As an economist and director of the California Policy Lab, Till von Wachter is continually spearheading research projects and policy recommendations related to labor and employment as well as homelessness, education and crime.

As the U.S. economy further slows because of how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many businesses to close, UCLA Newsroom asked von Wachter, who is also the associate dean of research for the division of social sciences in the UCLA College, to help parse through current employment statistics, why the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package called the CARES Act — which was signed into law March 27 — is so critical and what its immediate and far-reaching effects might be for U.S. workers and the economy.

Continue reading the UCLA Newsroom Q&A HERE.

 

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Professors Chandra L. Ford (UCLA), Bita Amani (Charles Drew University), Keith Norris (UCLA), Kia Skrine Jeffers (UCLA), and Randall Akee (UCLA), wrote the following open letter that outlines eight recommendations to prioritize equity in policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

An Open Letter to Policy Makers and Public Health Officials on

The Need to Prioritize Equity in Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Epidemic

 April 1, 2020

Aggressive actions are necessary to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the U.S. and the world. Some of these actions have resulted in policies of shelter-in-place, monitoring the movement and activities of the population, increased testing of the population and the closure of schools and other public assemblies. As experts in health disparities, however, we are concerned by a critical oversight that is likely to exacerbate the epidemic in the long run: the inadequate attention to health equity. Former president of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Dr. Camara Jones, defines health equity as “assurance of the conditions for optimal health for all people.” There is a crucial need to incorporate aspects of health equity into all public policies enacted to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past, when health emergencies have occurred, failure to acknowledge and address health equity generated persistent and preventable damage to populations that often worsened over time. For example, scholars have documented such experiences in Venezuela (1992-1993) and Haiti (2010) with cholera epidemics. Short term thinking focused only on the immediate disease agent (i.e., bacterium or virus) and did little to eliminate the societal inequities which fostered the environment for the pandemic in the first place. Those inequities shape the nature and impact of its spread.

Numerous studies document that racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and racial scapegoating facilitate the dismissal of the health concerns and perspectives of undocumented immigrants, racial/ethnic minorities, incarcerated persons, people living on reservations, people living in poor communities and other vulnerable communities. Often, the concerns and particular needs of these individuals are overlooked or dismissed in the creation of public health policies in times of need and crises.

Assumptions about the availability of and access to resources often do not reflect the reality for many of these distressed and overlooked communities. For instance, in recommending frequent handwashing, one must also ask whether this is feasible for residents of neighborhoods with unsafe (or unavailable) tap water to regularly wash their hands with warm water and soap? Or, is it realistic for people detained in the prisons to maintain social distances of at least six feet? If the answer to any such question is no, then we have a professional responsibility to develop appropriate alternatives. Failure to extend recommendations, testing and treatment to such populations in a timely and appropriate manner is tantamount to designing an intervention that ignores over them completely.

Drawing on more than 500 studies published over the last twenty years on how social injustices produce health inequities, we urge serious consideration of eight recommendations to prioritize equity in policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.     Prioritize the needs of diverse vulnerable populations at each stage of the response. These include, but are not limited to, immigrant communities, including the Chinese and Asian American communities that have already been the subject of online and in-person abuse and harassment, racial and ethnic minority communities, homeless persons, incarcerated persons, and people living in poor as well as rural communities.

2.     Challenge narratives of the epidemic that scapegoat Chinese people or other Asians. Stereotyping in this way leads to fear, rude or discriminatory treatment, delayed testing or care, and ultimately further spread of the virus.

3.     Ensure members of these populations have a seat at the leadership table in planning and carrying out the responses. That allows them to share directly the insights needed to develop effective, sustainable strategies for their communities.

4.     Develop multiple prevention and intervention strategies, some that address the needs of the overall population and others that address the unique needs of marginalized groups. Recognize that the circumstances affecting vulnerable populations are multilayered. Accordingly, the solutions needed in these populations warrant greater initial investments than do the solutions needed in more advantaged communities.

5.     Find out what the needs and wishes of these marginalized populations are. Many of the needs are shaped by longstanding structural inequalities, such as living in racially segregated neighborhoods, and related constraints affecting transportation, employment, education and healthcare access.

