Economics professor gets $2.1M from NSF for big data project


Martha J. Bailey, associate professor of economics, has been awarded a grant of more than $2 million from the National Science Foundation to support the creation of the Longitudinal Intergenerational Family Electronic Micro-Database.

David Lam, professor of economics and director of the Institute for Social Research, hailed the project’s “combination of the latest advances in information technology and 100 years of vital statistics data as one of the most valuable new social science resources to come along in decades.”

The database project, known as LIFE-M, uses millions of U.S. vital records to reconstruct how individuals and families have changed across the 20th century. These data will link health, family structure, demographic and economic characteristics from birth until death for at least four generations, and provide new insight into how the economy and society have evolved over the past 100 years.

LIFE-M will offer unprecedented sample sizes and include populations that have traditionally been understudied, such as minorities, immigrants and women.

“This is an exciting moment for big data and social science,” says Bailey. “We are grateful for funding from the NSF that allows us to develop LIFE-M into a large-scale data resource.”

This project is funded as part of the NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science and Engineering activity through the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. The project was chosen for funding from September 2015 to August 2019 through a merit-based review process, with consideration to its intellectual value and broad societal impact.

The LIFE-M pilot project was funded by the Michigan Institute for Teaching and Research in Economics, the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging, the ISR Population Studies Center and the LSA Associate Professor Fund.


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