Social Welfare Hosts International Youth Conference Young people from 180 countries participated online and in-person during a conference presented in collaboration with United Nations entities

From May 30 to June 2, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare served as host during the 9th edition of the International Youth Conference, which brought together youth from around the world for a series of in-person and online discussions, workshops and collaborations. Hector Palencia of the field faculty was the Luskin School’s local representative to the organizing group, with assistance from students and staff that included Carmen Mancha, Lorraine Rosales and Tera Sillett. The sessions taking place in the Public Affairs Building at UCLA were made available to a global audience of more than 720,000 people via live streaming on IYC’s digital platforms. Participants from 180 countries attended the conference online and in-person. The overarching focus was on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and youth inclusion in policymaking. In addition to Palencia, UCLA Luskin faculty members Laura Wray-Lake, Randall Akee and David Turner participated in conference events and panel discussions. They were joined by other scholars from UCLA and other universities, youth activists, civil society leaders and luminaries in international peace and security, science and technology, and global governance transformation.  The media partner for this event was ABC7 in Los Angeles, which sent a news crew to campus to interview participants for a story that aired during a May 31 newscast.

View photos from the conference

International Youth Conference

Watch a highlights video about the conference

Akee on Lack of Data on Financial Situation of Native Communities

Randall Akee, professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin, commented in a Marketplace report about a Federal Reserve annual survey that provides information about the financial situation of U.S. households. While the survey reports, overall, that a majority of respondents indicate they are doing “OK” financially, it provides no information about American Indians and Alaska Natives. The survey showed that racial and ethnic gaps persist, with Black and Hispanic respondents reporting lower levels of financial security compared to white and Asian American respondents. However, data on Native communities was not sufficient to compare rigorously with other groups. Akee said other measures track with what researchers know about lower average incomes, limited employment opportunities and poor credit access in many Native communities, but limitations such as small sample sizes can exclude up to 60% of respondents. “You have to be creative in thinking about, OK, the perfect data doesn’t exist. However, how can I get close to that?” Akee said.


Akee on Increased Voter Participation, Civic Engagement

A voter guide posted by the Indiana Citizen mentions research by UCLA Luskin’s Randall Akee on voter participation. Individuals in higher-income households are more likely to vote than those in poorer households, and the article cites Akee’s speculation that having a larger income may afford families resources like time and transportation to make voting easier. He collaborated on a 2018 study on the effect of a permanent increase in household incomes among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. Although increased income did not change the voting behavior of parents, their children subsequently went to the polls at a higher rate. This could relate to educational attainment. “This suggests that income augmentation programs that help children may have other indirect (and long-term) benefits to society in the form of increased political participation and civic engagement as adults,” Akee wrote in the study.


Akee Is Among Equitable Growth Award Recipients

Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy, is among those sharing this year’s research grants totaling more than $1 million from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The funding is for research relating to inequality’s impact on economic growth and stability. A study of “deaths of despair” among Native Americans, particularly women and girls, will be conducted by three academic researchers and Akee, who is chair of the American Indian Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA. In their funding proposal, the researchers said they plan to investigate why such deaths are proportionately higher for Native Americans than among other ethnic groups in the United States. Researchers will examine whether the known predictors of a death of despair for white constituents, especially men — joblessness, high rates of unemployment — are different than those for Native American women and girls. The study will also focus on the oil fracking industry and whether fracking in proximity to Native American lands induces more human trafficking activity. This, in turn, might also induce coping behaviors such as increased alcohol and substance use that could lead to higher rates of suicides among Native American women and girls, according to the research proposal. Equitable Growth has seeded more than $8.8 million to nearly 350 scholars through its competitive grants program since its founding in 2013. According to the organization’s news release, this year’s 42 grantees include economists and social scientists who currently serve as faculty or are postdoctoral scholars and Ph.D. students at U.S. colleges and universities, as well as scholars from government research agencies.

