Dean’s Message on DACA Decision 'You are not alone in this,' Segura writes in support of any undocumented Luskin students 

Friends, Colleagues, Alumni and Students:

I am heartsick to hear the announcement from the Trump administration that DACA will be ending unless there is some congressional action in the coming months. This decision flies in the face of good policy, the best interests of the United States, our moral obligations to one another, and simple human decency.  In the long run, my sincere hope and expectation is that this decision will not stand, that our society will move forward toward a more reasonable and just outcome for these young people and, indeed, all members of our society whose status is an obstacle to a fuller and more complete participation in our economy and institutions. In the interim, we face a period of uncertainty, and for this I am deeply sorry.

For now, I want to make several things perfectly clear. First, to every undocumented Luskin student, you have my support. You are not alone in this, and I will continue my work (within the University and elsewhere) to push back on this odious turn in federal policy.  Second, every Luskin student has my personal commitment to protect your privacy and educational records, consistent with U.S. law and the principles outlined by the UC-system in response to these events. Third, all of us have a special duty, in these circumstances, to redouble our efforts toward helping families and communities cope with the challenges presented by these and other events. And finally, know that your work and training are not in vain. Rather, it is in these moments that the tools of social science and a commitment to human well-being are in greatest demand.

I hope, in the near future, I will be able to address you with better news on this critical issue. Until then, to the ‘Dreamers’ among us — I will continue to admire your strength, your resilience, and your immense capacity to make change in this society.

In hopeful determination,

 

 

 

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

New Sources, Innovative Applications of Big Data Explored at Conference UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation researchers demonstrate how digital technology is transforming humans into sensors that generate behavioral data on an unprecedented scale

By Stan Paul

If your 2016 Thanksgiving dinner was shorter than usual, the turkey on your dining table may not have been to blame.

Who you had dinner with and their political affiliations following last year’s divisive election may have shortened the holiday get-together by about 25 minutes — or up to an hour depending on how many campaign/political messages saturated your market area. It’s all in the data.

“It’s not that conservatives and [liberals] don’t like eating Thanksgiving dinner with each other;  they don’t like eating Thanksgiving dinner together after an incredibly polarizing period,” said Keith Chen, associate professor of economics at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Chen was among a group of scholars and data researchers who presented recent findings on Aug. 25, 2017, at a daylong conference about computational social science and digital technology hosted by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

Information gleaned from social media and from cellphone tracking data can reveal and confirm political polarization and other topics, such as poverty or protest, said researchers who gathered at the “The Future of Humans as Sensors” conference held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The event brought together social scientists and data researchers to look for “ways to either extend what we can do with existing data sets or explore new sources of ‘big data,’” said Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, assistant professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin and the leader of the program.

Steinert-Threlkeld presented his latest research, which was motivated by the Women’s March in the United States, as an example of measuring protest with new data sources that include geo-located Twitter accounts. While conducting research, Steinert-Threlkeld has observed that working with social media data has actually become more difficult of late.

“While Facebook lets you use data from profiles that are public, most people have private profiles,” Steinert-Threlkeld said. Seeing private data requires researchers to work directly with Facebook, which has become more cautious in the wake of a controversial 2014 paper, thus impacting what scholars can publish. In addition, Instagram previously provided much more data, but since 2016 it has followed the Facebook model and that data has been severely restricted despite Instagram’s norm of having public profiles, he said.

“This workshop will discuss how ‘humans as sensors’ can continue to yield productive research agendas,” Steinert-Threlkeld told conference attendees.

Talking about new and innovative ways to do this, Michael Macy, a sociologist and director of the Social Dynamics Laboratory at Cornell, began his presentation by pointing out the innate difficulties of observing human behavior and social interaction, as well as both the potential and the limitations of social media data.

“There are privacy concerns; the interactions are fleeting. You have to be right there at the time when it happens.” He added, “They’re usually behind closed doors, and the number of interactions increases exponentially with the size of the population.”

But, Macy said, new technologies in various scientific fields have opened up research opportunities that were previously inaccessible.

