Hi all! My name is Lucy Lippman, and I’m a junior at IU studying mathematics, economics, geography, and French. I’ve been passionate about sustainability since my high school environmental science class, and joining the Critical Food Studies lab during my sophomore year has shown me how just and local food systems coexist with environmental sustainability in the state.
Last fall, I was admitted into the Sustainability Scholars program, and I worked with Dr. Shellye Suttles, Dr. Angela Babb, and Claire Frohman on a paper exploring the history of diversity and effects of discrimination in the Indiana food system. Specifically, I’ve been looking at metrics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Census, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other national agencies for data on food system employment and food assistance program participation by race, ethnicity, and gender.
For the most part, the methodology I’ve been following comes from a document by the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems. To understand trends in food system employment across demographics, a lot of MSU’s metrics revolve around wages. Unfortunately, relevant data on wages and demographics are published only nationally, not at a regional or state level. To best understand employment trends by race, gender, and ethnicity in Indiana, we created the Specific Occupation Adjusted Percentage (SOAP) Index to illustrate the difference between the percentage of a demographic in an occupational field and the percentage of that same demographic in the entire Indiana labor force. For instance, in 2010, 3.37% of all workers in food preparation and serving-related occupations, as defined by BLS, were Black men, while Black men made up 3.13% the Hoosier labor force at that time. The resulting SOAP index is -.24%. The small magnitude denotes no large difference between the Black male composition of the workforce and of food preparation and serving-related occupations, while the negative signage indicates the given demographic is more represented in the Indiana workforce than in the specific occupation. Large magnitudes and positive signages represent the opposite. The SOAP Index evaluates for equity, presuming that an equitable employment system will not exhibit large differences between the composition of the labor force and the composition of workers in specific occupations. It assumes freedom of choice, of mobility, and of cultural axioms that would otherwise impact the demographic compositions of certain occupational fields.
This semester, I’m continuing work on the diversity metrics paper, fine-tuning my work from last semester and making it more cohesive with Shellye’s, Angela’s, and Claire’s work on the subject. I’ve also joined Dr. Knudsen on a working paper observing service accessibility in the rural Indiana Uplands. I look forward to continuing with the Critical Food Studies Lab, researching inequity in Indiana.