Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jasmine Hill spoke to Dot LA about the findings of PledgeLA’s survey of Los Angeles technology companies and venture firms. While the tech industry in Los Angeles has made efforts to increase the diversity of its workforce, the survey highlighted the disparities that still exist in pay and representation. “Tech oftentimes likes to think of itself as a very equal, egalitarian space,” said Hill, who helped analyze the data for PledgeLA. “But the data shows something different.” The report found that Black and Latino workers make less money than their peers, and women earned an average of $20,000 less than men regardless of role or experience. PledgeLA was able to break down earnings data by race as a result of an increased participation rate from PledgeLA companies in the survey, but Hill noted that the report is not representative of the entire L.A. tech scene because it only includes data from the participating PledgeLA companies.
Health Affairs, a leading journal of health policy research, devoted its July edition to health issues relating to immigration along the southern border of the United States, with Arturo Vargas Bustamante of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) serving as editorial advisor. He curated more than a dozen research studies that provide an in-depth understanding of the effects of U.S. immigration policy on the care, coverage and health outcomes for immigrants. The journal also published two research studies from Bustamante, the faculty director of research at LPPI and a professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. One study found that better access to insurance for aging immigrants would improve their health care and reduce emergency room costs for both immigrants and U.S. taxpayers. Another study, by Bustamante and LPPI Director of Research Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, focused on the health of immigrants repatriating to Mexico from the United States. Vargas Bustamante also took part in a Health Affairs podcast and a panel discussion with other featured authors from the issue. For those working at LPPI, the special issue represents a sign that public opinion may be shifting on immigration issues, particularly regarding the contributions made by Latino immigrants to America’s social and economic fabric. Such a narrative shift would be a particularly welcome change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further highlighted systemic inequities relating to U.S. health care for Latinos and other persons of color.
Articles in the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed cited Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber’s efforts to clarify misleading statements about the University of California’s admissions policies. Both articles were written in rebuttal to an Atlantic story arguing that the UC system’s decision to phase out the use of SAT and ACT scores in fact discriminates against poor students of color. The Atlantic article “bootstrapped complex admissions data and procedures into a hot take that cooled upon inspection,” according to the Washington Post opinion piece, which pointed to Reber’s work as a factually accurate explanation of the admissions process. Reber, an authority on the economics of education policy, also weighed in on social media to counter incomplete or erroneous information. Inside Higher Ed called on public universities to do more to shore up public faith in their mission, both by aggressively countering false narratives and by upending a culture that prizes selectivity and prestige in admissions.
Urban Planning faculty members Michael Manville and Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the return of L.A. traffic levels to pre-pandemic levels. “Traffic is a product of people having places to go,” said Manville, but he noted that “it’s the last few vehicles on the road that are responsible for most of the delays.” Manville argued that congestion pricing is key to reducing traffic. “Traffic congestion arises because there’s excess demand and scarce road space,” he said. He also pointed out that congestion pricing can be used to increase equity “because the absolute poorest people don’t drive … [and] no one suffers from congestion more than people stuck on a bus.” Taylor added that “when traffic demand is near or above the capacity of the street and highway system, any changes — adding or subtracting relatively few cars — can have a significant effect on delays.”
By Stan Paul
For Jasmine Hill and four other new full-time faculty at the Luskin School, it will be a homecoming.
The 2011 UCLA alumna, who served as student body president during her senior year as an undergraduate, will begin doing research and teaching at her alma mater as an assistant professor of public policy this summer.
“I think it’s always people’s dream to come back to their undergraduate institution, especially if they had a positive experience, and that was certainly the case for me,” Hill said. “Having received my graduate training at a private school, I got to see how much I value UCLA and public education.”
Hill’s work focuses on economic inequality, specifically on obstacles to social mobility for Black Americans. At UCLA Luskin, she will teach qualitative methods, plus a course about how seemingly well-intentioned policies can lead to racial inequality.
“In the wake of the assassination of George Floyd, I’m thinking a great deal about the disconnect between decision-makers and the public who wants to transform systems of power. If done correctly, I see qualitative methods as a tool to amplify the perspectives of the people and center the needs, and the concerns, of underserved populations,” she said.
Hill is passionate about mentoring students, especially those who traditionally have been marginalized. “I’m excited to support Luskin students who are organizing and fostering social change,” she said. “I’m motivated
Another new faculty member with direct ties to campus is Veronica Terriquez, who earned her Ph.D. in sociology in 2009 at UCLA and will become a professor of urban planning with a joint appointment in Chicana/o and Central American Studies. She will also lead the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. She was previously an associate professor of sociology at UC Santa Cruz.
Terriquez focuses on social inequality, immigrant incorporation and political participation, taking an intersectional approach to understanding how individuals and groups reproduce or challenge patterns of social inequality. Much of her research has implications for policies affecting low-income, immigrant and Latino communities.
“As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, I prioritize conducting research that has implications for education reform, immigrant rights, labor rights and racial justice efforts,” said Terriquez, who also holds degrees from Harvard and UC Berkeley.
Mark Vestal has strong personal links not just to UCLA but also to Los Angeles. He was born in Inglewood and can trace his family lineage in the city to the late 1800s. He attended local schools and completed his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees at UCLA.
Vestal, who completed his Ph.D. in history in 2020, joined UCLA Luskin Urban Planning in January as a postdoctoral scholar and will transition to assistant professor in July.
“Being able to teach and do research in the city I have so much invested in, personally — in terms of personal experience, politically and also in terms of family ancestry — perhaps it should be an entitlement, but it feels like an incredible privilege,” Vestal said.
His interest lies in the Black experience of private property, he explained, looking closely at the history of discriminatory planning and housing policy in Los Angeles and beyond.
