UCLA Pays Tribute to Andrea Rich Professor Andrea Rich dies at 71.

Andrea Rich

The UCLA community is remembering longtime professor and administrator Andrea Rich, who passed away July 28.

Rich played a key role in the university’s 1994 Professional Schools Restructuring Initiative, which led to the creation of the Department of Public Policy and the unit that would become the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

“She was a person of great integrity, strength, leadership and resilience,” founding dean Archie Kleingartner told the UCLA Newsroom. “She provided a very high level of leadership.” Read the UCLA Newsroom post here.


Pre-Doctoral Workshop for Students of Color Draws 26 Participants

“All of the recent research demonstrates that you get better education, teaching and research with diverse working groups,” said Christine Littleton, UCLA’s Vice Provost for Faculty & Diversity Development.

She was addressing a group of recent graduates and young professionals who expressed interest in earning higher degrees in the field of urban planning. This year’s Association of Collegiate Scholars of Planning (ACSP) Pre-Doctoral Workshop for Students of Color was hosted jointly by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Urban Planning and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Urban Planning and Development graduate program. Twenty-six people from diverse backgrounds participated.

The four-day workshop was robust with panels on urban planning, the basics of PhD study, what it means to earn a PhD in urban planning, and research. The group also went on a tour of Los Angeles that went from MacArthur Park through the Los Angeles Fashion and Produce Districts, and to the Pico Aliso public housing project and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Peppered throughout the workshop was time to network with current doctoral students and faculty.

“This workshop has been a great opportunity,” said Natalie Hernandez, who earned her BA in Urban Studies focusing on environmental sustainability and currently works for the state of California in Sacramento. “I’ve met really cool people who are in the field already, and I don’t know if I would have been able to meet all of them in one place if it wasn’t for this workshop.”

Hernandez says she is certain she wants to earn a masters degree, but is on the fence about doctoral studies. Being able to sit down with faculty members like Evelyn Blumenberg, chair of the Urban Planning department at UCLA, and Manuel Pastor of USC, was meaningful quality time, Hernandez said.

Kimberly Arnold, who works as a research assistant at Drexel University and is interested in public health and how the built environment impacts the health of lower income communities, said the workshop was eye opening for her in many ways.

“I initially didn’t know a lot about urban planning prior to coming and it seemed a bit abstract to me,” Arnold said. “But after coming here and speaking with faculty, staff members and researchers in the field, it really opened my eyes to the fact that there’s a lot of overlap between public health and urban planning.”

The workshop helped Arnold to better define her research interest, and figure out that she can apply to urban planning programs and still have research help from public health faculty.

The most meaningful part for Arnold, however, was talking with faculty and current students about the process of applying to PhD programs, what to expect once in the program, and discussing different sources of funding.

“My undergraduate career was very difficult because they didn’t really value diversity and there weren’t a lot of support systems in place,” Arnold noted. “My graduate school had many more support systems and I was able to thrive there.”

UCLA has a strong commitment to diversity both on and off campus. During her lunchtime talk, Littleton explained that UCLA has demonstrated this by starting a search for a new Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to centralize and enhance diversity efforts on campus. Similarly, Luskin’s Department of Urban Planning has a stellar track record related to diversity with 48 percent of its students identifying as non-white.

The pre-doctoral workshop ended with a campus tour of UCLA and a closing reception with pre-doctoral workshop alumnus Matt Miller giving the closing address.

Miller told the group that he overcame the adversity of growing up in East Palo Alto, cited as the murder capital of California in the 1990s, and went on to earn degrees at Stanford and MIT. He is currently pursuing his PhD at USC.

“Planning is about making communities better – where we live, where we work, where we play, where we worship, and where we learn,” Miller said. He added that he still relies on the friendships and connections he made at the workshop last year for support.

Decriminalized Prostitution in Rhode Island Led to Fewer Rape, Gonorrhea Cases

A new working paper from Public Policy associate professor Manisha Shah and her co-author Scott Cunningham of Baylor University has made waves in the media for its groundbreaking research and surprising findings.

“Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health,” explores the results of seven years in Rhode Island’s history during which indoor prostitution was unintentionally decriminalized.

According to news reports, the state’s legislature amended a law in 1980 which created a legal loophole that decriminalized paid consensual sex if it took place privately indoors. This loophole went unnoticed until 2003, when police took a number of prostitutes to court and lost because of this unanticipated interpretation of the law. It wasn’t until 2009 that new legislation was passed to re-criminalize indoor prostitution.

For Shah and Cunningham, the incident served as a “natural experiment,” to explore the effect of decriminalizing indoor prostitution on the sex market, sexually transmitted infection, and the number of forcible female rape offenses.

Key findings from the study – that Rhode Island saw a large decrease in rapes and a large reduction in gonorrhea incidence for men and women post-2003 – have been widely covered by national and regional news media. Some reports note the fears of international organizations if prostitution is legalized.

Shah and Cunningham say more work needs to be done to evaluate the full spectrum of costs and benefits associated with the Rhode Island experiment, and how to better understand the precise mechanisms that link the reduction in enforcement and the announcement of the loophole in 2003 to reductions in reported rape offenses and STI outcomes.

The paper offers a number of reasons for the declines, including the possibility that the decrease in rapes was “due to men substituting away from rape toward prostitution.” Shah and Cunningham acknowledge that these are currently speculations.

“Technically, our study has internal validity but not necessarily external validity,” Shah said. “What this means is that while we can speak to the effect of decriminalization of prostitution in Rhode Island, we cannot take this and speak out of sample to some other policy environment. But, in that sense, our study is no different from nearly all studies that seek to evaluate some kind of intervention/policy change.

Their study also cannot speak to the effect of decriminalization on human trafficking, which is something that has come up in all the recent press, Shah and Cunningham said. Data limitations don’t allow them to perform a meaningful analysis of that topic.

“Our contribution to this literature is twofold,” Shah and Cunningham wrote. “First, as far as we know, we are the first social scientists to evaluate the decriminalization of prostitution using a natural experiment. This allows us to provide the first causal estimates on the impacts of decriminalization…Secondly, police agencies, lawmakers, and prosecutors all over the US have responded to the growth on the indoor sex market by reallocating large amounts of resources toward arresting sex workers. This reallocation has been considerably costly for local police since the indoor market is more diffuse and hidden. This research can influence change in policies related to police effort of enforcement of laws against prostitution, particularly related to indoor sex work.”

Shah and Cunningham hope that their paper will focus research and policy toward a more rigorous evaluation of prostitution law and policy that moves away from anecdotal work. They stress the importance of good quantitative information about the effects of policies to better understand the costs and benefits of various policy alternatives.

As for the study itself, Shah and Cunningham said they were both surprised and unsurprised by the findings.

“Everything about this experiment is unusual, so in a way, we didn’t know what was more surprising — that a state could “accidentally” legalize indoor prostitution, that no one would practically know about it for 23 years, that we would be successful at obtaining so many different sources of data to investigate it, or that we would find reductions in reported rape offenses and gonorrhea rates,” they said.

“When we started this project, we had to admit to ourselves that we really didn’t know what we should expect. Given there hasn’t been much policy experimentation around this phenomena and almost no causal evidence on the topic, policymakers and academics haven’t had quality findings upon which expectations could be based.”

Michael Storper Makes List of World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds


Urban Planning professor Michael Storper has made Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds of 2014.

Each year, Thomson Reuters analyzes data from its Web of Science and InCites platforms to determine the researchers who have produced work that is most frequently acknowledged by their peers. Researchers who published numerous articles that ranked in the top one percent of the most cited in their respective fields in the given year of publication made the list.

Storper, who teaches globalization, economic geography, and regional and international development at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, was recognized in the general Social Sciences category.

“”I’m very happy that my publications are having an impact,” Storper said. “As a scholar, I believe that scientific research is the basis for understanding the world around us and how it may be improved.”

Storper’s latest book, “Keys to the City,” examines economic, institutional, innovational and interactional, and political contexts that shape urban economic development. You can see more of his publications here.

