Reber Finds Shocking Race Gap in Coronavirus Deaths

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

Manville on Reaching a Traffic Tipping Point

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Boston Globe about an uptick in traffic as the Boston metropolitan area reopens. Transit officials view the increased congestion as a real-time experiment to determine how much traffic the region’s highways can take before hitting their tipping points. Manville explained that, once a road nears capacity, each additional vehicle gums things up exponentially. “In ‘The Three Stooges,’ the classic trope is they all try and go through a door at once and they get stuck. If they had just walked through individually, not only could all of them have gone through the door but an almost infinite number of people could have gone in behind them,” he said. “You can have an incredibly high flow going through a door, or on a road, as long as a critical mass isn’t trying to do so at once.”

II&D Study Cited in Reports on L.A. Plans to Aid Renters

News reports about a $100-million rent relief program passed by the Los Angeles City Council cited research by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) on the threat of mass evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package is the largest passed by any U.S. city to help tenants pay their rent, according to the Los Angeles Times. It is more than three times as large as a relief program approved by L.A. County supervisors, who cited the II&D report. However, an L.A. Times editorial said the city and county programs are “woefully insufficient to meet the overwhelming need for serious and sustained housing assistance.” The II&D study estimates that tens of thousands of households in Los Angeles County could fall into homelessness due to the pandemic. The research was also spotlighted in an ABC 7 News report that laid out steps that renters can take if threatened with eviction.


Lens on Pandemic’s Effect on Housing Crisis

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, spoke to Dear Pandemic about housing market factors that are affecting how the pandemic is unfolding. Lens said he worries about the “short- and immediate-term losses of income of people who were already very tenuously housed.” For many families already spending huge amounts of their income on rent, the loss of one or two paychecks can mean being foreclosed on or evicted. While short-term policy interventions in the form of income and unemployment support and eviction moratoria have been implemented, they generally do not cancel or lower rent. Lens asked, “What happens when the eviction moratoria are lifted and people are still not able to pay?” In the short term, people must be sheltered without sinking into debt or losing their savings. In the long term, Lens said, the systemic problems of the housing crisis must be fixed.

Blood Donation Ban Rooted in Fear, Not Science, Holloway Says

Associate Professor of Social Welfare Ian Holloway was featured in a Washington Post video about the FDA’s recent decision to ease restrictions on blood donations from gay men. In 1985, the FDA prohibited blood donations from men who had sex with other men even once since 1977. “I think it’s important to recognize that the ban really is rooted in discriminatory attitudes and based on fear and not science,” Holloway explained. In 2015, the lifetime ban became a 12-month ban, which was lowered to three months of abstinence this year. Many gay men who have recovered from COVID-19 have been disheartened to find that they are unable to donate antibodies due to the restrictions. “Many hold the opinion, myself included, that the ban is based on stigma, not science,” Holloway said. “I think the shortening of the deferral period is a step in the right direction, but I don’t think it goes far enough.”

Stoll Comments on How Housing Crisis Affects Black Californians

Public Policy Professor Michael Stoll commented in a CalMatters article on how California’s housing crisis is worse for Black communities following decades of systemic racism. The article shows that significant barriers continue to exist for Black communities and individuals in building and retaining wealth compared to whites and other ethnic groups within the state. Data shows that California cities are typically less segregated than in the Northeast or Midwest. In part, this is due to gentrification and displacement pressures on Black communities in urban cores, notably Los Angeles and the Bay Area. “African Americans and to a lesser extent Latinos are moving to suburban areas at the fastest clip we’ve observed since the civil rights era,” Stoll said. But patterns of segregation continue, he said, noting, “It’s hard to become a socially cohesive place if people are living in different neighborhoods and not being able to communicate and work together around common interests.”


Weisburst on Pinpointing the Source of Racial Disparities in Policing

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst co-authored an EconoFact article highlighting racial disparities in policing from an economics research perspective. Protests following the death of George Floyd have brought a new focus to racial disparities in U.S. policing. Economics research has historically sought to understand the role of police officer prejudice or bias in perpetuating the disparities. Newer studies have attempted to evaluate police use-of-force patterns and the effectiveness of reforms such as civilian oversight, de-escalation training and predictive analysis in hiring. Weisburst’s research looks at the extent to which disparity in treatment corresponds to widespread police behavior versus the actions of particular police officers. “Race disparities in policing reflect multiple potential sources of inequities and discrimination,” the authors wrote. They called for more research to pinpoint the source of the disparity and identify the most effective reforms.

Prolific Research Output by Ong Garners Media Coverage

Research Professor Paul Ong has shepherded myriad research studies amid COVID-19 on topics that relate to his role as director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, often in partnership with other UCLA research entities. A wide variety of media outlets have provided coverage:

  • Ong told that many immigrants and workers of color are not receiving unemployment benefits and will soon start to run out of money.
  • In a story about food insecurity by ABC News Radio, Ong said that Black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles have more barriers to sheltering in place, including lack of access to food and “huge disparities in terms of trying to manage or survive under COVID-19.”
  • Ong spoke about community investment in Echo Park with Curbed Los Angeles, drawing on his urban planning expertise to discuss community land trusts, which don’t exist to make a profit.
  • A Los Angeles Daily News story cited a study by Ong about the response rate to the 2020 U.S. Census. “We are critically behind,” he said. “Some groups such as low-income people, communities of color, renters and young children are at risk of being missed.

Reber Recommends Allocating More School Aid to Higher-Poverty States

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

Research on Acceptance of Transgender Troops Cited

A UCLA Luskin Social Welfare study finding widespread support of transgender troops within the U.S. military was featured in a report on National Public Radio. The study, funded by the U.S. Defense Department and co-authored by doctoral candidate Shannon Dunlap, Associate Professor Ian Holloway and others, showed strong acceptance across the four branches of the military and across racial lines and sexual orientation. “This broad support from cisgender, heterosexual and LGB service members really just speaks to the valuable contributions that diversity does bring to the United States military,” Dunlap said. The study found the highest rates of acceptance among service members who identified as gay, as women or as people of color. Dunlap attributed this support to the ongoing fight for equality for many marginalized groups. “They really have historically gone through great lengths to serve honorably in the U.S. military, and they experience the same stressors,” she said.