Close-up image of a man wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat.

Wray-Lake Finds Differences in Youth Development During Trump Era

Associate Professor of Social Welfare Laura Wray-Lake spoke to PsyPost about the findings of her recent study “Youth are watching: Adolescents’ sociopolitical development in the Trump era.” Wray-Lake and her colleagues gathered survey data from 1,433 students over five years to better understand how the Trump era may have affected youth’s political development differently depending on their political orientation, as well as how historical moments shape adolescents’ development in lasting ways. “The Trump era was a volatile and highly politically polarizing time for the country,” Wray-Lake said. She found that adolescents who disapproved of Trump exhibited increases in race consciousness, deliberation skills and awareness of inequality. Adolescents who approved of Trump, in contrast, exhibited declines in awareness of inequality and race consciousness but increases in voting intentions. “These findings may be reflective of growing political divides, especially around acknowledging racism and other inequalities,” Wray-Lake said.


Randall Akee stands behind a podium giving a speech.

Akee Identifies Structural Barriers Facing Indigenous Communities

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to Indian Country Today about his recently published report on structural barriers that limit economic opportunity in indigenous communities. Co-authored by Akee and published by the Joint Economic Committee, a body that includes both members of the U.S. Senate and House, the report found that Native Americans are disproportionately underserved, economically vulnerable and limited in their access to pathways that build wealth. “The report puts a lot of the socioeconomic conditions of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians in perspective,” Akee said. “It does a great job of summarizing a number of different outcomes, a number of different domains, and puts it into a language that’s digestible and understandable for a broad swath of the population so that it’s not … caught up in jargonistic-type terms.” The report found that longstanding inequities have left indigenous communities more vulnerable to the negative impact of economic shocks and public health crises.


View of Los Angeles from above the Sand Fernando Valley

Yaroslavsky on the Importance of County Government

Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” about the race for Los Angeles County supervisor. The Los Angeles mayoral primary is getting most of the attention from voters and the media, but the race to represent L.A. County’s Third Supervisorial District, stretching from the Westside to the far northern San Fernando Valley, is consequential. “The County Board of Supervisors is a place where virtually every issue that matters to the general public crosses your desk every day,” said Yaroslavsky, who served as an L.A. County supervisor from 1994 to 2014. “Historically, a lot of people, especially middle-class voters, haven’t grasped the importance of county government and its services to millions of people — services that can literally mean the difference between life and death.” The Board of Supervisors oversees a $40 billion budget that acts as the human service arm of society, focusing on people who are economically marginalized, he said. 


three men, one woman speaking in garden with purple sage

Pierce on New L.A. Water Restrictions

The Los Angeles Times spoke to Gregory Pierce, co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, about new watering restrictions implemented by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Due to worsening drought conditions and reduced water supplies, residents of the city of Los Angeles will be assigned two watering days a week based on their addresses — Monday and Friday for odd addresses and Thursday and Sunday for even ones. “It’s a fine way to go for now, but I would recommend not hesitating to go to one-day [watering] and seeing those plants die if necessary,” said Pierce, who leads the Human Right to Water Solutions Lab housed at the Center for Innovation.

A Shadow Over Garcetti’s Final Months as L.A.’s Mayor

A New York Times article on Eric Garcetti’s delayed nomination as U.S. ambassador to India cited the Los Angeles mayor’s declining favorability ratings as reported in this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index. The nomination has been on hold during a Senate inquiry related to accusations of sexual harassment by one of Garcetti’s top aides. The Senate found that “it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it.” The mayor denies the claim, which the White House referred to as a “partisan hit job” meant to drag out the confirmation process. The Quality of Life Index, produced by the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin under the direction of Zev Yaroslavsky, found that Garcetti’s favorability ratings have slumped dramatically in the last two years, to 45% from 62%. The index is based on interviews conducted in English and Spanish with 1,400 Los Angeles County residents.

closeup of government capitol building on U.S. currency

Gilens on Stalled Attempts to Tax the Rich

A story in The Hill about the forces preventing adoption of new taxes on super-rich Americans quoted Public Policy chair Martin Gilens. Polls show that a majority of voters — both Democrats and Republicans — believe the country’s billionaires should pay more in taxes. Democrats in the White House and Congress have put forth several proposals for progressive taxation on the wealthy, but their chances are “slim to none in the short term and even perhaps the medium term,” said Gilens, co-author of a 2014 study showing the outsize influence of rich people and trade groups on U.S. government policies. Elected representatives spend an enormous amount of time with wealthy constituents or potential donors, and this “creates a sense of distortion about both what the public wants and what seems reasonable,” he said. “Whether taxing wealth seems like a reasonable thing to do might depend on whether you spend a lot of time hanging out with wealthy people.” 


