A World Bank blog highlighted research methods used in a study of domestic violence in India that was conducted by Global Lab for Research in Action Director Manisha Shah and researcher Saravana Ravindran. The study found a significant increase in domestic violence and cybercrime complaints in May in Indian districts with the strictest COVID-19 lockdown measures relative to districts with the least strict measures. At the same time, reports of rape and sexual assault declined as people avoided public spaces during the lockdown. “Putting some numbers on a ‘shadow pandemic’ is important for informing policies to address it,” the article said, noting the difficulty of collecting real-time data on such sensitive subjects. “Lockdowns can be an effective way of controlling a pandemic, but they come with costs.”
Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning and director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, spoke to Nature about the importance of prioritizing research submissions from vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal boards and editors are exploring ways to support female researchers and others whose publications and positions are at risk. Roy, an editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, explained the journal’s decision to address structural inequality by putting papers from women and early-career researchers at the front of the review queue. “For years, I’ve paid close attention to papers from scholars who are not at elite universities and to those from early-career researchers,” Roy said. Now, she worries about doctoral students who must complete research projects amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. “This is an opportunity for us to think about how we can deepen practices of compassion, care and equity,” she said.
By Melany De La Cruz-Viesca
A UCLA report released today reveals the disparate economic impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on Asian Americans and points to a need to expand financial relief for all workers in order to stave off the worst effects of the crisis and ensure a strong recovery.
While anecdotal evidence suggests that Asian American businesses, particularly those in big-city ethnic enclaves, experienced the impact of COVID-19 earlier and more deeply than others as a result of xenophobia and racial discrimination, there has been little empirical data to show the overall effect on Asian Americans in the labor market.
The new analysis, by researchers from the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and Ong & Associates, used employment and labor data for California and New York to better understand the nature, pattern and magnitude of the COVID-19 economic disruption to Asian Americans between March and May 2020.
The report found an increased difference in unemployment and joblessness between Asian Americans and whites during this period, compared with the period before the pandemic, when the rates were nearly identical. By May 2020, the researchers found, the unemployment rate for Asians was 15% and the jobless rate was 21%, compared with 12% and 16% for whites.
In addition, while Asian Americans made up 16% of the California labor force in February 2020, they filed 19% of initial unemployment claims over the two-and-a-half months of the shutdown. In New York state, they accounted for 9% of the labor force but filed 14% of claims by mid-April.
The pandemic has had a profound effect on disadvantaged Asian Americans, the researchers note. Among those in the labor force with a high school education or less, 83% filed unemployment claims in California, compared with 37% for the rest of the California labor force with the same level of education.
According to the report, many of these economic effects of COVID-19 are due to the fact that Asian Americans are heavily concentrated in a small number of states and frequently work in industries that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and shelter-in-place mandates.
Nearly 1 in 4 employed Asian Americans work in the categories of hospitality and leisure, retail, and other services, the last of which includes businesses like repair shops and personal services such as hair-cutting and laundries. The unemployment rate for Asian Americans in the hospitality and leisure sector in April was 39%, compared with 36% for non-Hispanic whites. In the other services sector, the rate was 40% for Asians and 19% for whites, according to the report.
In terms of business closures during the pandemic, the authors estimate that 233,000 Asian American small businesses closed from February to April, representing a decline of 28% over the two-month period. The 1.79 million non-Hispanic white small businesses that closed over the same period represented a decline of 17%.
“An important question to consider for the future is whether these disparities will continue as the economy reopens and be exacerbated by the apparent increase in anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S.,” said Paul Ong, co-author of the report and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
A number of policy recommendations outlined in the report would provide much-needed economic relief to marginalized and low-income Asian Americans, in particular those in the service sector. They include:
- Enact federal policy to extend unemployment benefits and small business assistance, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance program from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
- Enact additional state policies that provide benefits to marginalized populations least likely to receive unemployment benefits through the CARES Act.
- Enact additional policies to assist small businesses, including the so-called resiliency funds established by some local governments.
- Increase efforts to ensure marginalized populations take advantage of governmental, private and philanthropic resources to help people weather the financial hardships of COVID-19.
- Enact federal and state polices and fund programs to equip economically displaced people with job skills that are marketable during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
“We need to invest in all workers to ensure a robust recovery,” the researchers write.
The Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) conducts basic and applied research on the socioeconomic formation and internal dynamics of neighborhoods, and how these collective spatial units are positioned and embedded within regions. The center is housed in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Established in 1969, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center has been at the forefront of producing and disseminating knowledge of the lives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through research, archival and film documentation, publications and civic engagement.
