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.”

 

A Final Test for Policy Analysis Projects UCLA Luskin public policy master’s degree culminates in a public forum in which students present Applied Policy Projects on issues of regional, global importance

By Stan Paul

By necessity, the Master of Public Policy (MPP) students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs quickly begin learning skills and tools to complete the program and prepare for problem-solving careers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The students, working in groups, must clear one final hurdle to graduate: the Applied Policy Project presentation.  Each group has 20 minutes to impress faculty and peers by showcasing what they have learned during two rigorous years of study.

Each year, a diverse group of clients “hire” the students, usually in teams of two or more, to tackle real-world problems and offer actionable recommendations and feasible solutions.

“I think one of the exciting aspects of the APP is the variety of topics covered,” said Manisha Shah, associate professor of public policy and faculty coordinator of the program. “Because our students have a diverse set of interests and because we encourage them to identify their own clients, the result is an interesting variety of APP projects.”

Among this year’s clients were the Southern California Association of Governments, Covered California, Peterson Institute for International Economics and a member of the California State Assembly. Internal clients included a research center within the Luskin School, a professional program elsewhere on campus and the University of California’s Office of the President.

“The first-year curriculum of the MPP program is tool-driven,” Shah said. “What I mean by that is we try to give students a diverse set of tools — both quantitative and qualitative — that will help guide them through the APP process and ultimately go out into the real world and conduct policy analysis on issues close to their hearts.”

Shah said she was fortunate to advise a diverse set of APP groups this year. One group of students found that behavioral tools such as reciprocity and commitment devices should be implemented in schools to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in an attempt to combat obesity. Another group helped improve the service delivery model of an organization in L.A. that tries to get at-risk youth into better employment opportunities. And another group proposed interventions and policies aimed at reducing displacement and gentrification in South L.A.

In all, 18 presentations were made. Luskin faculty watched and then asked questions that tested the students’ depth and breadth of knowledge and the thoroughness of their projects.

The range of projects is broad, including:

  • Local and regional issues such as investments in electric vehicle charging stations in Los Angeles and a rent stabilization ordinance to prevent displacement of low-income minority communities in South Los Angeles.
  • Statewide issues such as bail reform, insuring Californians, health care, access to water and juvenile justice.
  • National and global issues like mitigating the negative impacts of trade on employment in the U.S. auto industry and improving local-level governance amid decentralization reforms in the Ukraine.

A closer look at some of this year’s APPs follows.

Gender Issues in Engineering

Applying qualitative and quantitative methods to their study for the UC’s Office of the President, Traci Kawaguchi, Yuhan Sun and Eri Suzuki focused on the need for connections in their analysis of system-wide retention by gender in engineering at the undergraduate level. They initially determined that the retention rate of female engineering students was significantly lower than for male engineering classmates across the UC system.

Their faculty adviser, Professor of Public Policy John Villasenor, also holds an appointment in electrical engineering at UCLA. He helped connect them with UCLA engineering students, which led to interviews with aspiring female engineers.

Women and men had similar levels of academic performance in the first year, but the qualitative interview uncovered that “affinity groups play a key role in affirming engineering identity and belonging in the field,” according to the UCLA Luskin students’ written summary.

“I think the big thing that came up was just the idea of fitting in,” Kawaguchi said. “When you go into a classroom that is 80 percent male … it may make you feel that you don’t necessarily belong.”

Team members analyzed policy options based on anticipated effectiveness, cost feasibility and institutional feasibility, and they recommended support for female students based on a sense of community and belonging. Adoption of residential living communities and formal peer mentoring programs for female undergraduate students in engineering were also recommended.

 A Program to Help Plug-In Commuters

Another APP team focused on plug-in vehicles with a limited range on all-electric power that switch to gasoline-based power after batteries are exhausted. Specifically, the group studied how workplace charging stations in Los Angeles could increase the number of miles that vehicles travel without burning gasoline.

MPP students James Di Filippo, Mahito Moriyama, Toru Terai, Kelly Trumbull and Jiahui Zhang completed their project, “Prioritizing Electric Vehicle Charging Station Investments in Los Angeles County,” for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Their model combined commuting data from SCAG’s transportation demand study with plug-in electric vehicle registration data, information on vehicle all-electric range, and point data on existing charging infrastructure locations.

