Reber Finds Shocking Race Gap in Coronavirus Deaths

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a Yahoo Finance video discussing her findings on the race gap in coronavirus deaths. “Because whites are on average much older in the United States than Blacks or Latinos, just looking at the crude death rates where you compare the total number of deaths divided by the total population really understates the disparities,” Reber explained. When adjusted to account for age differences, “the death rates for Blacks are more than three times and the death rates for Latinos are more than double those for whites,” she said. Reber found this information to be “some of the most shocking and disturbing analysis that [she has] ever done.” She pointed to the “ongoing and historical systemic racism across our society” that leads to risk factors among Black and Latino communities, making them more vulnerable to the virus.


Reber Recommends Allocating More School Aid to Higher-Poverty States

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article arguing for a more equitable way to allocate federal COVID-19 aid to schools. The authors described shortcomings in the federal government’s Title I formula used to support children in low-income households. Instead, they recommended “designing a new formula that sends more money per pupil to states with higher child-poverty rates.” Their proposal, described in an Education Week  report, would distribute aid using a weighted formula with two factors: the total number of school-age children and the number of poor school-age children in each state. “Despite the greater resource needs of poor students, per-pupil school spending is already lower in states with higher child poverty rates,” wrote Reber and co-author Nora Gordon of Georgetown University. “All states are affected by the current crisis, and the federal government needs to invest in all students. But higher-poverty states have less capacity to withstand these circumstances and need more federal support.”


Schools Need Flexible Federal Funding, Reber Writes

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article about the importance of flexibility in coronavirus stabilization funding for schools. Schools need federal funding to offset decreases in state funding due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reber argued that Congress should send federal aid to states and school districts through a fiscal stabilization fund, instead of expanding existing federal programs like Title I that come with complicated compliance requirements. She recommended creating a “straightforward and streamlined federal application process for states and school districts.” She also highlighted the importance of using concise, plain language to avoid any confusion about how school districts are allowed to use funding. To best serve students, Congress should craft a relief program that “grants districts the flexibility that they need to use funds most effectively.” The article is the second installment of Brookings’ “Federal aid for schools and COVID-19” series by Reber and Nora Gordon of Georgetown University.


Reber Advocates for Increased Federal Aid for Schools

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article about the need for federal funding to support students and promote economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. School districts are facing new costs associated with distance learning just as state and local governments are facing major budget shortfalls. The federal government, which now contributes less than 10% of total elementary and secondary education budgets, has an advantage over states in its ability to borrow freely, the authors explained. The CARES Act took the first step in allocating emergency funds to schools but was still much less than aid packages for schools during the Great Recession, wrote Reber, a Brookings fellow. Laying out how the federal government might structure new funding, the authors wrote, “Congress should design the next relief package, and more to follow, with two goals in mind: protecting children from the harmful effects of deep cuts and promoting economic recovery.”


Reber Debates Future of SAT and ACT in Admissions

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a Los Angeles Times report about the controversy over a faculty recommendation to keep the SAT and ACT tests as admission requirements for the University of California system. In a letter to the Board of Regents, Reber and two other education and economics experts, Michal Kurlaender of UC Davis and Jesse Rothstein of UC Berkeley, criticized the recommendation, which was made by faculty representing all 10 UC campuses. Reber and her co-authors instead recommended the use of a state assessment called Smarter Balanced, which research shows is as predictive of college performance as the SAT with less bias against disadvantaged students. Reber called for all campuses to admit more students who graduate with high GPAs but low test scores, then to hold them accountable for their academic success once enrolled. UC Regents are scheduled to meet in May to vote on the issue.


Phillips and Reber on Virtual College Advising

Meredith Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology, and Sarah Reber, associate professor of public policy, wrote a working paper on virtual college advising that was featured on Campus Technology. Their research found that students randomly assigned to virtual advising were more likely to feel supported during the college application process and apply to more four-year colleges, but they were not more likely to be accepted or enrolled in those schools. Their research used Virtual Student Outreach for College Enrollment (V-SOURCE), a virtual counseling program intended to reduce barriers to applying to college for low-income students. Phillips and Reber found that while V-SOURCE increased the number of students completing college application milestones, the improvements were modest. “Ultimately, many low-income students will likely need more hands-on help with the application process or more intensive and expensive interventions addressing fundamental financial, academic and institutional barriers to successfully enroll in and complete college,” the report concluded.


 

Minority Health Improves in Positive School Environment, Study Finds

Low-income minority boys’ health improves when they are in high-performing school environments, according to a recent study by UCLA Luskin Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber and co-authors from the David Geffen School of Medicine. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, used admission lotteries for high-performing public charter schools in Los Angeles and surveyed 1,270 students who applied. Over a four-year period, their behavior was tracked. Among boys, the study found less marijuana use, less truancy, more time spent studying, greater teacher support for college and less school mobility. The study did not find any significant health improvements among girls. “Future studies targeting school-based social networks and school culture … can begin to identify the pathways through which to build healthier schools,” the researchers said. They concluded that investing in higher-quality public education will reflect positively on the students’ health. The study, titled “Assessment of Exposure to High-Performing Schools and Risk of Adolescent Substance Use: A Natural Experiment,” was co-authored by the School of Medicine’s Rebecca Dudovitz and Paul Chung. News coverage of the report appeared in U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider and other publications.


 

Sarah Reber

Professor Reber is on sabbatical for Academic Year 2020-2021.

Bio

I am an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. I received my Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 2003. From 2003 to 2005, I was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at UC Berkeley.

My research in education focuses on understanding the educational, social, and fiscal effects—both intended and unintended—of some of the most important policies of the 20th century: school desegregation, the Civil Rights Act, and the massive expansion of federal aid to K-12 education that Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act represented. In addition, I am conducting a randomized field experiment of two interventions designed to increase college enrollment among disadvantaged students.

My research in health economics examines the advantages and disadvantages of promoting competition in health insurance markets.

Affiliations

Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Faculty Affiliate, California Center for Population Research
Faculty Affiliate, California Policy Lab

More information about her research and teaching can be found at sarahreber.com.