Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about the potential for nationwide repercussions if California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ousted in Tuesday’s recall election. Newsom’s removal could fuel efforts to dismantle vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, and embolden Republicans who will battle to take control of both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. It could also undermine California’s reputation as a progressive trendsetter. “When California sneezes, the rest of the country catches a cold,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles County supervisor and city councilman. California’s ouster of a Democrat would be a “political earthquake” that could shake the rest of the nation, he added. Yaroslavsky also spoke to the Jewish News Syndicate about the role of the Jewish electorate, noting, “There’s an undemocratic piece to this recall, which I think offends the sensibilities of the Jewish community.”
Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Director Sonja Diaz spoke to KQED about the importance of engaging Latino voters. Many Democratic candidates have come to rely on support from Latino communities, but recent elections have highlighted political shifts among Latino voters, including increased support for former President Donald Trump. “Where the Republican Party did invest, there were some shifts and that included some minority voters,” Diaz said. “That does not necessitate that Latinos … are somehow more Republican than they ever have been, but it provides this really clear and explicit recognition that in order to engage them, you have to actually invest in them.” Diaz said Trump’s increase in popularity among Latinos during the pandemic can be attributed to his pivot from the anti-Latino tenor of his first campaign. Diaz also spoke to KPBS and the Los Angeles Times about increasing voter turnout, especially in Latino communities, to block the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Amada Armenta spoke to the Los Angeles Times about increasing pressure to reform the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which has for years been criticized for its treatment of immigrants in detention. The implementation of any changes will fall under the responsibilities of the new director, nominated by President Joe Biden. Some advocates have demanded improved conditions in detention centers as well as the scaling back of programs such as 287(g), which allows for collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement. While ICE says the local collaboration programs are meant to promote public safety, the result is that many undocumented immigrants are reluctant to report crimes to law enforcement out of fear that they will be expelled from the country. Armenta argued for doing away with the collaboration programs altogether. When immigrants are afraid to engage with law enforcement, “that’s bad for all of us,” she said.
Prior to the 2020 U.S. census, many observers feared that large segments of the population would be undercounted. Those fears appear to have been realized, according to a UCLA analysis of the census data.
The study, conducted by the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, found that in Los Angeles County, residents in some neighborhoods were much more likely than others to be excluded from the 2020 census. Specifically, the research (PDF) concluded that — at the census-tract level — undercounts were most likely in areas where the majority of residents are Hispanic or Asian, have lower incomes, rent their homes or were born outside of the U.S.
Paul Ong, a research professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Jonathan Ong of Ong and Associates, a public-interest consulting firm, combed through data published Aug. 12 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The results are, unfortunately, consistent with our worst fear that the 2020 enumeration faced numerous potentially insurmountable barriers to a complete and accurate count,” Paul Ong said.
The research team compared the information to earlier population estimates drawn from the census bureau’s American Community Survey to determine whether and where the 2020 enumeration appeared to undercount or overcount the population within each neighborhood in Los Angeles County.
A key difference between the American Community Survey and the 2020 census, Paul Ong said, is that the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected data collection for the census. Previous research showed that disruption was particularly pronounced in disadvantaged neighborhoods. That appears to have created a “differential undercount,” meaning that some populations were more likely than other groups not to be counted. That, in turn, means that the scope of ethnic diversity and demographic change in cities like Los Angeles could be significantly underestimated, he said.
Based on comparisons between the latest census data and the most recent American Community Survey estimates, the UCLA study found that in Los Angeles County:
- Predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are most likely to have the largest undercounts in the census.
- Neighborhoods with the greatest percentage of people living below the poverty line were most likely to have undercounts.
- Neighborhoods with larger percentages of renters, as opposed to homeowners, were more likely to have undercounts.
- Census tracts in which most people are U.S.-born were more likely to be accurately counted than predominantly immigrant neighborhoods.
The pandemic wasn’t the only factor that hampered data collection for the 2020 census. The effort was also adversely affected by the Trump administration’s highly publicized push to include a citizenship question on the questionnaire. Although that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, Paul Ong said the controversy may have depressed participation among immigrants, whether they were undocumented or not.
“The findings indicate that the needless politicization of the 2020 enumeration seriously dampened participation by those targeted by the Trump administration,” he said.
Problems with the self-reporting aspect of the census placed greater pressure on the subsequent on-the-ground outreach in which census-takers canvassed nonresponding households. The success of that follow-up drive will not be known until a post-census analysis is conducted, which is scheduled for 2022.
