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Yin on Risks of ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Plans

Wesley Yin, associate professor of public policy and economics, spoke to USA Today about the rapid growth in “buy now, pay later” credit, which has come under the scrutiny of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The loans are especially appealing to young shoppers and people with low income or poor credit, and the federal agency found that borrowers may be unaware of late fees and other consumer risks. Yin drew a parallel to the easy credit of the pre-2008 mortgage industry, which helped trigger the Great Recession, but said the macroeconomic implications of the “buy now, pay later” programs are less worrisome. He noted that the growing popularity of this form of credit may be a symptom of a deeper problem in the economy. “Is it a luxury to want an iPhone, or is it a luxury to want a new sofa?” he said. “The fact that people can’t pay for it, I think, is the issue.”


 

Monkeypox Outreach Based on Science and Messaging

A story by The 19th about strategies used on college campuses to reduce the spread of monkeypox cited the work of Social Welfare Professor Ian Holloway. In addition to leading UCLA’s Hub for Health Intervention, Policy and Practice and Gay Sexuality and Social Policy Initiative, Holloway serves on the scientific advisory committee to the California Department of Public Health. As monkeypox cases began to rise over the spring and summer, Holloway’s team quickly launched a multipronged campaign focused on science and messaging. This outreach provided accurate information about monkeypox to gay and bisexual men while noting that anyone can contract the virus, to avoid the stigmatizing language used to discuss HIV in past decades. In partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the team created an infographic explaining monkeypox transmission, symptoms and interventions. Holloway has emphasized that monkeypox outreach to men who have sex with men should be equitable, with a focus on queer men of color. 


 

Celebrating an End to a ‘Slow-Moving Disaster’

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about California’s new law barring local governments from mandating parking spaces as part of most development near transit stops. “This is one of the biggest land-use reforms in the country,” Manville said after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2097 into law. “Parking requirements have been an absolutely slow-moving disaster,” Manville said. “We are turning the ship around.” News outlets including StreetsBlog, Bloomberg CityLab and Mother Jones credited research by Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, with laying the groundwork for AB 2097. Shoup’s decades of scholarship pointed out the faulty and arbitrary reasoning behind parking requirements, whose unintended consequences have included raising the cost of of housing and commercial development, creating incentives to drive instead of using transit, and increasing emissions.


 

Missed Opportunity to Deepen Connection With Latino Voters

A Los Angeles Times op-ed about the Rick Caruso mayoral campaign’s outreach to Latino communities cited Sonja Diaz, executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute. Running as an outsider, Caruso is courting segments of the Latino vote that include moderate Democrats, independents, Catholics and others, raising the question of whether L.A.’s established political class understands that Latinos have a variety of political viewpoints. “We know Latinos are not a monolith,” Diaz said, “but does the California Democratic Party know the difference between Latinos in Sun Valley, Pacoima, Van Nuys, west of the 110 or east of the 110, Northeast and East L.A.?” Around the country, Republicans have made inroads with Latino voters while Democrats have missed opportunities to build the national profile of top elected leaders, Diaz noted in an Elle profile of Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the only Latina in the U.S. Senate.


 

A Rise in Alcohol-Involved Suicides Among Women

An article in Spectrum, the online magazine of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, showcased research co-authored by Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan showing that suicide deaths involving heavy alcohol use have increased significantly among women in the United States in recent years. The study included data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, in which 115,202 suicides of adults 18 and older were reported between 2003 and 2018. Suicides among people who had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater were considered alcohol-involved. During the study period, the proportion of alcohol-involved suicides significantly increased each year for women of all age groups, with the greatest increase among women over age 65. In contrast, only middle-aged men had a significant yearly increase in alcohol-involved suicides. The findings point to a need for more education and awareness of the relationship between heavy alcohol use and suicide, as well as improved screening and intervention strategies.


 

Shoup, Manville on Prospects of Statewide Parking Reform

A Slate article on California legislation to prohibit minimum parking requirements in areas near public transit called on two land use experts on UCLA Luskin’s Urban Planning faculty: Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The bill, AB 2097, which awaits the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, would preempt local parking rules statewide and promises to bring down the cost of new construction. “The way you really get affordable housing is to get rid of parking requirements,” Shoup said. “That reduces the price of housing for everybody, not just low-income residents.” Experts cautioned against overnight changes if the bill becomes law. “There’s very particular circumstances in California that allow you to pull the trigger on a building with no parking, and some of those places are already free from parking rules, like San Francisco,” Manville said. Manville also co-authored a San Francisco Chronicle commentary about lessons Los Angeles can learn from San Francisco’s parking reforms.


 

At the Intersection of Extreme Heat, Urban Planning and Public Policy

News outlets covering the effects of extreme heat on California communities have put a spotlight on UCLA Luskin’s wide-ranging research on climate change. CapRadio and the Sacramento Bee spoke with V. Kelly Turner, who studies the intersection of extreme heat and urban planning and has witnessed the inequitable impact of dangerously high temperatures on low-income communities. The Los Angeles Times spoke to Juan Matute, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, about the lack of shade provided at thousands of bus stops across Los Angeles County. He urged officials to follow the lead of desert cities that use trees, street furniture and shade canopies to protect transit riders from the harsh climate. And the Southern California Association of Governments shared a live demonstration of the California Healthy Places Index: Extreme Heat Edition, developed through a partnership including the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to teach communities about heat vulnerability and resources available to them.


 

Shifting Self-Identity During COVID Years

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke with the Associated Press about new U.S. Census survey results that provide detailed data on how life in the United States changed during the COVID-19 era. During the first two years of the pandemic, the number of people working from home tripled, the share of unmarried couples living together rose, and Americans became more wired, the article noted. In addition, the percentage of people who identify as multiracial grew significantly — strong evidence of shifting self-identity, Ong said. “Other research has shown that racial or ethnic identity can change even over a short time period. For many, it is contextual and situational,” he explained. “This is particularly true for individuals with a multiracial background.”


