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Democracy Challenged? The 2024 Berggruen Governance Index Updated report examines new data about the relationship between the quality of democracy, governance and life around the world over time

The world has taken a small step backward on the path of democracy since 2010, according to a global index released this week by an international group of researchers. The 2024 Berggruen Governance Index, or BGI, shows slippage of measurable benchmarks of democratic accountability across 145 countries — from a 2010 average of 67 on a 100-point scale to 65 points in 2021, the latest year for which data is available. The global average had risen from 64 to 67 points between 2000 and 2010. The 96-page report, “Democracy Challenged,” was unveiled Wednesday by researchers at UCLA who collaborated on the project with the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute and the Berlin-based Hertie School. The report led by Helmut Anheier of UCLA Luskin examines the relationship between the quality of democracy, the quality of governance and the quality of life in over 140 countries over 20 years. The finding of slippage in the BGI’s Democratic Accountability Index is only a small setback, which “tempers some of the more dire assessments about the future of democracy,” the authors wrote. Countries with some of the largest declines in the democracy index are India, China, Venezuela, Thailand, Turkey, Yemen and Russia. In the European Union, Poland and Hungary saw significant backsliding, according to the report. The United States, which had risen from 91 to 95 points in the decade through 2010, has since fallen back to 86 on the democracy index. State capacity in the U.S. is also sliding, from a steady 79 points in 2010 to 64 in 2021. Yet on the public goods index, the country has steadily climbed from 84 points in 2000 to 87 in 2021. Democracy News Alliance


Millard-Ball Receives Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award

Adam Millard-Ball, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, has received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments by scientists and scholars from around the world. Trained as an economist, geographer and urban planner, Millard-Ball conducts research on transportation, the environment and urban data science. Award recipients are invited to collaborate with scholars based in Germany, and Millard-Ball is currently on sabbatical at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin. Each year, the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award, named after the noted German astronomer and mathematician, is given to 10 to 20 internationally renowned academics. The awards are funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research and administered by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which promotes scientific advances, academic exchanges and cultural dialogue across borders. Award recipients were honored at a symposium in Bamberg, Germany, in March.


Persistent Gaps for Black Californians Would Take Over 248 Years to Close

Almost two decades ago, the inaugural State of Black California report, authored by UCLA Luskin Public Policy Professor Michael Stoll, was the first to provide a comprehensive look at how the material conditions and socioeconomic outcomes for Black Californians fared compared to other racial and ethnic groups. The latest report, published by the Black Policy Project, an initiative of the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, builds upon its predecessor by providing a comparative analysis with a sobering message: Despite improvements in the quality of life for Black communities in California since 2000, racial inequality stubbornly persists and may continue to do so for centuries to come unless more is done. Using an extensive set of census data, researchers found:

  • Black Californians’ overall socioeconomic outcomes improved by an average of 21.7% from 2000 to 2020, yet they still have the lowest index score of all racial minority groups and a 30% lower score than white Californians.
  • For the first time in decades, the Black Californian population decreased in size, from 2.2 million to 2.1 million, and many moved out of urban centers.
  • The biggest improvements in outcomes were bolstered by policy changes, particularly in relation to education and criminal justice.

Stoll, the faculty director of the Black Policy Project who also authored this year’s report, noted that Black Californians closed the overall racial gap in social and economic outcomes with whites by only 4% since 2000. “According to that rate of change, closing the racial gap between Black and white Californians would take over 248 years,” he said. — Kacey Bonner and Barbra Ramos

Read the full story

View the 2024 State of Black California report


Abrams, 2 Emeriti Professors on List of Top 100 Social Work Scholars

Three current and former UCLA Luskin professors are among the 100 most influential social work scholars, according to an updated ranking published in the journal Research on Social Work Practice. The list, based on citations in peer-reviewed journals that have been analyzed using several metrics, identifies “those individuals who have made substantial contributions to social work discourse over the course of their academic careers,” according to the study’s authors, David R. Hodge and Patricia R. Turner of Arizona State University. Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, is ranked No. 30 on the global list of scholars. Abrams’ research focuses on improving the well-being of youth and adults with histories of incarceration. She is joined by Professors Emeriti Duncan Lindsey (No. 68), who taught at UCLA from 1996 to 2009, and the late Yeheskel “Zeke” Hasenfeld (No. 90), who taught from 1987 to 2014. “We are deeply honored by this recognition of UCLA scholars and change makers whose research and robust discourse have helped shape the field of social welfare,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, interim dean of the Luskin School. Social work periodicals are “a crucial repository of the profession’s knowledge … [where] ideas are proposed, interrogated, tested and refined,” Hodge and Turner wrote. “In this update, we identify the top 100 scholars whose efforts across their careers have singled them out as leading contributors to the social work profession’s knowledge base.”


