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Astor Briefs Congress on Social Work and Student Well-Being

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor appeared at a congressional briefing focused on how social workers can help provide for the safety and educational achievement of students in light of calls to remove police from public schools. Many U.S. schools are patrolled by safety officers yet have no counselors, nurses or social workers on staff, adding to inequities that are deeply felt by Black, Latino, Native American and rural communities, Astor said. He called for a holistic national plan that re-envisions the role of schools in providing key social services to families struggling to feed, house and provide health care to their children. “There are needs at a mass scale that we probably haven’t seen in our country since the Great Depression,” said Astor, citing a recent policy brief he co-authored. Astor urged policymakers, education professionals, social workers and scholars to work together on a master plan that considers these core questions: “What do want our schools to look like in our country? What kind of democracy do we want to have? Should the zip code of a child dictate the kind of resources and opportunities they have?” The Sept. 23 online briefing was sponsored by a broad coalition of national social work organizations in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus, chaired by Rep. Barbara Lee of California. “We’ve got to bring the power of social work back to the schools,” Lee said during the briefing. “It is a matter of justice, and social workers are known for fighting for justice for everyone, especially our children.”

Park Awarded Equitable Growth Research Grant

Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was awarded a research grant by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for a project investigating the impact of climate change on rising income inequality and declining labor market prospects in the United States. Park is one of 46 economists, postdoctoral scholars and other social scientists who received funding from the center this year to research the intersections between economic inequality and economic growth. Park’s award of $49,000 will support research into whether climate change exacerbates recent trends in economic inequality and will include recommendations for workplace adaptation and policy reforms. Growing evidence indicates that temperature stress may have significant impacts on cognitive performance, labor capacity and workplace safety, suggesting that extreme heat due to climate change may significantly reduce earnings and job quality for many low-skilled workers. Park, associate director of economic research at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, will use administrative data on 11 million workplace injuries in California; injury and fatality data from the federal Office of Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and daily temperature variation data from the National Climatic Data Center. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is a nonprofit research and grant-making organization dedicated to advancing policies that promote broad-based economic growth. The grant program aims to build a stronger bridge between academics and policymakers to bring relevant, accessible new research to the policymaking process.

Deans Respond to Government Attack on Critical Race Theory

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura joined colleagues from three other University of California public affairs schools to defend the interdisciplinary field of critical race theory against attacks from the Trump Administration. “Becoming anti-racist is a core tenet of the American creed. … America is still trying to perfect itself, and scholars in our schools use multiple perspectives, including critical race theory, to understand racism and racial oppression in America,” said the statement signed by Segura and deans of the public policy schools at UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC San Diego. The statement came in response to a recent U.S. Office of Management and Budget memorandum calling for an end to training sessions for federal employees that draw on critical race theory, which the memo termed divisive, false, demeaning and un-American. The deans’ statement countered that exposure to critical race theory “helps our students have a deeper understanding of what is required for America to live up to its promise of equality for all.” Noting that many public affairs students go on to work in government, the deans said, “An understanding of the ongoing role of race in America is important for them to be successful public sector employees. We believe that critical race theory and other academic research helps them to develop this understanding.” Deans from UCLA Law and four other UC law schools issued a separate statement expressing deep distress at the Trump Administration’s attack on critical race theory.