The students found that nearly 6,000 plug-in hybrid commuters could benefit from workplace charging but currently do not have access. Full support of those commuters’ vehicles would yield about 76,000 additional miles driven on electric power each day.

The potential increase is concentrated in just a few zones. Di Filippo said that the group used a tool from the Environmental Protection Agency to identify zones that fall within disadvantaged communities that might require additional support, which were more than a third of all zones identified as having potential for investment across Los Angeles County. SCAG should direct additional funding toward those disadvantaged communities to ensure that the benefits are distributed equitably, the students said.

Di Filippo said that the APP process was challenging but rewarding. “I credit my teammates for pulling together quickly, conceptualizing and delivering a strong report that offers actionable information for SCAG’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure siting decisions in only eight weeks,” he said. “My team was fortunate to have the support of faculty and peers who were invaluable in shaping our thinking on key aspects of the report.”

Healthy Food for Children

Sarah White and teammates Sydney Ganon, Hiroto Iwaoka and Jonathan McIlroy examined behavioral economics for tools in nutrition education curricula. Their goal was to promote long-term healthy food choices and habits in third and fourth grade students in light of a growing recognition of negative health outcomes of childhood obesity.

“While the field of behavioral economics is still fairly new, we read a lot of the existing literature and had reason to believe that really low-cost interventions could potentially have large impacts on getting people to make better choices for themselves,” White said.

One challenge that behavioral economics has “rarely, if at all, studied within the realm of children’s nutrition.” That made evaluating different policy options more difficult. “We had to evaluate each policy option on our own,” White said.

The group’s recommendations bundled three potential behavioral tools that are cost-effective. Giving attractive names such as “power peas” to fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria would frame foods in a way that is appealing to children. Giving students something as simple as a sticker and thanking them for choosing the healthy option would promote reciprocity. Having students set goals for eating better would make them more likely to stay committed.

Ayappa Biddanda

Rocking his Comeback

For one student, Ayappa Biddanda, the final APP presentation was a long time in the making. In the early 2000s he left UCLA Luskin to pursue an opportunity that turned into a career in the music industry. He came back this year to do his final presentation — and thus finish his master’s degree.

Biddanda’s project evaluated the impact of an educational enrichment program called Rock the Classroom that paired local musicians with students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Biddanda’s solo presentation on the final night of the APP program literally rocked the classroom with musical sound bites and his enthusiastic, informative and professionally presented argument that, in education, “art matters.”

A Fond Farewell

Wrapping up two decades of APP presentations, Mark Peterson, chair of the department, thanked the students for their efforts. “I really want you all to applaud yourselves,” he said. “The hard work that went into all of the presentations was obvious to us all, and we really just admire the time you put into all of this and the work that you did to put these presentations on a scale of professionalism that we like to see.”

The 2017 APPs ended on a bittersweet note, with Peterson acknowledging the retirement of a key player. Maciek Kolodziejczak is a longtime UCLA staff member who joined the public policy program when it was founded more than 20 years ago and has long coordinated the APP presentations.

“Sadly, this is the last time that this part of the APP program will be orchestrated, moderated and run by Maciek,” Peterson said.


From the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed:

2017 Applied Policy Project presentations

Can L.A. Fix its Broken Planning System? UCLA Luskin urban planners discuss the challenges — and possible solutions — to L.A.’s development woes

By Les Dunseith

“In Los Angeles, we do have a rather broken planning system,” Michael Lens, an assistant professor of urban planning, said during an interview after the defeat of a controversial ballot initiative, Measure S, that had sought to clamp down on Los Angeles development.

Lens and other UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in housing density, land use and the related issues of home affordability and transportation say Measure S reflected long-simmering dissatisfaction with how vital decisions about growth, density and housing affordability are made. And they hope increased public awareness will lead to positive change in the state’s planning process.

“L.A. has a very low-density zoning law,” explained Michael Manville MA ’03 PhD ’09, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin. “Its general plan is set up for the city as it was 40 years ago. The zoning never caught up with the fact that L.A. became much more urban.

“Now, as a result, in many parts of the city, to build any kind of housing that we actually need — multifamily housing — it’s illegal.”

That means that a zoning exception must be granted for large housing projects, which leads to often-protracted negotiations between developers and members of the L.A. City Council.