Regents’ Lecturer Sees Unity of Purpose Among Planners and Artists

Urban planning can seem bureaucratic and risk-averse — seemingly closed off to experimentation and imagination. “But I believe that planners have a lot of creativity,” said UC Regents’ lecturer Mallory Rukhsana Nezam during a Feb. 21 presentation in the Grand Salon of Kerckhoff Hall. “I always find that planners are the most excited about their arts and culture work,” Nezam said. She has worked with many planners who are driven toward social causes and social change. “And artists are also drawn to that. So, there’s an overlap of values there.” In her consulting practice, Justice + Joy, Nezam seeks to de-silo the way cities are run and build models for interdisciplinary collaboration. “What planners are actually doing is work that pertains to a built environment, and I think that’s really ripe for this intersection with arts and culture,” she said during a presentation that included a lively Q&A session with Professor Chris Tilly of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and audience members. Nezam’s presentation was organized around reimagining planning in three ways — structural, process and spatial. Citing examples from across the country, she outlined ways in which city planners are incorporating artists into government, including a growing number of artists-in-residence. “These residencies are embedding artists deeply as co-creators and problem-solvers,” she said. “We’re not talking about artists just painting murals, we’re actually talking about artists being at the table when we’re discussing policy.” She expressed optimism about approaches that reward innovation. “We have to imagine something different — imagine a world we haven’t created yet. And that’s where this creative, radical imagination of arts and culture can come in.”

Download an audio recording or view photos on Flickr.

Mallory Nezam Regents' Lecture


Keeping L.A. Connected Is Topic of Annual City Hall Day

Graduate students from throughout UCLA Luskin gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 16 to participate in the 18th UCLA Luskin Day at Los Angeles City Hall. The longtime tradition brought together students and local leaders from government, nonprofit agencies and the community to discuss and learn more about how the city can prioritize first-mile and last-mile investments in transportation. The Luskin School joined with UCLA’s Office of Government and Community Relations to partner with the office of city councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky to address transportation in preparation for large-scale events such as the Summer Olympics, soccer’s World Cup and the Super Bowl. Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor of the Institute of Transportation Studies served as this year’s faculty advisor. Discussion touched on local projects such as the Metro Purple Line expansion and the pending Sepulveda Transit Corridor and Crenshaw/LAX Transit projects that will seek to speed up city transit and make it easier for riders to get to their preferred destinations. Other transit policy choices relating to street-level access for bikes, scooters, walking and rolling were mentioned, as were ridehail and parking policies. “Events like Luskin Day at City Hall provide students with invaluable hands-on experience to learn about public policy in local government,” said Kevin Medina, director of the Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations, which organized the event. The students’ policy recommendations will be presented to Yaroslavsky in May, Medina said.

