Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was featured in a Marketplace report about the impact of air conditioning on student performance. Park has conducted several studies investigating how heat affects student performance in the classroom, and his research shows that students learn less overall when they experience more hot days. “It’s a slow, hidden burn,” Park explained. “These little disruptions to learning, maybe we don’t notice them on a day-to-day basis, but over time they appear to add up to something meaningful.” Many of America’s school buildings do not have air conditioning, and some have no cooling at all. “The Goldilocks zone seems to be somewhere in the mid-60s” to achieve optimal learning outcomes, Park said. Now, many public schools are choosing to use some of their federal COVID relief funds to upgrade air conditioning, which improves air quality and should also improve student academic and health outcomes.
By Stan Paul
As the Luskin School emerged from 18 months of COVID isolation to start the 2021-22 academic year, it was with several new employees in place. In addition, some prior employees had moved to new roles. Here’s a cross-section of changes:
STUDENT SUPPORT EXPERTS
Nael Rogers has joined UCLA Luskin in a new student support role designed to assist graduate students in navigating university systems while
Originally from Chicago, Rogers started this summer as the new student support coordinator and brings a wide breadth of experience to the Luskin School.
The new position is focused primarily on — but not limited to — underrepresented students, said Assistant Dean Julie Straub. Rogers will work closely with graduate students studying public policy, social welfare and urban planning, as well as students in the public affairs major.
Rogers, who is available to students in-person and virtually throughout the year, describes the coordinator role as a “one-stop information hub” to help guide students to a variety of services located across campus, “basically, a centralized liaison of student services.”
The position also includes an emphasis on advocacy for the well-being of students and providing advice and assistance to students and scholars regarding U.S. visa and immigration procedures, compliance issues and eligibility.
Rogers also will help coordinate student-led support groups and be a resource for students looking for additional help outside of the School.
“Sometimes, students might not have time, so they can stop by and see what I can do from my end,” said Rogers, who is currently completing a Ph.D. in English at Claremont Graduate University and has prior experience as an English instructor and in a number of advising and student support roles.
Kevin Medina has made the move to Luskin’s Career Services suite as the School’s new director. Medina, who earned MPP and MSW degrees in 2016, returned to Luskin in 2019 to serve as the inaugural capstone advisor for the new Public Affairs undergraduate major.
In spring 2021, he stepped in as interim graduate advisor for Public Policy during staff transition. Medina started his new position in October and said as the new director of Career Services that he looks forward to working with Luskin master’s and doctoral students.
Veronica Terriquez, a UCLA alumna who returned this year as a professor of urban planning, is now director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center.
The center, which is part of UCLA’s Institute of American Cultures, supports intersectional research, programming and advocacy related to Chicano, Latino and Indigenous communities.
Terriquez, who has a dual appointment with UCLA College, became the 10th director in the center’s 51-year history and its first female leader. Terriquez joined UCLA from UC Santa Cruz. “I’m thrilled to be able to direct a center whose mission is to leverage original research on U.S. Latinx communities in order to have an impact on the campus, higher education and the broader society,” Terriquez said.
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, has been named associate faculty director at the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.
Goh studies the politics around cities’ responses to climate change, and her global perspective will bolster the institute’s efforts to pair critical thought with social movements and activism in the interest of combating societal inequalities.
Her recently published book, “Form and Flow: The Spatial Politics of Urban Resilience and Climate Justice,” explores the politics of urban climate change responses in different cities and the emergence of grassroots activism in resistance.
She said the institute is a leader in working with and alongside movement-based organizations fighting
“This type of positional research is more attuned to how structural power actually works,” Goh said. “And it’s what I think the Institute on Inequality and Democracy does incredibly well. I’m so excited to be part of it.”
Urban Planning Professor Susanna Hecht has been named director of the UCLA Center for Brazilian Studies, an interdisciplinary research center.
Hecht is a specialist on tropical development in Latin America, especially Amazonia, focusing on the intersections of economies, cultures and land use.
