A Research Spotlight on the World’s Vulnerable People UCLA Luskin launches international outreach to identify strategies to empower women and children

By Mary Braswell

In Tanzania, programs aimed at improving women’s health have been in place for decades, but rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among adolescents remain high.

In El Salvador, several comprehensive centers for women needing health care, job training, legal help and protection from domestic violence have opened. Why aren’t more women taking advantage of these services?

Around the world, when well-intentioned policies to improve the lives of people fall short of expectations, researchers mobilize to investigate and advise.

This is the mission of a new initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs called International Development and Policy Outreach.

IDPO’s focus on global health and education comes at a critical time, said Manisha Shah, professor of public policy and founding director of the initiative.

“There is so much need right now,” said Shah, whose extensive research as a development economist in Africa, Asia and Latin America has guided governments and agencies seeking effective, evidence-based policies.

Shah cites this sobering statistic: Of all new adolescent HIV cases in the world, three out of four are in sub-Saharan Africa. Of those cases, 80% are girls.

Tanzanian boys peek into a clubhouse for girls launched as part of a health education campaign. Photo by Jennifer Muz

She is currently evaluating a safe-sex campaign in Tanzania, where 60% of teen girls are sexually active by age 18. Fewer than 10% of girls ages 15 to 19 use any modern contraception, however. And adolescent girls there experience high rates of violence by their intimate partners.

Shah said policies grounded in research can bring about improvements in the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents during the next decade — which in turn would create better educational and employment opportunities.

“There is a great need to look at some of these subpopulations that aren’t historically targeted by the average intervention or policy being implemented in lower-income countries,” she said. “Part of what’s exciting at Luskin right now is the number of faculty who are doing this type of international work.”

International Development and Policy Outreach integrates their efforts, puts a spotlight on their findings, builds a network of international stakeholders, and acts as a springboard for advocacy, Shah said.

The initiative will also create opportunities for students of public policy, social welfare and urban planning who are drawn to international development issues, she said.

The health of an entire community hinges on the well-being of women and children, the researchers at IDPO have established. They have studied teachers in Pakistan, caregivers in rural Colombia, sex workers in Indonesia and young HIV patients in South Africa, among many other populations.

In Shah’s Tanzania research, advocating for girls means also reaching out to boys. The boys come to play soccer and stay to hear about health risks and violence against girls — part of an international program that combines sport with sex education.

Shah’s research team is measuring the relative impact of empowering girls, turning boys into allies and simply providing access to contraceptives. The goal is to identify and invest in the most effective policies — to find some way to curb adolescent pregnancy, the spread of disease and intimate partner violence. The Tanzania project is being conducted in collaboration with the international development organization BRAC.

Shah is also helping design strategies to promote El Salvador’s Ciudad Mujer women’s resource centers.

“These are safe spaces where women can come if they need a lawyer, health services, employment services. But take-up rates for the domestic violence services have been relatively low, and they don’t understand why,” Shah said. “I’m working with the Inter-American Development Bank and the government of El Salvador to do the research and to figure out what is going on.”

This is the kind of practical impact that powers IDPO, which is launching this summer with support from UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura.

“We have so many great professors across all departments working internationally,” Shah said. “IDPO speaks to some of our newer strengths, bringing it all together to foster research, support faculty, and advocate for better policies through our findings and our relationships abroad.”

Women Provide More ‘Care’ Across Continents and Cultures New Luskin Social Welfare faculty member Leyla Karimli is the lead author of a report on unpaid care work and "reality of care" in women’s lives in rural communities around the world

By Stan Paul

From looking after children and dependent adults to preparing meals and ensuring that food, water and household necessities are available, care can be defined in a multitude of ways.

In a study of rural communities in five countries, researchers found that women provide far more hours of care in their daily lives than do their male counterparts. Leyla Karimli, assistant professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is lead author of the new report published by the UK-based international organization Oxfam.

“Care work is essential for personal well-being and for maintaining societies,” states Karimli and her co-authors. “But across the world, it is overwhelmingly the preserve of women, and it often restricts their opportunities for education, employment, politics and leisure.”

In gathering data for the study, “Factors and Norms Influencing Unpaid Care Work,” a number of teams interviewed more than 1,000 households in rural communities in five countries — Colombia, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The researchers used the Household Care Survey (HCS) to analyze change that may have occurred in households participating in We-Care (Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care) programs over the year, part of Oxfam’s global policy and advocacy work on unpaid care work and women’s empowerment. Karimli also was part of the team that developed the HCS.

Recognizing that the “heavy” and “unequal” distribution of care work is a human rights issue, the survey focused on a number of “levers of change” at the household level, including factors such as the recognition of the importance of care work and women’s role in carrying it out; women’s ability to make decisions in the household; and access to time/labor-saving equipment. Researchers examined the extent to which these and other factors were associated with the amount of time women and men spent on unpaid care work, and the distribution of that care within the household.

