The University of Chicago Magazine

August 1996


  • Family income is the number one factor in determining who attends college, according to a National Opinion Research Center study.

  • Encryption technology would protect individual privacy and prevent economic espionage, according to a National Research Council study led by Law School Professor Kenneth Dam.

  • Graeme Bell and Nancy Cox of the BSD have narrowed the search to a region on human chromosome 2 for a gene that plays a major role in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
  • Also in Investigations:

    • Forecast--Cloudy: Astronomers Priscilla Frisch and Daniel Welty map our interstellar neighborhood.

    • The Numbers Game: What is it exactly that economic forecasters do, asks Owen Lamont of the GSB?


    Almighty Dollar.

    Race, sex, or scores on achievement tests--none so strongly influence a young person's future education as does family income. That's the finding of a National Opinion Research Center study that tracked 25,000 teenagers from eighth grade through six more years: While 74 percent of the group's wealthiest quarter attended four-year colleges, only 37 percent of the poorest quarter did. Given that the educational paths taken by affluent students varied little by sex or by race, one interpretation, says study leader and U of C economist Allen Sanderson, is that adequate financial aid could give low-income families equal access to higher education.

    Coded Response.

    Against the threat of computer crime from Internet hackers and high-tech terrorists, there is a strategic--and controversial--solution. The government should promote, not discourage, use of cryptography to encode computer data, phone, and cellular communications. So concludes a National Research Council study, commissioned by Congress and led by Law School professor Kenneth Dam, JD'57. Dam's expert panel contradicted Clinton-administration arguments that wide use of advanced cipher software would shield criminals from law-enforcement officials, whom the White House believes should have access to the electronic "keys" needed for de-coding. By contrast, the NRC report found that encryption technology, on the whole, will protect individual privacy and prevent economic espionage.

    Closing In.

    While the culprit is still at large, the hunt for a genetic factor behind America's seventh-leading cause of death--non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus--has narrowed dramatically. In June, an international team studying Mexican Americans identified the approximate location of a gene with major effect on the disease, linked also to obesity and physical inactivity. The discovery pinpoints the susceptibility gene in a region (see arrow in inset photo) at one end of chromosome 2. The researchers, led by U of C biochemist Graeme Bell and including professor of medicine Nancy Cox, hope to find the gene within two years. Bell says it will be "a foot in the door" for finding genes that predispose other populations to the disease.

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