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UCLA Professors Akihiro Nishi and Michael Irwin and colleagues co-authored a paper that was published in Nature‘s Scientific Reports titled, “Mindfulness Meditation Activates Altruism,” on April 16, 2020. Dr. Nishi and Dr. Irwin are affiliated with the Bedari Kindness Institute within the UCLA Division of Social Sciences. The paper finds that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and improves emotion regulation due to modulation of activity in neural substrates linked to the regulation of emotions and social preferences. The abstract is included below and the full paper can be found HERE.

Abstract

Clinical evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety, depression, and stress, and improves emotion regulation due to modulation of activity in neural substrates linked to the regulation of emotions and social preferences. However, less was known about whether mindfulness meditation might alter pro-social behavior. Here we examined whether mindfulness meditation activates human altruism, a component of social cooperation. Using a simple donation game, which is a real-world version of the Dictator’s Game, we randomly assigned 326 subjects to a mindfulness meditation online session or control and measured their willingness to donate a portion of their payment for participation as a charitable donation. Subjects who underwent the meditation treatment donated at a 2.61 times higher rate than the control (p = 0.005), after controlling for socio-demographics. We also found a larger treatment effect of meditation among those who did not go to college (p < 0.001) and those who were under 25 years of age (p < 0.001), with both subject groups contributing virtually nothing in the control condition. Our results imply high context modularity of human altruism and the development of intervention approaches including mindfulness meditation to increase social cooperation, especially among subjects with low baseline willingness to contribute.

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“Indigenous Peoples across the country continue to be disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. As of May 18, 2020, the Navajo Nation has the highest Covid-19 case rates surpassing New York, the pandemic’s epicenter in the United States. As the virus spreads, Indigenous Peoples and nations in the United States face stark disparities in accessing resources to protect their communities—not the least of which relate to data.”

In this recent Items article, Dr. Randall Akee, UCLA Associate Professor of Public Policy and American Indian Studies, and Dr. Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear, UCLA Assistant Professor in Sociology and American Indian Studies, along with Dr. Stephanie Russo Carroll, Annita Lucchesi, and Dr. Jennifer Rai Richards come to the conclusion that Indigenous communities need more data that advance Indigenous rights and interests, and they need action to hold the federal government accountable to its treaty obligations and advance systemic change that dismantles racism.

To read the complete article titled, “Indigenous Data in the Covid-19 Pandemic: Straddling Erasure, Terrorism, and Sovereignty,” click HERE.

 

In a recent KCRW Greater L.A. podcast titled, “LA Freeways: The infrastructure of racism,” UCLA Professor Eric Avila spoke about how White Supremacy motivated some city transportation plans. For example, “Boyle Heights…was redlined by banks and home insurance providers because its mix of races was considered unsafe. ‘It was described by the federal government as hopelessly heterogeneous. A Homeowners Loan Corporation report called it an ideal location for a slum clearance project. That slum clearance project was highway construction,’ says Avila.”

To listen and read the entire podcast, click HERE.

For the newly launched magazine, NOEMA, Dr. Safiya Noble wrote an essay that calls out the titans of technology, and challenges us all to look at the societal needs of this pivotal moment. As calls for abolition and racial justice echo from coast to coast, Dr. Noble informs us how “Big Tech is implicated in displacing high-quality knowledge institutions–newsrooms, libraries, schools, and universities–by destabilizing funding through tax evasion, actively eroding the public goods we need to flourish.” She also writes:

“We need new paradigms, not more new tech. We need fair and equitable implementations of public policy that bolster our collective good. We need to center the most vulnerable among us–the working poor and the disabled, those who live under racial and religious tyranny, the discriminated against and the oppressed. We need to house people and provide health, employment, creative arts, and educational resources. We need to close the intersectional racial wealth gap.”

Dr. Noble is an Associate Professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, and a faculty advisor to the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.

To read the complete essay, “The Loss Of Public Goods To Big Tech,” click HERE.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

The brutal, in-your-face murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police was just the latest in a long succession of Black killings captured on video. Following closely on the heels of the shooting death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery by white, self-professed vigilantes in Georgia, and the killing of Breonna Taylor in her own home by Louisville police, Floyd’s murder revealed, yet again, the precarity of Black life in America. But this time, in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, Americans of all races took to the streets, risking their own health, to demand the overhauling of police practices and to insist that Black lives do matter.

I stand with protesters who say that enough is enough with respect to police brutality. As a sociologist, I understand that protestors’ call for social justice is about much more than just the most recent killings. These killings are symptoms of an underlying American disease: a virulent structural racism originating from, and still spread by, the nation’s longstanding affair with white supremacy. Protestors have rightly seized the present moment as one of those temporal inflection points that have the potential to shape American life for years to come. We all have been summoned to stand on the right side of history, to accompany our words of support with the actions necessary for substantive change.

We take this call very seriously in the social sciences. Below I include statements from units all across our Division that outline their commitments to being a part of the solution, as opposed to a part of the problem.

Darnell Hunt, Dean of Social Sciences at UCLA

Click on the links below to read the statements:

 

The current state of relations between multiple arms of law enforcement and the similarities and differences between police brutality aimed at Latinos and African Americans is discussed with Dr. Amada Armenta, UCLA assistant professor in Urban Planning at the Luskin School of Public Affairs and a UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) faculty expert. She also addresses points of solidarity between both groups.