6.     Consider the obstacles to implementing any potential policy or strategy that may already exist in diverse populations and situations. For instance, some communities may have barriers to handwashing due to unsafe or unavailable water sources; they may also lack access to personal protective equipment (latex gloves, masks) or to healthcare providers.

7.     Allocate sufficient resources in the budget to implement the prevention and intervention strategies in the most marginalized communities. The budget must ensure the plan can be fully implemented.

8.     Acknowledge that all communities have and draw on resilience. Noted global health educator, Collins Airhihenbuwa, emphasizes that every community, no matter how marginalized, has sources of resilience. These sources of resilience enables communities to sustain themselves and persevere even after the public health professionals have left.

The evidence from history is clear. Movement toward equity has always required health equity champions to fight from inside while community members organized in the streets. Unless our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic challenge its racial framing and prioritize the needs of racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, poor and other vulnerable groups, COVID-19 is likely to persist in these pockets of our society. As long as it does, COVID-19 will remain a threat to the health of all. It has been suggested that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. This is our chance to show how great and equitable a nation we can be.

Sincerely,

Chandra L. Ford, PhD, MPH, MLIS

Bita Amani, PhD, MHS

Keith Norris, MD, PhD

Kia Skrine Jeffers, PhD, RN, PHN, SAG-AFTRA

Randall Akee, PhD

UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

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By Bryanna Ruiz and Amado Castillo, Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) Public Policy Fellows

The UCLA Center for the Study of Women held its 30th Annual Graduate Student Thinking Gender Conference in early March, in order to honor Women’s History Month. The annual conference was co-sponsored by various research centers and organizations, including the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). The conference focused on feminist, queer, trans, identities and anti-carceral, transnational, and intersectional approaches to sexual violence. In light of the #MeToo movement and other movements aiming to combat sexual violence, this conference proved necessary in order to discuss approaches to justice and restoration that center the needs of communities of color.

The conference, “Thinking Gender: Sexual Violence as Structural Violence Feminist Visions of Transformative Justice,” centered on the work of graduate students who studied sexual abuse cases in different contexts, including within communities in Uganda and Latinx communities. One of the first panels to open up the conference was “Extractive Economies and Sexual Violence,” moderated by LPPI faculty expert Dr. Leisy Abrego, who offered critical insight into the research papers presented by asking more on the application of the theory towards the subjects that were studied.

The conference diverged from the traditional interpretation of justice. Rather, the conference created a space for discourse that advocates for a transformative and restorative interpretation of justice that acknowledges the different identities that are most vulnerable to sexual violence. This radical perspective works to center survivors and questions forms of justice that perpetuate existing inequalities among different communities – an important point of reflection to carry past this year’s Women’s History Month.

Laura Lievano-Karim, a UCLA graduate student from the department of Social Welfare, presented her paper which was co-written with LPPI faculty expert Dr. Amy Ritterbusch entitled, “On Street Survival, Autonomous Bodies and Structures of Oppression: The Messiness of Naming and Framing Violence Against Street-Connected Girls in Uganda.” The project was led by researchers who had previously lived in Uganda and came from similar backgrounds as the test subjects. The researchers had autonomy over many of the variables involved in the project and utilized their insight and experience in order to enhance the research Lievano-Karim’s paper focused on what, patterns could be observed from girls involved in the sex industry in Uganda by studying their lived-in experiences through interviews. Lievano-Karim invited the audience to think beyond the two categories of sex work and sex exploitation when listening to the narratives of the girls from Uganda. Lievano-Karim said, “We identified three discursive patterns and each pattern followed a trend in the ways that sexual violence is discussed by the participants. This category should not be understood as isolated or ecstatic, they overlap one with the other. This highlights the complexities found in the lived experiences of these girls”.