Ong & Associates is an economic and policy analysis consulting firm founded by Paul Ong that specializes in public interest issues; the firm provided services pro bono for the study.
A new online map and data repository highlight research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic by the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. The interactive visualization shows how different communities in Los Angeles County have been impacted by the health crisis. It draws on data and research conducted by UCLA Luskin Research Professor Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, working in partnership with Ong & Associates, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. It visualizes information from a series of recently distributed research briefs that show disadvantaged communities are facing greater risks of income insecurity, job displacement and other hardships because of the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.
Bill Parent, senior lecturer of public policy, has received a 2020 Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award, which recognizes UCLA faculty who consistently and enthusiastically support the scholarly and professional goals of the students they guide. Parent, one of 13 award winners selected from 126 nominees, was honored during this year’s Undergraduate Research Showcase, held May 18-22. During the showcase, three students mentored by Parent — Wadi Eghterafi, Matthew Moon and Parsia Vazirnia — presented two overlapping research projects that gauged public opinion about local strategies to combat homelessness. All three undergraduates had previously taken Parent’s class on urban homelessness policy. Under his direction, they went on to develop research projects that included conducting opinion surveys outside supermarkets in Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Westwood and Culver City and making longitudinal observations of the homeless population in Westwood Park. The student letter nominating Parent for the faculty award said he “has truly gone over and above to support my growth by means of constant meetings, feedback and all the work behind the scenes he does to help us grow to be the best researchers we can be.” This year’s virtual Undergraduate Research Showcase featured more than 900 students representing 90 majors presenting their individual and group projects remotely.
Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, is among a group of experts participating in a new American Institutes for Research (AIR) program aimed at building a pipeline of diverse candidates who can contribute to the field of behavioral and social science research and application. The Pipeline Partnership Program provides opportunities for select graduate-level students from Howard University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Georgia State University. Stoll will contribute his expertise as an advisor and content expert to the program, which provides students with education and training; mentoring and career advancement; and networking and internships. “I’m excited to be a part of this effort because it aims to help diversify researchers in the social and behavioral sciences regarding racial and ethnic representation, but also in regards to cultural competencies in the field,” Stoll said. He plans to give seminars at the partnership universities on his current research as well as subjects that encourage and motivate a new generation of researchers to take leadership positions in their fields. “The goal will be to use these opportunities to develop mentorship relationships with promising graduate students at these partnership universities so as to further their skill enhancement, social networks, and career and professional development and success,” he said. As an AIR external institutional fellow for the past four years, Stoll serves as a thought partner on critical projects or enterprises, provides mentorship to select staff, and serves as a reviewer on high profile reports or projects. — Zoe Day
By Les Dunseith
Families living in public housing developments with a history of gang violence and troubled relationships with law enforcement are seeing less crime and feeling safer because of a policing program launched in 2011 by the Los Angeles Police Department, according to a comprehensive analysis led by Jorja Leap, an adjunct professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
The Community Safety Partnership, or CSP, began in the Jordan Downs public housing development and later expanded to two other Watts locations, Nickerson Gardens and Imperial Courts, as well as Ramona Gardens in Boyle Heights. The program assigns specially trained LAPD officers to work alongside residents to reduce crime by developing youth outreach, sports, recreational and other programs tailored specifically to their communities.
The yearlong UCLA-led evaluation compared crime rates in Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens with computer-generated, synthetic models of demographically similar neighborhoods that did not receive CSP services. The research team also conducted community-based research with officers and residents, logging 425 hours of observation, conducting 110 interviews and 28 focus groups, and completing close to 800 surveys as part of a mixed-methods research effort at Nickerson Gardens and Ramona Gardens. Clear majorities at both sites expressed support for this innovative program.
“Their lives were literally changed by CSP,” Leap said during a May 12 online meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission at which the study was publicly unveiled.
Leap is an expert on gangs whose academic research and community engagement in Watts spans four decades, including the Watts Leadership Institute, a 10-year initiative based at UCLA Luskin. She told the five members of the civilian commission that people interviewed by the UCLA team “felt it was safer to go outside, mingle with people, use green spaces.”
As part of the LAPD program, extra effort is made to bridge communication between officers and residents, many of whom have deep-seated distrust of the police. Leap said a critical component involves officers apologizing to community residents for past mistakes and incidents of brutality.
“We were the enemy — pure and simple — if you had the LAPD uniform on, it was as if you had a target on your back. If there were reports of a shooting, officers were not supposed to come in without back-up,” said one officer interviewed for the report. “That’s all changed. The residents of this community want CSP here, they want this community to be safe. They welcome us.”