The UCLA analysis is consistent with results from previous studies that have shown undercounts likelier to occur in disadvantaged communities. How residents are counted is important because census results influence legislative redistricting and government spending, which means the results can have serious political and economic implications.
“Given the analysis, it is imperative that we address the inequality in the census to ensure fair political representation in redistricting,” Paul Ong said.
Unlike previous corrective efforts, which address census undercounts based on national statistics and results from a comparatively small number of districts, the UCLA research relied on data specific to each neighborhood. As a result, Paul Ong said, the new approach should be more accurate and precise, and it could ultimately help officials understand how to adjust population statistics to account for the differential bias in completing the 2020 census and future counts.
Undercounts are of most concern, but the technique could also help identify overcounts, which are rarer but can occur. Military redeployments may lead to overcounts, for example; other situations include some students who get counted twice while splitting time between home and college, and miscounts of people with second homes or people who experience a stay in a nursing home while also holding a permanent residence.
Ong & Associates, of which Paul Ong is the founder, provided services pro bono for the study.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Univision about the political power of the growing Latino electorate. Newly released data from the 2020 Census confirmed that the non-Hispanic white population shrunk the most over the last decade in the United States while the populations identifying as Hispanic, Latino or multiracial grew. According to Diaz, the census data is integral to political voice and ensuring fair redistricting. “When we redraw the lines, we should see Latino political voice and political power protected under the Voting Rights Act and their ability to elect their candidate of choice,” Diaz said. While the census’ undercount of some communities is still unclear, Diaz predicted that the United States will continue to see population growth among Asian Americans and Latinos in the next few decades.
A new book by Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Kian Goh explores the politics of urban climate change responses in different cities and the emergence of grassroots activism in resistance. “Form and Flow: The Spatial Politics of Urban Resilience and Climate Justice,” published today by MIT Press, traces the flow of ideas and influence in urban climate change plans in three key city centers — New York City; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the book, Goh analyzes major climate adaptation plans and projects such as Rebuild By Design in New York, the Giant Sea Wall masterplan in Jakarta and Rotterdam Climate Proof. Goh also discusses the rise of social movements and efforts among community organizations to reimagine their own futures in response to historical injustices and present-day challenges. Many groups of marginalized urban residents have pushed back against city plans and offered “counterplans” in protest against actions that they feel are unjust and exclusionary. Goh investigates how historically uneven development and global connections between cities have shaped the politics of climate urbanism, and her analysis provides insight on how to achieve a more just and resilient urban future. “Form and Flow” sheds light on the new wave of urban climate change interventions driven by environmental urgency, developmental pressures and global networks of expertise. Yale Professor Karen Seto called Goh’s book “a must-read for urban climate scholars and practitioners,” and Cambridge University Professor Matthew Gandy added that Goh’s “comparative global framework advances the field of political ecology in innovative directions.”
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.”
Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s decline in favorability since his shift to the political right. In 2018, Villanueva campaigned for sheriff as a relatively unknown Democratic candidate and promised police reform and transparency. However, since being elected, Villanueva has resisted calls for greater transparency, pursued controversial hires and resisted multiple subpoenas. The sheriff responded to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread demands for police reform by publicly rebuking local elected Democrats and working to increase the number of people permitted to carry concealed guns in Los Angeles County. The story cited UCLA’s 2021 Quality of Life Index, which found that Villanueva’s favorability has decreased since he was elected; he will be on the ballot for reelection in 2022. “Whether Villanueva is vulnerable depends in huge measure on who runs against him,” Newton said. “Without a credible opponent, none of this really matters.”
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.
Director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Sonja Diaz spoke to AP News about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s advertising strategies to boost his popularity and avoid a recall. Newsom’s campaign has aired three ads on television, including one ad in Spanish attempting to tie the recall to extremist Republicans who have been referencing comments by the recall’s lead proponent, Orrin Heatlie, about putting microchips in immigrants. Another ad focuses on the cash payments in Newsom’s proposed state budget, which would deliver $1,100 in one-time cash payments to families, plus other relief. According to Diaz, Newsom’s positive ad presents messaging that will resonate with families and young people who have been hard hit by the pandemic because it highlights the cash payments, help for businesses and an expansion of preschool education. “This is something that I think is really targeted to talk to the policy choices that are going to help younger Californians,” she said.