Professor Torres-Gil Published in New Book on Aging

Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy and director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, was recently published as a contributing author of the book: The Upside of Aging: How Long Life is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy, and Purpose. This book, a collaboration between renowned thought-leaders in the subject and Milken Institute President Paul H. Irving, examines the changing definition of aging revolutions in genomics, technology, and medicine continue to expand the average human lifespan. Each chapter features one contributing author’s knowledge of a specific aspect of aging, ranging from the characteristics of an aging brain to the role of aging workers in society to the factors of accommodating an increasing mature population.

Through the publication of this book (and a number of other projects), editor Irving continues to advance the Milken Institute’s initiatives to “improve public health and aging across America and the world, expand capital access, and enhance philanthropic impact.”

The full list of contributing authors are as follows:

Laura L. Carstensen, Pinchas Cohen, Freda Lewis-Hall, Joseph F. Coughlin, Ken Dychtwald, Michael M. Hodin, Marc Freedman, Jody Heymann, Susan Raymond, Henry Cisneros, Steven Knapp, Fernando M. Torres-Gil, Baroness Sally Greengross, Dan Houston, Philip A. Pizzo, A. Barry Rand; with a foreword by Michael Milken.

Link to the publishing company’s product page:


Bridget Freisthler & UCLA Researchers Judge International Science Competition

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Associate Professor of Social Welfare Bridget Freisthler recently participated as a judge for the Nation Institute of Drug Abuse’s Addiction Science award competition. She was one of three judges from UCLA who are NIDA grantees.

Each year, the Nation Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) sponsors the Addiction Science award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest science competition for high school students. As a part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIDA works to support various programs on drug abuse policy and research around the world.

The winning project, submitted by Lily Wei Lee, is titled “Assessment of Third Hand Exposure to Nicotine from Electronic Cigarettes.” Lee measured the amount of residual nicotine in various surfaces, produced by electronic cigarettes, in order to analyze how non-users can become exposed to nicotine.

Judges for this year’s Addiction Science Award included NIDA-funded researchers from UCLA: Associate Professor of Social Welfare and Faculty Affiliate for the California Center for Population Research Bridget Freisthler, Ph.D., Keith Heinzerling, M.D., and Mitchell Wong, M.D., Ph.D.; and NIDA’s Sheri Grabus, Ph.D.

To read more about the event, go here:


Who is at Fault When a Driverless Car Gets in an Accident?

Autonomous vehicles are the talk of the town, especially since Google hosted its first-ever media event showcasing its “self-driving car” earlier this week. But while Google is demonstrating that the technology for autonomous cars exists, the question of liability remains.

Last year, several news outlets including the San Diego-Union Tribune and Wall Street Journal asked whether liability issues could stymy consumer access to autonomous cars.

In his latest paper for the Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation published in April 2014, Public Policy professor John Villasenor says this shouldn’t be the case. He argues that existing product liability law is well equipped to adapt to new technology and handle most of the issues that could arise.

Villasenor explains his findings in The Atlantic saying:

“Thanks largely to the tremendous technological change that has occurred since the middle of the last century, products liability has been a dynamic, rapidly evolving area of law. Notably, when confronted with new, often complex, questions involving products liability, courts have generally gotten things right…

…while the specific fact patterns will vary, in products liability terms, manufacturers of autonomous vehicle technologies aren’t really so different from manufacturers in other areas. They have the same basic obligations to offer products that are safe and that work as described during the marketing and sales process, and they have the same set of legal exposures if they fail to do so.”

The Washington Post noted Villasenor’s paper in their own analysis, which concludes that autonomous cars can be a boon to safety rather than a minefield of liability risks.

The New York Times also quoted Villasenor in their article about driverless cars and various issues like law-breaking and liability.

Villasenor concludes his paper by offering guiding principles for legislation that should and should not be enacted. To read his full paper, go here.