To search the Thomson Reuters database of 2014 influential scientific minds by name, category or university affiliation, you can go here.


John Villasenor Talks Bitcoin with Patt Morrison


Public Policy professor John Villasenor was recently interviewed by Patt Morrison for her Los Angeles Times column on the topic of cryptocurrencies. In the Q&A, Villasenor answers questions about the efficiencies of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, how bitcoin works, and possible implications on future regulation.

When asked what may be the most difficult for people to grasp about bitcoin, Villasenor said:

“The hardest thing — not unreasonably — is that bitcoin is completely decentralized currency. There’s nobody in charge, no company, no government, no consortium — collectively everybody acts to run it. Most of us grew up in a world where government has oversight over currency like the dollar.” 

To read more from his Q&A, go here.


Urban Planning Students Earn Levine Distinguished Fellowship

Urban Planning students Valerie Coleman and Aaron Ordower have been named Howard and Irene Levine Distinguished Fellows, a program offered through the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. UCLA Anderson School of Business MBA student Neil Doshi is the third recipient of the award.

The fellowship is given to UCLA Anderson, UCLA Law or UCLA Luskin Urban Planning or Public Policy students who are entering their last year of graduate studies. Students demonstrating an interest and gift in real estate and social responsibility, academic accomplishment, leadership, and service to the real estate program at UCLA are chosen.

Coleman and Ordower both have experience working in the affordable housing and sustainability sector prior to entering their studies at UCLA. Coleman was a project manager at Rebuilding Together SF, which focuses on preserving affordable home ownership in San Francisco. Ordower spent time at World Bank working on projects focused on sustainable development investment lending in Latin America.

They also both have big goals for the future.

“While I still have some time to really dream big about my career, most likely I’ll want to work around issues of affordable housing and/or cities preparing for the tremendous increase in aging residents,” Coleman says. Though it was her work in community development that led her back to school, she discovered an interest learning about how cities can support the growing senior population through research work with Professor Fernando Torres-Gil at UCLA’s Center for Policy Research on Aging.

Ordower, who is currently in New York City doing two internships over the summer, says he aims to make meaningful economic changes in underinvested neighborhoods.

“I am passionate about creating affordable housing that is environmentally sustainable: both by constructing efficient buildings but also by creating affordable units close to the city center and close to jobs,” he says. “That could mean a role in local government or with a private sector developer working on projects that revitalize these neighborhoods.

Along with an annual stipend award and a chance to work with UCLA faculty and industry leaders in developing future case studies for real estate courses, Levine fellows are assigned a Ziman Center board member as a mentor and will have opportunities to attend social entrepreneurial real estate leadership training and engage in select internships.

Ordower says he’s confident that the fellowship will help him to develop skills he may be lacking by exposing him to private sector professionals.

“I hope they will help me identify the skills I need to develop, and expose me to practical advice,” he says.

“I’m excited to network with real estate professionals and to grow my understanding of real estate development,” says Coleman. “I’m excited to find where and how my interests overlap and hope to have the opportunity to do a research-based project as well.”

Luskin Assistant Professors Awarded UCLA Hellman Fellowship

Urban Planning assistant professor Paavo Monkkonen and Public Policy assistant professor Randall Akee have been named 2014-15 Hellman Fellows for demonstrating a capacity for great distinction in their research. There are eleven recipients of the award in total.

The UCLA Hellman Fellows Program established in 2011 was created to help junior faculty pursue their research passions. The grant will act as seed money for assistant professors to fund their research and other creative activities that promote and enhance their career advancement.

Monkkonen, who teaches courses at UCLA Luskin in housing markets and policy and global urban segregation, was chosen as a fellow for his project “The Half-life of Childhood: How Economic Development Shapes Young Adults’ Household Position.” The half-life of childhood refers to the age at which half of the population is no longer a child. The goal of his project is to better understand how economic development affects household structure, especially the age at which children leave their parents’ home and form a new household. Monkkonen notes that household formation has a major impact on housing markets, and this information will be important to future projections of the number of households which influences housing policy.