Based on the survey, the researchers found:

  • On average, women spent 5.4 hours on care as a primary activity during the day before the survey, compared to just under an hour (0.99) for men.
  • When care as a secondary activity was included, women spent an average of 7.0 hours on care, compared to 1.4 hours for men.
  • Over one-third of all men in the sample reported spending no time on any care activity.
  • On average, 78 percent of women had been responsible for a child compared to 48 percent of men, and 11 percent of women had been responsible for a dependent adult compared to 9 percent of men.
  • Women reported an average of 13.8 hours of their previous day was devoted to at least one care responsibility, including supervision, compared to the 4.3 hours that men reported having any care responsibility.
  • On average, women spent 6.1 hours on multitasking compared to 1.2 hours for men.

Women also spent relatively more time on total paid and unpaid work — 9.1 hours compared to 7.3 hours for men — while spending less time on leisure and personal care.

The authors add that when supervision is taken into account, the average number of hours that women reported having some care responsibility rises by 250 percent, from an average of 5.4 hours a day of care work as a primary activity to 13.8 hours per day that women have any care responsibility. In addition, the amount of time that women spend relative to men in these predominantly rural, developing country contexts is much greater than the global figures suggest.

The analysis also considered the relationship between the amount of care work in which women engaged and their education, relative household assets, income and savings, as well as household access to time-saving equipment such as water taps and fuel-efficient stoves. None of these factors was consistently associated with the amount of care work provided by women.

For example, the authors point out, “Although some equipment and service access — notably the provision of electricity — seemed to have a positive effect on women’s care loads, our results also make clear that a focus on only one dimension of care, such as childcare provision or stoves or water systems, cannot be expected to significantly ‘free up’ these rural women’s time.” However, the authors report that the data did suggest some evidence that in households where “social norms were more progressive” care work was more evenly distributed.

Overall, the researchers say, the aim of the study is to “generate evidence that helps local organizations address problematic aspects of care work, contributing to women’s ability to participate, lead and benefit from development initiatives.”

The full report is available online.

A UCLA Luskin Welcome Departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare, Urban Planning welcome six new faculty members

By Stan Paul

Six new members of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty were warmly welcomed at a reception held Oct. 18 and hosted by their new Luskin departments of Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning. Interim Dean Lois Takahashi and the three department chairs were also on hand to welcome the new teachers and researchers.

This year, the School’s three departments strengthened their faculty teaching and research rosters with the additions of Darin Christensen and Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld (Public Policy), Leyla Karimli and Laura Wray-Lake (Social Welfare), and Michael Manville and Kian Goh (Urban Planning).

In Public Policy, Darin Christensen will be teaching three classes at Luskin this year. “The students are great, really engaged,” said Christensen, who recently received his Stanford Ph.D. in political science. Christensen said he will be showing his Master of Public Policy (MPP) students how to bring evidence to bear on policy decisions, teaching them tools for wrangling and exploring data, as well as statistical methods that generate credible claims about “what policies work.” In another course offered this quarter, he is discussing how political institutions and public policies affect why some countries are rich and peaceful while others with persistent poverty and instability.

Also joining the Public Policy department this year is Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld, who will begin teaching this winter quarter on topics including social networks and protest. “I study protest,” said Steinert-Threlkeld, who completed his Ph.D. in political science this year at UC San Diego. “Wherever there is a protest in the world, I go to Twitter and see what people say. Are they expressing political grievances because they’re mad about the economy?”

Steinert-Threlkeld, who studies social media as it relates to subnational conflict, teaches analysis of “big data.” “If anyone wants to learn with Twitter data,” he said, “they can reach out to me. I would love to be working with motivated students or faculty.”

In Social Welfare, Laura Wray-Lake, who comes to UCLA from the University of Rochester, will be teaching two classes in winter: research methods with children and youth, and development and resilience for the Master of Social Work (MSW) students. “I was really excited about the interdisciplinary environment” at Luskin, she said, explaining that her area of research is civic engagement. “I’m really interested in how to get young people interested in politics and the communities, and solving social issues.”

Leyla Karimli brings an international focus to Social Welfare on topics including child welfare, education and child labor. With more than a decade of international research and practice, her work has taken her to a number of countries in Africa as well as Colombia, the Philippines, Tajikistan and Krgyzstan. She will be teaching on program evaluation and topics including a multidisciplinary analysis of poverty and social exclusion, one of her main research interests.

Returning to UCLA, assistant professor Michael Manville said he is currently teaching courses on transportation and the environment and another on shared mobility. Manville, who earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Urban Planning at Luskin, most recently was an assistant professor at Cornell University in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Manville said the rest of the year he will be teaching transportation, land use and public finance, primarily for the Urban Planning Department’s master’s students.

