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Grants Support Challenging Convention, Strengthening Communities

Four members of the UCLA Luskin faculty have received research grants from the Institute on Inequality and Democracy. The 2019-20 grants, among 10 awarded to faculty across the UCLA campus, support research, scholarship and teaching that challenge established academic wisdom, contribute to public debate and/or strengthen communities and movements, the institute said. UCLA Luskin recipients are:

  • Amada Armenta, assistant professor of urban planning, who will study undocumented Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia and their layered, complex relationship with the legal system in their everyday lives.
  • Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, who will use the lessons of Hurricane Sandy to research the key role public housing and infrastructure play in the quest for climate justice.
  • Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, who will create multimedia public narratives that document the stresses of gentrification, displacement and other community changes.
  • Amy Ritterbusch, assistant professor of social welfare, who will develop a restorative justice initiative to take research to the streets, producing knowledge about historically misrepresented communities beyond the confines of academic publication traditions.

In addition to awarding faculty grants of up to $10,000, the Institute on Inequality and Democracy supports research by graduate student working groups. The six groups announced for the 2019-2020 academic year include several urban planning and social welfare students from UCLA Luskin.

Research by Abrams and Barnert Earns Distinction

A study co-authored by Laura Abrams of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and Elizabeth Barnert of the Geffen School of Medicine has been honored as a “highly commended paper” by the 2019 Emerald Literati Awards, which recognizes top-quality scholarly research. The study, published in the International Journal of Prisoner Health in 2018, found that children placed in juvenile detention centers, jails or prisons before their teenage years are much more likely to experience serious physical and mental health issues as adults. More than 20 percent of people who had been incarcerated as children reported poor general health in adulthood, compared with 13 percent for those incarcerated later in life and 8 percent for those never incarcerated, Abrams and Barnert found. The research points to a need for targeted health care for those incarcerated at an early age and calls into question the wisdom of detaining the youngest minors in juvenile halls, probation camps and other facilities. Abrams is professor and chair of Social Welfare; Barnert is a medical doctor and assistant professor of pediatrics. Their collaboration bridges the fields of child health and juvenile justice.


 

Torres-Gil to Advise State on Master Plan for Aging

Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, has been named to an advisory committee formed to guide California’s leaders in the creation of a Master Plan for Aging. The plan is intended to serve as a blueprint that can be used by state government, local communities, private organizations and philanthropy to build environments that promote healthy aging. “The Golden State is getting grayer, and we need to be ready for the major population changes headed our way,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in commissioning the plan. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, appointed Torres-Gil to the new Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which will advise state Cabinet members tasked with drafting the master plan by October 2020. “This is our time to come together to build an age-friendly California,” Ghaly said. “Government cannot do this alone — I challenge all Californians to join us in building a California Dream that is inclusive of our older and disabled neighbors.” Torres-Gil’s career spans the academic, professional and policy arenas, and he is a nationally recognized authority on health care, entitlement reform and the politics of aging. He is director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin and co-author of “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” 


 

Park Researches Unequal Learning in a Warming World

Extreme heat and a lack of air conditioning in classrooms contribute to the nation’s racial education achievement gap, according to research by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy. His study, forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, is the first peer-reviewed paper to put dollar figures on the costs and social benefits of air conditioning in schools. Using data from more than 10 million middle- and high-school students across the United States, Park and his colleagues found that students who experience more hot days during the school year perform worse on standardized exams. Up to 40 percent of U.S. schools may not be fully air conditioned. Although black and Hispanic students overwhelmingly reside in hotter locations than white students, they are 9 percent less likely to have school air conditioning, the researchers found.  In hot places such as Houston and Atlanta, each additional year of sufficient school air conditioning could boost collective future earnings by up to $2 million in any given high school of 1,000 students, the study found. Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation, advocates for air conditioning powered by clean energy that does not contribute to climate change. “We must recognize that adapting to climate change is a matter of racial and economic justice, especially in schools,” Park wrote in a USA Today op-ed. Keeping students cool could be a cost-effective way to boost climate resilience, promote learning and economic mobility, and narrow the gap between our nation’s haves and have-nots.”