Blumenberg Named White House ‘Champion of Change’

White House Honors “Champions of Change” for Transportation

WASHINGTON, DC – Tomorrow, the White House will honor eleven local heroes who are “Champions of Change” for their exemplary leadership to ensure that transportation facilities, services, and jobs help individuals and their communities connect to 21st century opportunities. These individuals are leading the charge across the country building connectivity, strengthening transportation career pathways, and making connections between transportation and economic growth.

Across the Federal government, the Administration has been dedicated to providing “ladders of opportunity” for all Americans, by investing in connecting communities to centers of employment, education, and services, and is calling for greater emphasis on those initiatives supporting this outcome. Recent research has found that social mobility varies by geography, and poor transportation access is a factor preventing lower income Americans from gaining higher income levels than their parents. Transportation plays a critical role in connecting Americans and communities to economic opportunity through connectivity, job creation, and economic growth. Recognizing social mobility as a defining trait of America’s promise, access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation is critical.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event is closed to press but will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit at 10:00 am EST on May 13, 2014. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit

Dr. Evelyn Blumenberg Ph.D. UP ’90, Professor and Chair of Urban Planning, UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs 
Los Angeles, CA

Professor Evelyn Blumenberg’s research examines the effects of urban structure—the spatial location of residents, employment, and services—on economic outcomes for low-wage workers, and on the role of planning and policy in shaping the spatial structure of cities. Evelyn has investigated the travel behavior of special population groups including low-income adults, immigrants, and youth; the effects of the economy on the travel behavior and transportation assets in low-income communities; and the relationship between residential location, automobile ownership, and employment outcomes among the poor. Evelyn is recommended for Ladders of Opportunity because her current research examines (1) travel behavior of low-income adults; (2) the transportation expenditure burden; and (3) the relationship between transportation and the economic outcomes of low-income families.

Josh Baker, General Manager, Radford Transit, New River Valley Community Services
Blacksburg, VA

Josh is the leader of a major investment in the development of a brand new Public Transit system in the City of Radford, Virginia. He pioneered the concept and worked with community leaders, local university administration, state officials and the Federal Transit Administration to garner support for a much needed community service. Josh dedicated his work and time over the course of three years to help make the new service a reality. It’s the first time in over 30 years there has been any transit available to the City of Radford, and it was badly needed. Radford Transit has grown rapidly providing over 325,000 passenger trips annually, even providing transfer connections throughout the entire region. Now residents can move effortlessly and reach their destinations within and between the communities of Radford, Pulaski County, Montgomery County and the Towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg.

Dan Burden, Director of Innovation and Inspiration, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
Port Townsend, WA

Dan Burden is the Director of Innovation and Inspiration for the nonprofit Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. For more than 35 years he has worked to inspire leaders in 3500 cities on ways to design cities for people first; still accommodating the auto. His work helps define the future of transportation; and is now celebrated with thousands of new innovations giving full support to walking, bicycling, transit, and living in place; driving less, enjoying life more. Dan has proven his ability to energize leaders of towns and cities to help them frame and focus on their assets, get beyond their barriers, raise the bar in design of place. He has an ability to help them focus on their values and become believers in their future, achieving their hopes and dreams, and once momentum is gained, expand to the rebuilding of their entire community.

Anthony Chiarello, President and CEO, TOTE
Princeton, NJ

Anthony has led TOTE to build the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered container ships in the world; TOTE is the first maritime company in the U.S. to convert its entire fleet to natural gas. As a result of his vision and leadership, natural gas suppliers are now creating distribution networks in major U.S. ports, making gas available to all transportation modes in those markets. Natural gas powered ships will achieve emissions reductions far below even the world’s most stringent regulatory standards. These emissions reductions will have long-lasting and far-reaching positive effects on the health and safety of citizens along the U.S. coastline, particularly in Washington, Alaska, Florida, and Puerto Rico where TOTE ships are part of the critical domestic supply chain. As the adoption of natural gas fuel spreads, air emissions will be lowered along the coastline as part of the North American Emissions Control Area, and additional environmental benefits will accrue in ports, on roads, and rail lines.