Another graduate student from UCLA, Magally Miranda from the Chicana/o Studies department, focused on finding alternative ways to tackle sexual abuse among communities of color, specifically within the Latinx community. Miranda presented her paper titled, “Illegal Aliens” | Latina Feminists: Structural Vulnerability and the Battle Against Workplace Sexual Violence at Koch Poultry in Mississippi.” Miranda began her presentation by displaying a picture of two Latinas who witnessed many family members, friends, and coworkers being detained by ICE at Koch Poultry in Mississippi. The image depicted the fear and emotion among the Latinx community after Koch Poultry, which predominantly employed Latinxs, was raided by ICE agents. This became the largest known workplace raid by ICE in modern U.S. history and was a form of retaliatory violence and structural sexual violence, in that it was initiated by the state due to continuous workplace violation lawsuits made by female employees.

“As of the time that this paper was written, factory owners had received no more than a slap on the wrist for their involvement in hiring undocumented workers. Instead…workers were the ones who wore the brunt of the attacks and were systematically demonized, apprehended, and inflicted with trauma,” said Miranda as she opened up her presentation. Miranda went on to discuss the work abuse suffered by many of the workers who were forced to perform the same task hundreds of times during the day. The analysis of the testimonies conducted showed that many women employed by the factory, particularly Latinas, suffered sexual abuse during their shifts. One worker, who identified as Latina, admitted that she was groped during her shift and that when her husband, who also worked for the company, attempted to intervene, he was beaten by his employers. Latinxs, in particular, were the workers that suffered physical and emotional abuse by their employers at the factory. Miranda noted that the large scale ICE raid occurred after a Mississippi judge ruled that the company owed immigrant Latina women 3.7 million dollars in damages.

The Thinking Gender Conference created an interdisciplinary discourse surrounding structural sexual violence. The conference put researchers from around the world in conversation, which allowed them to share the diversity of thought embedded within their research. Although their research varied depending on their community of focus and their own lived experiences, they all shared the same goal in utilizing their research to address the different ways that structural violence projects itself in our world.

Now that this year’s Women’s History Month has ended, we are asked to continue reflecting, beyond the month of March, on how to tackle structural violence and approach justice in ways that acknowledge communities of color and those most vulnerable.

Illo: iStock

March 21, 2020

In an opinion piece that was published today on CNN.com, UCLA sociology professors, Dr. Cecilia Menjívar, Dr. Jacob G. Foster, and Dr. Jennie E. Brand, recommend using the more accurate term “physical distancing” rather than the misleading term “social distancing” during the COVID-19 pandemic. They write: “In fact, when we practice physical distancing, we need social connectivity and social responsibility more than ever.” To read this informative piece titled, “Don’t Call It ‘Social Distancing,'” click HERE.

February 27, 2020 — A new report released today by the California Policy Lab at UCLA sheds light on the employment histories of people before, during, and after receiving homelessness services in Los Angeles. By studying enrollment and wages data for more than 130,000 homeless service clients, the authors found that a majority of people (74%) who experienced homelessness in Los Angeles had some work history in California, and that more than one-third (37%) were working in the two years prior to becoming homeless. Only about one in five (19%) were working in the calendar quarter they became homeless, and their annual wages were very low. Their average annual earnings were only $9,970, which is 16% of the Area Median Income for Los Angeles.

“There’s often an assumption that people experiencing homelessness are not working,” explained Till von Wachter, a UCLA economic professor, co-author of the report, and faculty director of the California Policy Lab at UCLA. “While it’s true that some individuals in our study had not worked in a long time, a substantial number – close to half – were working within four years before entering homelessness. These recent workers had a higher likelihood of returning to work after receiving services and their average wages were also higher. The results from our study on who is most likely to work after enrolling for homeless services can be used to tailor workforce programs to encourage employment and raise earnings of homeless service clients.”