The impact on crime is significant. According to the analysis, in a one-year period, CSP has led to seven fewer homicides, 93 fewer aggravated assaults and 122 fewer robberies than would otherwise have been expected at Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens.
Statistics like those, plus the high level of resident support found by researchers, encouraged Leap to recommend to the commission that CSP serve as a model for department-wide LAPD policing efforts. The relationship-based focus could also be helpful in other crisis situations, including public health problems such as opioid abuse or the current coronavirus pandemic, she said.
“It could be extremely useful for epidemic crises, including homelessness and the pandemic,” Leap told the commission. “This is the type of approach that represents a new and important paradigm in law enforcement.”
The program has already expanded beyond Watts and Boyle Heights to housing developments in South Park and San Fernando Gardens, as well as the neighborhood surrounding Harvard Park. That expansion was funded by the Ballmer Group, co-founded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, and the Weingart Foundation, which, along with The California Endowment and several private donors, were among the seven funders of the $500,000 UCLA study.
The report describes many positive outcomes related to CSP, but it also identified several shortcomings.
“It is not all sunshine and roses,” Leap warned the commission, adding that the community was skeptical regarding the department’s commitment. “This must become part of the DNA of the LAPD and not a hit-and-run program that is gone in a few months.”
Some respondents questioned the level of community involvement in CSP activities, for example, saying that the officers implemented some programs without first seeking resident participation. Many residents — and even some of the officers — also expressed confusion about the specifics of the program.
“Everyone understood it was about relationships. Pretty much everyone understood it was about building trust,” Leap said. “Nevertheless, there was tremendous confusion” about the CSP model and a strong desire from all parties for better documentation of the program’s components.
Leap said the level of support for CSP in the study differed according to demographic characteristics.
Overall, she said, women were the leaders in both of the housing developments that were studied, and women were slightly more supportive of CSP than men. On the other hand, she noted, there were major differences in terms of ethnicity.
Latino residents predominantly supported CSP, Leap said. “Where we got push-back and mixed results,” particularly on community surveys, was among African Americans. The researchers were able to delve into the underlying reasons for this response during their interviews and focus groups.
“It should come as no surprise — African Americans have had the most tumultuous history” with law enforcement in Los Angeles, said Leap, who noted that incidents of police violence against blacks in other parts of the country in recent years have only added to longstanding tensions between the community and the LAPD. “There are many individuals who carry this history and this mistrust.”
In the report, one interviewee said: “Don’t say everyone loves CSP because not everyone loves CSP. There’s some people who think it’s a bunch of bull. There’s some people who are never gonna trust the police. And there’s some people who are waiting to be convinced. They’re waiting to see if the CSP sticks around or — if once all the publicity goes away — then [the CSP officers] go away.”
That concern was echoed in the report, which included a recommendation to increase funding for CSP and a designation of the program as a permanent part of the LAPD’s law enforcement strategy.
Staying the course over time is important to Leap. She pledged that this study will be just one part of an ongoing effort by her research team, which included UCLA Luskin social welfare professor Todd Franke, a methodological and systems expert, and UCLA anthropology professor P. Jeffrey Brantingham, who is a lead researcher for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Gang Reduction and Youth Development program. Also on the research team were UCLA research associate Susana Bonis and UCLA Luskin alumna Karrah Lompa, who served as the project manager. Several students, some of whom grew up in Watts and Boyle Heights, joined project staff in conducting field research and data analysis. A multicultural advisory board helped guide the study and will contribute to follow-up efforts.
The key to the program’s success is cooperation. Leap told the commissioners something she has repeated in public meetings: “The community truly partners with the police — this is not rhetoric but a meaningful model.”
An analysis by UCLA researchers has found that many of the areas in Los Angeles County with the lowest response rates to the 2020 U.S. Census are also among the locations with the most cases of COVID-19.
In the 2010 census, about 63% of Los Angeles County households responded by mail. This year, according to Paul Ong, a UCLA research professor, the county is on pace for just 52% of households to report their information.
Ong, who also is director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, spearheaded the analysis of census responses through April 30, which found that the differences in response rate between 2020 and 2010 vary widely by census tract throughout the county. While the response rate for 2020 is about 11 percentage points below what it was in 2010 for the county overall, in many parts of the county the rate is lagging 2010 rates by 21.6% or more.
The communities whose 2020 response rates are lagging 2010 rates the most — 29 percentage points on average — include lower-income neighborhoods in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, a majority of South Los Angeles, the Harbor area and Van Nuys. When the researchers compared the census response data to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s tally of COVID-19 cases, they found those immigrant-rich areas are also among the places with the greatest numbers of people with coronavirus.