Read more about Park’s research and past work.


 

Tilly’s ‘Where Bad Jobs Are Better’ Earns Book Prize

Professor Chris Tilly with his prize-winning book at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting.

“Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs Across Countries and Companies,” written by Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly and Françoise Carré, received the 2019 Distinguished Scholarly Monograph Award from the American Sociological Association’s labor and labor movements section. The book, which identifies room for improvement in the U.S. retail sector, was cited for its rigorous research, concise writing and deep relevance to students, scholars and activists. By comparing working conditions in seven countries, the authors conclude that low wages, unpredictable work schedules and limited opportunities for advancement are not an inevitable characteristic of the retail sector. “Where Bad Jobs Are Better” previously won the 2018 William G. Bowen Award from Princeton University for its contribution toward understanding public policy related to industrial relations and the operation of labor markets. It was named a finalist for the 2018 George R. Terry Book Award from the Academy of Management.

Improving India’s Mom-and-Pop Pharmacies


 

Armenta’s ‘Protect, Serve, and Deport’ Receives Book Prizes

“Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement,” written by Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Amada Armenta, has received two awards from the American Sociological Association (ASA). The book explains how local police and jail employees in Nashville, Tenn., were pulled into a federal deportation system that removed nearly 10,000 immigrants in five years, many for minor violations. Armenta will accept the Distinguished Book Award from the Sociology of Law Section and the Distinguished Contribution to Research Book Award from the Latina/o Sociology Section at the ASA’s annual meeting in New York from Aug. 10-13. At the conference, Armenta will also present research from her ongoing project on unauthorized immigrants in Philadelphia.


 

Crowdsourcing L.A.’s Transit Challenges


 

Phillips Receives Grant to Develop Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Meredith Phillips, chair of undergraduate affairs at UCLA Luskin, has received an inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Research. Phillips will use the $10,000 grant to develop a new undergraduate course that will bring students and local organizations into a research partnership for the benefit of the wider community. Titled “Making Data Useful for Educational Improvement,” Phillips’ course will equip students to analyze student and staff survey data from elementary, middle and high schools, and present those data to educators and administrators who are seeking to improve their schools. “Community-engaged research creates outstanding learning opportunities for undergraduate students, advances the research of our faculty and benefits our community,” Chancellor Gene Block said in announcing the six faculty recipients of the new award, which is co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Community Learning. In the coming year, the award recipients will work together to establish guidelines for elevating the learning experience for undergraduates. Their courses, which will be offered in the 2020-21 or 2021-22 academic years, will cover a range of issues, including minority communities, health disparities, environmental justice and education. “This award recognizes faculty for their community-engaged research efforts and at the same time creates a new set of community-engaged course offerings for undergraduates,” said Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology. “This first set of courses is just the beginning of what I expect will eventually be an extensive suite of courses, across a wide range of disciplines, that will connect UCLA students’ research training with the needs of our local community.”

Heymann Leads Research on Disability Rights and Gender Equality

Two research efforts led by Jody Heymann, distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA, were released recently at the United Nations and in the journal Lancet. Heymann is founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center, which presented a report to a U.N. session on the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The report by the WORLD center, part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, assessed compliance with the convention, which lays out global commitments to uphold the rights of those with disabilities. Since its adoption in 2006, 177 of the 193 U.N. member states have ratified the convention. “Every child on the planet has the right to fully accessible, quality education and every adult has the right to dignified work without discrimination, but not all countries are fulfilling these rights,” Heymann said. “Our analysis shows that the world is further behind in guaranteeing these fundamental human rights to persons with disabilities when compared to other groups.” The Lancet published research Heymann led on another topic: improving health by breaking down gender barriers. The researchers reviewed policies such as tuition-free primary education and paid parental leave, and assessed their potential to transform gender norms, battle inequality and make communities healthier. “Policymakers need to take the steps that have been proven to reduce discrimination and increase gender equality in education, work and income, each a social determinant of health,” the research team found.