Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee’s views on the lack of diversity in the economics profession were featured in the Economist after the annual American Economic Association conference in San Diego. Conference attendees expressed concern that the lack of racial and gender diversity within the profession has limited the field by excluding certain perspectives. At the conference, Akee joined a panel on “How Can Economics Save Its Race Problem?” to speak about the pressures to be taken seriously as a scholar, not merely a race scholar. He explained his decision to postpone the research he wanted to do on indigenous people and work instead on other subjects, in order to be taken seriously as an economist. Akee argues that race should occupy a more central space within the portfolio of economic research. Despite efforts to increase diversity within the profession, many economists worry that this movement will stall before achieving long-term change.
Associate professor of public policy Randall Akee spoke to Business Insider about the development of a telescope on Mauna Kea, a sacred site of prayer and worship for Native Hawaiians. Valued at over $1 billion, the Thirty Meter Telescope project has faced contentious protests led by indigenous groups in Hawaii. For years, the protests have delayed progress on building the telescope at the site nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. Akee said that indigenous people are often expected to accept development projects for the “greater good.” “Often these development projects and these activities are forced on indigenous people, and it creates this false narrative that these native people are just against development,” Akee said. “And that is not the case. We are just tired of bearing the cost.”
Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy, weighed in on protests sparked by the construction of a giant telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s highest mountain. Native Hawaiians are attempting to stop construction of the $1.4-billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the site, which is considered sacred ground. “The sight of some of the most revered and esteemed Native Hawaiian elders being hauled off the mountain in plastic tie bands was appalling to Native Hawaiians everywhere,” Akee wrote in a piece for Real Clear Markets. These images threaten Hawaii’s $16-billion tourism industry, and the cultural and environmental costs of building the telescope would be great, he wrote. Akee was also cited in a Vox report on the protests. “The opposition to the TMT construction is like the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. “It represents decades of poor management of Hawaii’s natural resources and prioritizing of economic interests ahead of community interests.”
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee wrote an op-ed for the Brookings Institution in which he argued that outdated immigration policies increase violence toward immigrant women and children. New research found that increased immigration enforcement has reduced the number of self-petitions for legal permanent residency. Akee argued that this essentially means that abused immigrant women and children have stopped seeking legal permanent resident status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as immigration enforcement has intensified. “In effect, victims of domestic violence are fearful of speaking up or seeking relief from their abusers; they are condemned to endure their abuse for fear of deportation or detention under increased immigration enforcement activities in the U.S.,” he said. Akee is currently a David M. Rubenstein fellow with the economic studies program at Brookings.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to the Daily Bruin about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-2020 state budget and its implication for undocumented youth. Newsom’s budget would allocate $98 million to extend Medi-Cal coverage until age 26 for undocumented youth, who currently are covered until they reach the age of 19. Medi-Cal is California’s part of the federal Medicaid program, which provides free or low-cost medical services to those with limited income. Akee conducted research on the effects of losing access to Medicaid and found that emergency room visits increase when the patient does not have access to health care. Newsom’s proposal would ensure preventative care and decrease the number of costly emergency room visits, Akee argues. “They have a guaranteed source of medical coverage so they would take the preventative care that otherwise results in increased emergency room visits down the line,” he said.
Associate professor of public policy Randall Akee wrote an article for the Brookings Institution about how inaccurate data on poverty negatively affects American Indian and Alaskan Native children. High poverty rates have been used to justify removing American Indian children from their homes and placing them in state foster or adoptive care systems, he said. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was passed to stop this practice and “prioritizes the judgment and decisions of the officials with the most experience and understanding of local conditions and experiences — tribal officials,” he said. He added: “There are important culturally specific safety nets that exist in many American Indian communities, most of which would be unknown to outsiders.” Although poverty measurements may not be accurate, Akee said child poverty rates are still much too high on American Indian reservations.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee was featured in an article in Indian Country Today for his role in the organization of a far-reaching symposium on Indian gaming and self-determination. The event, “The Future of American Indian Gaming: The Next 30 Years,” took place at the Brookings Institution and highlighted the importance of tribal regulation of Indian gaming, as opposed to state control. Akee opened the event with a prayer in the native Hawaiian language. The symposium brought together regulators, tribal officials, researchers and federal agency officials who discussed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the importance of self-determination in Indian gaming. “I see this as the beginning of a broad discussion on the American Indian gaming industry, identifying ways in which we can support better research that informs policymaking at all levels of government whether it be tribal, state or federal,” said Akee, who is currently a fellow at Brookings.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee wrote a piece for Econofact on the relationship between voter turnout and family income. Akee pointed out that it is widely known that wealthy people are more likely to vote than poorer people, but the reasons are less fully understood. Understanding why this occurs could help address this form of political inequality and increase participation in the democratic process, he argued. Akee and his colleagues conducted research looking at the voting patterns of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. They found that increased windfalls from a casino opening did not increase voting participation among parents, but it did among their children. Akee said this may be attributed to more money being invested in education or the families becoming less likely to move away and more likely to become civically engaged.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee was intrigued by the personal identity responses on the 2018 American Family Survey, according to Deseret News. Akee said he would be interested in finding out whether race as a component of personal identification is more internal or imposed by society. He suggested it can be further examined by the American Family Survey. He noted, “For white families, 16 percent had had an immediate family member die; for black families, it’s much higher, 25 percent.” Further, he noted that more black and Latino respondents had experienced job loss than white respondents. He said this deserves more scrutiny by policymakers. “This should double our efforts for understanding why that is the case,” Akee concluded.
Changes to North Dakota’s voting requirements threaten to disenfranchise thousands of American Indians, UCLA Luskin’s Randall Akee explained in a podcast for the Brookings Institution, where he is currently a fellow. A U.S. Supreme Court action, less than a month before the November 2018 election, permitted the changes, which require voters to produce identification that includes a street address. Many of North Dakota’s American Indians live on reservations and use a P.O. Box instead of a street address, said Akee, an associate professor of public policy. The new requirements could sway some very close races, including Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s battle to keep her seat, he said. Akee noted that American Indians did not get the right to vote until 1924. “It’s been less than a century that they’ve been allowed to participate in the voting process. And that’s why this particular turn of events, of disenfranchising Native Americans on reservations, is so distasteful.”