“We can see things that we could never see before. In fact, not only can we see things, the web sees everything and it forgets nothing.”

He tempered the potential of digital data with the fact that for the past several decades the main instrument of social science observation has been the survey, which comes with its own limitations, including unreliability when people recount their own behavior or rely on memories of past events. But, he said, “In some ways I see these social media data as being really nicely complementary with the survey. They have offsetting strengths and weaknesses.”

Macy provided examples of ways that tracking of political polarization can be done, not by looking at extreme positions on a single issue but by inferring positions on one issue by knowing the position that individuals hold on another. This can range from their choices of books on politics and science to their preferences for cars, fast food and music.

“The method seems to recover something real about political alignments … political alignment can be inferred from those purchases, and then we can look to see what else they’re purchasing,” Macy said.

“What I think we’re really looking at is not the era of explanation, at least for now … it’s the era of measurement, and what we are now able to do is to test theories that we could not test before because we can see things that we could not see before.”

The day’s presentations also included the ways in which data can be used to provide rapid policy evaluation with targeted crowds and how demographic sampling weights from Twitter data could be used to improve public opinion estimates. Data could also help fight poverty worldwide.

The world seems awash in information and data, but “most of world doesn’t live in a data-rich environment,” said presenter Joshua Blumemstock, an assistant professor at U.C. Berkeley’s School of Information and director of the school’s Data-Intensive Development Lab.

“You can use Twitter data to measure unemployment in Spain. The problem is that these methods don’t port very well in developing countries,” Blumenstock said. “There’s these big black holes in Africa for Twitter.”

Blumenstock discussed how data from billions of mobile phone calls in countries such as Rwanda could be used in conjunction with survey data to create a composite of where individuals fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. In turn, the information collected could be “aggregated up” to a much larger regional or national level.

“And when you aggregate up, you start to get things that might be conceivably useful to someone doing research or some policymaker,” such as being able to respond instantaneously to economic shocks, Blumenstock said. In addition, instead of costing millions of dollars and taking years, he said this methodology could potentially cost thousands of dollars and be conducted in weeks or months.

“For researchers like me who are interested in understanding the causes and consequences of poverty … just measuring the poverty is the first step. For people designing policy for these countries, their hands are tied if they don’t even know where poverty is,” Blumenstock explained. “It’s hard to think about how to fix it.”

 

 

 

Dean Gary Segura Named Vice President of American Political Science Association APSA is the largest association of political scientists, with more than 12,000 members. It promotes scholarly research and teaching in politics and government.

By Stan Paul

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has been named vice president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the leading professional organization for the study of political science.

Segura assumed the one-year leadership post at the annual meeting of APSA held Aug. 31–Sept. 3 in San Francisco. Previously, he served on the Executive Council of APSA – the organization’s governing body – and also was past president of the Midwest Political Science Association and Western Political Science Association.

“It has been my privilege to serve on the Executive Council in the past, and I have great affection for the association and the work it does,” said Segura, who also holds academic appointments in public policy and Chicana/o studies at UCLA.

ASPA, founded in 1903, has more than 12,000 members representing more than 80 countries and promotes scholarly research and teaching in politics and government. The organization is the largest association of political scientists and publishes a number of peer-reviewed political science journals, including American Political Science Review.

“I am honored to have been elected vice president and am looking forward to helping guide the association in the coming year,” said Segura, who joined the Luskin School as dean in January 2017.

Prior to coming to Luskin, Segura was the Morris M. Doyle Centennial Professor of Public Policy, professor of political science, and professor and former chair of Chicana/o–Latina/o studies at Stanford University, where he also served as director of the Center for American Democracy and director of the Institute on the Politics of Inequality, Race and Ethnicity.

 

A Message to the UCLA Luskin Community Dean Gary Segura's statement on the tragic events in Charlottesville — 'we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future'

My friends in the Luskin community,

For the kind of work that we do here at Luskin, the tragic and horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend cut very close to home. The forces of division are strong and, for the first time in a generation, they are being legitimized, and endorsed by the highest powers in the country. Our nation is in mourning, as adherents of the abhorrent ideology of white supremacy murdered a woman (and injured dozens) in broad daylight in a university town. Heather Heyer is among the most recent and visible casualties of racism, but she is not the first and I am sadly certain she will not be the last.

That racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy kill is hardly news. Their effects are everywhere, if only you are willing to look. Racial disparities in political representation, educational opportunity, net wealth, access to affordable health care, home ownership, and contact with the carceral state are manifest and written into institutional arrangements that preserve social inequalities rather than disrupt them.

Women face wage and health care discrimination, mosques burned as Muslims are banned, Jews denounced by white men wearing swastikas, gays and lesbians beaten and murdered, transsexual persons demonized and legislated against, and undocumented immigrants who do some of the hardest jobs in the society described as rapists and drug mules by the President of the United States and deported at an accelerating pace.

All of these things were true on the day before the Charlottesville marches and murder last weekend. These affronts to human dignity and well-being are what makes our work so important. At Luskin we train scholars, policymakers and community leaders who work hard—together—every day to alleviate and transform these social injustices. We must continue to produce state of the art research in the service of all of our communities. In Los Angeles, we know that our diversity is not a weakness; in fact, it is our strength.

It is my fervent hope that these tragic events become a tipping point. We should be more motivated than we have ever been. We should be more fully mobilized than we have ever been. And we should work even harder to bring the tools of our professions, our training as applied social scientists, our insights, our skills at distilling fact from propaganda to this struggle.

In a spirit of hope and action, we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future for all communities. And we must fight like hell to achieve that goal.

Best wishes to you all,

 

 

 

Gary Segura
Dean

Conference at UCLA Luskin Slices Into Post-Election Data UCLA faculty members guide scholars from across the nation during a face-to-face dissection of a collective survey effort that showcases research on race, ethnicity and politics

By Stan Paul

The assembled scholars listened intently, readying their critiques as a stream of researchers from universities large and small took the podium. Over two days, findings from a landmark shared survey effort focusing on the 2016 U.S. elections were presented, and then colleagues from across the nation congratulated and cajoled, concurred and challenged — sometimes forcefully.

And that was the point of it.

The spirited gathering on Aug. 3-4, 2017, in a large lecture hall at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs brought together academic peers from across the United States whose findings were all derived from the same innovative and singular data set.

The 2016 Collaborative Multi-Racial Post-Election Survey (CMPS) was produced by a nationwide research collaborative co-led by faculty from UCLA. The survey’s nearly 400 questions focused primarily on issues and attitudes related to the 2016 election, including immigration, policing, racial equality, health care, federal spending and climate change.

“Questions were user-generated via a team of 86 social scientists from 55 different universities across 18 disciplines,” said Lorrie Frasure-Yokley, a UCLA associate professor of political science who was one of the event’s organizers as well as co-principal investigator for the survey.

The survey’s creators describe the 2016 CMPS as “the first cooperative, 100 percent user-content-driven, multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, post-election online survey in race, ethnicity and politics (REP) in the United States.”

“We queried more than 10,000 people in five languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese,” said Frasure-Yokley, who was joined by conference co-organizer Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o studies at UCLA, as well as their co-principal investigators, Janelle Wong from the University of Maryland and Edward Vargas from Arizona State University.

Also serving as the annual summer meeting of a group known as the Politics of Race, Immigration and Ethnicity Consortium (PRIEC), the conference is part of an ongoing series of meetings at which faculty scholars and graduate student researchers showcase works in progress related to racial and ethnic politics. Immigration, political behavior, institutions, processes and public policy also receive research attention.

“We have never seen this much diversity in the research being presented, in the presenters themselves, and in the audience members,” Barreto said. “It was a great experience.”

In spring 2016, U.S. scholars were invited to join a cooperative and self-fund the 2016 CMPS through the purchase of question content by contributors, Frasure-Yokley explained. The treasure trove of results is being incorporated into numerous ongoing academic studies and reports. Of those, 16 research projects derived from the data were presented, discussed and critiqued in open forums by other researchers attending the conference at UCLA.

