Public Policy Theses and Dissertations

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    (2022) Miller, Catherine J.; Reuter, Peter H; Kleykamp, Meredith A; Public Policy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In 2013, the Ground Combat Exclusion Policy (GCEP) for the United States military was eliminated, and in December 2015 Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all ground combat military specialties and positions to women without exceptions. Using primary survey data that I collected in 2021 from the 33 active-duty Army brigade combat teams (BCTs), this dissertation explores the effects of exposure to serving with women on male opinions about gender integration in the combat arms, perceptions of women’s capabilities (physical fitness and mental toughness), and predicted effects of gender integration on unit cohesion and unit performance in the formerly all-male Infantry and Armor branches of the Army. This mixed methods study explores the following question: To what extent does exposure to serving with female soldiers and officers in combat units help explain differences in male support for gender integration, and perceptions about its effects? Since the policy change is fairly new, a natural experiment in military assignments provided an opportunity to learn about how exposure impacts male soldier opinions in formerly all-male units. Women have been assigned in clusters to some Army Infantry and Armor units but not others due to their small numbers. At the time of the survey, there was still significant variation in exposure to serving with women in Infantry and Armor units, so exposure is examined as a treatment variable to determine if male opinions differ by unit level of exposure. The women in these newly integrated units, as well as the men and women in the associated combat support units that have been gender integrated for decades, are also included in the analysis for comparison. The findings demonstrate that the presence of women within a formerly all-male Infantry or Armor platoon or squad, and exposure to a female leader, predict that a male respondent is significantly more likely to support gender integration in the combat arms, perceive that female soldiers in their units are physically fit and mentally tough enough to be effective in their military jobs, and is less likely to worry about gender integration effects on unit cohesion and performance.
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    (2022) Echenique, Juan Agustin; Bhargava, Alok; Public Policy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In April 2007, the Government of Chile established a comprehensive support system for early childhood named ”Chile Crece Contigo” (ChCC). This social protection system was the first one of its class in Latin America. However, ten years later, the empirical evidence about the benefits of this policy is still scarce. This dissertation looks to fill that knowledge gap and answer broader questions about promoting skills formation in the first years of life. Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the complex structure of the comprehensive support system Chile Crece Contigo, revises the literature that argues the need for this program, and finally revises the existing evidence about this policy. In Chapter 2, I study a novel service offered as part of the comprehensive early childhood support system Chile Crece Contigo: the stimulation workshops. This service consists of workshops for children and their parents designed to foster and accelerate the learning process of those lagging in their developmental benchmarks based on psycho-motor evaluation. The paper exploits variations in the provision of the service (only children with lags in development are offered the referral to sensory rooms) and non-compliance in treatment attendance to test if the treatment can meet their target of closing the gap in human capital formation between children who received help for enhancing their development trajectory and those who followed the usual path of development. Based on information from Electronic Health Records from an urban district in Santiago, Chile, I document in first place take-up rate behavior based on observable characteristics and baseline evaluations indicating positive sorting into the treatment. Second, I show how the stimulation services offered by Chile Crece Contigo have a higher rate of effectiveness in reducing developmental lags in children with lower test scores at baseline. The average difference for children diagnosed with developmental lags at baseline ranges between 0.7-0.4 standard deviations between 8mo-18mo and 1.0-0.5 standard deviations for 18-36mo. These results suggest that the effectiveness indicator used by policy-makers underestimates the returns of the intervention due to its heterogeneity. Second, efforts to increase the take-up rates for children close to the cutoff values are needed to improve the overall returns of the intervention. Chapter 3 studies the effects of a comprehensive early childhood support system on human capital accumulation. Specifically, we explore differences in educational achievement of the first generations of children exposed to the comprehensive child development support system ”Chile Crece Contigo.” To study this, we exploit the gradual implementation of the policy and the age eligibility requirements to estimate the returns of availability of the policy on data from seven cohorts (2012-2018) of fourth-grade students in Chile. We find sizable positive effects in mathematics (0.21 of a standard deviation) and language (0.23 of astandard deviation) test scores for municipalities that started the program during or before their prenatal stage compared to children that the program began when they were older than sixty months. Estimates from an event-study design show that the exposure returns dissipated for children thirty-six months old or older when the policy started. This result is consistent with the schedule of interventions and early detection instruments established. When we look at the difference in the returns to exposure across gender and socioeconomic status, we find evidence that (i) a comprehensive child support system has higher returns on boys, which could be explained partially by differences in access to need-based services, (ii) these differences across gender differences occur in children with higher levels of exposure, and (iii) we do not find relevant differences between students classified as low-socioeconomic background and not classified in this category.
