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Akee Addresses Lack of Diversity in Economics

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee’s views on the lack of diversity in the economics profession were featured in the Economist after the annual American Economic Association conference in San Diego. Conference attendees expressed concern that the lack of racial and gender diversity within the profession has limited the field by excluding certain perspectives. At the conference, Akee joined a panel on “How Can Economics Save Its Race Problem?” to speak about the pressures to be taken seriously as a scholar, not merely a race scholar. He explained his decision to postpone the research he wanted to do on indigenous people and work instead on other subjects, in order to be taken seriously as an economist. Akee argues that race should occupy a more central space within the portfolio of economic research. Despite efforts to increase diversity within the profession, many economists worry that this movement will stall before achieving long-term change.


U.S. Lagging on Constitutional Rights, Study Finds

New research from the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center shows that the United States is falling behind its global peers when it comes to guarantees for key constitutional rights. “The new decade begins with clear constitutional gaps that place the United States in a global minority” for failing to guarantee rights to healthcare and gender equality, said Jody Heymann, founder of the nonprofit policy research center. “Globally, the U.S. now lags 165 other nations with stronger constitutional protections for women. And the U.S. is absent from the 142 countries globally … that provide some degree of constitutional protection for the right to health,” said Heymann, a distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA. Worldwide, the center’s researchers found a considerable expansion of protections over the past 50 years but noted that millions are still left without human rights guarantees, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination. Groups experiencing the greatest gaps in rights guarantees include migrants, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. To produce the report, researchers analyzed the constitutions of all 193 United Nations member states. “Constitutions help shape social norms and send clear messages about who matters and what nations value,” Heymann said. The report is now available as an online resource featuring policy briefs, maps and downloadable data as well as the book “Advancing Equality,” available for  download at UC Press. The book’s authors, Heymann, Amy Raub and Aleta Sprague, also wrote an op-ed for CNN arguing that it’s time for the United States to guarantee gender equality by enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

LGBT Communities Fighting for Social and Spatial Change

Despite recent gains in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States such as gay marriage and the right to serve openly in the military, the fight against equality for LGBT people appears to be gaining strength, according to Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning. Violence against LGBT people has continued “unabated, however, during the recent period of legislative wins,” Goh writes in a recently published article, “Safe Cities and Queer Spaces: The Urban Politics of Radical LGBT Activism.” In the online article in Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Goh cites data from GLAAD and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, indicating that 2015 and 2016 were the “most deadly on record for transgender people in the United States, overwhelmingly affecting transgender women of color.” In LGBT communities, homelessness continues to be an issue, and socioeconomic disparities are reinforced, “particularly among women, people of color, young and old, and gender-nonconforming.” Goh adds that these overlapping identities and “systems of oppression exacerbate the marginalization of LGBT-identified people, creating ‘unjust geographies’ that intertwine race, class gender and sexuality.” Goh looks at how researchers, planners and others who contribute to the “making of cities” can understand and contribute to social movements, change and justice, and — through participatory observation and working with these groups — examines the efforts of two New York-based queer activist groups fighting for social and spatial change. — Stan Paul