The UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK), in collaboration with Ong & Associates, recently released a new report on COVID-19 pandemic impacts on minority-owned businesses in Los Angeles. Previous CNK studies have documented the disproportionate adverse impacts of the pandemic on marginalized neighborhoods in labor and housing markets. The new report focuses on small businesses and examines whether the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately impacted local businesses in ethnic neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Answers to this question provide academic insights on racial systemic inequality and inform policy interventions, according to Paul Ong, co-author of the report and CNK director. “If the disparities are significant, there are profound policy implications. Race-conscious government efforts to address systemic racism are needed to ensure an equitable economic recovery,” the researchers said. The team used location data to analyze foot traffic patterns to restaurants and retail locations in ethnic and comparison neighborhoods from February through September 2020. The results indicate an earlier and steeper decline in commercial activity in Chinatown and, while retail was resilient in ethnic neighborhoods, restaurants suffered greater declines on average than in comparison neighborhoods. Ong and colleagues found that overall, the ethnic neighborhoods collectively performed worse than the county as a whole prior to lockdown and performed no better than the county under shelter-in-place orders. The project was partially supported with grants from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (funded by Southern California Grantmakers) and from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center (funded by the Stanley Kow Lau and Dora Wong Lau Endowment).
Texas voters and the UCLA Voting Rights Project scored a legal victory with a federal judge’s dismissal of a suit to invalidate more than 127,000 ballots in the state’s most populous county. Chad Dunn, the project’s director of litigation, has been leading the legal effort to protect voting rights in Texas and was part of the legal team defending the drive-through voting option in largely Democratic Harris County. This option permitted voters to cast their ballots from their cars, similar to drive-through banking. The drive-through voting plans had been in place since July and had been approved by the Texas secretary of state. The plaintiffs, members of the state’s Republican Party, filed two motions to the Texas Supreme Court seeking to throw out the drive-through votes; both were denied. The plaintiffs then turned to the federal courts, where a judge ruled Monday that they did not have standing to sue. Hours after the decision was handed down, the Republican plaintiffs filed an appeal to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied the motion early Tuesday — Election Day. “It was obvious that this method of voting was approved by the state of Texas and this late attempt to strip voters of their rights was rightfully denied,” Dunn said. “Every vote from a qualified voter should be counted.” — Sonni Waknin
The students, faculty and staff of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare have launched an ambitious effort to mobilize and support voters during this election season. In addition to reaching out to prospective voters via phone calls, letters and texts, some are serving as poll workers or poll watchers and others are taking part in an Election Day street action spearheaded by MSW students. On Tuesday, which Social Welfare has declared a Day of Civic Action, volunteers will spread out to polling places in Compton, Norwalk and the San Gabriel Valley to offer snacks and emotional support to community members. “Our goal was to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm of students, staff and faculty in our department around making sure people’s voices are heard and everyone can exercise their right to vote,” said Associate Professor Laura Wray-Lake, who helped launch Social Welfare’s Voter Mobilization Working Group with field faculty member Toby Hur and Chair Laura Abrams. Students and staff quickly stepped up to join the working group, which partnered with the department’s Reimagining Social Welfare Collective to compile a comprehensive resource list for helping to get out the vote, virtually or in person. The effort built upon the nationwide Voting Is Social Work campaign, launched to integrate nonpartisan voter engagement into social work education and practice. “Many of us are passionate about free and fair elections where everyone can participate,” Wray-Lake said. “We see voter mobilization as aligned with social work values, and hope that these kinds of actions will become a regular election season tradition in Social Welfare.”
A new report by the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin measures the digital divide in American schools, which threatens to undermine the educational achievement of low-income and minority students for years to come. Disparities in access to computers and adequate internet service predate COVID-19 but have deepened since the pandemic’s outbreak, the study found. The analysis used data from the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey covering the latter part of the 2019-2020 school year, when schools were forced to halt in-person learning. All groups experienced some challenges in providing adequate computer access and internet service for children’s educational purposes, but the difficulties were greatest in Hispanic, Black, low-income and younger households, according to the study. It also found a link between the lack of access to technology and the parents’ level of educational attainment. Researchers are currently assessing data from the start of the 2020-2021 school year to identify lingering disparities. The study, conducted in collaboration with the public interest research group Ong & Associates, aims to guide educators and policymakers in formulating effective programs to ensure a fair and equitable school system. “It is essential for elected officials and business leaders to act now to address the potential long-term social and economic effects of this health crisis,” the report’s authors said. “This is true especially given the added challenge the pandemic places on minority, low-income, less educated and young families trying to educate their children to succeed in the new information age.”
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor co-authored a paper in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research about the importance of including teachers and staff in discussions of school climate and student risk. The paper, “School Staff Members in California: How Perceptions of School Climate are Related to Perceptions of Student Risk and Well-Being,” highlighted the perspectives of school staff members who help shape the environment of their schools. Research has shown that a positive school climate is associated with improved academic achievement and social and emotional outcomes for students. According to Astor and co-authors Gordon Capp and Tamika Gilreath, the current literature on school climate largely overlooks the perspectives of school staff members. They argue that in order to accurately understand school climate and how it influences all school constituents, school climate models need to include viewpoints of school staff members. The team used survey data from the 2013 California School Climate Survey, which included responses from 54,000 teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, social workers and other school staff members. The researchers used regression models to examine the relationship between school climate and student outcomes. Their results support a staff-focused model of school climate, and they found an increased need for training and support associated with higher levels of student risk, bullying and violence. Astor’s team encouraged school stakeholders to pay greater attention to staff perceptions and experiences before implementing interventions to improve school climate. — Zoe Day
The UCLA Luskin Public Policy community came together after the final presidential debate of 2020 to hear insights from an array of experts on the U.S. political landscape: Dean Gary Segura, an authority on polls and other measures of political opinion; Chair Martin Gilens, whose research focuses on political inequality; Professor Mark Peterson, who specializes in health-care policy; Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative; and Chad Dunn, director of litigation for the UCLA Voting Rights Project. During the 90-minute Zoom gathering, the speakers assessed the exchange between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which was deemed a step up from previous matchups, then fielded questions from students and alumni. The conversation touched on the accuracy of polling, the threat of voter intimidation, the electoral pathway to victory for each candidate, and even the risk that the country might veer toward fascism. Unless the vote count is tied up amid irregularities in a single, decisive state — as it was in Bush v. Gore in the 2000 race —Segura said the chance that the election’s outcome will be seriously challenged is small. “Try not to let the demons in your head and the demons from 2016 keep you awake at night,” he advised. The conversation was part of a series of forums designed to bring policy students, alumni, faculty and staff together to share concerns, perspectives and experiences within an informed and supportive community. At the next Policy Forum, on Nov. 5, faculty experts will parse the results of the election.
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs
3250 Public Affairs Building - Box 951656 Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656