UCLA Chancellor Gene Block shared Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning Michael Storper’s research on the evolution of cities at the Milken Institute’s recent Global Conference, which convened thousands of leaders from government, health care, finance, technology, philanthropy, media and higher education to tackle urgent global economic and social issues. Building on the conference’s theme of “Charting a New Course,” Block joined several discussions with the aim of sharing lessons learned from recent social movements and the global pandemic to reimagine a more prosperous future for all. “Cities keep growing and they keep thriving, but they’re changing. We’re seeing from the pandemic something that we refer to as ‘social scarring,’ or deep psychological impact that’s not going away quickly,” Block said, pointing to Storper’s research. “It’s changing people’s behavior and how they feel about density.” The 24th edition of the Global Conference was held in Beverly Hills from Oct. 17-20.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinos in California were relatively unlikely to use emergency medical services. But during the pandemic, across much of the state, Latinos’ use of such services — specifically seeking treatment for respiratory ailments — increased more than it did for non-Latino whites, according to a new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. The report’s authors compared figures for the first six months of 2020 to statistics for the same period in 2019. They analyzed data from the California Emergency Medical Services Information System, which includes information from all of the state’s 33 local emergency medical service agencies with the exception of Los Angeles County. “Although the study doesn’t directly account for about 30% of California’s Latinos who live in Los Angeles, other studies on the impact of COVID-19 on Latinos in L.A. would suggest that the same phenomenon would hold true in Los Angeles,” said Esmeralda Melgoza, a doctoral student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a co-author of the report. The study’s findings suggest that emergency medical services statewide have an opportunity to improve their language and cultural literacy to better serve the needs of their Latino patients. The study identified factors that kept Latinos from using emergency services prior to the pandemic, including concerns about the costs of emergency care and fears that interaction with public safety officials could endanger their immigration status. After the pandemic began, their use of emergency services for urgent respiratory illness pointed to the toll COVID-19 took on Latino essential workers and families. — Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas
As the director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, Veronica Terriquez draws on her background as a community organizer to enhance Latino community networks and presence on campus, and further support university-community partnerships. On Sept. 24, UCLA announced steps it was taking as it seeks to achieve Hispanic Serving Institution status, and Terriquez and the center’s staff and faculty will become partial stewards of that process. The center will administer the hiring of 15 new faculty positions and 20 postdoctoral fellows whose teaching, scholarship or mentoring experience has ties to Latino experiences. “Research shows that underrepresented students fare better when they have a faculty mentor who can relate to their experiences,” said Terriquez, a professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin. Terriquez has also expanded the Chicano Studies Research Center’s faculty advisory committee, which now includes a greater breadth of disciplinary backgrounds. And on Nov. 1, the center is planning a special virtual Dia De Los Muertos event, open to the UCLA community. “The program will feature Dia de Los Muertos-related arts and performances, but it will also feature the hard data that remind us of the devastation Latinx communities have experienced during the current pandemic,” Terriquez said. “It will be a celebration and a call to action because we can’t let this happen again.” Looking ahead, Terriquez will be working on California Freedom Summer, a project that will train and place college students as summer 2022 interns at nonprofit organizations where they will focus on voter education ahead of the fall midterm elections. — Jessica Wolf
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has received $750,000 from The James Irvine Foundation to support data collection and research on the impacts of COVID-19 on Latino workers in California. The grant will also support the development of a policy toolkit to improve the capacity of California lawmakers, business leaders and advocates to champion recovery efforts that strengthen the state’s core workforce. “Latinos are the current and future workforce of California and the road to prosperity runs through them. Yet we often lack the data necessary to make the best policy decisions and targeted investments to uplift Latinos,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz said. “Opportunity and economic mobility for California’s Latinos is necessary for us all to thrive now and far into the future.” Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial group in the country, and a plurality in California, so understanding their contributions to the nation’s social and economic fabric is imperative, Diaz said. She added that providing opportunities to make a living wage and build new skills in a changing economy is critical to a strong recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irvine Foundation grant will support data collection focusing on eight areas: demography and population change; climate change and the environment; economic opportunity and social mobility; education; health; housing; child welfare; and voting rights and political representation. “We know that Latinos are essential to California’s future,” said Virginia Mosqueda, senior program officer at the Irvine Foundation. “Supporting UCLA LPPI helps ensure our state leads the nation in offering Latino workers access to economic opportunity.”
