Public Policy Research Works

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    An Econometric Analysis of Sea Surface Temperatures, Sea Ice Concentrations and Ocean Surface Current Velocities
    (MDPI, 2022-12-01) Bhargava, Alok; Echenique, Juan A.
    This paper analyzed quarterly longitudinal data for 64,800 1 × 1 degree grids during 2000–2019 on sea surface temperatures, sea ice concentrations, and ocean surface current zonal and meridional velocities in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The methodological framework addressed the processing of remote sensing signals, interdependence between sea surface temperatures and sea ice concentrations, and combining zonal and meridional velocities as the eddy kinetic energy. Dynamic and static random effects models were estimated by maximum likelihood and stepwise methods, respectively, taking into account the unobserved heterogeneity across grids. The main findings were that quarterly sea surface temperatures increased steadily in the Northern hemisphere, whereas cyclical patterns were apparent in Southern hemisphere; sea ice concentrations declined in both hemispheres. Second, sea surface temperatures were estimated with large negative coefficients in the models for sea ice concentrations for the hemispheres; previous sea ice concentrations were negatively associated with sea surface temperatures, indicating feedback loops. Third, sea surface temperatures were positively and significantly associated with eddy kinetic energy in Northern hemisphere. Overall, the results indicated the importance of reducing sea surface temperatures via reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the dumping of pollutants into oceans for maintaining sea ice concentrations and enhancing global sustainability.
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    Do Conditional Cash Transfers Reduce Fertility? Nationwide Evidence from Mexico
    (Wiley, 2023-07-05) Parker, Susan W.; Ryu, Soomin
    Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, which link transfers to investment in human capital in poor families, have spread around the world over the past two decades. This paper studies the medium-term effects of Progresa, the pioneering Mexican CCT program, on fertility using nationwide vital statistics combined with administrative data on program receipt. The effects of CCTs are likely to vary by age of the woman, and we study impacts by five-year age intervals. We test and account for possible underreporting of births using indirect methods. We find that Progresa led to an important and statistically significant decline in teenage fertility and smaller, but still significant, effects on reducing the fertility of older women.
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    The policy response to global value chain disruption
    (Wiley, 2023-05-05) Dadush, Uri
    This article considers how policymakers should react to the disruption of Global Value Chains, which became dramatically evident during the pandemic. It argues that repeated shocks to GVCs, as seen in recent years, are not purely random and disjointed events. They are the result of fundamental shifts in the geopolitical environment, global economy, and climate. Firms have concluded that international supply chains have become endemically riskier, and this is changing their risk/efficiency calculus. But there is no reason and – so far – little evidence to suggest that GVCs will stage a large-scale retreat. Powerful economic forces are at work that will prompt increased reliance on GVCs and improve their operability in the future. Governments tend to overreact when faced with supply shocks, and unnecessarily impede GVCs; more nuanced and coordinated responses are needed. The WTO can play an important role, promoting the resilience of GVCs.
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    Can gender-responsive budgeting change how governments budget?: Lessons from the case of Ecuador.
    (Wiley, 2023-04-01) Martínez Guzmán, Juan Pablo
    Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) has been introduced in over 80 countries to mitigate gender inequities. We evaluate if these reforms can influence policy making and enhance gender-oriented accountability. Our analysis follows the process-tracing methodology and includes over 20 in-depth interviews. Our findings show significant public administration obstacles to GRB, but success is possible in institutions with proper leadership, human, and technological resources. This study advances our understanding of the operational limits of GRB, highlights areas for future research on equity-oriented reforms, and sheds light on issues that practitioners need to account for as they strive to further gender equity.
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    Decree or democracy? State takeovers and local government financial outcomes
    (Wiley, 2023-02-05) Singla, Akheil; Spreen, Thomas Luke; Shumberger, Jason
    Many states possess the authority to intervene in local fiscal emergencies, in some cases curtailing decision-making powers of local officials through the appointment of an emergency financial manager. Previous research has recognized that these managers can push through unpopular reforms that may improve financial health but come at the expense of local control and democratic accountability. We assess the financial outcomes after eight recent state takeovers relative to a matched counterfactual comprised of similarly distressed general purpose local governments. The staggered difference-in-differences analysis shows emergency managers improve budgetary solvency and increase fiscal reserves. These enhancements are achieved through significant reduction of general fund expenditures. Several long-term indicators show deterioration in financial health after state intervention reflecting a significant decline in long-term assets. Overall, municipalities subjected to a state takeover did not realize significant long-run improvements in financial health indicators relative to counterfactual governments.