back of person wearing can and gown, outdoors

Tilly on Gap Between Salary Expectations and Reality

A USA Today story about a survey showing that college students expect to make more than $100,000 in their first post-graduation jobs cited Urban Planning chair Chris Tilly, an authority on labor markets and equity. The actual average starting salary for new graduates is $55,260, the story said. But experts say that, in some parts of the country, six-figure incomes are necessary to cover the basic cost of living, which has greatly outpaced the growth of wages and salaries over the last five decades. “The federal minimum wage is, in inflation-adjusted terms, much lower than it was in the early ’70s,” Tilly said. “Wages and salaries have not kept up with housing costs, have not kept up with higher education, tuition costs. And so that sort of disjuncture, that mismatch between the reality of costs and their reality of pay, I think is distorting the way that a lot of young people are looking at the world.”


Man in blue attire, woman in multicolored attire sitting outside on sunny day

Roy and Henderson on Warring Perceptions of Life on the Streets

The Los Angeles Times published an extended conversation between two key figures at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy that revealed the growing solidarity between movement-based scholars and unhoused public intellectuals as Los Angeles grapples with the crisis of homelessness. Ananya Roy, the institute’s executive director, spoke with Theo Henderson, this year’s UCLA Activist-in-Residence, about warring perceptions about life on L.A. streets. What city officials call “cleanups” of homeless encampments are actually dehumanizing sweeps of people and their belongings that do not provide lasting housing solutions, said Henderson, founder of the podcast “We the Unhoused.” “They’re doing it because the public does not want to see poor people,” he said. The two spoke of art as a tool for empowering Los Angeles’ diverse network of community advocates. “We need creative releases to be able to keep the movement going, the spirits up, the morale up and to hope for a better day,” Henderson said.


brown cast over Los Angeles skyline and hills

Yaroslavsky on Worrisome Survey of L.A. County Residents

Worrisome findings from this year’s UCLA Quality of Life Index drew coverage from several print, online, television and radio news outlets. The index, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, found that L.A. County residents’ satisfaction with the overall quality of their lives is at its lowest level since the survey was launched in 2016. “What the pandemic couldn’t do over the last two years, inflation and increases in violent and property crime succeeded in doing,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. Still, nearly 70% of respondents said that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed their lives. “This finding — that life has been permanently altered — may be the most profound,” Yaroslavsky said. News outlets covering the 2022 Quality of Life Index include the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine and La Opinión; television stations ABC7, CBS2, FOX11, KNBC, KTLA and Telemundo 52; and radio stations KFI and KNX1070.


Incarcerated girls at the Camp Scott detention center in Santa Clarita sit on bunks facing away from the camera.

Culture of Probation Must Change, Leap Says

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap weighed in on Los Angeles County’s proposed plan to move juvenile offenders to a probation camp in a remote area of Malibu. The proposal has prompted a larger debate about what the county’s youth justice system should look like. Five years ago, Leap co-authored a brief endorsing a therapeutic approach to juvenile rehabilitation in response to the opening of Kilpatrick, a juvenile detention facility that was envisioned as a more humane approach to juvenile justice, with smaller dorms instead of the military-style barracks found at other probation halls. Leap spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the resistance from some officials at the Probation Department who have stalled progress with their unwillingness to let go of the “get tough” approach of the past. “The real problem is that that promise of trauma-informed care … has not been completely fulfilled,” said Leap. “The culture of Probation must be changed.”


Woman wearing a beanie and a large orange jacket stares at her phone while the subway passes by in the underground station

Transit Is an Essential Public Service, Wasserman Says

Jacob Wasserman, research project manager at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, spoke to Yahoo News about the state of public transit. Transit ridership was in decline even before the pandemic, due in part to expanded access to cars and the growth of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. During the pandemic, public transit plummeted overall but still served as an essential service for those without car access who didn’t have the luxury of working from home. “The pandemic showed that public transit is an essential public good, even if it’s not always profitable,” Wasserman said. Now, many once-frequent commuters are hesitant to return to public transit due to concerns about violence and crime. Even with decreased ridership, public transit remains essential to millions of Americans who lack access to other modes of transportation or for whom owning a car doesn’t make financial sense, Wasserman said.