Urban Planner Kian Goh plans to teach a winter quarter seminar titled “Urban Futures,” with a focus on space, ecology and society. In the spring, she will teach a studio course on site planning and a qualitative methods course.

“This year I am continuing my research broadly on the politics of urban climate change adaptation and research on the L.A. region,” said Goh, who comes to Luskin from Northeastern University. “It’s inevitable, not just because I am here but because it so interesting. I think the L.A. region is an example of urban form.”

Goh has focused her research on cities from New York to Jakarta.

“It is really helpful to look at other cities,” she said. “I think of the challenges we face here and all of the opportunities. We’ve learned a lot from other regions.”

UCLA Luskin Adds Six New ‘Outstanding’ Faculty Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning announce the appointment of two new scholars in each department

By George Foulsham

In the biggest expansion since its inception, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has announced the addition of six new faculty for the 2016-17 academic year. The new hires bring to 100 the number of professors, assistant professors, lecturers and instructors at the Luskin School.

“We are thrilled to welcome six new faculty to the UCLA Luskin family,” Interim Dean Lois M. Takahashi said. “These six outstanding scholars will bring to Luskin a wealth of expertise and knowledge that will be shared with our current — and future — students for years to come. This is a very exciting time to be a part of one of the best public affairs schools in the country. These new faculty members will help us continue the pursuit of our mission at Luskin: advancing solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”

The six new faculty members, by department:

Public Policy

Darin Christensen, a new assistant professor of Public Policy, will receive his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University this year. His research interests, with support from the World Bank and other funders, span comparative politics, the political economy of conflict and development, foreign investment, and political accountability, with regional interest in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and German from Duke University, and his master’s degree in economics from Stanford. Christensen’s teaching focus at Luskin is expected to be comparative political institutions, the political economy of development and advanced data analysis.

Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld, a new assistant professor of Public Policy, will receive his Ph.D. in political science from UC San Diego this year. He also has a master’s degree in political science from UC San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and economics from Washington University in St. Louis. His research interests are in international politics; exploiting in particular vast social media data to study subnational conflict; the mobilization of mass protest such as the Arab Spring and Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests, as well as elite behavior and state repression in authoritarian regimes. At Luskin, his teaching focus will be on subnational conflict, statistics and advanced data analysis of various kinds, including the analysis of “big data.”

Social Welfare

Leyla Karimli, a new assistant professor of social welfare, received her Ph.D. in social welfare from Columbia University’s School of Social Work in 2013 and is completing postdoctoral training at New York University School of Social Work’s Institute for Poverty, Policy and Research. Dr. Karimli has 13 years of international research and practice experience focusing on poverty and social exclusion including post-masters practice experience with international development agencies in the former Soviet Union and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her research interests include a multidimensional and systems-oriented analysis of poverty and social exclusion that complements the Department of Social Welfare and Luskin School’s commitment to understanding the complex nature of social and economic inequalities and addressing the needs of vulnerable and diverse populations.

Laura Wray-Lake, a new assistant professor in social welfare, received her Ph.D. from Penn State University’s highly regarded Human Development and Family Studies program. Dr. Wray-Lake is a lifespan developmental scientist from the University of Rochester where she has been an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology. Dr. Wray-Lake utilizes a “civic engagement” framework to examine the social and income inequalities facing vulnerable children and families and how and why individuals can become re-engaged in society. Dr. Wray-Lake has a strong commitment to teaching and mentoring. Her courses on community engagement incorporate her social justice approach to teaching and as such, will support our commitment to diversity and social justice.

Urban Planning

Kian Goh, a new assistant professor of urban planning, received her Master of Architecture from Yale University and her Ph.D. in Urban and Environmental Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. She is currently an assistant professor of Urban Landscape at Northeastern University. Dr. Goh’s research investigates the relationships between urban ecological design, spatial politics, and social mobilization in the context of climate change and global urbanization. Her work has centered on sites in New York, Jakarta and Rotterdam.  She also has ongoing projects on queer space and the sociopolitics of smart cities. In addition to her scholarly work, Goh is a licensed architect and co-founder of SUPER-INTERESTING!, a multidisciplinary architecture and strategic consulting practice located in Brooklyn.

Michael Manville, a new assistant professor of urban planning, is returning to UCLA Luskin after receiving his MA and Ph.D. in urban planning from UCLA Luskin.  Dr. Manville is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. His research examines the willingness of people and communities to finance different government services, and the tendency of local governments to hide the costs of transportation in the property market. Dr. Manville is particularly interested in how land use restrictions intended to fight traffic congestion can influence the supply and price of housing.