Roy Awarded ‘Freedom Scholar’ Grant to Advance Social Justice

Professor Ananya Roy, founding director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, has been named a Freedom Scholar as part of a new philanthropic initiative to support progressive academics at the forefront of movements for economic and social justice. Marguerite Casey Foundation and Group Health Foundation launched the $3 million Freedom Scholars initiative to advance work in critical fields of research that are often underfunded or ignored. The 12 academics in the inaugural class of Freedom Scholars are leaders in abolitionist, Black, feminist, queer, radical and anti-colonialist studies. Each will receive $250,000 over two years. “These Freedom Scholars are shifting the balance of power to families and communities that have been historically excluded from the resources and benefits of society,” said Carmen Rojas, CEO and president of Marguerite Casey Foundation. “Support for their research, organizing and academic work is pivotal in this moment where there is a groundswell of support to hold our political and economic leaders accountable.” Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, holds the Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy. Her research has focused on urban transformations and land grabs, as well as global capital and predatory financialization, with a focus on poor people’s movements. The Freedom Scholar award, which will be administered through the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, is designed to advance “a new vision and new ideas for what it means for our society to be just, fair and free,” said Nichole June Maher, CEO of Group Health Foundation.


Report Rooted in Pandemic’s Unequal Impacts Proposes Sweeping Reforms to Advance Racial Justice in L.A.

A dramatic agenda for regional change is outlined in a new report that attacks systemic racism and lays out a roadmap for transformation centered in racial equity. “No Going Back: Together for an Equitable and Inclusive Los Angeles” offers 10 guiding principles on issues such as housing, economic justice, mental and physical health, youth and immigration. It includes dozens of policy recommendations that include:

  • establishing high-speed internet as a civil right;
  • equal access to services regardless of immigration status;
  • a housing-for-all strategy to end homelessness in Los Angeles.

“Many of us have spent our careers enabling broken, racist systems, and this moment calls us to create something better,” said Miguel Santana, chair of the Committee for Greater LA, a diverse group of civic and community leaders who joined with a joint USC/UCLA research team, backed by local philanthropy, to address the racial disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The report, written by Dean Gary Segura of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and Manuel Pastor of USC’s Equity Research Institute, seeks solutions that will advance racial equity, increase accountability and spark a broad civic conversation about L.A.’s future. “This is uncharted territory,” Segura said. “We can’t use the structures of the past as a basis for the future. We need new systems, better accountability and a clear vision of the Los Angeles that we want to become.”

Majority of Americans Oppose Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid Along Mexican Border

An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Trump administration’s practice of threatening people who provide humanitarian aid to undocumented immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border with arrest and a possible 20-year prison sentence, according to a new UCLA policy brief. The brief, published by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), cites a 2019 survey of 1,505 Americans that asked participants, “Do you agree or disagree that it should be a crime for people to offer humanitarian aid, such as water or first aid, to undocumented immigrants crossing the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border?” Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said they disagreed — including 71% of Republicans — highlighting the unpopularity of the policy. “Our survey showed that an overwhelming number of Americans across political parties agree that no one should face jail time for being a good Samaritan,” said LPPI member Chris Zepeda-Millán, an associate professor of public policy who conducted the survey with Sophia Wallace of the University of Washington. The policy brief, authored by Zepeda-Millán and Olivia Marti, a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s political science department, recommends legislation that would halt current efforts to criminalize border relief and calls for an end to the destruction of humanitarian supplies by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Currently, the agency only counts fatalities discovered by its own agents; the UCLA report suggests that the fatality count also include bodies identified by local government officials, medical examiners and nongovernmental organizations. — Eliza Moreno


Research Shows Deep Racial and Social Inequality in Job Displacement, Unemployment Insurance Amid COVID-19

New research published by the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin and Ong & Associates shows large nationwide racial and socioeconomic disparities in job displacement caused by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, co-authored by Paul Ong, research professor and CNK director, examines racial and social inequality in job displacement resulting from COVID-19, including the inability to collect unemployment-insurance (UI) benefits. The researchers looked at U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey data that directly measured the effect of COVID-19 on job losses compared to the more general unemployment rate, which does not distinguish between pandemic and non-pandemic reasons for unemployment. Minority groups, lower-income and less educated workers, and the youngest workers are most severely affected. Here are some of the major findings:

  1. Although Black and Latinx workers are both more adversely affected by the pandemic, Latinx workers are highly impacted. Latinx workers account for 1 out of 4 displaced workers without UI benefits, although they make up 1 out of 6 employed workers.
  2. Displaced workers from households earning less than $25,000 per year account for 31% of the displaced workers without UI, yet they make up only 10.6% of the employed workers.
  3. Workers with no more than a high school education comprise almost half of all displaced workers who do not receive UI, although they represent only a third of employed workers.
  4. Younger workers are more likely to be displaced. Thirty percent of all displaced workers without UI are between the ages of 18 and 30 , but they make up  22% of the employed.

