Park Comments on Connection Between Climate Change and Learning

Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences, was interviewed by the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad about his research on the effects of heat on learning and test scores for students in the United States. Asked about the effect of climate change on productivity, Park said, “In a modern economy, schools are the places where the wealth of a nation is created. That is where the knowledge and the skill comes from.” Park suggested that countries with moderate climates, like the Netherlands, adopt heat policies as temperatures climb worldwide. “I think that is why we should be just as concerned about the environment in which a student learns as the environment in which a worker works.”


 

New Grants Totaling $4.1 Million Will Build Climate Resilience UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is a partner in two climate research grants from the Strategic Growth Council

By Colleen Callahan

Record-breaking heat and scorching summer wildfires are signs of a hotter California. As part of efforts to further knowledge and action on climate change, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) is part of two winning partnership grants ─ totaling more than $4 million ─ awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council.

The Council’s new and competitive Climate Change Research Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that is putting billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment. Both grants will benefit disadvantaged communities in particular.

Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on Vulnerable Communities to Design and Target Protective Policies

A nearly $1.5-million grant led by LCI involves multiple studies of heat-related climate impacts, as well as factors that make populations and communities vulnerable, plus opportunities to build resilience. Climate change could exacerbate existing inequities, and LCI will develop tools to help government agencies target responses and empower communities.

“The goal is to increase the climate resilience of California’s vulnerable communities in the face of rapidly increasing extreme heat events,” said JR DeShazo, the grant’s principal investigator and LCI director.

The researchers include R. Jisung Park, an LCI scholar and an assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences at UCLA Luskin, who will assess climate change impacts on low-income workers. Gregory Pierce, associate director of research at LCI, will assess the climate risk of vulnerable built environments — including affordable housing — to better inform protective policies.

Collaborations with government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community leaders will be integral to the work. For example, civic partners will oversee the development of geographic tools to identify areas disproportionately affected by heat-related climate change and vulnerability factors. Stakeholders will also be able to identify policies, funding and other opportunities to increase resilience in vulnerable areas and among vulnerable populations such as low-income workers and residents.

The analysis of resilience opportunities will also be collaborative. A partnership with the Liberty Hill Foundation and community-based organizations will test a coordinated outreach pilot called Opportunity Communities to promote clean and affordable energy, transportation and associated financial assistance for low-income households. Researchers will assess the effectiveness of this strategy to build financial and health resilience to climate change impacts.

Climate Smart Communities Consortium

A partnership grant led by UC Davis and the UC Institute of Transportation Studies will also involve LCI. This $2.6-million grant to a multifaceted group of researchers from seven academic institutions will tackle the challenge of transportation-related environmental impacts, which fall disproportionately on low-income communities of color. Researchers will seek solutions that reduce emissions and improve the mobility and quality of life for California’s most vulnerable communities.

LCI will collaboratively study interrelated areas of innovative mobility, electrification and freight movement, using equity and policy engagement lenses as crosscutting themes. Research will center on regional case study initiatives and statewide initiatives to demonstrate findings.

The Strategic Growth Council brings together multiple agencies and departments to support sustainable communities emphasizing strong economies, social equity and environmental stewardship. For updates during implementation of the latest grants, see LCI’s climate action program at innovation.luskin.ucla.edu/climate.

 

NPR, Washington Post Cite Research by UCLA Luskin’s Jisung Park

A study by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy, is cited in the online story that accompanies a recent NPR “Morning Edition” piece about the impact of hot weather on brain function. Compared with a 72-degree day, “taking an exam on a 90◦F day leads to a 10.9 percent lower likelihood of passing a particular subject (e.g. Algebra), which in turn affects probability of graduation,” according to Park. The same quote, plus additional information from the study, is included in a data-driven story by the Washington Post headlined, “Heat Makes You Dumb, in Four Charts.”


 

Hot Weather Lowers Students’ Ability to Learn, New Study Finds UCLA Luskin scholar Jisung Park documents the negative effects of warm temperatures on educational performance

By Mary Braswell

An expansive study tracking 10 million American students over 13 years confirms what children, parents and teachers already suspected: When classrooms grow uncomfortably warm, students struggle to learn.

Low-income and minority students are particularly affected, and the problem stands to worsen as global temperatures rise, according to the research co-authored by UCLA Luskin assistant professor of public policy Jisung Park.

In some schools, a remedy is within reach. The negative effects of hotter days are almost entirely offset in classrooms equipped with air-conditioning, the researchers found.

Park said the study was launched to understand the effects of climate on educational performance. “Specifically, we were interested in whether a hotter-than-average schoolyear can actually reduce the rate of learning,” he said.