Akee and Ong on Long-Overdue Tuition Scholarships for Native Students

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee and Research Professor Paul Ong co-authored a commentary in Indian Country Today about the University of California’s decision to waive tuition for Native American students. “Not only will the plan begin to address some of the education barriers that marginalize American Indian and Alaska Native people, it is also an acknowledgement that UC has benefited enormously from the sale of lands that were stolen through various means from Indigenous peoples,” they wrote. Campuses in the UC system are located on parcels that rightfully belong to tribal nations and communities, they wrote, noting the role of the Morrill Act in the creation of land-grant colleges resourced by the sale of federal lands. The authors hope that the new program will “help to close the persistent educational attainment gap suffered by American Indians and Alaska Natives” and serve as a call to action to other public, land-grant institutions in the United States.

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.

Akee, Ong on Creating Educational Opportunities for Native American Students

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke to CNN about the University of California’s recent decision to waive tuition for Native American students in an effort to make the university system more affordable and accessible. As part of the UC Native American Opportunity Plan, tuition and fees will be waived for California residents who are members of federally recognized Native American, American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Akee collaborated with UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge Director Paul Ong and other scholars on a soon-to-be-published op-ed urging other land-grant universities to follow UC’s lead. “The UC system is leading the way in acknowledging its place and role in educating Indigenous people,” the authors wrote. “In the absence of similar programs in other locations, the UC system as a whole will gain a significant advantage in recruiting the best and brightest [American Indian or Alaska Native] students from around the country.”

Native American Heritage Speaker Series

A speaker series commemorating Native American Heritage Month will highlight the broad range of UCLA scholarship about issues related to Indigenous people. The series is designed to provide a less academic and more informal platform for Native American faculty to share their research and insights, said Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee, who chairs UCLA’s American Indian studies interdepartmental program. 

During the four-part virtual series, Indigenous scholars on the university’s faculty will give brief overviews of their current research, then conduct interactive discussions with the moderator and audience members. Topics will include the experiences of Native Americans in higher education and the relationship between Indigenous groups and land-grant institutions.

RSVP HERE to receive a link to view the series.


  • Friday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. — Juliann Anesi (Samoan), assistant professor of gender studies
  • Friday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m. — Desi Small-Rodriguez (Northern Cheyenne and Chicana), assistant professor of sociology and American Indian studies
  • Friday, Nov. 19, 2 p.m. — Kyle Mays (Black and Saginaw Chippewa), assistant professor of African American studies, American Indian studies and history
  • Friday, Dec. 3, 2 p.m. — Nanibaa’ Garrison (Dine), associate professor at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, and the division of general internal medicine




Reservations Need More Federal Funding, Akee Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the federal government’s failure to address the need for clean water and sanitation on Native American reservations. “Federal funding for reservations is not meeting needs,” Akee said. “It’s just woefully underfunded at the federal level, and tribes for a long, long time have not had the resources to fully develop these resources themselves.” Many Native American households lack indoor plumbing, and they often must rely on donations of drinking water when pipes fail. The government has deemed many of the necessary sanitation improvement projects “infeasible” because of the high cost, leaving rural indigenous communities with limited access to clean drinking water. “Frankly, it’s a responsibility of the federal government, a trust responsibility of treaties and hundreds of years of commitments,” Akee said. “There has been a failure to fully live up to those commitments.”

Akee Highlights Need for Better Data on Experiences of Racism

Associate Professor of Public Policy Planning Randall Akee co-authored a Brookings article with KJ Ward about the lack of available data on experiences of racism in the COVID-19 era. While the media acknowledges instances of hate crimes and racial violence that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, they are often dismissed as outliers and fail to be the subject of meaningful research. “In the absence of systematic data on this topic, we are left to these anecdotal instances, and that makes it much more difficult to identify pervasive patterns and behaviors in society,” Akee wrote. Furthermore, smaller race groups are often excluded in national surveys or are clustered in a general “other” category. A new survey explicitly oversampled for small race and ethnic groups and illustrated the pervasiveness of racism toward all non-white groups. Akee argued that collecting data by race and ethnicity is the first step to identifying, diagnosing and dismantling systemic racism in society.