Tilly Co-Authors New Report on Future of Retail

New technologies in the retail sector are likely to mean more monitoring and coercion of workers, and a stronger advantage for large companies like Walmart and Amazon, according to a new report co-authored by Chris Tilly, professor and chair of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. E-commerce has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but stores have still remained an important way of selling goods, according to Tilly and co-author Françoise Carré, research director of the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “During the peak of the lockdowns, 70% of people in the U.S. were still buying groceries in stores,” Tilly said. “And for those that order groceries online, a worker collects their goods from the store and makes them available for curbside pickup or delivery. This shows how technology is in many cases changing workers’ jobs rather than eliminating them.” In addition to changing the mix of tasks that workers are expected to carry out, employers are likely to deploy new technologies in ways that increase the monitoring and surveillance of retail workers. “We have been hearing about e-commerce wiping out retail stores and jobs, but our two years of research tell a very different story,” Carré said.  The report is part of a broader multi-industry research project led by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and Working Partnerships USA that examines the impact of new technologies on work. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.

Study Calls for Permanent Residence for Immigrants With Temporary Protected Status

UCLA Luskin’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has published a policy brief on the benefits of Temporary Protected Status, an immigration status that permits people from specified countries to remain temporarily in the United States if they cannot safely return to their homes because of a catastrophic event. Of the approximately 400,000 people living in the U.S. under the program, over 88% are in the labor force, over 70% have lived here for more than 20 years, and about two-thirds have U.S.-born children. This suggests the significant destabilizing effect that could be caused by changes that the Trump administration proposed in 2018, which would have removed protections for people from Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security extended the protections through January 2021 following injunctions arising from a series of lawsuits. To improve the long-term integration of immigrants, the LPPI study recommended granting permanent resident status to those currently living under Temporary Protected Status. It also called for renewing Temporary Protected Status designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan — the home nations for 98% of all participants in the program — beyond the January 2021 deadline. “As we have seen with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, there are benefits with taking people out of the shadows,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI. “At a time when immigrants have played a key role in maintaining the economy as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand what is at stake when protections for immigrants like Temporary Protected Status are taken away.” — Eliza Moreno

CNK Documents Racial Inequalities Among Homeowners Due to Pandemic

A new report by the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected homeowners’ inability to pay mortgages, signaling an unprecedented housing crisis and revealing huge racial disparities among homeowners. Researchers from the center, led by Paul Ong, research professor and CNK director, partnered with the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and Ong & Associates to produce research as part of a series of COVID-19 policy briefs documenting the systemic racial inequalities of the pandemic. The new report, “Systemic Racial Inequality and the COVID-19 Homeowner Crisis,” analyzes data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse Survey, collected between April and July 2020, to examine the magnitude, pattern and causes of the housing crisis. The authors report that about 5 million, or 8%, of American homeowners were unable to pay their mortgage on time. In comparison, during the Great Recession, there were approximately 3.8 million foreclosures; early-stage delinquent mortgages (for 30 to 59 days) peaked at 3%. “Compared with non-Hispanic whites, Black people and Hispanics (or Latinx) had two to three times higher odds of experiencing housing hardships,” the researchers noted. “This systematic inequality is produced by pre-existing income and educational inequalities, and reinforced by the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on the labor market,” according to the report. The rising number of homeowners currently struggling to pay their mortgages is an ominous indication that this may lead to more foreclosures, housing instability and homelessness, the researchers wrote.