“Our goal was to provide CMPS contributors with an outlet to present their research, obtain feedback for revisions toward publication, including book projects and academic articles,” Frasure-Yokley noted.

The gathering also served as a professional development and networking opportunity for scholars who study race, ethnicity and immigration in the United States, she said. And the conference provided what Frasure-Yokley described as a “lively and interactive platform” for graduate students to present their research and obtain feedback via a poster session.

Organizers also encouraged and further cultivated the development of a number of co-authored research projects among CMPS contributors, she said.

One of the presentations focused on research conducted by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and colleagues titled, “From Prop. 187 to Trump: New Evidence That Group Threat Mobilizes Latino Voters.”

Segura, who also served as a presentation moderator, is a longtime participant in PRIEC, having previously hosted a meeting when he was at Stanford. In fact, Barreto noted that Segura was one of the original members of PRIEC, presenting at the very first meeting at UC Riverside.

Holding this year’s conference at UCLA was a perfect fit. “Luskin was a great venue to host this conference because so many of the research presentations were directly engaging public policy and public affairs — from health policy, policing, immigration reform, LGBT rights, and race relations,” Barreto said.

“The partnership between Luskin and Social Sciences to bring the PRIEC conference to UCLA was truly outstanding. This conference was groundbreaking in bringing together scholars who study comparative racial politics from a Latino, African American and Asian American perspective,” he said.

Here are some of the other presentation titles:

  • “Immigration Enforcement Scares People from Police and Doctors”
  • “Pivotal Identity: When Competitive Elections Politicize Latino Ethnicity”
  • “Using the 2016 CMPS to Understand Race and Racism in Evangelical Politics”
  • “Generations Divided: Age Cohort Differences in Black Political Attitudes and Behavior in the Post-Obama Era.”

Frasure-Yokley said the CMPS provides a high-quality online survey data source, and it also builds a multidisciplinary academic pipeline of inclusive excellence among researchers who study race, ethnicity and politics. Plans to conduct 2018 and 2020 surveys are already underway, and an annual CMPS contributor conference will continue each summer.

“The 2016 CMPS brought together a multidisciplinary group of researchers at varying stages of their academic careers,” she said, noting that participating cooperative scholars and conference attendees included junior and senior faculty from large research institutions, scholars from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and researchers from Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs). Also on hand were postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and some undergraduates.

“We need to go all in because this is the future of our discipline. To ensure that we are creating a strong pipeline and have access to quality data for various racial and ethnic groups, our model of data collection inspires innovation and fresh ideas through collaboration,” Frasure-Yokley said.

In addition to support from Segura and the Luskin School, co-sponsors included UCLA’s Department of Political Science; the American Political Science Association (APSA) Centennial Center Artinian Fund; the UCLA Division of Social Sciences and its dean, Darnell Hunt, professor of sociology and African American studies; the Department of African American Studies; the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies; and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics (CSREP).

Additional information on PRIEC.

More information about the survey.

 

Amplifying the Voice of Latinos on Policy Issues Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin School will fill a critical research gap and provide a think tank around political, social and economic issues

By Les Dunseith

A new initiative underway at the Luskin School of Public Affairs will take advantage of the immense research expertise at UCLA to fill a critical gap in research and policy analysis related to issues that impact Latinos and other communities of color in California and across the country.

The Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) will be “a comprehensive think tank around political, social and economic issues faced by California’s plurality population,” said UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura about the new effort, which also received startup funding from the Division of Social Sciences. Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies, co-founded the project with Segura in February 2017.

Founding Director Sonja Diaz came aboard in March and has spearheaded meetings with scholars, community organizations, public officials, staff members from governmental agencies, and potential funding partners to formalize the initiative and secure its place among the various research centers at UCLA.

“People on this campus are supportive and willing to partner.”
—Sonja Diaz

“One of the things that I have personally been so impressed with is that people on this campus are supportive and willing to partner,” said Diaz, who earned a Master of Public Policy degree at UCLA Luskin in 2010 before going on to receive her law degree from UC Berkeley. “They see the value of supporting LPPI as a meeting place, as an organization and as a foundation to build upon.”