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    Information sharing and state revenue forecasting performance
    (Wiley, 2022-09-18) Spreen, Thomas L.; Martinez Guzman, Juan P.
    This study evaluates whether intergovernmental information sharing enhances forecasting performance. This is accomplished by examining the accuracy of state revenue forecasts following the federal passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017. The quantitative analysis suggests that states that shared information produced more accurate corporate income tax forecasts than nonsharing states. This result is consistent with surveys and interviews of federal and state officials that reported significant information-sharing activity arising from uncertainty about the TCJA's corporate income tax provisions. This study demonstrates that information sharing plays an important yet overlooked role in mitigating forecast uncertainty.
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    Delivering public services to the underserved: Nonprofits and the Latino threat narrative
    (Wiley, 2022-03-24) Tremblay-Boire, Joannie; Prakash, Aseem; Apolonia Calderon, Maria
    Some politicians employ harsh rhetoric demanding that government deny public services such as food, housing, and medical care to immigrants. While nonprofits assist immigrants in this regard, their work is sustainable only if private donors support them. Using a survey experiment, this article examines whether donors' willingness to support a charity depends on the legal status of its beneficiaries, and the region from which they have come. We find that, in relation to a charity that serves low-income families (control group), donors are less willing to support a charity serving immigrants, but the region from which beneficiaries emigrated is irrelevant. Donor willingness diminishes substantially when beneficiaries are undocumented or face deportation. While shared ethnicity between donors and beneficiaries does not increase charitable support, bilingualism does. In addition, support for the charity rises substantially among Latinx donors who were born outside the US and do not speak English at home.
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    Preferential Trade Agreements, Geopolitics, and the Fragmentation of World Trade
    (Cambridge University Press, 2023-04-14) Dadush, Uri; Dominguez Prost, Enzo
    Failure to reestablish an effective World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement procedure, stop the erosion of multilateral rules and end the China–US trade war causes capitals to rethink trade policy. One response is to redouble efforts to strike trade agreements with major trading partners. Already countries accounting for about 78% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are members of mega-regional agreements, and based on our computations, preferential trade agreements (PTAs) will soon cover about two-thirds of world trade. Can PTAs replace a fading WTO or mitigate its effects? Amid deepening geopolitical rifts, how will trade relations among China, the EU, and the US, each a hegemon in their respective regions, evolve, and what will be the impact on smaller economies? In short, how will a trading system based increasingly on PTAs and weak multilateral rules look, and how will nations adapt? Absent reforms, the trading system is likely to fragment progressively into regional blocks organized around the hegemons. Trade within the regional blocks, mainly conducted under a mega-regional agreement, will likely remain quite open and predictable, but without strict multilateral rules and where PTAs are absent (as they are among the hegemons), interregional trade relations will become increasingly uncertain and unstable.
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    Better than my neighbor? Testing for overconfidence in COVID-19 preventive behaviors in Latin America
    (Springer Nature, 2022-05-18) Boruchowicz, Cynthia; Lopez Boo, Florencia
    Procrastination and lack of attention may often hinder the implementation of preemptive actions necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 like washing hands, covering nose and mouth with a mask, and keeping social distance. It is in such “easy” tasks that people (mistakenly) believe that they are better than others. In this paper we test for overconfidence bias in COVID-19 preventive behaviors in Latin America. Using a phone survey in nationally representative samples from 10 Latin American countries where randomly, half of the sample in each country was asked about self-reported compliance to COVID-19 guidelines, and half about preventive behavior of fellow citizens compared to them; we tested: if the proportion of individuals claiming that others comply with a certain measure “Always more frequent than me” is higher than those stating that they “Never” or “Sometimes” comply with the same measure (i.e. people believe they are better at doing something than what they actually are). Over 90% of Latin-Americans claim to always wear a mask and sanitize their hands and more than 80% state to always keep social distance. We also find evidence of overconfidence in every behavior – except for keeping distance in public transportation. Moreover, the magnitude of such overconfidence is higher for behaviors such as wearing masks in public or washing hands than for those regarding keeping the 2-m distance. To our knowledge, this is the first study to measure overconfidence in COVID-19 preventive behaviors in Latin America. Results show that more effort is needed to encourage people to comply with the regulation when it does not only depend on them: a better organization of closed stores and public transportation are, for instance, crucial to allow social distancing. It also suggests that a reinforcement of basic measures is essential, as individuals report to be performing them more frequently than when they have to think about such behaviors compared to others.
