Michael Lotspeich-Yadao, PhD
Research Specialist, School of Social Work
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1010 W Nevada Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
Hello! I'm Michael.
I am professionally interested in the use of high-performance computing solutions to create meaningful measures of human behavior from confidential state and federal administrative data. In doing so, I support public decision-makers in streamlining operations for at-risk groups while maximizing taxpayer value. As a computational social scientist this includes (but is not limited to) the manipulation of relational databases, matching of public, private, and commercial data sources, computational text analysis, and geospatial techniques. I identify emerging questions through communication with public administrators, and then use the data to drive answers that empower those who can improve agricultural, economic, and social conditions.
Broadly, my research portfolio centers itself on social demography and rural sociology with a substantive interest in military veterans, focusing on how spatial and temporal modeling of ecological conditions can explain contemporary social problems. I am an Illinois Federal Statistical Research Data Center affiliate, collaborating with Craig Carpenter (Michigan State-Ag Econ) and Charles Tolbert (Retired) to use administrative U.S. Census Bureau data and qualitative interviews to create resources for the Cooperative Extension System.
In my current efforts, I provide analytical bandwidth to Senior and Executive DCFS Leadership to address public sector challenges with administrative welfare data, not limited to 1) supporting strategic implementation of federal requirements, 2) training and aiding in the use of cross-agency data structures for proactive decision-making, and 3) strengthening internal capacity for data-informed decision making by DCFS and their research partners.
SUBSTANTIVE AND METHODOLOGICAL INTERESTS
RURAL ECONOMIC AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
The ability to seek and fill full, formal employment opportunities is considered one of the components of a livelihood strategy for Americans in rural communities. However, the pursuit of these opportunities is often ensnared in individual-based outcomes and merit-driven narratives that erase structural conditions that impede full employment. Spatial units can function as both a constraining factor and facilitator of formal labor market transactions, which necessitate both theoretical and empirical conversations.
MILITARY VETERANS IN RURAL COMMUNITIES
While military veterans are disproportionately likely to reside in a rural community after service, we do not know enough about what these service members do when they leave the military. This is due to the limitations of public government and survey data in studying rural communities. Using federal microdata and administrative records, I consider the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of rural veterans, especially pertaining to the optimization of labor force reintegration.
DEMOGRAPHY AND THE BIG DATA REVOLUTION
There is a bright, data-rich future in the rural social sciences as we are able to leverage the full value of federal microdata to serve the American people. In partnership with multiple federal statistical agencies, my colleagues and I use computationally intensive methods to analyze and model social phenomena. In this way, we assist in the understanding of data quality as well as identify shortcomings of data, and document new collection needs for the USG.
CHALLENGING ASPATIAL THEORY WITH GEOGRAPHIC STUDY
With professional training in remote sensing, data processing, and analysis, I find merit in implementing Geographic Information Systems in the rural social sciences. Social processes exist within space and time. Thus, there are additional forces at play in rural communities that may not be considered by aspatial theories and analysis. GIS can be used for survey sampling, to identify atypical spatial outliers, visualize distributions, discover patterns of association or clusters, and suggest alternative forms of spatial heterogeneity
Originally from Western Illinois, Michael completed his Ph.D. in Sociology (2021) at Baylor University and undergraduate studies in Anthropology and Geography at the University of Illinois Springfield (2016) and Illinois Valley Community College (2014). Michael currently resides in Champaign with his husband, John Oliver, and two dogs, Dr. Karl Barx and Auguste Comte. Michael is also a Scholar-Officer, serving as a Military Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.