“I am honored to have been selected as a Hellman Scholar,”he said. “The generous research grant will enable me to hire graduate student researchers to assist me with data manipulation and analysis, which for this project is very time-consuming. The study uses individual census records from over 70 countries in multiple time periods, which translates into hundreds of millions of observations! I have been trying to get this project going for a number of years but have not had the resources, so it is very exciting that I can get this research underway.”

Akee was awarded the fellowship for his project “How Do Changes in Unearned Income Affect American Indian Infant and Children? The Case of American Indian Casino Revenue Transfers.” The purpose of his research is to determine how the advent of casino operations and other large changes in household income of American Indians affects American Indian infants and children. According to Akee, preliminary data has shown that increased incomes have led to a reduction in behavioral disorders and substance abuse for American Indian adolescents. However, there has been no determination into what degree revenue changes have affected infants and younger children. Akee’s study will look at the effects of increases in unearned income on AI maternal behavior as well as educational outcomes for infants and children.

“I’m very excited and grateful for the award. It allows me to hire an MPP student over the course of the summer at full-time in order to work on the data,” Akee said. “It allows the research to get completed at a much quicker pace than I would otherwise be able to do it. Also, it trains one of our MPP students in data analysis. I’m very eager to see the research outputs that will come as a result of this fellowship.”

In Memoriam: Public Policy Professor Michael Intriligator

Professor Michael Intriligator, a professor of economics, political science and public policy at UCLA who played an influential role in the establishment of the School of Public Affairs, died on June 23 after a three-year battle with melanoma.

“All of us at UCLA Luskin are saddened by Mike’s passing,” Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., said. “He was the kind of faculty colleague every dean hopes for: thoughtful, courteous, inquisitive, and immensely dedicated to his field of inquiry. My colleagues and I will miss him deeply.”

Intriligator came to UCLA in 1963 as an assistant professor of economics after earning his M.A. from Yale and his Ph.D. at MIT. A tremendous scholar, he left an indelible mark on his colleagues across campus as he later joined the political science and public policy departments, where he taught courses on international relations, econometrics and economic theory.

Ever an active figure, Intriligator also served as director of the UCLA Center for International and Strategic Affairs, the predecessor of the current Burkle Center for International Relations. In addition, he was a Senior Fellow of the Milken Institute and the Gorbachev Foundation of North America; authored more than 300 journal articles and other publications in economics; served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Russian Academy of Sciences; and was vice chair and board member of Economists for Peace and Security.

Closer to home, Professor Intriligator was central to establishing the UCLA School of Public Affairs, the development of the Public Policy curriculum and initial recruitment of the Public Policy faculty (then Policy Studies). After his retirement in 1994, he continued to be a prominent figure in the lives of many faculty members and students, as the long-time organizer of the Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavior Sciences at UCLA.

“Mike was a valued colleague and a dear friend to the Department of Public Policy,” Public Policy department chair Michael Stoll said. “He played a very influential role in the development of the Department and in recruiting leading scholars from around the country to join the Department as founding members. Even after his formal service as a UCLA faculty member he remained involved in life on campus, and was a key advisor to many.”

Mike is survived by his wife Devrie (a research physicist at Carmel Research Center and a world renowned expert on space plasma physics) and four sons: Kenneth (professor of physics at UC San Diego), William (conductor of the Dubuque, Iowa, and Cheyenne, Montana, symphony orchestras), James (professor of psychology, Bangor University in Wales), and Robert (a Los Angeles-based composer).

The Intriligator family is holding a memorial service on Thursday, July 3, 11 a.m., at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. A reception at the temple will immediately follow the service; RSVP is not necessary, but, if possible, please email Robert Intriligator or call him at 310-922-7765 for a guest count. The family will invite guests at the reception to share their impressions of and anecdotes about Intriligator. Information regarding donations in lieu of flowers will be provided at the memorial service.

UCLA’s Department of Economics has published a memorial written by Distinguished Professor of Economics John Riley. You can read that here.

New Book Co-edited by Urban Planning Professors Explores “Informal Urbanism”

Urban Planning professors Vinit Mukhija and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris have a new book out this month called “The Informal American City: Beyond Taco Trucks and Day Labor”, and it aims to challenge how planners and policy makers think about informal urbanism.