“There is a feeling — that is often true — that developers can get something built if they give enough money to the right council member in the right circumstance,” Lens said. “Then the developers build something big where the community never expected something big to go.”

The current process often frustrates citizens, but the benefits to select policymakers and large real estate developers get in the way of reform efforts, Manville noted.

“Developers who can afford to play the game like it,” Manville said, noting that although they must wait as long as a year to start building on land that is sitting unused during negotiations, the developers end up with the “right to build extra units in a very hot property market. And that probably means more profit.”

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Paavo Monkkonen MPP ’05 recently analyzed California’s ongoing housing crisis in a policy brief, or white paper, that provides a detailed look at why people are deeply troubled by the current process as outlined in California’s General Plan and various community plans that govern housing density decisions.

“One of the main things I learned in writing the white paper is that nobody likes new development near them,” Monkkonen said.

The result is a Catch-22 that squeezes the general public from both directions, leaving the average L.A. resident with a choice between paying high rent or seeking a risky loan to buy a home they really can’t afford.

‘A City Can Only Sprawl So Far’

A look at the population and housing numbers for Los Angeles clearly illustrates the problem, said UCLA Luskin’s Joan Ling MA UP ‘82, a longtime lecturer in urban planning who has deep experience in real estate analysis and affordable housing. She cited a study by Greg Morrow PhD ’13. “In 1960, there were 2 million people living in the City of Los Angeles, and the zoning capacity was set for 10 million people. In 2010, the city’s population was 4 million people, but the zoning capacity had been reduced to 4.3 million. So, in fact, we had enough zoning capacity for only 200,000 to 300,000 in additional growth.”

It’s a bad situation that is projected to get even worse. By 2040, Los Angeles is projected to grow by another 800,000 people.

“So where are these people going to go?” Ling asked. “That’s the real problem.”

California has enticing natural features. But most areas are unsuitable for human occupation, or the land is already used by industry or agriculture.

“A city can only sprawl so far,” Ling explained, noting that traffic in Southern California has become a daily nightmare for many people.

The NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome is an ever-present issue in California, Monkkonen said. When a new, higher-density project is proposed almost anywhere, neighborhoods rise up to block it. “So this is what happens when we have built horizontally to the fringes of the metropolitan area as much as commute times will allow — we get traffic jams and a lack of affordable housing,” he explained.

California’s flawed system of zoning effectively blocks housing affordability, according to several faculty members in the Department of Urban Planning. For example, Monkkonen noted that condos are much cheaper to build and thus much more affordable than single-family homes, but condos “are illegal in 75 percent of L.A. Effectively, using the power of the state, we have prevented the majority of the people in the U.S. and the majority of the people in L.A. from ever buying a home.”

The state’s love of automobiles and its idyllic notion of cul-de-sac suburbs — the California Dream itself — is part of the problem.

“People come here with a certain picture of Los Angeles,” Lens noted. “A place with yards. A place where you have the freedom to get in your car and go where you need to go.”

‘A Horrible Place to Walk or Bike’

It’s a belief system that also contributes to a popular “American idea that when you talk about density, you talk about high-rise buildings,” Manville said. “Not too many people understand that Paris is twice as dense as New York City, and Paris has no high-rise buildings. It’s just that it’s consistently four to six stories.”

Manville thinks that Los Angeles could get a lot denser, and yet remain livable, just by turning many single-story neighborhoods into two-story neighborhoods, especially along major boulevards.

“L.A. has pulled off this amazing trick, where you have a city in which large portions are relatively flat, where the weather is always nice, and it’s a horrible place to walk or bike,” Manville said.

Certainly, a denser neighborhood is going to end up with more congestion, Manville acknowledged. “But the thing that people forget is that most of their driving probably isn’t in their neighborhood. If [new housing] is not built in their neighborhood, then it’s going to be built somewhere. And they’re probably still going to encounter those cars somewhere else.”

If the density is done well, then people experience more opportunities not to be in their cars. “If the density isn’t done well, then you can get the worst of all worlds,” he said.

A denser neighborhood, if it’s designed carefully, becomes a more pleasant place to walk and live. Manville points to London, which embraced the idea that to manage its congestion, it needed to charge people to drive.

