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Photo Credit: Nicholas Konrad, The New York Times

The UCLA Voting Rights project released a white paper this week, “Protecting Democracy:  Implementing Equal and Safe Access to the Ballot Box During a Global Pandemic,” with recommendations for voting officials to begin planning now for the implementation of a vote-by-mail program for upcoming primary elections and, most importantly, the November General Election.

This timely policy paper is an early call to action for the ongoing concern that the novel coronavirus will affect turnout in upcoming elections given the large and persistent public health campaign encouraging the public to practice “social distancing.” The paper urges Congress to immediately provide funding and guidance for a national vote-by-mail effort as part of current relief proposals to help with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. If Congress fails to act, the paper calls on state and local officials to step in. The paper also seeks to highlight the low-health risks and general safety to the public that voting by mail provides during this national emergency.

“States around the country are pushing back primary and runoff elections in the hope that election procedures can return to normal at a later time,” said Chad Dunn, co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and co-author of the report. “But hope is not a plan. We must prepare now to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

The UCLA Voting Rights Project is an applied research and direct service program of the Latino Politics & Policy Initiative, a partnership of the Division of Social Sciences and the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The UCLA VRP is focused on voting rights litigation, research, policy and training. The report is the first comprehensive review of vote by mail laws in the age of a pandemic, and it includes best practices on how to implement the measures most effectively and quickly. The report was made available to Congressional offices as coronavirus relief discussions are underway.

The white paper offers the following solutions to implement a universal vote-by-mail program by November:

  • Enroll voters immediately in a vote-by-mail program, allowing for an online registration option.
  • Provide a universal mail ballot and envelope to standardize the process and education efforts.
  • Work with the U.S. Postal Service to design a reliable and convenient program to return mail-in ballots.
  • Create security measures for vote-by-mail ballots.
  • Create a process for voters to address any issues with their vote-by-mail ballots so as to ensure all lawful votes are counted.
  • Modify any in-person polling places to maintain social distancing and minimize public health concerns for at-risk populations.
  • Improve sanitation efforts at polling places to provide public health assurances for in-person voting.
  • Increase voter education efforts on reforms implemented.

“The 2020 election could have record turnout for young voters and communities of color, groups that must be engaged in deciding the future of our country and on issues that affect our local communities,” said Matt Barreto, UCLA Voting Rights co-founder and co-author of the paper. “Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and vote-by-mail offers a solution to challenges that range from busy work schedules to global pandemics.”

 

DOWNLOAD the full report HERE.

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

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

There are very few opportunities for scholars, academics, and students to congregate and hold events centering such issues as Central American Migration, which is what made the conference held last month at the Luskin School of Public Affairs so special. The conference titled “Central American Migration to Mexico and the United States Conference,” was multilingual, interdisciplinary, and intersectional, which created space for critical conversations and the exploration of compelling research that is inspiring further collaborations among scholars and students.

The experiences of Central American migrants are often conflated with the experiences of other immigrants coming to the United States. While all migrants are subject to dangerous situations, it is important to understand the unique challenges faced by individuals that travel through several different nation states to come to the United States. The conference was created with this very purpose in mind and highlighted different communities and experiences including those of indigenous Mayan migrants and even some of the personal experiences of panelists. It also utilized historical evidence to contextualize contemporary issues. The event highlighted the work of several faculty experts from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) including Dr. Leisy Abrego, Dr. Juan Herrera, and Dr. Cecilia Menjivar who heralded the event and shared how their own personal narratives enhance their research on Central American migration.

Dr. Abrego spoke about the impact of US immigration policies stating that, “what is happening right now, I guarantee you, will have effects for generations to come as people have to heal from the type of legal violence we are seeing.”