The book, published by MIT Press and co-edited by Mukhija and Loukaitou-Sideris, looks at examples of informal or unregulated activities in eight large cities in the United States. Through a collection of case studies and analyses written by top experts in urban planning, including a number of their colleagues at UCLA Luskin, Mukhija and Loukaitou-Sideris make the case for a need to examine informal urbanism not just economically but also spatially.

The following is a Q&A that Mukhija and Loukaitou-Sideris participated in with UCLA Luskin:

Q: How did the original idea for this book come about? Has there been literature on this topic before?

Living in a city like Los Angeles we are surrounded by informal activities and settings. We start our book by describing urban scenes that are quite common in some Los Angeles neighborhoods: A street vendor selling ice popsicles pushing his cart down the sidewalk, a yard sale in front of someone’s garage, day laborers looking for work opportunities in front of the neighborhood hardware store. These are only a few of the everyday settings and activities that are omnipresent in Los Angeles and many other US cities; many more are discussed in our book. While there is significant literature about the informal economy in cities, most of this literature concentrates on informality in the developing world. Additionally, most of the existing literature focuses on the economic transactions of informality and ignores its spatial settings.

Q: Why is it that informal urbanism is often dismissed by planners and policy makers as “marginal?” What did you find that contradicts this thinking?

All too often informal urbanism is considered a “third-world problem.” Most planners in developed countries assume that informal activities are either limited in scope and therefore safe to ignore, or criminal in nature, and thus should be opposed. Some perceive that dealing with informality falls only within the regulatory realm, and there is no important role that planning or design can play. Some progressive planners may worry about making conditions worse for those engaged in informal activities and prefer an approach of benign neglect. Our book includes detailed case studies of examples from Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Kansas City, Atlantic City, and New York City, and shows that informal or unregulated but otherwise licit activities are widespread and varied in American cities. And while informality has often been associated with immigrants, informal activities are pervasive and spread across different social groups, diverse urban settings, and different geographical regions of the country.

Informal and formal activities are not always distinct and rigidly separated. They often overlap and depend on each other. The ubiquity of many informal activities also shows that informal practices are not transitory, even if some of their specific settings are ephemeral. Finally, our case studies show the contradictory nature of informality, with both potential winners and losers associated with it.

Q: What are some common types of informal urbanism that people see everyday, but might not categorize as a different type of urbanism? And what are some benefits that communities get from these unsanctioned enterprises?

Informal activities that people may see everyday, depending on where they live, range from taco trucks to day labor (as our book’s subtitle indicates), yard sales, unpermitted granny flats, informal gardening, urban agriculture, informal parking (when people rent their driveways and front yards), informal taxi services, etc. In certain cases, such informal activities exist because they fulfill some needs that are not adequately addressed by the formal economy. A good example is unpermitted second units that may offer affordable housing to tenants and income to landlords in single-family lots. However, the notion that informality is always a virtue or only has positive consequences is also flawed. We are well aware that informality can lead to increased vulnerability, exploitation, and unhealthy conditions for those undertaking the informal activities or consuming its products, in addition to revenue losses for municipal governments.

Q: What are the policy or societal responses to informal urbanism that you hope will arise from your book?

We argue that in addition to examining the economic consequences of informality, we also need to address and respond to it spatially. Some policy or societal responses include: 1) the creation of a supportive public infrastructure (e.g., worker centers for day laborers, appropriate sidewalk space for street vending, water pipes for colonias, etc.) that can lessen the hardships for those participating in informal activities; 2) the identification and enhancement through design of underutilized space that can host certain informal activities; 3) the provision of sensible environmental regulations that ensure safety, cleanliness, good sanitation, and lack of noise or odors in informal settings.

Policy responses should give particular consideration to the socio-spatial context of informal settings. While citywide regulations may be appropriate for matters relating to health and safety, other issues relating to when and where informal activities can take place may be neighborhood-specific.

Q: What do you hope planners, specifically, can gain from this book?