Her work spans climate change, mitigation and the rethinking of longer-term strategies in light of globalization, intense migration and novel climate dynamics.
She holds joint appointments in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the department of geography at UCLA.
Michael Stoll, a longtime professor of public policy and urban planning, is the new director of the Black Policy Project at UCLA, which is affiliated with the Bunche Center for African American Studies.
Stoll outlined several major goals as director: commissioning a report that will look at the demographic changes of Black California; a research project that highlights wealth inequity in the state; and playing a supportive role for the state’s new task force on reparations, the first of its kind in the country.
He said all research will include student workers and the aim is to create materials that are accessible and meaningful to policymakers and the public at large.
“We want to be a good public ally and create accessible research for the layperson, information that engages in affairs that are of interest to and about Black California,” Stoll said. “We are gathering data and will produce reports that provide evidence-based information that can drive policy discussion.”
Stoll also plans to build on a study he first launched nearly 20 years ago, an overall analysis of “the state of Black California,” which will include an equality index with a number of dimensions that will paint a picture of how Black residents have fared when it comes to socioeconomic progress over the last two decades. Early census indicators show overall population declines, major suburban neighborhood shifts and big changes in traditional Black communities.
CENTER FOR INNOVATION LEADERS
Kelly Turner and Greg Pierce, researchers and faculty members in urban planning, are now leading the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation as interim co-directors.
They stepped in upon the departure of former director JR DeShazo, who left UCLA Luskin in August to become dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. (Among those continuing on the LCI leadership team were Jisung Park as associate director and Colleen Callahan as founding deputy director.)
As co-directors, Turner and Pierce said they will focus on environmental equity as well as climate adaptation.
Significant research commitments are already under way, said Pierce, an adjunct assistant professor of urban planning who also directs water-related research for the Luskin Center for Innovation, and the center is “moving ahead at
“JR built a fantastic enterprise at Luskin Center and the momentum is there,” said Turner, an assistant professor of urban planning and geography.
Turner said her emphasis would be on the center’s climate adaptation research portfolio.
“We have a lot of momentum right now, especially on work on urban heat and extreme heat,” said Turner, who previously helped lead urban environment research at the center. “Between wildfires and extreme heat events and all the various problems we’re having, our work is more important than ever,” she said.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was mentioned in an Agence France-Presse article about the impact of climate change on agricultural workers. Rising temperatures are increasingly threatening workers in the United States, resulting in greater health risks as well as negatively impacting performance. According to a recent study, 3 million workers in the United States experience at least one working week each year in temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Research shows that working in too much heat can cause fatigue, confusion, fainting and heat stroke. Park explained that, in California alone, “hotter temperatures may be causing upwards of tens of thousands of workplace injuries each year.” Increasing temperatures can result in decreased productivity and therefore loss of revenue, which impacts workers’ income. Experts recommend increasing worker protections, including access to shade, water and paid breaks, to protect the health and well-being of those in the workplace.
Research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was cited in a Vice article about Biden administration plans to establish a federal standard to protect workers from extreme heat. Park led a study that analyzed worker compensation records and found that hotter temperatures are associated with an estimated 20,000 additional injuries per year in California. Workers are prone to poorer cognition and decision-making on hotter days, and days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit come with a 6% to 9% increase in the risk of worker injury, the study found. Park shared his data at a congressional hearing in July. In announcing the new federal safety standards, the Biden administration noted that essential jobs with high exposure levels to heat are disproportionately held by Black and brown workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now leading a multi-agency effort designed to limit heat illness, injury and death in the workplace.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was featured in an LAist article discussing his research on the effects of rising temperatures on the labor force. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) requires employers to give employees water, rest and shade while working in the heat, but the agency is chronically understaffed and underfunded. Meanwhile, reports of heat-related illness and death continue as temperatures rise. Using a computer model of temperature increases over 20 years and workers’ compensation claims, Park estimated that heat contributes to illness or injury among at least 15,000 California workers each year. He explained that many injuries are misclassified and are not necessarily categorized as heat-related, even if they should be. Park added that heat illness can occur at lower temperatures than expected, and that workers have reported experiencing heat exhaustion on days with temperatures as low as 75 degrees.
