Posts

Shining a Light on California’s ‘Unseen Latinas’ UCLA researchers join Assemblywoman's effort to make sure no one is left behind in the state's recovery

By Nick Gonzalez

Latinas make less than their male and female counterparts, have never served in a statewide elected position in California and remain underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. A new two-year effort launched by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and the California Latino Caucus seeks to tackle the inequities that the state’s Latinas face.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) faculty and staff have been at the forefront of the Unseen Latinas Initiative by providing expert testimony in its first year of public hearings to identify problems and solutions. Through cross-sector research, a team of LPPI female experts have been putting a data-driven lens on the educational, economic and career barriers that Latinas must overcome.

“By launching the Unseen Latinas Initiative, California’s leaders are making it clear that they understand that the state’s continued economic prowess requires that Latinas have a fair chance to succeed and thrive,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI founding director. “Especially as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to make sure that no one gets left behind in the recovery and bright future that lies ahead.”

Latinas make up nearly 20% of Californians, and Latina participation in the U.S. workforce is expected to grow by 26% in the next 10 years. Yet new research from LPPI shows that Latinas exited the workforce amid the pandemic at higher rates than any other demographic amid the pandemic, making it clear that recovery efforts should provide specific assistance to help them recover financially and get back on their feet.

“California has an opportunity and responsibility to lead what it means to have a just and equal economy,” said Gonzalez, who earned a law degree at UCLA in 1999. “UCLA LPPI has been a valuable partner on the Unseen Latinas Initiative. LPPI experts have shared key testimony by shining a light on the inequalities Latinas continue to face, as well as the opportunities that exist to make sure Latinas are no longer unseen and can participate in the state’s prosperous future.”

In an October conversation about the Latina wage gap, Diaz urged action to address the child-care and family obligations that pushed Latinas out of the workforce during the pandemic. Without a clear plan to bring them back into the labor market, the repercussions could be devastating for Latino families and for the state’s economy, she said.

LPPI expert Mary Lopez, an economics professor at Occidental College, continued the conversation in a January hearing on the labor market, testifying that policy solutions such as affordable child care and job training are essential in reducing workforce inequities for Latinas.

The Unseen Latinas public hearings series also discussed the challenges that Latinas face in breaking into the legal field, with testimony from LPPI expert Jennifer Chacon, a UCLA Law professor.

Part of the invisibility of the needs and strengths of the state’s Latinas comes from the lack of representation in media and popular culture. At an April hearing, LPPI expert Ana-Christina Ramón provided testimony about the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, which she co-founded and co-authors. Latinos and women are among the groups that remain underrepresented in film relative to their population size.

“We know that Hollywood plays a meaningful role in shaping how people perceive others around them,” said Ramón, who is also the director of research and civic engagement at the UCLA Division of Social Sciences. “When Latinas do not have starring roles or they are not seen as doctors, lawyers or CEOs, that perpetuates the barriers that they face in achieving their full potential.”

For information about the legislators leading Unseen Latinas and for details on upcoming hearings, please visit the Assembly website for the state’s Select Committee on Latina Inequities.

New Book by Segura Measures the True Cost of War

A new book co-authored by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura measures the full cost of war by examining the consequences of foreign combat on domestic politics. In “Costly Calculations: A Theory of War, Casualties, and Politics,” published by Cambridge University Press, the authors employ a variety of empirical methods to examine multiple wars from the last 100 years. The human toll – the military dead and injured – is generally the most salient measure of war costs and the primary instrument through which war affects the social, economic and political fabric of a nation, according to Segura and co-author Scott Sigmund Gartner, provost of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Their work provides a framework for understanding war initiation, war policy and war termination in democratic polities, as well as the forces that shape public opinion. “War-making is not just strategic but also represents a political action of some consequence filtered through a societal lens,” the authors write. “Leaders embark upon a course of conflict with an eye on the level of public support, work hard to win that support if it’s missing, actively attempt to manage public beliefs about the conflict and its costs and benefits, and may suffer the political consequences when the people viewing a conflict through the eyes of their communities believe that they miscalculated.” 


 

Tilly on Improving Working Conditions Amid Labor Crunch

Urban Planning Chair Chris Tilly spoke to Grocery Dive and Business Insider about the growing labor shortage, which comes as many retail employees are demanding improved working conditions. “Consumer demand is expanding faster than people are able and willing to go back into the labor force,” Tilly explained. “I don’t think we’re at a point where workers have permanently gained the upper hand, but I would be cautious about saying exactly when the power is going to shift back more to employers.” In the grocery sector, Tilly recommended that employers market their positions as opportunities for growth and advancement, in addition to offering higher wages. “Back when retail was a relatively desirable job, part of what made it that way was you actually could have a retail career, and it was not just a very small number of people who became supervisors and managers and took that path to the top,” he said.