Greer Gillis, Area Manager of Parsons Brinckerhoff
Washington, DC

Greer Gillis is the Washington, D.C. Area Manager of Parsons Brinckerhoff, where she oversees transportation services staff in managing various infrastructure, planning, and design projects as well as leading client relations management, business development, and financial oversight for activities in the metropolitan Washington DC area.     She is the Vice President of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) Washington, DC chapter and serves as National Chair of its “Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation” Awards Committee.  She is also a past President of the Women’s Transportation Seminar International’s Washington, D.C. Chapter. Throughout her career, she has served as a role model and advocate for building a diverse transportation workforce.

Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Berkeley, CA

For over 25 years, Marilyn Golden has led national system-change efforts that broaden the rights of people with disabilities to transportation. Marilyn has played a key role in federal policy development in the interconnected areas of transportation and architectural barriers. She has been a strong advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) throughout all the stages of its proposal, passage, and implementation, as well as a forceful watchdog through its many stages of regulatory interpretation and the regular challenges to its strong mandates. Her advocacy has been focused on a broad range of transportation issues—including fixed route buses, all forms of passenger rail systems, ADA complementary paratransit, privately-funded over-the-road buses, taxis, airport shuttles, as well as air travel. As a national transportation advocate, she has led the struggle for many of the policy victories during and since the ADA to provide better public transportation for people with disabilities. Marilyn served on the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board from 1996-2005 as a very strong and effective advocate for the interests of people with disabilities.

Daphne Izer, Founder, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT)
Lisbon, ME

Daphne Izer founded the nonprofit safety organization Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) after losing her son Jeff in a fatigue related truck crash that killed three other teenagers and seriously injured a fourth. Daphne has worked tirelessly to advance truck safety in order to help prevent other families from suffering a similar, devastating loss. PATT has focused its efforts on reducing truck driver fatigue, seeking a requirement for the use of technology to accurately record truck driver hours behind the wheel and reduce falsification of driving logs, and to promoting safe trucking. Recently, PATT took another step toward realizing its goal of requiring electronic logging devices (ELDs) in commercial trucks when the FMCSA released the NPRM for the ELD rule. This May, as PATT marks its twentieth anniversary, Daphne is recognized for her instrumental work in bringing attention to the urgent need for change in truck safety policy and programs, with a focus on reducing truck driver fatigue.

Flavio Leo, Deputy Director, Aviation Planning and Strategy, Massachusetts Port Authority
Newton, MA

Flavio has played a key role applying innovative transportation technology to enhance airport safety, security and equitable access at MassPort Airport in Boston. This includes the implementation of aircraft related noise mitigation strategies for the surrounding urban communities and the greater Boston region , leading to an enhanced quality of life. Through his leadership, transparency and enhanced public participation, he has established a relationship with over 30 diverse communities, which have had a long history of engagement with Massport and the FAA. He has been the leader and “face of Massport” on an innovative program to address airport noise and other safety and technology improvements, which can be applied nationwide.  Flavio was selected for his leadership and coordination for the implementation of a set of noise reduction strategies created with extensive community participation and implemented that will reduce aircraft noise impacts to the greater Boston area including to nearby disadvantaged communities.

Susan Park Rani, President, Rani Engineering
Minneapolis, MN

Susan Park Rani is an inspiration and a role model for women, minorities, immigrants, and virtually anyone with a desire to pursue the American Dream and start their own business. As a leader in the transportation field, she has demonstrated that opportunities in this industry are widespread and growing—and open to all who wish to acquire the necessary skills and participate. Rani, born in South Korea, moved with her family to the United States as a child, speaking no English. She ultimately obtained a degree in civil engineering, and in 1993, at the age of 34, founded one of the first woman-and-minority-owned engineering firms in Minnesota where she grew up, with just two employees. Over the years, the company has been involved in a number of high-profile transportation projects, and today, Rani Engineering employs 50 people, the company grosses over $5 million a year, and anticipates doubling in size within the next five years. In 2012, Rani Engineering was named the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Contractor of the Year by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Big John Smith, Transportation Director, Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes, Joint Business Council
Fort Washakie, WY