A Science News article on the effects of extreme heat on human behavior cited research by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy. As temperatures rise, violence and aggression also go up while focus and productivity decline, the article noted, adding that lower-income people and countries are likely to suffer the most. “The physiological effects of heat may be universal, but the way it manifests … is highly unequal,” Park said. The article described Park’s research into the impact of hot days on student performance on standardized tests. One of his studies found that students in schools without air conditioning scored lower than would have been expected, and that Black and Hispanic students were more likely to attend school and test in hotter buildings compared to their white counterparts. A separate study by Park, described in Safety+Health magazine, found that hotter temperatures are linked to a significant increase in the risk of workplace injuries and accidents.
Research into the effects of hot weather on workplace injuries, led by Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park, drew widespread media attention. Park’s study found that extreme heat causes many times more workplace injuries than official records capture and that those injuries are concentrated among the poorest workers — the latest evidence of how climate change worsens inequality. Hotter days lead to an additional 20,000 workplace injuries each year in California alone, not just among people who work outdoors but also for indoor workers, endangering those employed in manufacturing, warehousing and wholesale, the study found. High temperatures were linked to injuries from falling, being struck by vehicles or mishandling machinery, in addition to heat stroke, suggesting that heat makes it harder to concentrate. “Hotter temperatures … appear to have hidden costs,” Park told the Los Angeles Times. Several other news outlets also showcased the research, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Marketplace and Vox.
A UCLA study published today shows that hot weather significantly increases the risk of accidents and injuries on the job, regardless of whether the work takes place in an indoor or outdoor setting.
The report is based on data from California’s workers’ compensation system, the nation’s largest.
“The incidence of heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke definitely go up on hotter days,” said the study’s lead researcher R. Jisung Park, an assistant professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. “But what we found is that ostensibly unrelated incidents — like falling off a ladder or being hit by a moving truck or getting your hand caught in a machine — tend to occur more frequently on hotter days, too.”
By comparing records from more than 11 million California workers’ compensation claims from 2001 to 2018 to high-frequency local weather data, Park and his co-authors isolated the impact of hotter days on the number of injury claims.
The study shows that on days with high temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, workers have a 6% to 9% higher risk of injuries than they do on days with high temperatures in the 50s or 60s. When the thermometer tops 100, the risk of injuries increases by 10% to 15%.
Those findings are particularly alarming in the context of climate change, which is expected to produce more high-temperature days each year. The researchers estimate that high temperatures already cause about 15,000 injuries per year in California.
“Heat is sometimes described as a silent killer,” said Nora Pankratz, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar. “But if you look into the data and do the statistical analysis, you find that heat has a significant impact on mortality and health outcomes.”
It’s not surprising that hot weather would lead to injuries and illness among workers in predominantly outdoor industries such as agriculture, utilities and construction. But the data consistently show that industries in which most people work indoors are affected as well. In manufacturing, for example, days with high temperatures above 95 degrees have an injury risk that is approximately 7% higher than days with high temperatures in the low 60s.
“A lot of manufacturing facilities are not air conditioned,” said Stanford University postdoctoral scholar A. Patrick Behrer, the study’s other co-author. “Because you’re inside, you don’t necessarily think about the temperature as being a major threat.”
The reality is that overheated workers face numerous risks, regardless of where the work occurs.
“Heat affects your physiology,” Park said. “It affects your cognition. It affects your body’s ability to cope. It seems possible that what we’re observing in the data for these workers is that they’re more likely to make mistakes or errors in judgment.”
The researchers found that heat-related workplace injuries are more likely to be suffered by men and lower-income workers. In addition, younger people suffer more heat-related injuries, possibly in part because they’re more likely to hold jobs with greater physical risks on construction sites, in manufacturing plants or at warehouses.
For an office worker at a computer desk, nodding off on a hot summer afternoon is unlikely to cause an injury. “But if you have a huge chainsaw in your hand, you’re not in a great situation,” Park said.
Among the paper’s other conclusions:
- The number of heat-related injuries actually declined after 2005, when California became the first state to implement mandatory heat illness prevention measures for outdoor workplaces on days when temperatures exceed 95 degrees.
- The financial costs of heat-related injuries may be between $750 million and $1.25 billion per year in California alone, considering health care expenditures, lost wages and productivity, and disability claims.
- Inequalities in the labor market are exacerbated in part by the fact that low-income communities tend to be situated in hotter parts of the state. People in the state’s lowest household income tier are approximately five times more likely to be affected by heat-related illness or injury on the job than those in the top income tier, the study found.
The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, where Park is associate director of economic research, provided funding for the study. It is available now through the Institute of Labor Economics, which disseminates working versions of potentially influential research prior to publication in academic journals. Park previewed the findings July 15 during testimony at a Congressional hearing organized by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.
The new study echoes the results of a 2019 study that focused on how extreme temperatures raise injury risk in Texas and in the U.S. mining industry. Park, whose prior research includes a finding that student learning is negatively impacted by warm temperatures, said there has been “an explosion of research just in the last five to 10 years that illustrates, using data, the serious consequences of climate change for health, productivity and economic growth. This likely adds to that urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions now.”
Pankratz got involved in the study while working at UCLA Luskin as a postdoctoral scholar, having previously researched the impact of heat on businesses while working toward her Ph.D. in the Netherlands.
Worldwide, she said, there is growing interest in the concept of adaptation — the pragmatic changes that can be made by governments and businesses to cope with the reality of climate change.
“For a long time, the focus has been on mitigation — what can we do to prevent climate change,” she said. “But as it becomes more and more obvious that there is policy inertia on mitigation, it’s important to think about what we can do to adapt and to work as well as possible in a warmer world.”
The study authors, all of whom have backgrounds in economics, realize that the desire to protect workers from heat may be complicated by economic reality.
Behrer said policymakers could stipulate that workers not be exposed to the heat on days above 100 degrees, for example, without proscribing a specific strategy to be used by individual business owners.
“Then firms have the option either to use air conditioning or come up with some other method of climate control for their facilities,” he said, noting that some might change work hours or shorten the work day during heat waves. “It allows them to decide the most cost-effective way for them to meet the objective of reducing workplace injuries.”
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jisung Park spoke to the Guardian about his research on the relationship between heat and student learning. Park’s studies have shown that students learn less when there are more hot school days, yet many American classrooms lack air conditioning, especially in neighborhoods of color. In one study, Park found that in years with more hot school days, students tend to do worse on state standardized exams. He also found that, on hot school days, Black and Hispanic students lost the most learning while white students were able to mitigate nearly all of the effects. In another study, Park found that central air conditioning mitigates the effects of heat by about 73%. “It’s not that we don’t understand atmospheric effects or don’t have technology to cool a room,” Park said. “So why is it that the plurality of U.S. classrooms don’t appear to have working air conditioning?”
R. Jisung Park, associate director of economic research at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to KJZZ’s The Show about his research into the link between hotter temperatures and the racial achievement gap in U.S. schools. Park’s study, which measured the impact of heat exposure on reduced learning, found that the negative effect of heat is more pronounced in school districts serving underrepresented minorities. “Over time, if you experience more hot days during the school year, and especially if you go to school in an area that doesn’t appear to have adequate school facilities, for whatever reason, those small cuts do seem to add up in a way that actually ends up being measurable in your standardized achievement,” said Park, an assistant professor of public policy. “To the extent that education is such an important component of economic mobility, one would be concerned about the cumulative nature of these cuts.”
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