The researchers found that, without air conditioning, each 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in schoolyear temperature reduces the amount learned that year by 1 percent. The decline in learning was detected when outdoor temperatures exceeded 75 degrees “but becomes really problematic at 85, 90 and above,” Park said.

“I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that racial minorities and low-income students seem to be affected much more negatively,” Park said. “So with the same heat shock — in the same year with 10 more hot days — black or Hispanic students on average would experience roughly three or four times the negative impact than a white student would.

“A lot of that seems to be because of different rates of air conditioning, both at school and at home.”

Park points out that “the United States is still one of the most highly air conditioned countries in the world.” In countries like India and Bangladesh, where both temperatures and poverty levels are high, the effects of heat on cognitive development are likely to be more profound, he said.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, assessed test scores from 10 million high school students who took the PSAT exam multiple times, between 2001 and 2014. An individual test-taker’s scores dipped in years when higher temperatures were recorded, the research found.

“An important distinction to make here is, in this paper, we’re not actually studying how temperature during an exam affects your performance,” Park said. “You could have someone who’s very well-educated have a bad test day. That’s very different from someone who, because they weren’t able to focus enough times over an extended period, is actually not very well educated. We wanted to test that latter hypothesis.”

He noted that the research was motivated, in part, by a desire to make our society more resilient to climate change. The study forecasts the impact of hot temperatures on student learning over the next three decades. One model assumes no changes in school infrastructure, and another assumes that the rate of air conditioning is increased.

“There’s a very big difference,” Park said.

But he added that the research should not be interpreted as a mandate for schools to install air conditioning.

“As always, we need to weigh the costs and benefits,” he said. “The costs are going to vary tremendously, and maybe it still doesn’t make sense for a school up in northeast Maine to revamp their hundred-year-old building at a $20-million cost.”

Park holds a joint appointment with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, where he is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences. As a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and National Science Foundation fellow at Harvard University, he pursued research in environmental and labor economics, specializing in the impact of climate change on human capital.

Park’s latest study, “Heat and Learning,” was co-authored by Joshua Goodman, associate professor at Harvard University; Michael Hurwitz, senior director at the College Board, which administers SAT and PSAT exams; and Jonathan Smith, assistant professor at Georgia State University.

Bringing Experience, Expertise to Problem-Solving Professions Four scholars join UCLA Luskin’s faculty in Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning

By Stan Paul

Four new faculty members will add a wide range of knowledge and expertise to the world-class faculty of UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, as of the 2017-18 academic year.

The four will expand research and teaching in public policy, social welfare and urban planning at the Luskin School, with expertise in areas including housing and spatial inequality, labor and human capital impacts of climate change, health disparities for marginalized populations, and youth and urban violence.

Kenya Covington, who has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at Luskin, was officially appointed to Public Policy in July. She has taught courses at Luskin on housing policy, research methods, forces of urbanization, social inequality and urban poverty. This summer, Covington completed her second online version of the school’s popular undergraduate introductory public affairs course, which she developed. The course is a requirement for the public affairs minor.

Covington, a former longtime professor of urban studies and planning — and 2015 Distinguished Teacher of the Year — at California State University, Northridge, studies social and economic inequality associated with the structural makeup of metropolitan areas. Her work suggests ways to better utilize social and urban policies that likely mitigate disparities in economic opportunity. Covington earned her Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Latoya Small joins Luskin Social Welfare as an assistant professor from her former appointment at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Social Work. Her research addresses health disparities and social justice issues for marginalized populations at the intersection of poverty, mental health and behavioral health. In her work related to HIV, women and children, she has looked at ways to empower HIV-infected youth in South Africa to maintain their medicine regimes and promote the avoidance of risky behaviors, while encouraging family participation in their health care.

Small earned her Ph.D. at New York University Silver School Of Social Work.

Karen Umemoto, formerly of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, is expected to hold a joint appointment with Urban Planning at Luskin and the Asian American Studies Department. Umemoto, who holds a doctorate in urban studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focuses her teaching and research on planning and governance in multicultural societies, race and ethnic relations, youth and urban violence, and community building.

At the University of Hawai’i, Umemoto taught courses on public policy and planning theory, community planning, community-based economic development, diversity and multiculturalism in planning, and qualitative methods and evaluation.

Jisung Park will join Public Policy as an assistant professor in January 2018. Park will also be a member of the faculty of UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. His research agenda includes the labor and human capital impacts of climate change, the prospects for long-run climate adaptation, and environmental determinants of economic mobility.

Park, a Rhodes Scholar, earned his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, where he is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Kennedy School of Government. He has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on American economic policy, and environmental economics and policy.

“Such an exceptional group of new faculty will bring tremendous opportunities and expertise to the Luskin School and our students,” Dean Gary Segura said in announcing the new faculty. “All three departments will benefit from these new colleagues and their path-breaking research and pedagogy.”