Update: Read the students’ policy recommendations 

View more photos from the day on Flickr

UCLA Luskin Day at Los Angeles City Hall

Keeping Guard Against the Forces Behind Jan. 6

Sandeep Prasanna MPP/JD ’15 returned to his UCLA Luskin alma mater to share a pressing message about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol: The threat is not over. Prasanna served as investigative counsel for the House Select Committee that issued a comprehensive, 800-page report on the insurrection. “January 6th was not just one event. January 6th was and is an ongoing effort to undermine our democratic institutions,” said Prasanna, whose team spent months interviewing or deposing about 1,000 right-wing extremists who carried out the attack. Now a senior advisor at the law firm Miller & Chevalier, he travels the country to speak with election officials about continuing threats to free and fair voting — including how to safeguard the essential workers who keep the democratic process running smoothly. Prasanna’s comments came at a Feb. 12 event marking the 25th anniversary of UCLA Luskin’s Public Policy program. Chair Robert Fairlie presented him with the 2022 MPP Alumnus of the Year Award, and Professor Mark Peterson led a conversation that touched on Prasanna’s time at UCLA. “I don’t think anyone starts a career in D.C. feeling prepared because things that you learn in a textbook are so different from interacting with people in real life,” Prasanna said. “But the thing they say about law school is that they teach you how to think like a lawyer. What I feel I learned at Luskin was how to do.” He encouraged UCLA Luskin students to take advantage of internships and other opportunities on the East Coast. “There’s a lot of work to do in California, for sure,” he said, “but I think D.C. could use more Luskin grads.”

Learn more about events marking Public Policy’s 25th anniversary. 

View photos of Prasanna’s talk on Flickr.

A Conversation With Sandeep Prasanna MPP/JD ’15


Amplifying Latina Voices in Law and Policymaking

By 2050, Latinas are expected to make up 13% of the U.S. population and account for 11% of the labor force. Yet Latinas comprise only 2.5% of all U.S. lawyers, account for less than 1% of all partners in law firms and have never served on the highest court in 44 states. To address this gap in Latina representation and leadership in law and policy, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute; Latina Futures, 2050 Lab; Latina Lawyers Bar Association; and UCLA Chicanx Latinx Law Review hosted the inaugural Latina Futures: Transforming the Nation Through Law and Policy symposium. The event, which took place Jan. 20 and 21 at UCLA’s Luskin Conference Center, brought together nearly 400 Latina scholars, attorneys, politicians, policy leaders and students from across the country to explore today’s legal and advocacy challenges and opportunities through a Latina lens. “This weekend, we are replacing the status quo with forward-thinking, accurate and necessary contributions from Latina leaders now and well into the future,” said Sonja Diaz, founding executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute. Diaz co-founded the Latina Futures, 2050 Lab with Veronica Terriquez, professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin and director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. Terriquez expressed hope that the symposium would inspire participants to continue their advocacy and leadership. “We have the potential to inform social, political and economic changes that benefit the majority of this nation,” she said. “This is a long game, and it builds on the work that came before us.” — Cristian Rivera

Read the full story


Career, Wellness and Networking Opportunities at UCLA Luskin

UCLA Luskin students will have several opportunities to map out their professional journeys, focus on health and wellness, and engage with the School’s alumni over three special weeks during the winter quarter:

  • Career Week, Jan. 22-25, will allow students to explore fellowships and jobs in the fields of government, racial justice and community organizing. A special session for undergraduates will offer tips on how to apply and interview for the yearlong internships that are a signature part of the public affairs major. LEARN MORE ABOUT CAREER WEEK
  • Student Services Week, Feb. 5-8, will help students navigate the array of student support programs offered by UCLA. In addition to a wide-ranging resource fair, individual sessions will focus on legal counseling and financial wellness, and a “paint and sip” event will allow students to de-stress through creative expression and community-building. LEARN MORE ABOUT STUDENT SERVICES WEEK
  • Alumni Engagement Week, Feb. 20-24, includes opportunities for students to network with alumni from all departments. In winter quarter, panels will feature LGBTQ+ and international alumni, as well as those who have completed the prestigious David Bohnett Fellowship at Los Angeles City Hall. Networking events exclusively for Luskin graduates will also take place. LEARN MORE ABOUT ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT WEEK

The events, all offered by the Luskin School’s Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations (OSAAR), complement services provided throughout the year to support students’ career development and emotional and mental well-being. These range from one-on-one counseling to major initiatives such as the Senior Fellows Progam, which pairs graduate students with prominent mentors in the public affairs sphere, and City Hall Day, an opportunity to gather in downtown Los Angeles to discuss pressing issues with government and civic leaders.

Career, Student Services and Alumni Engagement weeks will return in spring quarter.

View the UCLA Luskin events calendar

four people in front of blue background

UCLA Luskin’s Office of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations is staffed by, from left, Nael Rogers (student support services), Nandini Inmula (career services), Karina Mascorro (alumni engagement) and Kevin Medina (director). Photo by Les Dunseith