Professor Leisy Abrego centered her presentation on the negative rhetoric that has become increasingly common towards Central Americans and its impact on United States immigration policy. To highlight the shift in federal responses toward Central American migrants, Dr. Abrego  offered comparisons of the Obama and Trump Administrations’ policies on immigration and how they built upon the border industrial complex. According to Dr. Abrego, the Obama Administration used deterrence rhetoric as a shield to protect from any critiques that migrants were being treated unjustly. The Obama Administration continuously stated that the only reason they created detention centers was to prevent any more Central Americans from wanting to migrate and attempted to humanize their struggles for funding support. Under the Trump administration, the number of deportations decreased but the rhetoric surrounding immigrants, specifically Central Americans, became more aggressive. Dr. Abrego acknowledged that the negative rhetoric used by the Trump Administration led to the further dehumanization of Central American immigrants in order to build up a xenophobic political base.

One of the key factors that Dr. Leisy Abrego centered on during her presentation was the erasure of the U.S.’s role in immigration. Many Central American immigrants looking for shelter in the U.S. are turned away, or asked to wait in a perpetual state of limbo in Mexico, before they are granted asylum in the U.S. Many critics of immigration reform wonder why the U.S. should take responsibility to shelter asylum seekers. Dr. Abrego addresses these critics with the effects of erasure of the U.S.’s role in immigration. The U.S. is responsible for much of the gang violence that is now inherent in several Central American countries, specifically El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Abrego concluded by stating, “in the representation of Central Americans…always as a crisis either as criminals…or as helpless victims, we always erase, at least in the main discourse, the role of the United States in creating all of this.”

LPPI Faculty Expert, Dr. Juan Herrera shared his experience as a dark-skinned Latino in a community with prevalent anti-indigenous sentiment and how they fueled his studies.

Dr. Juan Herrera also called upon his lived experiences to provide context to the circumstances of Central American migrants. By leveraging his personal anecdotes, Dr. Herrera brought a human face to the economic, political and social difficulties faced by Central American migrants  in Mexico and the United States. During his talk he shared his experience as a dark-skinned Latino in a community with prevalent anti-indigenous sentiment and how they fueled his studies. During his talk he stated, “I think that fundamentally…. integration is a spatial process.” He described how interactions are vital to socialization and that they provide the basis of identity formation.  Dr. Herrera also spoke about how some of his past research showed that many Central American migrants to the US come to work as day laborers. “Literature was treating day laborers as transient despacialized laborers…(in) our current neoliberal economy, migrants are valued solely for their cheap labor without adequately perceiving them as human beings who construct social relationships that produce space.” Dr. Herrera coined the term racialized illegality to conceptualize this hardship faced by Central American migrants, how illegality affects people depending on how they were racialized in their own country and how that ultimately affects their migration and settlement processes.

Cecilia Menjivar, in her opening speech, described the growing number of Central-American scholars and what it means for the future of the discipline.

Members from UNICA and CAIGA took part in a panel that centered their work for Central American migrants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Central American immigrants continue to face increasingly negative rhetoric and horrific conditions meant to drive them away from coming to the United States, it is important that conferences such as the “Central American Migration to Mexico and the United States Conference” continue the conversations that bring critical context to these issues. Spaces, such as the one created last month, are necessary to facilitate the transfer of knowledge among academics that can be utilized to create more holistic and human portrayals of the Central American refugees that continue to be featured across all forms of media.

Every speaker agreed that educating others about the issues Central American migrant communities are facing and bringing a human face to those issues through personal narratives, is vital to finding effective solutions that recognize the humanity and dignity of immigrants. They also agreed upon the toll that is being exacted in the current immigration environment that will haunt communities for decades to come, with Dr. Abrego putting a fine point on the matter saying, “What is happening right now, I guarantee you, will have effects for generations to come as people have to heal from the type of legal violence we are seeing.”

Dr. Leisy Abrego, Dr. Cecilia Menjivar and Dr. Ruben Hernandez-Leon heralded the event.

The event was created in conjunction between the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), the UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration, and the UCLA Center for Mexican Studies and co-sponsored by student-run organizations CAIGA (Central American Isthmus Graduate Association) and UNICA (Union Centroamericana de UCLA).

