faculty and students researching migration and leverage these connections for further innovation. Click here for the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative website

Academic Partnership on Research and Training Inputs to the PHE Learning Lab in East Africa (APRILL)

This project, which started in June 2016, seeks to foster collaborative research and training on integrated approaches to women's empowerment and sustainable livelihoods in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) through the development of a cross-disciplinary UCB-UCSF Affinity Group of interested faculty and students. Research partners on and off campus provide support on metrics to evaluate the value added of multi-sectoral approaches and assist in the design of curricula for short course training in the region. Classes in ESPM, SPH, GSPP and other departments will incorporate original case studies for discussion and interactive student projects. Funded by the non-profit organization Pathfinder International, the project contributes to Pathfinder’s Population, Health and the Environment (PHE) Learning Lab Initiative in East Africa.

Principal Investigator: Robin Marsh, Ph.D., Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Social Insurance, Social Change

The Social Insurance, Social Change project conducts research on issues related to private and governmental programs and proposals to provide insurance for residents of the United States, examining different occupational and non-occupational medical insurance areas, different public and private payer sources, and different levels of state and federal governmental regulation. One branch of the project uses large administrative data sets to help design statutory and regulatory changes at the federal and state level that improve the efficiency of social insurance programs. Another focus has been on improving the outcomes, both economic and health, of beneficiaries of these programs. Current activities include developing a pilot for the State of California integrating occupational and non-occupational medical treatment under standard health insurance coverage, testing for the Social Security Administration whether early intervention with workers at the onset of disability could cost-effectively reduce transitions to Social Security Disability Insurance, and modeling alternative designs for long-term care insurance that the broad public wants to purchase and insurers want to sell. Principal Investigator Neuhauser is quoted in this Los Angeles Times article on injury claims among LA police officers and firefighters.

Principal Investigator: Frank Neuhauser, Senior Researcher in Residence, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues