October 25, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 194—Combating COVID-19 misinformation, and the history of Latinx communities in the Midwest

Misinformation about the coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic is rampant, which is a major concern to health experts across the globe. But a study led by Jon Agley of the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington examines a new way to combat misinformation. Brief exposure to an infographic about the scientific process may strengthen people's trust in science, the new research says, including reducing the influence of COVID-19 misinformation. Since lower levels of trust have been associated with higher likelihood of believing misinformation, Agley’s research team looked at whether explaining essential aspects of science, such as why scientists change their minds in response to new evidence, might prevent someone from believing misinformation. The research showed that at least 60 seconds of exposure to an infographic about how scientific recommendations change appeared to cause a small increase in people's trust in science. There was also some evidence that the increase in trust reduced beliefs in COVID-19 misinformation. Agley says providing truthful and easily digested explanations of the scientific method may reduce the influence of misinformation, not just about the pandemic but also other important health topics where misinformation impacts people’s choices.

For all the turbulence and change in the U.S. economy, one thing remains clear: migrant workers have consistently sustained the country’s agricultural and food-supply chains, particularly Mexican, Mexican American, and Puerto Rican—or Latinx—farmworkers. And while most think of California and Texas as the main locations for these workers, IU historian Juan Ignacio Mora says the Midwest has played a central role in Latinx experiences in the U.S. In the mid-20th century, he says, Michigan was one of the nation's leaders in sugar beet farming, using a large number of migratory workers to harvest beets as well as many other crops such as apples, strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Federal temporary labor programs in the 1940s and 1950s brought hundreds of thousands of migrant agricultural workers to the Midwest, who often found their way to cities such as Chicago and Detroit, where they created Latinx communities. However, more broadly, Mora says, the Midwest’s work fields and living quarters were full of complex cultural, social, and political entanglements among Latinx workers. Encounters between migrant agricultural workers from the Texas-Mexico borderlands, the interior of Mexico, and Puerto Rico led to tensions shaped by ethnic identity, citizenship status, and class that damaged prospects for stronger Latinx coalitions. Mora says the rural and agricultural Midwest provides a unique lens for examining the history of U.S. Latinx communities and understanding potential future Latinx solidarities.