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    To Fight in the Most Important Battlefield: Formosan Association for Public Affairs on the Hill, A Story Behind the Taiwan Travel Act
    (2021) Liu, Hsiu-An
    This paper explains the functions of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a grassroots advocacy organization that aim to promote US-Taiwan relations in the United States, including the process of approaching members of Congress, cultivating public awareness on issues, and introducing bills, and the strategy behind these movements. The paper also examines different factors contributing to a successful grassroots campaign launched by FAPA which ultimately led to the legislature of the Taiwan Travel Act (TTA). As the TTA was proposed four times throughout three different presidencies before it passed in the year 2018, I weigh the relevant factors to its success or failure by comparing the TTA campaigns at different times. I conclude that the ability to find friends in Congress to support bills and resolutions is always a critical determinant for a grassroots organization’s success, and FAPA has always been good at finding champions in Congress. Also, a campaign based on the target state’s own values and interest are more likely to succeed. FAPA has always been good at framing issues to align with US values and interests. The fundamental factors that changed over time and led to the ultimate success of the TTA campaign are the change of public opinions towards Taiwan and China and the change in US interests in US-China relations. This conclusion proves that the legislative process efficiently represents US interests and public opinions in the making of the TTA, not just the FAPA's interests or Taiwan's interests.
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    Mixture toxicity, cumulative risk, and environmental justice in United States federal policy, 1980–2016
    (Springer Nature, 2021-09-17) Hunt Sprinkle, Robert; Payne-Sturges, Devon C.
    Toxic chemicals — “toxicants” — have been studied and regulated as single entities, and, carcinogens aside, almost all toxicants, single or mixed and however altered, have been thought harmless in very low doses or very weak concentrations. Yet much work in recent decades has shown that toxicants can injure wildlife, laboratory animals, and humans following exposures previously expected to be harmless. Additional work has shown that toxicants can act not only individually and cumulatively but also collectively and even synergistically and that they affect disadvantaged communities inordinately — and therefore, as argued by reformers, unjustly. As late as December 2016, the last full month before the inauguration of a president promising to rescind major environmental regulations, the United States federal environmental-health establishment, as led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), had not developed coherent strategies to mitigate such risks, to alert the public to their plausibility, or to advise leadership in government and industry about their implications. To understand why, we examined archival materials, reviewed online databases, read internal industry communications, and interviewed experts. We confirmed that external constraints, statutory and judicial, had been in place prior to EPA’s earliest interest in mixture toxicity, but we found no overt effort, certainly no successful effort, to loosen those constraints. We also found internal constraints: concerns that fully committing to the study of complex mixtures involving numerous toxicants would lead to methodological drift within the toxicological community and that trying to act on insights from such study could lead only to regulatory futility. Interaction of these constraints, external and internal, shielded the EPA by circumscribing its responsibilities and by impeding movement toward paradigmatic adjustment, but it also perpetuated scientifically dubious policies, such as those limiting the evaluation of commercial chemical formulations, including pesticide formulations, to only those ingredients said by their manufacturers to be active. In this context, regulators’ disregard of synergism contrasted irreconcilably with biocide manufacturers’ understanding that synergism enhanced lethality and patentability. In the end, an effective national response to mixture toxicity, cumulative risk, and environmental injustice did not emerge. In parallel, though, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which was less constrained, pursued with scientific investigation what the EPA had not pursued with regulatory action.