Vestal is developing his doctoral dissertation into a book, describing it as a social history of working-class property and politics. The findings of his thesis will “force urban historians, and anyone concerned with housing policy, to rethink the central problem of race and housing in the United States.”
Also joining UCLA Luskin Urban Planning in January was Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor whose previous academic post was in environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz. He holds a doctorate from Stanford and studies environmental economics and transportation.
Working remotely amid the pandemic, Millard-Ball has already taught a class in transportation and environmental issues and another on urban data science.
Millard-Ball originally hails from the south of England. Trained as an economist, geographer and planner, his scholarship analyzes the environmental consequences of transportation and land-use decisions, including parking. He also examines policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Much of my current work is about street network sprawl worldwide — quantifying which places have been really successful in providing connected streets, which are good for walking and biking,” he said.
Noting that transportation is the largest source of emissions in California, Millard-Ball explained, “I’m interested in what can be done to bend that curve.”
The fifth new faculty addition also has UCLA teaching experience. Margaret “Maggie” Thomas, who will become an assistant professor of social welfare, previously served as a lecturer for a second-year graduate course on poverty and welfare.
“I was particularly glad to get to teach last year as a way to really be connected with Luskin in that interim year,” said Thomas, who finished her Ph.D. at Boston University in 2020, followed by postdoctoral work at Columbia University. “It was just such a nice chance to get to know master’s students and start to get a little bit familiar with what the whole feel of teaching is like at Luskin and to meet some colleagues who are also teaching in the MSW program.”
Much of Thomas’ work is policy-oriented,
“so there’s a lot of really natural connections for me between social welfare, public policy and urban planning. Luskin offers such clear opportunities to collaborate with all three departments.”
Thomas holds degrees from Notre Dame and the University of Illinois. She focuses on children and families facing economic hardship, as well as children and youth from marginalized communities.
“We’ve heard conversations about hardship at the national level a lot more this year than we typically do. Whether it’s
food insecurity or housing hardship, the kinds of things I’ve been studying are only that much more prominent and bigger problems to solve,” she said.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner was featured in a National Geographic article about the importance of shade in cities like Los Angeles that are growing hotter due to climate change. Urban design in Los Angeles has prioritized access to the sun, with many city codes determining how much shadow buildings can cast. However, climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heat waves, increasing the risk of heat-related death and illness. Furthermore, predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods have fewer parks and trees and less access to shade than white neighborhoods. While asphalt and concrete absorb and release captured heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, planting trees and creating shade can keep buildings cooler, lowering the risk of heat-related illness. “The really simple thing, if you care about making people more comfortable, is just to offer more opportunities for shade,” Turner said.
New reports from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation show that the local knowledge, partnerships and established trust that underlie Transformative Climate Community (TCC) partnerships have allowed them to identify changing needs and respond quickly during the pandemic. These responses were bolstered by government-funded community engagement plans that offer leadership opportunities that tackle community goals around climate action and resiliency. TCC was established by the California Legislature in 2016 to provide funds to the state’s most disadvantaged communities while simultaneously reducing pollution, strengthening the local economy and improving public health through community-based projects. Cap-and-trade dollars have funded the first three rounds of the program under the direction of the California Strategic Growth Council, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s current budget proposal includes $420 million for TCC implementation and planning grants over three years. The latest round of reports by UCLA document the progress of TCC grants in four sites: Fresno, Ontario, Watts/South L.A. and Northeast Valley L.A. A fifth site, Stockton, will soon be added to UCLA’s TCC evaluation cohort. “We can learn a lot from these five living laboratories for holistic climate action,” said Professor JR DeShazo, principal investigator on the ongoing study and director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. “It’s impressive,” said Jason Karpman MURP ’16, project manager of UCLA’s TCC evaluation. “During a year when so much has come to a halt, these initiatives have continued to quickly adapt and meet the needs of residents.”
The UCLA Luskin Social Welfare faculty, students and alumni who joined forces in summer 2020 to craft an Action Plan to Address Anti-Blackness and Racism recently issued a progress report and accompanying video explaining their efforts. The team came together following the killing of George Floyd to examine the curriculum and culture, developing a set of action items to address racial disparities within the department and across the education of social workers. Their new report details progress that has been made so far, including a series of virtual events during the 2020-21 academic year that focused on racial justice and the history of how white supremacy has impacted the practice of social work. The progress report also discusses areas where further progress is needed at UCLA Luskin, such as recruiting more Black faculty members and providing additional funding opportunities to students of color. Read more about the team and their efforts.
Watch the video
Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a commentary in The Hill about the need for more equitable distribution of federal funding for schools. Congress has increased school funding in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with aid distributed using a formula laid out in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sends more money to high-poverty schools. However, Reber and Nora Gordon of Georgetown University argued that “funding under the program is not a clean proxy for economic disadvantage.” They recommended turning to “simpler and better alternatives for distributing much-needed additional funding for school infrastructure and to address educational inequities.” The Title I formula has created confusion and political pushback; for example, it directs more funding per student to larger districts compared to smaller ones with the same child poverty rate. “It is past time for Congress to address these concerns with additional funding distributed with an eye to equity,” they concluded.
Greg Pierce, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, was cited in a Radio Free article discussing a report he co-authored about access to clean drinking water in California. The Center for Innovation collaborated with the California State Water Resources Control Board and others on the report, which found that 620 public water systems and 80,000 domestic wells are at risk of failing to provide affordable and uncontaminated water — an issue that will cost billions to fix. The report was “the most comprehensive assessment that’s been done on the state level anywhere in the U.S.,” Pierce said. “Drought and access and water quality are all related.” He argued that temporary solutions, like providing bottled water to people whose water systems fail, are more expensive in the long run than fixing systems before they fail.
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