Two people walk side by side dressed in full PPE during the Omicron outbreak in China.

Steinert-Threlkeld on Chinese Censorship of COVID Frustrations

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld spoke to Al Jazeera about the Chinese government’s censorship of Shanghai residents’ expressions of frustration over an extended COVID-19 lockdown. “Shanghainese must realize that other countries have adopted looser approaches to COVID, especially in 2022, and probably feel there are less severe policy options available,” Steinert-Threlkeld said. Millions of people were confined to their homes in April as part of China’s “zero COVID” strategy in response to the Omicron outbreak, an approach reminiscent of the Wuhan lockdown in 2020. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has clamped down on social media posts that challenged the harsh lockdown. “The primary goal of CCP censorship is to prevent large-scale collective action,” Steinert-Threlkeld explained. “The censoring is counterproductive if one thinks the goal is to prevent disgruntlement about the lockdown from spreading, but it is productive if it prevents upset individuals from coordinating action outside of their homes.”


Thermometer in the desert with city buildings in the background

Pierce on Rethinking Water Usage in California

Gregory Pierce, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Fast Company about new measures to conserve water in Los Angeles County. The current megadrought in the western United States is expected to last until 2030. In response, Los Angeles is implementing initiatives such as lawn-free landscaping, better capture of stormwater and new water recycling technology. While some have proposed desalination to increase the water supply, Pierce said the process is energy-intensive and creates concentrated brine that can be harmful to marine life. “Right now [desalination is] neither environmentally nor economically good enough to do, and I think we should do other things first,” he said. At some point, though it’s very controversial, the state may also rethink how water is used by agriculture, he added. Pierce said it may make more sense to grow produce in regions that get more rain than places such as the Central Valley.


People sitting on the grass and strolling around Little Island Park in Manhattan on a sunny day.

Goh on Decolonization of Public Parks

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Kian Goh was featured in a New Yorker article about the legacy of landscape architect Frederick Olmsted and the future of public parks in the United States. Olmsted, who was born 200 years ago, is regarded as the father of landscape architecture but has also been criticized for his work that displaced Black and Native communities. Goh explained that she uses Olmsted as an example of the lineage of urban parks — but one for which students swiftly see the limits. “Green space has a history of exclusion, even though the original ideals might have been different,” she said, adding that her students “don’t think that the ideas of folks like Olmsted stand the test of racial and social-justice critique now.” Moving forward, her teaching is guided by the question: “How do we decolonize ideas for public parks?”


Blue rideshare bike

Car Access Increases Job Opportunities, Blumenberg Finds

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg was mentioned in a Chicago Magazine article about new approaches to commuting as the suburbs expand and jobs are decentralized. Especially in areas where mass transit is lacking or unreliable and driving is expensive, many commuters are getting creative with bike-share programs and other alternatives to driving. However, many of these alternative transportation programs largely cater to the upper-middle class and leave out low-income residents who need them most. The decentralization of jobs has led to many economic opportunities being located in the suburbs, which are often poorly served by mass transit. This makes job opportunities further out of reach for central-city residents with limited transportation options. Blumenberg found that car-driving residents of the Watts section of Los Angeles have access to an astounding 59 times as many jobs as their neighbors dependent on public transit. 


Female prisoner in an orange jumpsuit holds her hand up to the plastic divider while talking to her sister on the other side.

Leap on Emotional and Fiscal Expenses of Female Incarceration

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap was featured as a guest speaker on KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence” podcast discussing the repercussions of the incarceration of women. “We tend to think about [people who are incarcerated] as men, [but] women are the fastest growing group of incarcerated individuals in the United States,” Leap said. Eighty percent of incarcerated women in the United States have children, so incarceration directly leads to the destruction of families, she said. Leap pointed out that “46% of incarcerated women are in jail because they can’t post bail — not because they have been found guilty, but because they are poor.” Once women are released from prison, they face a series of obstacles with virtually no support. “The need is great, but the services are limited,” Leap said. “In America, we’re in love with incarceration, and what we should be in love with are the families and the children of the people who need our help, understanding and support.”