“If you actually do something that makes congestion better — which is what charging does and nothing else does — then you can knock down a lot of the concerns about more density. And a lot more good things can flow from that,” Manville said.

The congestion toll in London has added housing and allowed transportation authorities to “take back a lot of the space that had previously been allocated to cars,” Manville said. “There are just so many more sidewalks and bicycle lanes and lanes dedicated to buses that make the transit go much faster.”

Monkkonen points to Vancouver, Canada, as another potential model for Los Angeles. “It’s a place where single-family home neighborhoods have had the density increased without changing how it looks. In Vancouver, they have a basement unit, a ground-level unit and a second-floor unit. They look like single-family homes, but there are actually three households there.”

The only way to handle a constantly growing population, Monkkonen argued, is to set aside our neighborhood-based ideals and look at the region as a whole.

Like her colleagues, Ling sees the need to increase housing density in Los Angeles, but it is “equally important to require that this density be coupled with inclusionary zoning.
A proportion of this extra density must be built as affordable housing.”

In downtown Los Angeles, a boom in construction has brought gleaming new high-rises along with a handful of medium-density projects. Most people think downtown is better now, Ling said, but it’s not a model that works throughout the city.

A Tipping Point for California?

Where, then, should the new housing be built?

“That’s the question,” Ling said. “Where are we going to put it? If this planning was rational, we would put them where the density is most-suited, where people most want to live. But, in reality, issues like this are very much decided on the local level, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, district-by-district.”

In Monkkonen’s view, the best chance to solve California’s housing crisis lies at the state level. In his white paper, he says the state should take action by enforcing and enhancing existing laws, developing ways to make planning decisions at a metropolitan, not neighborhood, scale.

“As long as cities decide within their boundaries where to put the housing, it will work,” Monkkonen said of the idea. “The state would just say, ‘You must have housing,’ and enforce the rules if cities do not comply.”

The state has had rules on the books for 40 years to promote the creation of new housing, but they are rarely enforced. Perhaps California has reached a tipping point that would make state action more feasible?

“Oregon gets a lot of attention in planning scholarship,” Manville said. “They do have a very strong statewide land use program, where the state plays a very active role.”

California could do it too, even in places where resistance would be strong.

These ideas — stronger statewide leadership, looser zoning laws, smarter growth, improved transit, denser housing — are viewed by the UCLA Luskin faculty members as essential changes. Despite the disenchantment that spawned Measure S and similar outcries over growth, they remain generally upbeat about the region’s prospects for a more livable future.

In 20 years, Ling said, “I hope we would live comfortably and closely together, in a city were we don’t need to drive anymore because there will be autonomous cars that move us from our house to the transit station. I’d like L.A. to look like many of the arrondissements in central Paris, filled with six-story buildings in a walkable neighborhood.

“That’s what I would like to see. And we have to believe that it’s possible,” she said, pausing a moment to consider what may happen if the advice of planners like her continues to go unheard. “Otherwise, it could be very bad.”

Proud to be Part of the Luskin Community International students share their experiences, dreams and awareness of anxiety in an uncertain world

By George Foulsham

Eri Suzuki, a Public Policy master’s student from Japan; JianChao Lai, a Social Welfare PhD student from China; and Jorge Loor, an Urban Planning master’s student from Ecuador — described the challenges faced by international students and their families in a world filled with anxiety.

What led you as an international scholar to choose California and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs?

Suzuki: I worked at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. The Japanese government has a program that provides for government officials who have several years of work experience to study abroad. I was in charge of the Japanese National University division and my job was mainly to interpret the law of Japanese National Universities. And through working at the Higher Education Bureau in Japan I realized that there are so many problems in Japanese higher education policy, like tuition, scholarships, finance and budget at universities, especially since the Japanese economy is shrinking right now. So I started getting interested in studying in the U.S. because there are so many world-famous universities here. And I thought maybe as being a grad student I can learn hints or key factors that can be applied to Japanese universities. So I decided to apply to this program through the Japanese government.

Lai: I did my undergrad in social work in China. Social work is a newly developed major — we did not have it 30 years ago. It is fairly new and it’s not complete. So I went to America to study social work. I went to Wisconsin for my MSW. I love to come to large cities like New York and L.A., a more vibrant city feel, and also because of the reputation of UCLA. And I did some stalking online for professors and I found my adviser, Todd Franke. He really matches with my interests, and he is such a great mentor. So I decided to come here, and it’s been a great decision so far.