Scholars from across campus have already come aboard, including professors from schools and departments such as Medicine, Business, Health Policy and Management, History and Law.

“We stand here on the shoulders of individual researchers, scholars, students and their centers to actually start having a convergence and a meeting place,” Diaz said about the role of LPPI in uniting Latino-focused research efforts so that studies can be found and shared more easily among interested parties. “We have more than 16 people already in place to produce rapid-response and evidence-tested research on domestic policy issue areas.”

Segura, himself a professor of public policy and Chicana/o studies, said that the University of California — particularly UCLA — is an ideal home for the enterprise. LPPI will develop new research, as well as assist existing faculty research projects and provide direct support for the community, centered around policy issues of vital importance to Latinos.

“The city of Los Angeles is the second-largest Spanish speaking city on the planet — after Mexico City, and significantly ahead of Buenos Aires and Madrid,” Segura explained. “If you are going to study what is happening to Latinos in the United States, you begin in Los Angeles, and your next stop is California.”

Barreto noted that Latinos have been the largest minority group in the U.S. since 2001, and the Latino percentage of the population continues to grow, particularly in California. “Yet, there is a significant gap between the diversity of our state and the institutional representation of Latinos in Sacramento, as well as in the UC system,” he said. “Through this initiative, we hope to increase policy-relevant research on Latinos in California and the country as a whole.”

Basing LPPI at UCLA not only makes sense geographically, it makes sense organizationally, Segura said.

“UCLA has a very strong Department of Chicano/a Studies. It has a very strong Chicano Studies Research Center. And the Luskin School of Public Affairs is UCLA’s — and I would argue the University of California’s — best voice on questions of human service and human need,” Segura said. “The concentration of Latino academics here makes UCLA the right place for LPPI. It’s where it should exist.”

“The concentration of Latino academics here makes UCLA the right place for LPPI.”
—Gary Segura

Although LPPI is still in the organizational phase of its evolution, Diaz noted that its leaders have “already connected with, met with, and partnered with more than 50 community-based organizations, both nationally and at the state level.”

Segura, Barreto and Diaz continue to meet with potential funding partners, including a host of state and federal foundations, and recently completed a trip to Sacramento to engage with members of the California Legislature. The visit served a dual purpose, simultaneously letting elected officials know about LPPI and giving the leadership team an opportunity to ascertain the needs of elected officials in terms of the policymaking demands of the populations that they represent.

“One of the things that we learned is that state government does no demographic research as a matter of form,” Diaz said. “It means that policy is not always best-tailored to the needs of communities of color. We know there is an opportunity there — a need for this type of research.”

To fill that need, LPPI will be launching new research projects to be completed by internal staff members, often working with postdoctoral candidates and graduate assistants. Those projects will afford students an opportunity to get hands-on training and will forge partnerships that Diaz sees continuing beyond graduation as former UCLA students take their places in government life.

“One of the things that is unique about LPPI is that it’s action-oriented,” she explained. “It’s not enough to just produce the research and produce the evidence, but we will actually put it into the hands of people who can go ahead and integrate it into their own proposals.”

The ability to respond quickly to issues of concern among Latinos is a vital aspect of the new initiative. “It’s no secret that a majority of Latinos felt disrespected and under attack by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign,” Barreto said. “It is more important now than ever before to have an objective, research-based approach to policy and politics, to understand the Latino experience in this country, and to make sure that policymakers at all levels of government — from president of the school board to president of the United States — understand that Latinos contribute equally to our communities and expect to have equal input into, and equal outputs, from the political system.”

Diaz sees LPPI becoming a go-to source of information on Latino policy issues at City Hall, in Sacramento and for people nationwide. Segura concurs, noting that he has launched an effort to hire additional faculty members at UCLA Luskin who will add new areas of expertise to the cadre of faculty members across the campus who are already actively pursuing important policy or social issue research.