The census is currently in its self-reporting phase, in which officials are encouraging everyone to participate on their own — whether by mail, phone or online. That phase had been scheduled to end July 31, but officials have pushed the deadline back to Oct. 31 amid the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, the census bureau addresses low response rates in specific neighborhoods by sending census takers to conduct in-person interviews. But with the coronavirus pandemic, that approach will be difficult in 2020.
“As things stand now, the only way to prevent an extreme undercount in some areas of the county would be for a horde of in-person census takers to descend on parts of the city with the greatest chance of coronavirus transmission,” Ong said. “Given the ongoing health concerns, it remains to be seen whether in-person interviews will even be viable during the current census.”
The countywide lag is roughly the same as a national lag of 11 percentage points reported in a related study published by the same researchers on April 30.
The decennial census is required so that congressional seats can be reapportioned to account for geographic shifts in the population, and it is used for redrawing electoral district boundaries for congressional, state legislative and local jurisdictions, and for allocating public funds, which makes an accurate count particularly important.
Ong, who has served as an adviser to the U.S. Census Bureau as part of his scholarly activities at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, said Los Angeles County is facing an unprecedented challenge in completing the 2020 count. The difficulty is magnified by the COVID-19 crisis, but several other factors contribute to the problem.
First, although making online responses an option for the first time should make participation easier for some, internet access is a barrier for many people — particularly those in areas with the lowest response rates, including the urban cores of Los Angeles and other local cities such as Long Beach. Language and cultural differences also may lower self-response rates.
In general, response rates have been highest in more affluent neighborhoods with significant percentages of white residents, but the analysis found some exceptions. For example, a few affluent tracts of Los Angeles County have rates of response that are well behind 2010, including the Santa Monica Hills and some coastal areas. Ong said increases in vacancies and seasonal housing, or the conversion of some residences to vacation and short-term rentals in those areas could partly explain those changes. A census tract with fewer permanent residents today than in 2010 would logically have fewer census responses this year, he noted.
The UCLA study urges public officials to take additional actions to mitigate the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 on the census count.
The researchers noted that efforts could be made to lessen the impact of incompatible data sets when comparing census data to COVID-19 cases, for example. They also said that monitoring census responses at the tract level in real time could help in targeting communication to some neighborhoods, particularly low-income and predominantly minority communities that have historically been among the most difficult to accurately count.
“It is critical to quickly understand what is happening on the ground so adjustments can be made rapidly,” according to the report. “The amount of time left to fairly and accurately complete the 2020 census is very short, too short to wait for the normal slow institutional turnaround time.”
Paul Ong also is a founder of Ong & Associates, an economic and policy analysis consulting firm specializing in public interest issues, which provided services pro bono for the study. The study’s other co-authors are Jonathan and Elena Ong.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Aaron Panofsky has been named a 2020 Carnegie Fellow, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has announced. Panofsky, who also holds appointments in sociology and society and genetics at UCLA, is among a class of 27 fellows nationwide — 14 from public institutions — to be honored. Panofsky was selected from among more than 300 nominations submitted to the philanthropic foundation established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911. The Carnegie Fellows program, now in its sixth year, provides a $200,000 stipend designed to allow recipients to devote up to two years to significant research and writing. The award will support Panofsky’s work on a forthcoming book titled, “Unjust Malaise: Race in the Fog of Genetics.” Panofsky’s main research interest is in the sociology of science and knowledge with a special focus on genetics. His first book, “Misbehaving Science: Controversy and the Development of Behavior Genetics,” published in 2014, analyzed the causes and consequences of controversy in the rapidly growing field. In his new book, Panofsky will demonstrate that, as the public and scholars have appealed to the science of genetics to define race and explain racial inequalities in health, behavior and social success, the results have been confusing and ambiguous. “Ambiguity is baked into the science itself, not just its public interpretations,” Panofsky said. His research explores genetic domains such as racial definition, behavioral research, ancestry and identity, and population health.
Barbara Nelson, former dean of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA and professor emerita of public policy, social welfare, urban planning and political science, received recognition at the 2020 International Women’s Day Conference held at Dhaka University in Bangladesh in March for her award-winning 1994 study, “Women and Politics Worldwide.” Nelson co-edited the book with Najma Chowdhury, a professor in Women and Gender Studies at Dhaka whose lifetime achievements were also honored at the conference. They studied 43 countries and territories focusing on women’s political engagement in state organizations and civil society. In 1995, the book won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck Award for the best book on women and politics. Nelson’s 12-year tenure as dean ended in 2008. She was invited to speak in Bangladesh about the book and her collaboration with Chowdhury but was unable to attend because of travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Her address was delivered on her behalf at the conference.
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