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    Managing borders during public health emergencies of international concern: a proposed typology of cross-border health measures
    (Springer Nature, 2021-06-21) Lee, Kelley; Grépin, Karen A.; Worsnop, Catherine; Marion, Summer; Piper, Julianne; Song, Mingqi
    The near universal adoption of cross-border health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide has prompted significant debate about their effectiveness and compliance with international law. The number of measures used, and the range of measures applied, have far exceeded previous public health emergencies of international concern. However, efforts to advance research, policy and practice to support their effective use has been hindered by a lack of clear and consistent definition. Based on a review of existing datasets for cross-border health measures, such as the Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker and World Health Organization Public Health and Social Measures, along with analysis of secondary and grey literature, we propose six categories to define measures more clearly and consistently – policy goal, type of movement (travel and trade), adopted by public or private sector, level of jurisdiction applied, stage of journey, and degree of restrictiveness. These categories are then brought together into a proposed typology that can support research with generalizable findings and comparative analyses across jurisdictions. Addressing the current gaps in evidence about travel measures, including how different jurisdictions apply such measures with varying effects, in turn, enhances the potential for evidence-informed decision-making based on fuller understanding of policy trade-offs and externalities. Finally, through the adoption of standardized terminology and creation of an agreed evidentiary base recognized across jurisdictions, the typology can support efforts to strengthen coordinated global responses to outbreaks and inform future efforts to revise the WHO International Health Regulations (2005). The widespread use of cross-border health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted significant reflection on available evidence, previous practice and existing legal frameworks. The typology put forth in this paper aims to provide a starting point for strengthening research, policy and practice.
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    Regional Clean Energy Innovation
    (2020-02-20) Surana, Kavita; Williams, Ellen D.; Krawczyk, Wojciech; Montgomery, Michael; O'Neill, Jon; Thomas, Zachary; Zhang, Ying
    This report provides data-driven approaches and insights for federal and state planning to accelerate clean energy innovation by aligning programs with regional resources and economic development goals.
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    Inspiring Universal Voluntary Service Among American Youth
    (Do Good Institute, University of Maryland, 2019-02-21) Grimm, Robert T. Jr.
    Chairman Heck, Vice Chair Gearan, Vice Chair Wada, and distinguished members of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to you today as our country faces an urgent need to turnaround historic declines in service and overall civic life. Just a few months ago, our Do Good Institute released research emphasizing that the percentage of Americans volunteering and giving is at the lowest point in approximately fifteen years. These negative trends are widespread across our nation: 31 states have experienced a significant decline in volunteering since the post 9/11 years while not one state in our union has experienced a significant increase in volunteering over that time period. The importance of recognizing and addressing Americans' declining participation in their communities and country cannot be overstated. As the Director of the Do Good Institute and the Levenson Family Chair in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership in the School of Public Policy and at the University of Maryland, I have the honor of leading an effort that is countering these negative national trends by equipping and empowering a new generation of young people to apply their passions and ideas to transform our world for the better. We are working to create a new model for higher education called the Do Good Campus, with an ambitious goal of engaging all University of Maryland students from orientation to graduation and beyond in multiple, high quality service experiences that will lead them to do good and serve their country and world for a lifetime. After describing the troubling trends facing our nation and underscoring the importance of your work, I appreciate the opportunity to outline our experiences implementing the University of Maryland's Do Good Campus strategy, a model that could be adapted and replicated in schools and universities across the United States. I will close my testimony with policy ideas that could inspire a movement towards universal voluntary service in the United States.1 I had the great privilege of serving in the federal government from 2002 to 2010 and ultimately worked on many of the Commission's core policy issues as the Senior Counselor to the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) as well as its Director of Research and Policy Development during the administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. The federal government will need to play an important role in advancing new, innovative models of service to address our current challenges.
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    Shifting Milestones, Fewer Donors and Volunteers: 21st Century Life for Young Adults and the Impact on Charitable Behaviors
    (Do Good Institute, University of Maryland, 2019-10) Dietz, Nathan; Grimm, Robert T. Jr.
    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The United States has experienced declines in adults’ rates of volunteering with organizations and charitable giving over the last two decades. Because these behaviors generate wide-ranging benefits for communities as well as the volunteers themselves, it is essential to figure out how to turn around these downward trends. First we need to better understand the societal factors driving these declines. Research on volunteering with organizations has frequently focused on the health benefits that older volunteers enjoy, and the positive effects of volunteering for children and adolescents. These studies fit into a larger literature on the benefits of prosocial behavior, which can include giving to charity and informal civic activities in addition to volunteering with an organization. However, with only a few recent exceptions, there are few empirical studies that address the question of why volunteering and giving rates have risen and fallen in recent years. This brief focuses on how the volunteering and giving rates of young adults (ages 22 through 35) are related to their life choices. Our study focuses on five milestones that have historically been associated with the transition to adulthood: completing formal higher education, getting a job, marrying, becoming a parent, and living independently. To address this question, we combine data featured in recent U.S. Census Bureau research, which found that Americans are reconceiving the idea of what it means to reach adulthood, with data collected from the Current Population Survey (CPS) Supplement on Volunteering (Volunteer Supplement). Every September between 2002 and 2015, the CPS Volunteer Supplement collected national statistics on volunteering through or for an organization. Starting in 2008, the Supplement also began collecting data on giving to charity.