For the past 25 years, “Big John Smith” has served as the Transportation Director for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes’ Joint Business Council on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming.  Big John is also the Rocky Mountain Regional Representative on the Tribal Transportation Committee, and the Executive Director of the Intertribal Transportation Association. Big John has succeeded in improving the reservation’s transportation infrastructure (highways and bridges), has led the effort to dramatically cut alcohol-involved crashes and fatalities on the Wind River Reservation.  He has worked with tribal leaders to toughen tribal laws to enhance seat belt compliance, and has led the effort to use positive messaging to educate drivers of all ages about the dangers of drinking and driving.  His love for the people of Wind River has been instrumental in building relationships with tribal, local, county, state and federal partners to save lives.

Wanda Vazquez, Regional Traffic Safety Liaison, Rincon Family Services
Chicago, IL

Wanda Vazquez has been an active mentor and trainer for Hispanic advocates in the Chicago area helping them become certified child passenger safety technicians. As a motivational instructor, she teaches students how to correctly install car seats and help families understand the importance of safe transportation for their children. Once the training is completed, the students become nationally certified and are able to staff car seat inspection stations or participate in community events. Statistics show that Hispanic children are at a greater risk than non-Hispanic children for injuries and death in traffic crashes because their restraint use is low. Often times this is because their parents are from home countries where car seat use is not the norm. By training Hispanic advocates on how to correctly install car seats and the value of occupant protection, they can in turn go into the Hispanic community where they are welcomed and are able to teach families the importance of keeping their children and themselves safety secured whenever they travel. Ms. Vazquez also served as the Diversity Representative on the National Child Passenger Safety Board and was instrumental in translating materials into Spanish and ensuring that the concerns of the Hispanic community were heard. Wanda is a recommended Champion for her active role as a mentor and trainer for Hispanic advocates in the Chicago.


5th Annual Rishwain Award Recognizes Innovation in Social Justice Work

One of the things UCLA Alumnus Brian Rishwain ’87 finds rewarding is getting to honor and validate students doing important work.

That’s why he has given for the past five years to fund the Rishwain Social Justice Entrepreneurship Award presented by the UCLA Luskin Center for Civil Society. The award recognizes two UCLA students who demonstrate an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit to social justice work.

“Knowing how special this recognition is in inspiring these students to forge ahead is most fulfilling,” Rishwain says. His hope is that it will encourage more outstanding examples of social change and innovation by UCLA students.

Rishwain, a successful entrepreneur and former attorney, has always been passionate about social justice. In addition to creating the award, he’s also been active in helping underserved communities.

Rishwain says recognizing students and learning about the creative things they are doing to serve communities around the world has also inspired him and given him joy.

Take the previous winners, for example. African Studies alumna Krista Barnes produced a humanitarian film and media project to encourage and empower Congolese refugees to return home; Law student May Thi Nguyen helped build a coalition of advocates to aid commercial fisherman in her hometown of New Orleans in the wake of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; Education graduate student Lawrence Grey Berkowitz came up with a reinvented music class to help keep arts in low-income neighborhood schools; and Betzabel Estudillo, as a social welfare student, helped provide mental health services and support for undocumented students and youth who suffer from anxiety, depression and substance abuse stemming from their legal status.

“Incredible,” says Rishwain. “It has made me want to continue to grow the award to have a larger and larger impact on the recipients and their causes.”

The two recipients of this year’s award will be receiving $5,000 each – double the amount in previous years. And that award is well-deserved by this year’s impressive winners: dentistry student Ryan T. Brennan and Urban Planning student Connor Johnson.

Dentistry student Ryan T. Brennan

Ryan Brennan was selected for his work connecting nonprofit clinics, Homeless Not Toothless and MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity), withUCLA dental students to provide monthly clinic sessions free of charge. Over 520 dental procedures for 232 needy patients were donated over the past year.