The researchers had three additional main findings:

  • There are predictable differences in employment rates after service enrollment. Those with recent employment and younger individuals had substantially higher levels of employment after receiving services. To a lesser degree, adults in families, and individuals without mental and physical health issues had also higher employment rates as compared to the entire sample. These differences can be used to better target reemployment services to those most likely to find gainful employment.
  • For some groups, employment rates improved at the same time that they enrolled to receive homeless services, although this is not necessarily a causal relationship. Individuals who worked in the four years prior to experiencing homelessness had substantial reductions in their employment rates prior to becoming homeless (dropping from 46% two years before enrolling to 33% in the quarter before enrolling). However, for some recent workers, their employment rates increased after enrolling, for example, the employment rate for adults in families increased from 39% to 44%. Individuals in transitional housing and people who came from stable housing also saw increases in employment rates after enrolling in services.
  • Most individuals work in just a few industries: 65% of people who were employed worked in one of four industries prior to enrolling to receive services, and those that found employment after enrollment were typically concentrated in those industries. This has implications for job training and placement programs that are intended to support people either to prevent homelessness or to help people as they transition out of homelessness.

Additional research findings

  • 86% of adults in families were employed at some point prior to service enrollment as compared to 75% for single adults, and 61% for transition aged youth aged 18-24.
  • 47% of people were working in the four years prior to becoming homeless, and 37% were employed within two years of their homeless spell. On average, people had worked in two of the four quarters before service enrollment.
  • There are 12 categories of homelessness support services. People enrolled in homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing projects had the highest rates of employment in the two years before enrollment, at 67% and 56%, respectively.
  • 72% of people who reported mental health issues at enrollment had worked previously, 76% reporting substance abuse concerns had worked previously, and 72% reporting physical disabilities had worked previously.
  • In the year before enrolling for services, 24% of individuals who reported substance abuse concerns had worked in the year prior to enrolling along with 20% who reported mental health issues and 17% who reported physical disabilities. This compares to an overall sample average of 29% of individuals who were employed in the year prior to enrollment.
  • Individuals coming from stable housing prior to enrolling in services had higher quarterly employment rates and experienced more of an employment recovery after enrolling for services as compared to people who had been homeless for three months or more at the time of service enrollment.
  • Recent workers (defined as having worked three or four years before service enrollment) had higher quarterly earnings in the quarter of service enrollment (22% more than the full sample) and had higher annual earnings in the second year after service enrollment ($13,311 for the full sample versus $15,880 for recent workers).

Methodology

The research team linked enrollment data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) from the time period of 2010 to 2018 for individuals aged 18 to 70 at the time of enrollment to state employment records from the California Employment Development Department for the time period from 1995 to 2018. The analysis was then performed on de-identified data. The full sample size was 136,726 individuals. For more details, read the report, or the accompanying technical appendix.  Download the report, HERE.

Additional Background and future research

While this report provides a baseline understanding of employment rates among people receiving homeless services in Los Angeles, the authors caution that more research is needed to develop specific policy recommendations. Future research should look at whether job loss is the direct cause of homelessness and for whom, and how workforce and training programs could either prevent homelessness or speed up exits from homelessness. This report did not include data on income supports from programs like Supplemental Security Income, General Relief, CalWORKs, or CalFRESH that would help to better understand the income situation of homeless service clients.

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The California Policy Lab

The California Policy Lab creates data-driven insights for the public good. Our mission is to partner with California’s state and local governments to generate scientific evidence that solves California’s most urgent problems, including homelessness, poverty, crime, and education inequality. We facilitate close working partnerships between policymakers and researchers at the University of California to help evaluate and improve public programs through empirical research and technical assistance.

Contact:
Sean Coffey: sean@capolicylab.org

(919) 428-1143

The Bedari Foundation, established by philanthropists Jennifer and Matthew C. Harris, has given $20 million to the UCLA College to establish the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.

The institute, which is housed in the division of social sciences, will support world-class research on kindness, create opportunities to translate that research into real-world practices, and serve as a global platform to educate and communicate its findings. Among its principal goals are to empower citizens and inspire leaders to build more humane societies.

“In the midst of current world politics, violence and strife, the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute seeks to be an antidote,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the UCLA division of social sciences. “Rooted in serious academic work, the institute will partner and share its research on kindness broadly in accessible formats. The Bedari Foundation’s extraordinary gift is truly visionary and we are grateful for its support and leadership.”

“The mission of the Kindness Institute perfectly aligns with that of the division of social sciences, where engaging the amazing diversity and social challenges shaping Los Angeles routinely inspires research that has the potential to change the world,” Hunt said.