Loor: I was at a grad school fair when I was at the University of Texas — this was back in 2008 or 2009 — and this school (Luskin) was there. I was toying with this idea to go into urban studies at Texas. My degree is in civil engineering and I wanted something else so I added on history. While I was fulfilling the major I got into an urban studies class and I liked it. I always wanted to come back to L.A. and since I knew this school existed and this program existed, and I knew I wanted to come back to L.A., so I only applied to UCLA. I didn’t apply anywhere else because I know there is a certain prestige to the name. This was just a really good program.

There’s been a lot of talk about travel bans being instituted by our new president. Has that impacted your life in any way? What kinds of things are you hearing from family, friends and other international students about this issue?

Suzuki: As a government official at Japan’s Ministry of Education, I am really concerned about the ban’s effect in the near future on the interaction between Japanese and American students or researchers, or the number of Japanese people who want to study abroad here. They may decide not to come here because they realize maybe that the ban will affect getting a visa to come here.

Lai: The travel ban hasn’t impacted me or my family that much, but the new president’s attitude and actions toward women — cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and Violence Against Women Act, and science education and the EPA — some of my friends are directly influenced by those actions. As a female and a student researcher, that concerns me a lot — together with the travel ban. The globalization process is inevitable, and only through cooperation between countries can we make win-win situations. These actions may only cause hatred and discrimination, but can’t bring the good side of humankind.

Loor: Just tangentially because my mom went to Jordan a few weeks ago for a vacation with her sister. I was just worried about it, though there was no real problem. It is a bummer that you have to think about this. The ICE (Immigrant and Customs Enforcement) crackdowns are a big deal here in L.A. I haven’t been directly affected by it, but still I am just hyper aware because of the nature of what I am studying and the nature of the social consciousness of the cohort as a whole.

How has Luskin prepared you to deal with the challenges you may face upon graduation?

Suzuki: I have to return to the ministry of education so I have to continue working. I still am interested in higher education policy. So I really want to work in the higher education policy division but also at the same time my ministry is in charge of sports policy. In 2020 the Olympics Games are coming to Japan and we have the sports agency in the education ministry. So I want to help the city of Tokyo host the Olympic games in 2020. One thing that I learned here is a lot of quantitative analysis skill that I never learned in Japan. It was a really great opportunity for me to learn that skill. I really want to emphasize the importance of data when making education policies once I return to Japan.

Lai: I’m thinking about being a professor or researcher. I used to focus on the clinical side, but then I thought that is really limited, doing just therapy and counseling. I hope one day, using my research, I can actually advocate for those people who have been ignored in research or in services.

I think the resources that Luskin has provided are great: mentorship, the classes, the connections with other schools and other researchers that are related to my interests. That also helped prepare for my research and just doing independent work. And my social skills. And the supportive platform is really important. I felt really welcome here.

Loor: I will more than likely have to go into the private sector. I’ve taken Joan Ling’s three housing courses. For me, at least with my background in engineering, I’m well-suited to go into real estate development, hopefully with some affordable housing development component. Luskin really prepares you a lot. I was looking at jobs earlier this week, and I realized that I am qualified for real estate financial analyst, and I’d never thought about doing this for a career.

America in the Balance A Senior Fellows talk at UCLA Luskin by two political veterans reminds students that legislative success in America depends on compromise, not on who can yell the loudest  

By Les Dunseith

Today, national politics is dominated by rancor, name-calling and partisanship. The pressure to pick a side and take up the battle against enemies on the political left or right can seem particularly intense for the students who study public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As former GOP gubernatorial candidate William “Bill” Simon reminded attendees during a Senior Fellows Lecture Series discussion on June 8, 2017, actually getting things done in politics requires compromise and consensus.

“I feel very strongly that there is a role for sensibility. There is a role for courtesy,” Simon told a group of UCLA Luskin students and faculty members. “You have to have courtesy for people who don’t agree with you.”

The value of being open-minded was particularly apt given that the spirited discussion took place on the UCLA campus and also included political strategist Dan Schnur, who is a faculty member at cross-town rival USC.