Brennan’s exemplary entrepreneurial work resulted in the clinic sessions being added to the UCLA School of Dentistry curriculum, and faculty members volunteering to cover the students working in the clinics. Most importantly, the clinic sessions will continue after Brennan graduates as part of the UCLA ASDA Community Service Committee.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be recognized for all of the hard work I’ve put into these clinics,” Brennan says. He found out about the award from a dentistry school email, and was drawn in by the social justice element.

Brennan says the award will help him to continue finding ways to improve dental treatment for those in need. His plan, after completing his residency at the University of Florida in endodontics, is to run a nonprofit that provides dental care to those who can’t afford it.

“This award really helps to show the rewards of working in social justice and finding new ways to improve health care for those who need it,” he says.

Urban Planning student Connor Johnson has a similar desire to help men and women who are living in poverty or are homeless. His win recognizes his work as founder of social enterprise Would-Works, which gives men and women living on Skid Row the chance to earn money for a specific goal.

Urban Planning student Connor T. JohnsonJohnson had been working with people living in poverty since his year of service with AmeriCorps in 2009. He noted that many of the people he met on Skid Row would say, “I would work if I could.” He decided to give them that chance.

Through Would-Works, individuals with immediate needs, like a pair of glasses, can come in and set goals to earn money for it.  The individual is trained in wood-working, then becomes a Would-Works artisan hand-finishing and packaging wood products, like cutting boards, that can be sold. When the individual has worked enough hours (one hour is worth ten credits, and a credit is worth one dollar), Would-Works gives him or her a check to be used toward that initial need, and provides a certificate showing that the individual has demonstrated basic work skills.

Johnson applied for the Rishwain award when a friend saw a flyer with the words “social justice” and “entrepreneurship” and suggested that Would-Works would be a good fit.

“The award is a great acknowledgment of the work we have done so far and affirms my commitment to continue to grow Would-Works,” Johnson says of  the honor. He plans to expand his current charter to serve more people. This includes expanding the product line and increasing retail presence.

“My vision for Would-Works in the future is to have charters in multiple U.S. cities and continue to empower men and women to move out of homelessness or maintain housing,” Johnson adds.

The 5th Annual Rishwain Social Justice Entrepreneurship Awards is Tuesday, May 13 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, 3rd Floor Terrace.

The keynote speaker is Tanya Tull, president & CEO of Partnering for Change. The event is open to all UCLA students, faculty, staff and guests. Lunch will be provided.


UP Alumnus Marc Norman Selected for Harvard’s Loeb Fellowship

Urban Planning ‘92 alumnus Marc Norman was recently named a Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb Fellow. This highly prestigious fellowship, comprised of top professionals in design, entails a year-long opportunity to study and work on projects through Harvard GSD and MIT.

“I started interning at Skid Row Housing Trust while still a student at UCLA which exposed me to the ways planning skills could be applied to address the affordable housing crisis,” says Norman. “The skills and knowledge gained at both places prepared me for interesting positions at Local Initiatives Support Corporation, private consulting, Deutsche Bank and academia. [Urban] Planning really set up a wealth of opportunities and experiences.”

After graduating from UCLA Luskin, Norman worked in the field of community development and finance for over 15 years, focusing his efforts on economic development, employment opportunities, and affordable housing for the community. Norman is now the director of UPSTATE, a Center for Design Research and Real Estate at Syracuse University School of Architecture, and teaches courses on real estate and policy at the school.

As a Loeb Fellow, Norman plans to examine finance and design practices in order to identify the best approach to funding equitable and progressive urban development. The culmination of his research will come with the launching of the Design Innovation Fund in spring 2015.


MPP Student Sandeep Prasanna Wins Prestigious Fellowship

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer

UCLA Luskin student Sandeep Prasanna (JD/MPP ‘15) was recently awarded the DACOR Bacon House Foundation Fellowship, a prestigious scholarship program for graduate students in international affairs, which traditionally has been awarded to students in East Coast institutions. Prasanna was one of 10 students nationwide to win the fellowship following a rigorous interview process.