To read the full UCLA Newsroom press release, click HERE.

Since 2015, TEDxUCLA has provided a platform for innovative thinkers to share powerful ideas. This year’s event included a talk by Bill Simon, the Co-Founder of UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation through UCLA Health. This organization is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity by providing grants to equip middle and high schools with state-of-the-art fitness programs, a comprehensive curriculum and professional development for physical education teachers.

Bill Simon is an adjunct professor in both the Department of Economics and the Law School at UCLA, recipient of the Marty Skyler My Last Lecture Award, and a former Republican nominee for California governor. In 1988, he and his wife, Cindy, created the foundation to help schools bolster their lagging physical education programs. The organization joined forces with UCLA Health in 2015. To date, the program is in 141 schools nationally (127 in the Los Angeles area) and serves more than 170,000 students each year.

In his Ted Talk, Professor Simon addressed the importance of his Physical Education (PE) along with his plea to prioritize and fund PE at all schools for all children. He addresses the critical gains made if PE was a requirement at schools. Professor Simon implores that not only would regular exercise decrease obesity and future disease, but that it teaches children vital tools such as perseverance and resistance needed to be successful in their future. Professor Simon’s compelling story about his autistic son teaches us that Physical Education is needed as the foundation for a healthy start for children to build their character and connect mind, body, and spirit.

Starting his talk with a Pop-Quiz, Professor Simon moves to inform us of the transcendent value that is often undervalued, including social, intellectual and academic spaces. With parents battling to make sure kids aren’t spending too many hours in front of screens, Professor Simon reminds us that moving more is good for not only our body, but also for our minds. Ultimately, we are encouraged to understand why physical education is a student’s most important subject.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. To view the entire talk, click HERE.

By UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI)

In their 5th Annual Latinx Criminal Justice Convening, LatinoJustice PRLDEF partnered with Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network brought local and national organizations to Brownsville, TX to engage in conversation about Latinos in the criminal justice and immigration systems.

This two-day encuentro was intended to create a space for Latino leaders, activists, academics and impacted community members to explore the connection to the criminal justice and immigration systems across the United States while strategizing new efforts for a more inclusive movement that does not leave anyone behind.

Latino Justice PRLEF’s Jorge Renaud welcoming attendees and introducing the convening and its goals.

“It’s important to be collaborating [and to] bring that intersectionality in this space,” said Christina Patiño Houel, Network Weaver for RGV Equal Voice Network. Intersectionality and inclusivity were interwoven throughout the convening, being cognizant of the ways different structural oppressions work in tandem to affect the most vulnerable in our communities, in order to combat these injustices effectively. An example was how interpreters established a multilingual culture, ensuring Spanish and English-only speakers communicated smoothly with each other, as the organizers understood that language barriers hinder those trying to combat the injustices within the justice system and also understood that interpretation and translation were necessary since the event was a community-centered multi-generational convening. This emphasis was also felt when formerly-incarcerated individuals were welcomed home for the first time, integrating a healing component for all participants.

The discussions began by exploring how criminality, incarceration, immigration and the war on drugs have all played a role in the current relationship between the Latinx community and the criminal justice system. The lack of data on this community was highlighted by LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s president, Juan Cartagena, when he discussed how every system “affects us and we don’t even know how… we’re invisible.” He explained how even as the largest ethnic minority in the country, the system could not answer simple questions as to how many Latinxs are arrested. This point was underscored by Dr. Edward Vargas’, from Arizona State University, urgency for not only the need for data but accurate data. For example, polls said that 34% of Latinos had voted for Trump in Texas, but this number was proven to be wrong. When the precinct data was scraped, the actual number was 16%.

ACLU’s National Campaign Strategist, Jessica Sandoval; Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Policy Analyst Jose Flores; and Youth Justice Coalition’s Anthony Robles talking speaking on the best strategies to end youth solitary confinement.

Community members highlighted their work on the ground to end collaboration between the state and local police departments with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the states of Texas and Georgia, jail closure and the prevention of a new jail in Los Angeles, and litigation. Crimmigration was the focal point of these conversations, where attorneys explained the importance of litigation and the need for patience in both the length of the process and the lack of social justice lawyers.