Segura’s ultimate goal for the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative?

“We will be doing something in the world to improve the lives of the people that we study,” he said, “which, really, is why we do it.”

 

UCLA Study Helps Californians Save Electricity — and Money — this Summer Participants in UCLA Luskin research effort receive smartphone notifications that help them make smart decisions about electricity usage and avoid peak pricing

Electricity demand fluctuates each day, and consumers who want to unplug during peak times to save money and help the environment now have a new tool at their disposal. Chai Energy, a partner of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, is making real-time energy information a reality for electricity consumers who want to reduce or shift their electricity usage during peak periods when electricity is the most expensive.

In a pilot study funded by a California Energy Commission grant of more than $2 million, UCLA is seeking to understand and identify the most effective demand response program designs for different types of households across the state, depending on social characteristics.

“We want to provide a comprehensive tool that will help customers save money while improving grid reliability, reducing pollution during peak hours, and maybe even preventing blackouts” said J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

How does the study work? 

The UCLA researchers have partnered with a clean technology company named Chai Energy. “Chai developed a free smartphone application that displays your home daily electricity consumption and provides you with tips on how to better manage your electricity bill,” DeShazo said. This could include knowing when it makes financial sense to replace an old appliance, or simply what time to use it based on electricity prices. Chai has also developed a gateway device that establishes communication between a participant’s smartphone and the smart-meter already installed in his house, allowing users to see real-time energy consumption by individual household appliances.

The UCLA Luskin Center is delivering and testing messages designed to inform Californians about their electricity consumption and provide tips for reducing it. About 10,000 Californians are expected to download the app and participate in the study.

“This large sample will enable researchers to identify the most effective format, timing and content of messages,” said Julien Gattaciecca, project manager and one of the researchers.

How can Californians participate?

The free Chai Energy application can be found by searching for Chai Energy in android or IOS app stores or by visiting chaienergy.com. Those who install the app are automatically enrolled in the study. A free Chai gateway device with a market value of $75 is being randomly distributed to 5,000 participants.

The study is currently available only for customers of Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electricity (SDG&E).

 

Luskin Center and the Chai Energy App from UCLA Luskin on Vimeo.

The video is also available on YouTube.

Public Policy Professor Is Honored by UCLA Randall Akee receives C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in Asian American Studies

By Asian American Studies Center Staff

Assistant Professor Randall Akee of the Department of Public Policy and American Indian Studies is the 2016-17 recipient of the C. Doris and Toshio Hoshide Distinguished Teaching Prize in Asian American Studies at UCLA.

Akee is emerging as one of the most important and influential scholars studying the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous people and formulating strategies to address their marginalization. He is a former economic development specialist for the state of Hawaii, Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Since 2013, he has served on the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations. Akee has conducted extensive research on several American Indian reservations, Canadian First Nations, and Pacific Island nations in addition to working in various Native Hawaiian communities. His main research interests are labor economics, economic development and migration.

Colleagues and students expressed that Akee is deserving of the Hoshide Award honor. He has taught key courses that benefit Asian American Studies, incorporating Pacific Islanders, an understudied racial group in the United States. One colleague stated, “He epitomizes a faculty who bridges disciplinary silos — American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies and Public Policy — not an easy task at UCLA.”

In his “Economic Principles and Economic Development in Indigenous Communities” course, Akee uses Micronesian migration to Guam and the U.S. and Tongan migration to New Zealand as examples of diaspora of indigenous peoples. The significant international movement of Pacific Islanders makes this group unique among indigenous populations, creating challenges to how students understand the indigenous experience. It is the only course offered at UCLA focusing on the prosperity of indigenous nations and communities globally through economic subsistence.

“I learned first-hand of the high expectations he has for his students. Dr. Akee challenges his students intellectually. As one of a few Pacific Islander students, it made me think about what it meant to be a Pacific Islander scholar,” said one student.

Another student noted, “With the purpose of using data to show how Native people have successfully approached economic development, Dr. Akee effectively engaged our class in a way that felt both very thorough and intimate.”