The fellowship is awarded annually by DACOR, the professional association for former diplomats and consular officials. In addition to the $11,000 scholarship, each fellow will be featured in a monthly highlight from the organization.

“I really enjoyed the interview, since both of my interviewers—former diplomats—had served in countries that I had an interest in.” says Prasanna. “It turned into an hour of friendly banter with two people that had amazing careers and lots of stories.”

Prasanna initially came to UCLA to study law, but as he delved deeper into his studies, his interest in public policy and international affairs led him to apply for the UCLA Luskin Master of Public Policy program as well. “In law, you develop broad conceptual analysis skills, while in policy you learn how to look at hard data and develop quantitative skills,” explains Prasanna.

Prasanna graduated from Duke University with a self-designed major consisting of linguistics, evolutionary anthropology and psychology. “My interest in the sociology and diversity of language drove my interest in international affairs. From there, I started learning about present-day politics,” he says.

Combining his passion for international law and policy, Prasanna has worked hard to achieve a number of awards and honors throughout his studies at UCLA.

This year, Prasanna was a member of the first UCLA team to enter the Jean-Pictet Competition, a prominent international humanitarian law competition sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross. A total of 29 different countries — spread across 48 teams of three — were represented at this year’s competition in Sintra, Portugal.

“We spent around three months preparing for the competition,” describes Prasanna. “Each week, we focused on one area of the law and took tests similar to those from the competition.”

During the week-long competition, teams were tested up to three times a day. Given a set of situational facts and specific character role-plays, competitors had to create a legal analysis of the situation before a panel of judges.

“The judges will grill you on what exactly is legal and what to do in each situation. Some of the tests were incredibly difficult,” Prasanna says. “But there were some areas of the law that I really knew—and when the judges sense that you know what you’re doing, they get excited and start pushing back harder.” Prasanna was ultimately nominated for the Gilbert Apollis Award, which recognizes the best orators in the competition.

In addition to these notable achievements, Prasanna was also recently awarded the Alice Belkin Memorial Scholarship, offered by the Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA for minority graduate students in the field of international affairs.

With regards to the future, Prasanna explains: “I intend to pursue public international law, particularly human rights law, so an MPP adds to my experience and training. I don’t know what exactly my career will look like because my path up to this point has been extremely nonlinear, but it’s great to get recognition for the things that I really love doing.”

Professor Michael Lens Receives Awards in Two Paper Competitions

By Adeney Zo, UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Urban Planning professor Michael Lens recently received awards from the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA) and Housing Policy Debate for his research in housing policy.

Though Lens was aware that his Housing Policy Debate submission was part of a paper competition, the JAPA award came as a surprise. “I’ve been working on the paper that was eventually accepted for publication by JAPA – going back to my dissertation…I had such an elated feeling that my work had finally paid off,” says Lens. “And with the two awards, it was like I had won the lottery twice in the span of one week.”

Lens’ JAPA submission, selected as one of the journal’s two “Best Papers of 2013,” focuses on the relationship between crime and subsidized housing in New York City. Though the crime rate in the city has decreased over the years, Lens found that the cause could not be directly attributed to the city’s substantial investments in subsidized housing. While his findings suggest that subsidized housing neither increases nor decreases crime rates in neighborhoods, Lens still encourages the development of housing subsidies in less distressed neighborhoods, particularly in cities with tight rental markets such as New York and Los Angeles. However, Lens suggests that these cities need to find ways to expand housing options in higher-income, less-distressed neighborhoods, or they risk exacerbating concentrated poverty and further subjecting low-income households to unsafe living environments.

“It is likely that other factors affect crime more than housing investments and that these subsidies were not extensive enough in the typical neighborhood under examination,” explains Lens.

Lens’ winning paper for the Housing Policy Debate competition, titled “Employment Accessibility Among Housing Subsidy Recipients,” analyzes how the location of subsidized housing affects housing recipients’ employment opportunities. Utilizing a new measure for job accessibility that he developed which provides each housing census tract with a spatially-weighted job accessibility index, Lens found that those living in public housing are closer than any other group of housing subsidy recipients to employment opportunities. However, they are also highly concentrated among the low-skilled unemployed individuals that serve as their competition for most jobs.