We hope that the book will make informality more visible to planners and policy makers in the US as it is a topic that deserves their positive attention. The complex nature of informality makes addressing it difficult. However, we find that ignoring informality is not always the best policy. At the same time, outlawing or criminalizing informality is rarely successful. And while some regulation is necessary to protect the health and safety of the general public, many existing laws and ordinances make absolutely no room for informality and other unexpected activities. While several of our chapters recommend some form of formalization through more sympathetic ordinances and permits, the belief that legalization and regulation can adequately respond to all informal activities is also misleading. Our case studies also indicate that alternative and non-state institutional arrangements can play a constructive role in addressing the more pernicious aspects of informality. Lastly, our cases studies indicate that creative design approaches may allow the safe co-existence of formal and informal activities in spatial settings and the lessening of conflict between them.

To learn more about the book, you can read Mukhija’s and Loukaitou-Sideris’ brief interview with MIT Press.

Contributors  include Jacob Avery, Ginny Browne, Matt Covert, Margaret Crawford, Will Dominie, Renia Ehrenfeucht, Jeffrey Hou, Nabil Kamel, Gregg Kettles, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Kate Mayerson, Alfonso Morales, Vinit Mukhija, Michael Rios, Donald Shoup, Abel Valenzuela Jr., Mark Vallianatos, and Peter M. Ward.


Landmark study finds acute Alcohol misuse among Suicidal people

One-third of all suicides in the U.S. involve acute use of alcohol before the fatal attempt, according to a study led by UCLA social welfare professor Mark Kaplan. The researchers say the findings underscore the need to link suicide prevention and alcohol-control strategies.

The study is the first to compare alcohol use among those who committed suicide with that of a nationally representative survey of non-suicidal adults in the United States. Its purpose was to provide estimates of the relative risk of suicide associated with drinking and heavy drinking occasions.

The report was published online June 12 by the Annals of Epidemiology.

The researchers found that alcohol was detected in nearly 36 percent of men and 28 percent of women who committed suicide. Additionally, a blood alcohol content at or above .08 grams per deciliter — considered legally intoxicated in many states — was a potent risk factor for suicide across the age spectrum, and that people who committed suicide were four to 20 times more likely than others to have engaged in heavy drinking at any point in their lives. High levels of alcohol consumption were also associated with the methods of suicide that are most likely to be fatal, such as shooting and hanging.

“The key finding is that the data showed alcohol misuse is common among people who are suicidal,” said Kaplan, a faculty member at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. “Those who drank, drank heavily in the hour before taking their lives. Fewer than half of those who were alcohol positive at the time of death had a history of alcohol-related problems.”

The researchers also found relative gender parity among people who committed suicide with elevated blood alcohol levels — a surprising finding because men in general are more likely than women to drink and drink in excess. The report noted that one possible explanation is that women are more likely than men to commit suicide by poisoning themselves, and alcohol may be used as one of the poisoning agents in combination with other substances.

A particularly troubling finding was that nearly a quarter of all those who committed suicide under the age of 21 tested positive for alcohol at the time of death.

The report puts forth several recommendations for health professionals and policy makers, in particular for addressing the connection between heavy drinking and suicide among the underage population, including:

  • Using media popular with teens and younger adults, such as social media, to explain the connection between alcohol abuse and the risk of suicide, and enlisting school personnel to help carry that message.
  • Increasing access to alcohol abuse treatment programs.
  • Enhancing the enforcement of restrictions on access to alcohol for minors.
  • Educating parents about the dangers of maintaining alcohol in the home, especially if it’s not kept in locked cabinets.

In addition, Kaplan said, the findings should prompt suicide prevention workers to probe for alcohol intoxication when dealing with people who are suicidal.

The researchers used data from the National Violent Death Reporting System to identify those who had used alcohol or showed signs of intoxication before they committed suicide between 2003 and 2011. Population estimates of comparable use of alcohol were based on the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Other authors were Nathalie Huguet of Portland State University, Bentson McFarland of Oregon Health and Science University, Raul Caetano of the University of Texas School of Public Health, Kenneth Conner of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Norman Giesbrecht of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Kurt Nolte of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. The study was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA020063).