Akee’s “Pacific Island Economic Development” course focuses on the Anglophone former colonies and countries in the Pacific. The class examines the economic and political development of the Hawaiian Islands, Fiji, the islands of Micronesia, Samoa and Tahiti.

A student commented, “I enjoyed every minute of Dr. Akee’s class because it challenged me to look beyond the scope of my field and bridge western-indigenous methodologies to critique economically sustainable programs in the South Pacific.”

Akee also worked with Pacific Islander graduate students to establish the Graduate Student Association for Pasifika. It was created to support graduate students from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent or areas.

As one student expressed, “Dr. Akee is a role model, but a mentor to countless Pacific Islander students. He offers unencumbered and relentless support to any student seeking his guidance, which, I believe, reflects his love for teaching, research, but more so his community.”

The late C. Doris Hoshide, class of 1934, of Rockville, Maryland, established the teaching prize to annually recognize an outstanding professor in Asian American Studies. She was a longtime supporter of Asian American Studies at her alma mater. The Hoshide Prize includes a $1000 award.

Akee received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in political economy, his M.A. from Yale University in international and development economics, and his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in economics. The award was announced by the Asian American Studies Center’s Interim Director Marjorie Kagawa Singer and Assistant Director Melany De La Cruz-Viesca.

More Than 45,000 Californians Living With HIV Would Be Impacted by Medicaid Cuts in Senate Health Plan According to a fact sheet from the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers, the cuts would be felt by patients covered by Medi-Cal

Tens of thousands of Californians living with HIV would be impacted by Medicaid cuts under the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), according to a fact sheet released by the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers in collaboration with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The fact sheet highlights new data from the California Department of Public Health, Office of AIDS, which indicates that 45,033 people living with HIV received health coverage through Medi-Cal in 2014. These data also indicate that approximately 11,500 people living with HIV enrolled in Medi-Cal because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, covers the cost of medications that help low-income people living with HIV achieve viral suppression, which both improves their health and prevents new infections.

Last week, the U.S. Senate released the BCRA, which would make dramatic cuts to Medicaid. A similar bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), would have cut Medicaid nationwide by $834 billion over 10 years.

The BCRA would radically restructure the Medicaid program by converting it to a per capita cap or block grant and effectively end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Together, these changes would result in a massive fiscal shift from the federal government to the states and add billions in additional costs to the state of California.

“People living with HIV have complex health-care needs that require high-quality, consistent and affordable health care,” said Ian Holloway, director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The CHPRC fact sheet emphasizes that limits on Medicaid financing and coverage would have a detrimental impact on California’s efforts to provide care and treatment for people living with HIV and to reduce new HIV infections.

“It is important for policymakers to understand the threats the BCRA poses to people living with HIV and other vulnerable communities in California,” Holloway said.

 

Giving Microeconomics a Human Face Public Policy professor Manisha Shah’s research bridges a worldwide gap between health, economics and education

By Stan Paul

At age 16, Manisha Shah went to the Andes Mountains of Ecuador — her first chance to dig into “real development work.” The task after a year of fundraising and training? Building latrines in rural communities. Soon after arrival, however, she realized that everyone there “already knew how” to build latrines.

What they actually needed was financing and supplies. “That is what we helped facilitate — paying for and transporting supplies to this faraway town in the middle of the mountains.”

The experience in Ecuador was transformative for Shah, now an associate professor of public policy at UCLA Luskin. It enhanced a developing global view nurtured as a child during family visits to see her grandparents in India, where she saw “poverty all around her.”

Her youthful travels helped put Shah on the path to her career in academia and research around the world — from Mexico to India, Tanzania to Indonesia — and eventually to the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“Never in a million years would I have predicted that I would be a tenured professor at UCLA,” Shah said. “I feel so lucky to be doing what I love at one of the best universities in the world.”

Getting There

Today, Shah focuses her teaching and research on the intersection of applied microeconomics, health and development. She is supported by organizations that include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the World Bank.