“It’s really easy to point to the most irrational and repulsive voices on the other side and use them as an excuse not to engage with someone who doesn’t agree with you,” Schnur said of the current political climate. “I remind people that someone who disagrees with me 80 percent of the time isn’t my enemy. She’s someone I can work with 20 percent of the time. And think of what we can accomplish in that 20 percent.”

A wide-ranging Q&A session included discussions about volunteerism, student activism and speculation about the 2018 California governor’s race. The speakers addressed international issues like climate change. But the session was dominated by talk of the turmoil in Washington, D.C.

The gathering was organized by VC Powe, director of career services and leadership development, in part because of a request from students — some of them from other countries.

“College campuses like UCLA can be liberal-leaning, so it was great to see students come forward, asking for speakers who could talk about the current presidential administration from a more conservative and independent-thinking viewpoint,” Powe said. “We need to create more spaces like this for meaningful dialogue.”

Schnur is registered as a “no party preference” voter nowadays, but his resumé includes stints working as a communications director for Republican Sen. John McCain and a former GOP governor of California, Pete Wilson. Simon is a businessman and philanthropist who has co-taught a class at USC with Schnur and also serves as a visiting professor at UCLA in law and economics. He described himself during the UCLA gathering as an “unapologetic conservative Republican.”

Simon told the students that America is currently at an important intersection in history in which political consensus has eroded. He reminded them of another highly charged time of partisan politics.

“You had a conservative Republican like Ronald Reagan in the ’80s who could still get something done with a liberal Democrat like Tip O’Neill,” he said of the former president and House speaker, who ended up finding enough common ground to produce landmark reforms of welfare, taxes and Social Security. “And I think that has now been lost.”

The current political discord may turn out to be a historical aberration, Schnur said, pointing out that it’s a worthwhile reminder of what makes America unique. By happenstance, the UCLA session occurred on the same day as opening testimony by former FBI Director James Comey about whether President Donald Trump had acted improperly in seeking to derail an investigation of possible ties to Russia among Trump allies.

“A country’s chief executive is being questioned for what the head of our domestic law enforcement agency called ‘deeply disturbing behavior,’ and there is a constitutional process in place for another branch or branches of government to check that behavior should it become necessary,” Schnur said. “Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, whether you are a no party preference or a Green or a Libertarian or a vegetarian, you ought to be able to take some real comfort, if not some real pride, in the idea … that there is a process and a system in place to address these potential excesses in a completely appropriate and legal and constitutional manner.”

Both Schnur and Simon said the country’s political divide certainly is being exacerbated by the actions and behavior of Trump.

“This is as much hatred as I have ever seen for a person in the political arena. And I think that’s too bad,” said Simon, who noted that he personally dislikes the president and questions his tactics despite agreeing with certain actions, including his choice of Neil Gorsuch to join the U.S. Supreme Court.

“But 62 million people voted for Trump. So obviously there is something going on,” Simon said.

He said many people who voted for Trump did so because they felt like their views had been overlooked.

“They didn’t trust anybody that got elected, Republican or Democrat. It was just a way of protesting the establishment,” Simon suggested. “It wasn’t so much that Trump resonated with them politically. Trump resonated with them emotionally. Because he was angry.”

Schnur said he also is no fan of Trump. He thinks the current political gridlock in Washington likely will be transitory and noted that the 2016 election result is already motivating party leaders to rethink policy positions and election strategy. Perhaps the end result will be a more thoughtful, reflective American electorate.

“Politics doesn’t lead society. Politics reflects society,” he said.

Schnur pulled out his cellphone and spoke about the wonderful sense of freedom and empowerment it provides to him, noting the near-constant flow of information and access to entertainment, ideas and opinions.

Then he pointed to the ear buds.

“As soon as I put these plugs in my ears to listen to my favorite music, I immediately lose any interest in what you are listening to,” Schnur said, motioning toward Simon as he continued the metaphor. “If I have one set of cable stations, and he has another. If I have one set of podcasts and websites, and he has another … we are not just disagreeing on the issues of the day. We are experiencing two entirely different versions of reality.”

Turning back to the gathering of students and faculty, and hinting at their desire to weather the current political storm and pursue careers that improve American policy, Schnur continued.

“What can we do? We can take the plugs out of our ears.”