The conversation zeroed in on experts as they engaged in fishbowl conversations, discussing the development of gang databases and its impact on the immigrant community, the fight towards ending youth solitary, and the impact of these efforts on a national level.

Day one came to a close with the screening of Bad Hombres: From Colonization to Criminalization by award-winning filmmaker Carlos Sandoval, with attendees expressing their impressions to the documentary.

The second day was reserved for breakout sessions encouraging collaboration and the exchange of best practices in order to advance efforts and find resources in the community. Accountability partners were found and followed-up conversations were scheduled to further collaborate as a group.

“Learning more about crimmigration and its impact on the Latinx community has been eye-opening,” noted second-year UCLA Luskin student María Morales who attended the convening.  “It was an honor being able to attend this convening and feel such passion and dedication in the room.”

Attendees identifying action steps to continue collaboration among the organizations present.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA LPPI staff gather for a photo that commemorates the second year of their partnership which aims to increase access to pertinent data science on Latinos.

By Celina Avalos and Sonja Diaz

On May 20, 2019, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) hosted its second annual California Latino Legislative Policy Briefing in Sacramento. The policy briefing, co-hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA Government & Community Relations, featured research presentations by three LPPI faculty experts: Dean Gary Segura, Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante.

The policy briefing was attended by 50 guests who are policy advocates, legislative staff, and community leaders. The meeting convened at La Cosecha in Sacramento where the group learned more about LPPI’s latest research findings and discussed policy interventions that could improve the lives of California residents.

LPPI expert Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz introduce LPPI’s recent report on Latino homelessness to a packed house in La Cosecha.

Attendees heard from the LPPI faculty experts on a wide-range of domestic policy issues including voting, housing, and health. The issues discussed in the briefing are critical policy challenges that the California legislature is addressing through new lawmaking. Each issue has unique impacts on California’s plurality. Fortunately, LPPI’s legislative briefing provided a space for policy leaders to understand more clearly which policy solutions are better suited to address the disparities faced by Latinos.

Kicking off the policy briefing was Dean Segura, who presented his research on public opinion trends leading to the 2020 presidential election. In 2018, LPPI’s research documented a 77% increase in Latino votes cast. This increase was configured by looking at and comparing the midterm elections from 2014 to 2018. Dean Segura’s presentation expanded on trends identifying leading public opinion sentiments that influenced voters of color (Asian Americans, Blacks, and Latinos) on issues involving immigration, #MeToo, access to affordable health care, and support for gun laws. Largely, the 2018 election illustrated the upward potential of Latino vote growth in and beyond California. The numbers showed voters of color embraced Democratic positions on guns, health care, and immigration at higher rates than their white peers.

Next, Dr. Chinchilla followed with her research on homelessness in Los Angeles County. In her policy presentation on Latino homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla cemented the lack of accurate data on Latinos facing housing insecurity and reiterated the fact that this demographic group remains undercounted.

LPPI Policy Fellow Celina Avalos met UFW leader and advocate Dolores Huerta during visits to the State Capital discussing LPPI’s work on housing and health.

Highlighting findings from her LPPI report, Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla shared that homelessness is not a one size fits all narrative. She stated, “Many factors contribute to the undercount of Latinos facing housing insecurity, like immigration status, economic vulnerability, and cultural and language barriers.”

Dr. Vargas Bustamante concluded the policy briefing with his work on the California Latino physician crisis, which addresses a key issue facing the state—the shortage of healthcare workers. Dr. Vargas Bustamante’s policy presentation integrated findings from his report, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Perspective. He shared, “As California’s plurality, Latinos will represent 44.5% of California’s population by 2050. However, currently only 4.7% of physicians in California are Latino.”

According to Dr. Vargas Bustamante, the contributing factors to the Latino physician shortage include: lack of financial support and opportunity, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation, and citizenship.