An example of her work is a recent study, “Investing in Human Capital Production: Evidence from India,” that fills a substantial gap in development literature related to whether early-life investments encourage more educational investments later on, whether low-skill wages in rural India increase school dropouts, and whether rural schools produce gains in consumption later in life. The results have widespread implications for family and individual well-being, economic growth and national competitiveness for the country of over a billion people.

Her research affiliations and teaching might suggest otherwise, but Shah’s path was not exactly a straight one. “I don’t think I had a direct route. In fact, it was very indirect,” said Shah, who sought work abroad after earning undergraduate degrees in economics and development
at Berkeley.

“I quickly learned how difficult it is to find a job that will actually pay you to do international work,” she said.

She wound up in a one-year program at the London School of Economics where her master’s thesis in development economics examined HIV/AIDS issues in India and how NGOs were working to fill gaps in countries that were slow to react to potential epidemics.

“This was 1996-97. Getting HIV in a developing country was a death sentence, and so many countries were doing little to publicly acknowledge they even had an HIV problem,” Shah said.

Next was Mexico, and work at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. Shah is fluent in Spanish, and at the time thought she was “done with school and would never come back,” having achieved her goal of working in international development. “I loved the job.”

But there was a catch.

“I knew I wanted to keep doing this type of work, but I also started to realize that the people calling the shots, raising the money, directing things, all had Ph.D.s,” Shah said. So she spent a year doing the math — literally, taking the calculus, statistics and real analysis coursework she needed for a doctoral program at UC Berkeley. “There was almost no literature in economics on HIV/AIDS,” Shah said of her ongoing interest in the intersection of HIV and economics. “I learned that most interventions in development related to HIV/AIDS often targeted sex workers, as they tend to have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS than the general adult population in most developing countries.”

Shah’s eyes were opened when she learned how many women in developing countries are employed in the sex sector. She saw the implications for public health and noted a lack of serious empirical study, which “began an important area of research for me.”

She recently co-edited the “Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution,” in which more than 40 researchers from around the world compiled and interpreted valuable economic data and research that may help lawmakers and government officials set policy guidelines concerning prostitution worldwide.

“A number of factors, including the proliferation of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations, have created the need to look at prostitution through an economic lens,” she said.

And yes, like the teenager who traveled to Ecuador decades ago, Shah is still interested in sanitation, a core issue at the intersection of human health and economics
in developing countries.

Research and Public Policy

Shah refers to herself as an applied microeconomist interested in development economics, health and education. “Most of my research fits into those bins,” Shah said.

She has written papers on the long-term impacts of positive rainfall shocks as well as drought in India on human capital outcomes of young children and adolescents, and risk-taking behaviors in the wake of natural disasters, as well as the effects of cash transfer programs on criminal behavior in Indonesia. Behind each are human stories of how policies affect large populations.

Shah’s research on HIV and the sex industry has wide-ranging implications for the health and well-being of not only adults but also vulnerable young people caught up in prostitution around the world.

“These days most of my work is either related to children or adolescents,” Shah said. “I often joke that my switch to research about children perfectly coincides with my becoming a mother. I remember researching questions about child development when I was pregnant and being surprised about how little we know about many important issues related to child cognitive/health and development.”

Shah is the principal investigator of a randomized controlled trial in Tanzania attempting to understand how to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for teenage girls. “I am really excited about this work,” said Shah, who was also recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant to better understand education outcomes for children in rural India.

After teaching stints at the University of Melbourne, Princeton University and UC Irvine, she joined the Luskin faculty in 2013. Today, she teaches microeconomics, development economics and serves as a faculty adviser for the Applied Policy Project (APP), a challenging yearlong requirement for master of public policy students at Luskin.

“Ironically, I learned in grad school that I actually enjoy teaching, and I was sort of good at it,” she said of her classroom duties. Her research topics are heavy, which could lead to frustration about things that should be happening but don’t. “But spend some time with our students and it will put you in a good mood,” she said.

“Our students make me optimistic, and that optimism can be infectious. I love how our students care so deeply about issues that matter to them.”