Interview Chapters:

0:00 – Introduction

0:35 – Major changes to immigration enforcement

3:12 – How do local law enforcement agencies participate in immigration enforcement?

8:08 – What is the relationship like between local police and Latina/o immigrant communities?

14:10 – How are the relationships similar and different from African Americans’ experiences with police brutality? Detention/Deportation?

17:45 – Closing remarks

To learn more, check out Dr. Armenta’s book, Protect, Serve, and Deport The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.

 

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UCLA Assistant Professor Felipe Goncalves in the Department of Economics spoke with LA Social Science about his research on racial bias in policing. In collaboration with Professor Steve Mello from Dartmouth College, Dr. Goncalves estimates the degree to which individual police officers practice racial discrimination.

Interview Chapters:

0:00 – Introduction

0:49 – Tell us about your research into policing and crime.

5:16 – Does race or gender of the officer affect the level of discrimination?

7:27 – Are the disparities in treatment conscious or implicit?

9:26 – What policies seem most effective at addressing the disparity?

16:55 – Any other studies in the area?

20:39 – Closing

To read the full research paper, “A Few Bad Apples? Racial Bias in Policing,” click HERE.

 

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LA Social Science spoke with Dr. Tomer Begaz, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of Undergraduate Medical Education at UCLA-Olive View Medical Center, about his recent “Golden Apple” teaching award, how to keep safe from COVID-19 as our state starts to reopen, and when individuals should visit the Emergency Department.

Interview Chapters:

0:00 – Intro

01:00 – About being a Golden Apple Award winner

02:28 – An album or book that’s gotten you through the pandemic?

05:11 – Why did you choose to work at LA County UCLA Olive View Medical Center?

07:00 – Impact of Corona virus on different communities

10:08 – What should we be thinking about as we open up during the pandemic?

12:53 – When should I go into the emergency room?

17:41 – Alternative ways to see a doctor

18:15 – Closing

 

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Demonstrators march through the streets of Hollywood, California, on June 2, 2020, to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. – Anti-racism protests have put several US cities under curfew to suppress rioting, following the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

In this important piece featured in the Los Angeles Times, UCLA’s Dr. Marcus Anthony Hunter, Scott Waugh Endowed Chair in the Division of the Social Sciences, professor of sociology, and chair of the department of African American Studies, presents a conversation he recently had with some of the nation’s foremost writers on Los Angeles to discuss how the city’s racial history informs the present moment and the continued fight against racism and injustice.

Dr. Hunter writes:

“Black people’s lives have remained vulnerable and unprotected by the very government that abolished the institution of slavery. As the planter class took its last sips of power and blood, they managed to bequeath us a century and a half of debt and devastation. Racism is their lasting hex on a country that would dare to try and outlive them, an institutionally effective death spell killing black people every day.”

To read the full article, “How Does L.A.’s Racial Past Resonate Now? #Blacklivesmatter’s Originator and 5 Writers Discuss,” click HERE.

The UCLA California Policy Lab has released their fourth policy brief focused on Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims in California since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. The latest policy brief, “An Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” focuses on the increasing number of workers who are returning to work and seeing their unemployment claims either reduced or denied altogether as a result.  Although returning to work may signal good news for the economy, the brief highlights how this can create some challenging decisions for workers, especially if they’re being called back on a reduced schedule with reduced earnings that result in them losing all or part of their UI benefits in addition to childcare and health safety issues.

To read the press release, click HERE.

To read the full report, click HERE.

Key Research Findings

1. In a sign of improving economic conditions, the fraction of UI beneficiaries either not receiving their first benefit payment because their earnings were too high or receiving partial UI benefits increased in the first half of May. Only workers earning less than three quarters of their prior weekly wages qualify for partial UI and FPUC (and workers earning above that are denied UI benefits entirely for that week), creating a difficult decision for workers in an uncertain labor market.

2. In the weeks preceding May 16th, the period preceding last week’s Jobs Report, a total of 0.46% of the California labor force in April either received partial UI or were denied benefits because of excess earnings (compared to a one and a half decline in the national unemployment rate). Hence, a substantial fraction of individuals that recently returned to work are working reduced hours and may still be attached to the Unemployment Insurance system.

3. As layoffs become more evenly distributed across industries, the share of UI claims by more educated workers have been gradually increasing. Among higher educated workers that claimed benefits recently, Generation Z (age 16-23), women, and those working in Health Care and Social Assistance were most affected.

4. During the past four weeks, about 70% of initial UI claimants reported that they expected to be recalled. However, differences in recall expectations are growing, with 62% of Black workers who filed claims from May 17th to May 30th saying they expect to be recalled vs. 72% of White, 73% of Hispanic, and 74% of Asian workers.

5. The cumulative impact of the crisis is still substantially greater for less advantaged workers – over 1 in 4 women (as opposed to 1 in 5 men), more than 1 in 3 members of Generation Z, and more than 1 in 2 workers with a high school degree have filed for benefits.

6. As the economy slowly re-opens, programs such as Work Sharing, which allow working claimants to keep a share of their UI benefits and maintain eligibility for the $600 FPUC payment, would help strengthen the financial outlook for workers if they’re working at reduced time and earnings.


To read LA Social Science’s previous coverage of the CPL’s briefs in this series, click HERE.