 

Germany as Defender of the Liberal International Order

A Project Syndicate commentary by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier assessed Germany’s effectiveness in managing an array of crises made urgent by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. “Germany faces no shortage of challenges, from the Russian security threat and political instability among Western allies to democratic backsliding and a looming economic crisis within the European Union,” Anheier wrote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced some of the most drastic policy reversals in postwar German history, including increased investment in the military, a radical overhaul of the nation’s energy policy and a review of trade policies with autocratic regimes, especially China. Progress has been halting but, overall, the current government has proven surprisingly adept at managing the situation, Anheier wrote. “With a relatively sound economy, a strong commitment to the liberal order and the EU, and a functioning government, Germany may be Europe’s best hope in the current crises, provided that American support for Ukraine remains strong.”

Megan Mullin Appointed an Endowed Chair and Faculty Director at UCLA Luskin Environmental politics scholar joins Luskin Center for Innovation leadership team as urgent climate change challenges face California and the country

By Stan Paul and Michelle Einstein

Megan Mullin an award-winning scholar of American political institutions and behavior, focusing on environmental politics has been appointed to endowed positions within the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. 

In January, she will join the faculty of UCLA Public Policy as the Meyer and Renee Luskin Endowed Professor of Innovation and Sustainability. Mullin, currently a professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has also been appointed the new faculty director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. Meyer and Renee Luskin recently endowed both the professorship and faculty director roles.

“Megan Mullin is a unique scholar whose work, at the intersection of environmental protection and the policy process, is perfectly suited to take the Center for Innovation to the next level,” said Gary Segura, dean of the Luskin School.

Mullin’s appointment comes at a time when unprecedented heat, drought and wildfires underscore urgent climate change challenges facing California and the country. The path to solutions is steeped in politics from the level of local communities to the nation’s capital.

“I explore environmental policies that are just, effective and environmentally sustainable. Governance research can help ensure that policies are successfully implemented,” Mullin said.

Her areas of research include the governance and finance of urban water services, public opinion about climate change and the local politics of climate adaptation. 

“Megan understands the factors necessary for action – from the role of public opinion and elections, to how environmental policy is affected by the complex layers of American federalism,” said Public Policy chair Mark A. Peterson. “My colleagues and I are thrilled that Megan will be joining our department as she also takes on the faculty director role at the Luskin Center for Innovation.”

As faculty director, Mullin plans to build upon the center’s work solving environmental challenges through collaborative, actionable research.

“I’m delighted to help advance the Luskins’ vision of bringing UCLA’s expertise to confront our biggest public challenges. The center is bringing that vision to life by collaborating with decision-makers and community members to make on-the-ground impact in environmental policy,” Mullin said. “I look forward to joining that important work and furthering it.”  

Mullin brings a breadth of qualifications for the position. In addition to her role at the Nicholas School, she also holds appointments at Duke’s Department of Political Science and Sanford School of Public Policy. Mullin is a 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow and serves on the leadership team for C-CoAST, a National Science Foundation-funded interdisciplinary initiative to study human-natural interactions in coastal systems. Recipient of five awards from the American Political Science Association, she earned a Ph.D. in political science from UC Berkeley.

“Megan is one of the nation’s most esteemed social scientists addressing the local politics of inequitable access to clean water and climate adaptation,” said Gregory Pierce, co-director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. “She will increase our local and national impact through her scholarly and community-engaged understanding of how to affect change at a critical time.”

In a recent article in Nature, Mullin explained why Americans have been slow to respond to the climate crisis and argued that “it is time to bring political knowledge to bear on decisions about protecting people from its consequences.”

Mullin envisions expanding upon the center’s work with a governance lens. Her research aims to understand political feasibility. Specifically, Mullin wants to increase the Luskin Center’s influence on environmental policies in California and more recent work on the national stage. 

“There are so many lessons learned from California’s environmental innovations that can be applied elsewhere,” Mullin said. “That’s not just about helping California learn, but also understanding what’s transportable to different contexts.” 

“She will bring an integrated set of research skills, teaching experience and policy impact that’s a fantastic fit,” said Peterson, a professor of public policy, political science and law at UCLA. 

Mullin plans to start teaching courses in the upcoming spring quarter and said she believes that students are an important bridge for research and practice. 

“And yes, I really love teaching and mentoring students,” Mullin said. “That’s an excitement about Luskin – the extent to which the center is integrating students into so many different parts of its activities.” 

She also welcomes the Luskin School’s focus on the intersection of policy, planning and social welfare. “That intersection is a powerful combination to understand environmental policy at the local level,” Mullin said. “For instance, confronting climate change also requires thinking about housing and social services. And considering how communities have enormously different risks and capacities. This is a unique opportunity to bring all of those pieces together.” 

Mullin is the recipient of a Duke University award for excellence in graduate student mentoring. She teaches and advises students in the areas of environmental politics, local politics and water governance in the United States.

“So many of my former students are now out working in environmental professions, and that’s how I understand what challenges they’re confronting. That informs my research agenda. It’s an ongoing conversation,” said Mullin, whose research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Carnegie Corporation, the JEHT Foundation, and the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation. 

Mullin’s appointment completes the Luskin Center for Innovation’s leadership transition following the departure of JR DeShazo, the founding faculty director, who was appointed dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in 2021.

As the faculty director of the center, Mullin will join the existing executive team with Pierce,  V. Kelly Turner and Colleen Callahan. Pierce and Callahan will continue serving in executive leadership roles, and Turner will take on a new leadership role furthering her research on climate action.