U.S. Border Policy Leads to Migrant Deaths, Zepeda-Millán Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in an Independent article discussing the deadly consequences of U.S. border policy. A recent photo of a Border Patrol agent carrying a migrant to safety in the Rio Grande Valley highlights the dangers of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in the excessive heat of summer. As of May, the Border Patrol has rescued more than 7,000 people this fiscal year, more than the same period in previous years. By tightening security at more common points of entry, U.S. border policy is explicitly designed to push migrants into dangerous, remote areas to deter further crossings. “The most devastating effect will undoubtedly be the increasing number of migrant deaths as they get pushed further and further into dangerous deserts and isolated mountain areas,” Zepeda-Millán said. “That’s literally our stated policy.” Most adult migrants who make it across the border are immediately deported without a chance to seek asylum.


All 5 New Faculty Additions Have Prior UCLA Experience

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
and inspired
by them.”

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.

Policy Solutions from the Newest UCLA Luskin MPPs

To earn a master of public policy degree at UCLA Luskin, students must demonstrate their command of the analytical and communication skills needed to develop real-world policy solutions. This year, 15 teams completed the rite of passage, presenting the results of their yearlong Applied Policy Project investigations into specific problems faced by a broad array of government agencies, nonprofits and other firms working in the public interest. Clients included several city and county offices; large nonprofits including the United Way and World Vision International; a nursing home in Tianjin, China; and local advocacy groups such as Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles. Students are encouraged to grapple with the challenges of policy implementation amid often conflicting social, political, economic and technical interests. During three virtual sessions in May, the teams described the policy issues they tackled, reviewed their research, presented a course of action, then fielded questions from peers and professors. They also produced full reports documenting their findings, made available to clients as well as future MPP students. This year, honors were granted to four APP projects:

Manville Endorses Parking Reform in California

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville co-authored a StreetsBlog article about the possibility of parking reform with Assembly Bill 1401, which would eliminate minimum parking mandates for buildings near public transit in California. “Eliminating parking requirements is the simplest, most effective step that California can take to reduce carbon emissions, make housing more affordable, and increase production of homes for families across the income spectrum – all at no cost to the public,” wrote Manville and co-authors Anthony Dedousis and Mott Smith. Some opponents of the bill argue that eliminating parking requirements could harm affordable housing production by making California’s density bonus incentives less valuable. However, the authors pointed to the success of parking reform in San Diego, which eliminated parking requirements in 2019 and saw record increases in the amount of new housing built, including over 1,500 affordable homes in 2020. They see AB 1401 as an opportunity to “learn from San Diego’s success and take parking reform statewide.”


Manville Examines Impact of Gentrification on Rent

Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville was featured on KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” in an episode about the impact of housing supply on rent prices. “It’s important to separate this big question of gentrification with the question of what happens to rent,” Manville said. His research has shown that adding to the housing supply lowers nearby rent, but he explained that the trend is “not always easy to see because developers like to build in places where rents are already rising.” Considering neighborhoods where housing demand is already increasing, Manville asked, “Do you want newer residents moving in and displacing residents in the existing housing, or do you want them to be in brand-new housing where, while they will change the neighborhood by their presence, they don’t put as much pressure on the existing housing stock where a lot of the current people live?”


Gilens on Debate Over How to Frame Progressive Policies

Professor of Public Policy and Social Welfare Martin Gilens was featured in a New York Times column examining a recent paper published by Yale political scientists Micah English and Joshua Kalla. The scholars contend that, “despite increasing awareness of racial inequities, linking public policies to race is detrimental for support of those policies.” The English-Kalla paper has prompted widespread discussion among Democratic strategists and analysts. “Their findings suggest that, even in this time of heightened public concern with racial inequities, Democrats are not likely to boost public support for progressive policies by framing them as advancing racial equality,” Gilens said. He called the paper “solid work” but also pointed out its limitations. “I would consider the English and Kalla results to be sobering but not, in themselves, a strong argument for Democrats to turn away from appeals to racial justice,” Gilens said.


Building Momentum to Address Plastic Pollution

Daniel Coffee MPP ’20, associate project manager at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, was featured in an Orange County Register article about new legislation to address plastic pollution. There are a dozen state bills in California proposing reduction of single-use plastics and refilling of returnable beverage bottles, as well as a federal proposal that would place the responsibility for plastic reduction and recycling on companies that make and utilize single-use plastics. “In the past few years, we’ve had a breakthrough in terms of public awareness, but I don’t think we quite have the political will yet,” Coffee said. “The plastics industry and the fossil fuel industry aren’t shy about pouring money into influencing policymakers.” The state proposals, which are more incremental, are more likely to become law than the landmark federal proposal. “If SB 54 passes, then other states could see what’s possible and follow suit,” Coffee said. “California is often the leader in this type of legislation.”