“Although people think that most of the job growth is happening in the suburbs, there is actually more growth in central cities,” states Lens.

However, many low-income households are now offered housing vouchers instead of public housing, and the location of their preferred housing (in less distressed neighborhoods) tends to take these families farther from employment opportunities.

“From a policy standpoint, I suggest what matters is to ensure subsidized households are not in the worst of both worlds – inaccessible to jobs and located in places highly concentrated with low-skill workers.”

As for the future, Lens will continue researching employment accessibility and housing policy, but he explains that his work in housing subsidies and crime will be laid to rest for the time being.

“For the housing subsidy and crime paper, that was the fourth or fifth paper I’ve done on topic of crime and subsidized housing. The JAPA award is sort of closing the chapter for now,” says Lens. “With employment accessibility, I have a few projects to try and see if access leads to better employment outcomes.”

Lens’ JAPA and Housing Policy Debate papers on crime and housing in New York City can be found here.


Michael Stoll Presents New Proposal for Sentencing Reform

In a new discussion paper for the Brookings Institute/Hamilton Project by Public Policy professor Michael A. Stoll and Steven Raphael of the University of California Berkeley, suggest that there is room to reduce U.S. incarceration rates without significantly impacting crime.

The U.S. incarceration rate today exceeds its own historical norms as well as the rates of all other developed countries. At the same time, there is growing public awareness of the steep economic and social costs of crime and mass incarceration, including heavy fiscal costs on government budgets leading to higher taxes and effects on prisoners’ families and communities.

Stoll and Raphael have come up with a three-part proposal that they argue will reduce both incarceration and crime rates.

The three parts are:

  • Reforms to state truth-in-sentencing laws that lengthen sentences
  • Revisions to federal and state mandatory minimum sentencing policies that can be disproportionately harsh
  • Creation of fiscal incentives for local governments to consider the cost of incarceration

To read the full discussion paper titled “A New Approach to Reducing Incarceration While Maintaining Low Rates of Crime” and the policy brief, go here.

Stoll and Raphael are presenting their analysis at the Brookings/Hamilton Project forum titled “The Economic and Social Effects of Crime and Mass Incarceration in the United States” on Thursday, May 1 from 1:00-4:30 p.m. EST.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will open the forum, followed by a roundtable to discuss the Stoll-Raphael paper. There will also be a discussion between Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) on the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014.

You can register for the live webcast here.

For updates on the event via Twitter, follow @hamiltonproj and join the conversation using #SmartSentencing.


New Study Looks at Recidivism Rates Among Juvenile Offenders

A first-of-its-kind study co-authored by Social Welfare Professor Laura Abrams has gained attention by the National Association of Social Workers for its findings on juvenile offenders and rates of recidivism.

The study was published in the March 2014 issue of Social Work Research, and was highlighted on the NASW blog. According to the paper, the findings from the study are contradictory to the majority of the existing literature.

The paper looks at three different types of confinement sentences given to first-time violent offenders — probation in the home, group-home placement and probation-camp placement — and examines whether the type of placement affects the chances of recidivism for those offenders.

Abrams and her co-authors, lead researcher Joseph P. Ryan of the University of Michigan and Hui Huang of Florida International University, used records from the Los Angeles County Department of Probation and the Department of Children and Family Services from 2003-2009 as data. They used a statistical technique called propensity score matching to control for static risks such as gender, race, and age.

The study found that compared with in-home probation, the likelihood of recidivism was 2.12 times greater for youths assigned to probation camps and 1.28 times greater for youths assigned to group homes.

The authors conclude: “This is an important finding because it helps the field identify effective and efficient strategies for interrupting criminal careers that do not disrupt important social bonds to family, peers, and school. Empirical evidence, rather than popular rhetoric, should serve as the driving force for public policy and clinical innovations in working with violent young people.”

You can read the full study here.

The study was also highlighted in “Journalist’s Resource” run by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.