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    (2022) Han, Xu; Egan, Toby M; Public Policy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Although performance management is supposed to be a generic, values-neutral tool that can be adapted for any purpose, it has been criticized for ignoring important democratic values. Critics claim that violating these democratic values makes performance management counterproductive to the stated aim of restoring public trust in government through improved outcomes. This dissertation comprehensively examines the impact of performance management on equity and civic engagement in U.S public high schools. Performance management may incentivize prioritizing high-value students who are more likely to contribute to school performance ranking at the expense of others, creating an inequity problem. However, it can also promote the well-being of disadvantaged groups by providing incentives and information on improvement in disaggregated performance. Performance management may draw resources and attention to activities aiming to improve students’ academic performance in high-stakes subjects (reading, math, and science) at the expense of other important activities where students develop skills in and interests for civic engagement. However, activities aiming to improve students' academic performance also prepare students to perform tasks such as reading, writing, speaking, and quantitative reasoning, integral parts of civic engagement. To conduct the analysis, the dissertation draws on a nationally representative survey of administrators and students at public high schools. As students’ academic performance is the result of collaborative efforts among students and staff (teachers and principals), performance management is operationalized for students and staff respectively. The student component includes established student performance standards, frequency of standardized testing, and imposed consequences. The staff component includes principals’ managerial autonomy, teachers’ evaluation, and imposed consequences. Through a multilevel analysis of how performance management influences students, especially for racial minorities’ standardized test scores in math, findings point to an unfilled promise regarding equity. Performance management components for students and staff are each associated with increased average student test scores, but do not shrink the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged student subgroups. Still, not all aspects of performance management perpetuate inequity. Of the two performance management components focusing on staff and students, the staff component is associated with lower test scores for struggling students while the student component increases struggling student performance. By simultaneously analyzing the indirect effects of performance management on volunteering behaviors through cognitive abilities, civic skills, and civic norms in structural equation modeling, the dissertation finds mixed effects of performance management on civic engagement. On the one hand, the student component has a positive but small indirect effect on civic participation by improving students’ cognitive abilities. On the other hand, the staff component has a negative but small indirect effect by reducing students’ participation in extracurricular activities where they develop civic skills. However, the student component does not negatively affect civic engagement. Overall, the findings suggest that despite the negative effects of performance management on equity and civic engagement, performance management can be used to mitigate inequity and reverse the recent decline in civic engagement.
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    Effects of a Mexican Conditional Cash Transfer Program on Health and Demography
    (2022) Ryu, Soomin; Parker, Susan W.; Public Policy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Progresa, a Mexican conditional cash transfer program (CCT), was introduced in 1997 to alleviate poverty. The program provided cash payments to low-income households conditional on the children’s regular attendance at school and household members’ regularly visits to health clinics. Progresa also offered nutritional supplements, principally to young children and pregnant women. This anti-poverty program was one of the oldest and best-known CCT programs, supporting 7 million low-income families. However, in Spring 2019, the Mexican government officially dismantled Progresa. This dissertation evaluated the impacts of implementing and terminating of Progresa on Mexican health and demographic outcomes using nationwide vital statistics. As vital events were frequently under-reported in rural areas of Mexico where Progresa was mainly implemented, the first chapter examined the validity of vital statistics using the Brass method. I found that births and child deaths were under-reported in Mexico, and under-reporting was more severe in poorer areas. However, for births, there was little evidence of under-reporting once late-registered births were taken into account. The second chapter evaluated the effects of Progresa on fertility, child mortality, and maternal health. Using variations in the beneficiaries of Progresa across municipalities and time, I found that Progresa significantly reduced 0.4-0.5 births during a woman’s lifetime, while adolescent pregnancy was decreased by 13-18%. The program reduced child mortality by 19%, but the effect was temporary. Progresa also enhanced maternal health: it significantly increased institutional deliveries and birth attendance by physician, while decreasing childbirth at home and birth attendance by nurse or midwife. The third chapter assessed the effects of the recent sudden termination of Progresa: it immediately increased in infant mortality due to infectious and parasitic diseases, whereas it reduced deliveries at private clinic and marginally increased deliveries with midwives’ attendance. This dissertation makes significant contributions to social policy and public health by estimating the effects of the CCT program on understudied demographic and health outcomes and the effects of its sudden termination on maternal and child health. This research has crucial public health and policy implications, particularly for several middle- and low-income countries where similar CCT programs are implemented
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    State-level Differences in Charitable Giving in the United States
    (2022) Wu, Zhongsheng; Bies, Angela; Public Policy; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Previous studies usually posit that heterogeneity in charitable giving within countries is less than the variation between them, yet the philanthropic landscapes in the states of the United States have more differences than expected. Substantial variations in both the level and rate of charitable giving exist across the states in the U.S., yet empirical evidence on why there are such substantial differences across the states is very limited and inconclusive. To address the gap in the literature, this study collected individual and/or state level data from multiple sources to answer whether and how state-level political, social, and cultural factors can explain the geographical variations in the level and rate of charitable giving across the states in the U.S. Based on statistical analyses using multiple regressions and multilevel modelling, the results indicate that state-level factors, including political ideology, public welfare expenditure, social capital, income inequality, and cultural capital contributed to the variations in both the level and rate of charitable giving at the state level. Specifically, state-level political ideology is found to have significant relationships with both the level and rate of charitable giving, while the marginal effects of political ideology on both the level and rate of charitable giving are moderated by the public welfare expenditure per capita at the state level. In addition, the density of associational organizations is found to consistently have a significant negative correlation with both the level and rate of charitable giving, while the impacts of the density of charitable organizations on both the level and rate of charitable giving are moderated by income inequality. This study contributes to the literature by revealing a more complex and nuanced picture on why there are substantial regional differences in both the level and rate of charitable giving across the states in the U.S. Specifically, the findings can help challenge the notions that “red (Republican-leaning) states are more donative”, that “higher density of nonprofits attracts more donations”, and that “government spending crowds out private contributions”. This study also shows the necessity to differentiate the impacts of the density of charitable organizations and the density of associational organizations on the level and rate of charitable giving at the contextual level1. What’s more, this study is the first empirical research that not only explored both the level and rate of charitable giving at the contextual level at the same time, but also compared the two stages of charitable giving, and revealed that different factors might behave differently on the level and the rate of charitable giving at the state level.