LPPI’s briefing provided a novel opportunity for leading policy stakeholders to engage in timely policy issues centered on the needs of the state’s plurality. This briefing builds upon LPPI’s legislative portfolio of engaging elected and appointed officials on critical policy issues with data and facts, breeding new research-practice partnerships and accelerating the capacity for evidence-based policy.

Policy Fellows pose for a photo before a jam-packed day at the Greenlining Economic Summit. (From left to right: Julio Mendez, Celina Avalos, Amado Castillo, Eduardo Solis, and Vianney Gomez)

By Vianney Gomez and Celina Avalos

As policy fellows with the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), we are afforded unique opportunities to engage in professional development training and experiences that enhance our skill set as student policy advocates.

On Friday, April 26th, five LPPI Policy Fellows attended the Greenlining Economic Summit in Oakland to participate in a convening of scholars, policymakers, and stakeholders across a variety of different policy sectors to discuss pressing issues. Opening remarks by community leaders, students, and policy advocates left us inspired to pursue and find solutions to issues that personally affect us and our communities—gender equity, immigration reform, climate change, and more.

At the summit, we had the opportunity to attend various panels that dealt with a broad scope of policy issues, including equitable community development, environmental justice, and community organizing. We were also at the Summit to support LPPI’s Founding Executive Director, Sonja Diaz, who was a featured panelist in the “Building Health, Wealth, and Power: Advancing Health Equity Through Community Development” panel. The panel was moderated by Anthony Galace, Greenlining Institute’s Health Equity Director and featured remarks from the following experts: Pablo Bravo Vial, Vice-President of Community Health at Dignity Health; Aysha Pamukcu, Health Equity Lead at ChangeLab Solutions; and Tonya Love, District Director for Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The “Building Health, Wealth, and Power” panel focused on how to identify and combat racial inequities through development, health access, and social policy. Through an intersectional lens, the panelists described the myriad of ways that underrepresented and underserved groups across the state are denied access to health care. This included shocking statistics and data on the Black-White infant mortality gap and the estimated five centuries it will take to address California’s Latino physician crisis.

LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz shares research findings on the Latino Physician Crisis at the “Building Health, Wealth, & Power” panel. (From left to right: Anthony Galace, Tonya Love, Pablo Bravo, Sonja Diaz, and Aysha Pamukcu)

The “Building Health, Wealth, and Power” panel provided an important lens to address the social determinants of health and well-being. One of the greatest takeaways for us was seeing women of color leaders in action. As first-generation Latinas, it was refreshing to hear our voices reflected in a professional setting where, more often than not, women of color are left out. This is especially true in conversations around public policy and governance. With a majority women of color panel, we witnessed powerhouse leaders transform a seemingly dry conversation on healthcare to real-world exploration of racism, discrimination, and policy innovation. They helped humanize complex issues and structural dimensions of inequality. Moreover, they clearly articulated how high-level decisions impact the daily lives of our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and communities.

As students from underrepresented backgrounds, we felt included and seen in the conversation. We know first-hand how the lack of access to resources can pose a grave, life-threatening danger to the most vulnerable members of our communities. We are aware of how the slightest change in policy framing can positively improve the lives of marginalized communities. Panelists drew from similar personal experiences from our own lives to provide a human narrative, while unapologetically laying blame on implicit and explicit discriminatory policy frameworks that leave people of color worse off.

Our lives as low-income, first-generation Latinas deeply resonated with the work the panelists pursue every day as researchers, advocates, and political staffers. Data and policy analysis, centered on the needs of communities of color, is a tool to address the social and economic disparities facing communities like ours.

The Greenlining Economic Summit demonstrated the power that lies in coalition building and the importance of empowering policy advocates who are women of color. We feel grateful to have attended a conference like the Summit; a space that is receptive and welcoming to the ideas and concerns of students like us. Attending a panel, which featured strong women of color with new perspectives, enabled our motivation to pursue future avenues in public policy. It served as a reminder that policy advocacy is possible for us too!

LPPI Policy Fellows, Celina Avalos and Julio Mendez, networking with policy advocates, like Melina Duarte, at the Greenlining Economic Summit mixer. (From left to right: Celina Avalos, Julio Mendez, and Melina Duarte)