Three MOE Tier 2 Grants Awarded to FASS Researchers in February 2023

Congratulations to the Principal Investigators and research teams of the following projects, ‘Analyses and Projections of Households and Living Arrangements in Six ASEAN Countries (HOUSEHOLD-ASEAN)’, ‘Climate-driven Changes in the Terrestrial Carbon Sink of Tropical Asia’, and ‘Health Implications of Gender Inequality: Articulating A Global Research Agenda’, which are funded for three years via Tier 2 Academic Research Fund grants from Singapore’s Ministry of Education.

Analyses and Projections of Households and Living Arrangements in Six ASEAN Countries (HOUSEHOLD-ASEAN)

Principal Investigator: Associate Professor Qiushi Feng, NUS Sociology and Anthropology

Co-Investigator: Assistant Professor Joelle Fong, NUS LKY School of Public Policy

Host Department/Centre: NUS Centre for Family and Population Research (CFPR)

Due to the decline in the marriage rate and birth rate, alternative living arrangements have become more common around the world. It is important to have a better understanding of how the Second Demographic Transition (SDT), a demographic theory which focuses on these changes in household dynamics, is impacting people at all stages of life not only in Western countries, but also here in Southeast Asia. The ‘HOUSEHOLD-ASEAN’ study aims to analyze and project the transformation of households and living arrangements in six ASEAN nations: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. These six countries combined are home to about 600 million people, approximately 90% of the ASEAN’s total population.

The project will test the SDT theory, which predicts that individualistic families and living arrangements that do not involve marriage will increase in Southeast Asia. The researchers expect to find that ASEAN nations are experiencing similar changes in households and living arrangements as Western nations, which include cohabitation, one-person households, single-parent households, childless households, and “empty nester” older adult households.

The project will also develop and apply two approaches that boost how the SDT model is tested. The summary demographic indicators it uses are not able to tell apart changes in cohorts and age-specific characteristics of demographic behaviors. The researchers will develop and apply an R package called DemoRates, which will be able to estimate the rates of marriage, birth, migration, and other demographic transition rates, classified by sex, marital status, education, rural/urban residence, and ethnicity. These can then be used to look into the SDT predictions regarding birth rates, as well as marriage and divorce rates. The team will also use the ProFamy method, an established macro-simulation method, to forecast numbers, sizes, structures, and types of households and living arrangements in the six nations through 2060. The ProFamy method, unlike other models, is able to directly forecast future changes in the simulation test, which reveals the timing and degree of the changes in household and living arrangements. The effect of policy interventions on these transitions can then be simulated and evaluated.  Finally, the project will also deliver policy and business advice focused on age-appropriate housing and home-based energy needs that benefits the six countries studied.

Climate-driven Changes in the Terrestrial Carbon Sink of Tropical Asia

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Luo Xiangzhong (Remi), NUS Geography

Co-Investigator: Simone Fatichi, NUS Civil and Environmental Engineering

Host Department/Centre: NUS Geography

Global heating is primarily caused by manmade emissions of C02. Forests and other terrestrial ecosystems counteract roughly 25% of these emissions by acting as carbon sinks, meaning they absorb more carbon from Earth’s atmosphere than they release. In Asia’s tropics, there is a lack of research on how to best preserve and enhance terrestrial carbon sinks, which is imperative in addressing the severe harms of climate change. However, there are multiple sources of evidence that show contrasting climate controls over the variability of these sinks. The Asian tropics possess ecosystems that contain dense carbon stocks and the largest land-atmosphere CO2 exchange, and are directly influenced by climate anomalies and this century’s most intensive land use change. 

Accurate quantifications of the carbon sink size and how it is impacted by global heating in the Asian tropics are needed, as without them we cannot forecast of future ecosystem responses and the effectiveness of our implementation of climate mitigation plans. This project will examine the historical change in and assess the climatic sensitivities of the terrestrial carbon sink in the Asian tropics, and identify parts of the region that should be prioritized for reforestation and conservation to sink carbon.

The project will make use of Terrestrial Biosphere models (TBMs), combined with observational constraints from leaf and soil traits, remote sensing and eddy covariance to establish a credible account of carbon sink in the Asian tropics in the past 20 years. TBMs are the principal tool to estimate land-atmosphere CO2 exchange by simulating the growth of vegetation using mathematical representations of plant functions.  However, those mathematical representations contain a large amount of empirical data and are often generalized from observations at non-tropical sites.

To address the lack of observational constraints in tropical Asia, the researchers will utilize machine learning to upscale in-situ observations and new remote sensing derivatives to help develop regional models. These TBMs will enable estimations of carbon sink in tropical Asia with significantly enhanced accuracy, range, and speed, which will allow climate policy makers to better examine and evaluate the potential for ecosystem carbon sequestration in the region. The study will also use its improved estimate of carbon sink in the Asian tropics to look into its dominant climatic controls and assess its future course. Hotspots with the largest carbon sink potential and least susceptible to climate change effects will be identified, which will allow us to determine the most suitable reforestation and conservation projects to put into action. 

Health Implications of Gender Inequality: Articulating A Global Research Agenda

Principal Investigator: Assistant Professor Kriti Vikram, NUS Sociology and Anthropology

Co-Investigators: Associate Professor Feng Qiushi, NUS Sociology and Anthropology; Associate Professor Vincent Chua, NUS Sociology and Anthropology; Dr Abhijit Visaria, Centre for Ageing Research and Education (CARE), Duke Medical School.

Host Department/Centre: NUS Centre for Family and Population Research (CFPR)

‘Health Implications of Gender Inequality’ aims to establish a global research network on gender inequality and later-life health. The project’s publication, networking, and programming activities include the production of a policy document on gender inequality and later-life health containing a summary of key research findings, as well as research and data gaps and appropriate policy suggestions.

The project uses a life course perspective to document the role of gender inequality, gender discrimination, and gender-based adversities in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) on women’s health in later life. Inequality and discrimination lead to chronic stress, which causes premature deterioration of health, becoming more apparent as one ages; hence the focus on health and well-being in later life. The researchers will illustrate a series of novel pathways connecting gender-based adversities with various health outcomes.

The life course perspective enables the formation of new theoretical frameworks linking gender inequality, discrimination, and gender-based adversities to stress that leads to significant health decline. Moreover, new indicators will be conceptualized to ascertain the experience of gender-based oppression at individual and contextual levels.


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