UCLA Luskin’s Martin Gilens and Paul Ong shared insights on economic and political inequality and opportunity as part of a panel organized by the UCLA Anderson Forecast, a quarterly report that frames the economic outlook for California and the nation. Released Sept. 29, the latest report identified a shift from earlier forecasts, which had raised hopes for a blockbuster recovery as COVID-19 vaccines became widely available. Heading into the final quarter of 2021, these hopes have been tempered by the spread of the Delta variant and stagnating vaccination rates, which in turn have led to consumer caution. A panel of experts hosted by the Anderson Forecast brought context to these findings, with a focus on how income is distributed unevenly across the United States. Gilens, chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy, said political and economic inequality are intertwined, resulting in policies that cater to moneyed interests. “Taming the role of money in American politics won’t be easy, especially with an unsympathetic Supreme Court, and … won’t by itself fix everything that ails our democracy,” Gilens said. “But it’s hard to see how we can fix American democracy without reducing the dominance of money in our politics.” Ong, director of UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, focused on race and ethnicity as factors in the job, food, housing and educational insecurity that persists across generations. “I would encourage my colleagues to think much more explicitly about the fundamentals of why race and racism exist within an economy,” he said. “Simply saying that everybody should have equal opportunity doesn’t make it so.”
View the Anderson Forecast presentation, including a keynote address by Mary C. Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens shared his insights into housing policies and priorities on “Home Rediscovered” on the National Geographic Channel. “We have for decades not produced enough housing to keep up with population growth, and we’re at a point in which the bill is really becoming due,” Lens said on the program, which focused on several individuals and families who have rethought where and how they want to live, now and in the future. “COVID is really present in the minds of all of us, of course. It’s driving 36% of recent home purchases,” Lens said, adding that the ability to work remotely has transformed the housing market. “If you don’t have to commute, then that changes not only the structures that people will demand, but it also changes the locations that they’re likely to inhabit,” he said.
The Luskin School welcomed students and alumni back to campus with a series of celebrations and orientations to launch the new academic year. The 10th annual UCLA Luskin Block Party on Sept. 23 drew a record crowd as students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters such as Meyer and Renee Luskin gathered on Dickson Court North to connect with one another after an 18-month stretch of remote learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health protocols remained in force during Welcome Week, which included graduate student informational and networking sessions and an open house for undergraduates focusing on the public affairs major. The week wrapped up with an exclusive reception for Class of 2020 graduates in the School’s public policy, social welfare and urban planning programs.
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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant portion of Asian American-owned businesses in Southern California had, by April 2021, experienced financial losses, closures and staff reductions, and many of them struggled to access local, state or federal aid, according to a new UCLA policy brief. The brief is based on data from a survey conducted during the first four months of 2021 by the Asian Business Association of Los Angeles, whose findings were published by the Asian Business Center, the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, directed by Research Professor Paul Ong, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, directed by Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto. Researchers asked 400 Asian American business owners in Southern California about the impact of the pandemic. Businesses represented a variety of industries, including manufacturing, retail, transportation, professional services, restaurants, services and health care. Roughly 60% of respondents reported a large negative effect from the pandemic. “While some companies were able to minimize their losses by pivoting to online sales, owners who are older reported that they struggled to make that transition,” Ong said. “On the other hand, younger business owners said they faced eligibility barriers when they tried to access recovery funds that would help their companies survive.” The policy brief recommends that policymakers simplify the financial relief application process and work with community organizations to provide additional technical assistance for business owners. Three out of four of the businesses surveyed were immigrant-owned, and nearly half were owned by women. People of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese descent made up the largest portion of the survey. — Jessica Wolf
Sonja Diaz, executive director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to CBS News about the importance of engaging Latino voters, who make up nearly 28% of the California electorate. Latinos’ priorities are largely dependent on where they live, Diaz said. “Los Angeles County was the epicenter of COVID 19. … In places like the Central Valley, you could see the closure of small businesses. In other places throughout the state, it’s issues of housing insecurity,” she said, advising campaigns and political parties to “meet Latino voters where they are and actually have the nuanced messaging that is geographical tailored.” In many diverse communities, trusted messengers such as medical professionals at local clinics are key in communicating that protecting one’s health and casting a ballot are important acts of civic engagement. “You need to identify the people that diverse households are going to respond to, especially since there is this plethora of misinformation and disinformation that target these households,” Diaz said.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KPBS about changes to California’s policies to combat COVID-19 if Gov. Gavin Newsom is removed from office — including potential cuts in funding to deal with the pandemic. “We know who suffers when bad policy exists … and that’s Black and brown communities who have borne the brunt of the health and wealth impacts of this pandemic,” she said. “One need only look at states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida for the role of a governor who’s anti-science in dealing with the pandemic.” Diaz also spoke to the Associated Press about the electoral power of Latinos, who now make up 40% of California’s population but are less likely to vote than other groups. And she spoke with Spectrum News about the importance of investing in turnout to motivate people of color to vote.