Public Policy Research Works

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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.