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    Where Are America's Volunteers?
    (Do Good Institute, University of Maryland, 2018-10) Dietz, Nathan; Grimm, Robert T. Jr.
    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: While the United States recently experienced record highs in total volunteer hours and charitable dollars given to community organizations, these seemingly positive numbers mask a troubling trend: fewer Americans are engaging in their community by volunteering and giving than in any time in the last two decades. The importance of recognizing and addressing this decline in American’s participation in their community cannot be overstated. Throughout the country, volunteers work with congregations, charities, and other nonprofit organizations to provide needed services of all types to people and communities. However, while people, communities, and organizations all rely on the work provided by volunteers, volunteering also generates indirect positive benefits for communities and for volunteers themselves. Given the decline of charitable behaviors among Americans and the importance of these behaviors for the well-being of individuals and communities, this brief analyzes data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) to explore – for the first time – how the recent national decline in American volunteering played out in all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) and 215 metro areas. Every September between 2002 and 2015, the CPS collected national statistics on volunteering through a supplemental survey. Among its many strengths, the CPS sample includes more than 55,000 households that generate reliable statistics for all states and most major metropolitan areas.
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    Good Intentions, Gap in Action: The Challenge of Translating Youth's High Interest in Doing Good into Civic Engagement
    (Do Good Institute, University of Maryland, 2018-03) Grimm, Robert T. Jr.; Dietz, Nathan
    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Volunteering has long been recognized as a primary mechanism for creating productive and active citizens. A large and diverse body of research describes how volunteering promotes beneficial outcomes for young people: volunteering enables youth to develop social connections and “soft skills” that smooth the transition to adulthood and encourage lifelong community engagement. Social institutions, such as family, religion, and schools, play important roles in the development of many young people by providing paths of entry into volunteering and other forms of community engagement. Our research has shown that teenagers have volunteered at much higher rates over the last two decades (2002-2015) than they did the mid-1970s and late 1980s. Moreover, according to research by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) conducted over the last 51 years, the desire to do good is at an all-time high among entering college students. In 2016, HERI reported that record numbers of first-year college students felt “helping others in difficulty” and “becoming a comm unity leader” was an “essential” or “very important” personal objective. In this report, we analyze for the first time high school and college student data on actual student engagement taken from the Current Population Survey (CPS), which is conducted monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. Each September between 2002 and 2015, the CPS included a supplemental survey on volunteering that collected data from a national sample of more than 55,000 households, with representative samples in every state and the District of Columbia.
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    Accelerating Climate-Mitigating Technology Development and Deployment
    (2019-04) Edwards, Morgan R.; Surana, Kavita; Thomas, Zachary; Williams, Ellen D.
    Policymakers and investors alike covet better information about the risks and potential of early-stage technologies. The motivation for the workshop on accelerating climate-mitigating technology development and deployment was to explore how different perspectives from the policy, analysis, and investor communities involved in clean energy innovation may be combined for more effective decision making.
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    Climate variability, rice production and groundwater depletion in India
    (IOP Publishing, 2018-02-27) Bhargava, Alok
    This paper modeled the proximate determinants of rice outputs and groundwater depths in 27 Indian states during 1980–2010. Dynamic random effects models were estimated by maximum likelihood at state and well levels. The main findings from models for rice outputs were that temperatures and rainfall levels were significant predictors, and the relationships were quadratic with respect to rainfall. Moreover, nonlinearities with respect to population changes indicated greater rice production with population increases. Second, groundwater depths were positively associated with temperatures and negatively with rainfall levels and there were nonlinear effects of population changes. Third, dynamic models for in situ groundwater depths in 11 795 wells in mainly unconfined aquifers, accounting for latitudes, longitudes and altitudes, showed steady depletion. Overall, the results indicated that population pressures on food production and environment need to be tackled via long-term healthcare, agricultural, and groundwater recharge policies in India.
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    The Army Seeks a World Class Logistics Modernization Program
    (Naval Postgraduate School, 2004-06) Lucyshyn, William; Snider, Keith; Maly, Robert