Contributors: Kacey Bonner and Diana Garcia

For more reporting on the conference, go HERE.

UCLA History Professor Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Distinguished Professor & Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences, was recently awarded the International Prize of History by the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS). The award will be presented at a ceremony in Poznań, Poland, in August 2020, at the XXIII Congress of the ICHS, which is held every five years. This prize–now in its third edition–honors a historian who has distinguished themself in the field of history by their works, publications or teaching, and has significantly contributed to the development of historical knowledge. Professor Subrahmanyam’s work is being recognized for his contributions to the progress of historical research and to the dialogue between cultures, opening many new perspectives and training generations of scholars.

L.A. Social Science would like to congratulate Professor Subrahmanyam for being recognized for his excellent work through this award.

Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times featured three scholars from UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences and their outstanding work in Central American studies. The Los Angeles Times article highlights the conference that Professors Cecilia Menjívar (Sociology), Leisy Abrego (Chicana and Chicano and Central American Studies), and Rubén Hernández-León (Sociology) organized earlier this year regarding Central American migration.

L.A. Social Science would like to congratulate them on a successful conference that brought together attendees from UCLA, other California campuses, and the Los Angeles community to discuss and share their research in Central American studies. Read the complete article, HERE.

American Indian Studies at UCLA is an interdisciplinary IDP with a long history of working with and for tribal communities. When it was announced by UNESCO that it would celebrate this year of Indigenous Languages as important repositories of traditions, memory, and cultural heritage, we reflected on the work that has been done at UCLA. Our work with community members in relationship to languages emphasizes the importance of Indigenous knowledges and knowledge keepers. The faculty at UCLA thrive to implement ethical and meaningful flows of information from our campus to Indigenous communities. Language is just one way American Indian Studies excels at UCLA by working with communities.

The following photos provide a glimpse into the study of indigenous languages at UCLA. All photos are courtesy of Ken Scott Photo. To learn more, visit the UCLA American Indian Studies website HERE.

Renee White Eyes and Talia Gomez Quintana explore the use of technology, gaming, and language learning.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Scott Photo

Professor David Delgado Shorter discusses the connection between indigenous languages and perception.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Scott Photo

Professor Mishuana Goeman uses the Wiki for Indigenous Languages in a UCLA classroom.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Scott Photo

Clementine Bordeaux and Theodore Shulsky use the Wiki for Indigenous Languages, created by UCLA Professor David Delgado Shorter.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Scott Photo

Dr. Akhil Gupta, UCLA Professor of Anthropology, has officially become president of the American Anthropological Association (as of November 2019). The American Anthropological Association is the largest association for professional anthropologists in the world. Dr. Gupta is a sociocultural anthropologist who works on questions of transnational capitalism, infrastructure, and corruption.

LA Social Science would like to congratulate Dr. Akhil Gupta on this well-deserved appointment.

The LA Social Science e-forum interviewed UCLA Department of Communication alum, Michael Allen, ’86. During this interview, LA Social Science learned more about Mr. Allen’s LA Social Science Story.

LA Social Science would like to thank Mr. Allen for allowing us to learn about his story and the advising work he continues to do in support of the Division of Social Sciences.

What is your LA Social Science Story?

The UCLA Department of Communication proudly announces rolling out their new PhD program where the first cohort will begin with the 2020-2021 academic year. The department will be sure to attract the best and the brightest since the undergraduate program is robust and students flock to that major. The expertise the faculty hold within the department and across the campus will offer the graduate students plenty of opportunities to shape their research in innovative ways. The department anticipates that the doctoral students will do well on the job market both in academia and the private sector. They have already seen this with the the assistance of UCLA alum Michael Allen who helped market the program using industry standards that culminated into this VIDEO.

This partnership started through the department’s longstanding relationship and sponsorship of the undergraduate UCLA Bruin Advertising and Marketing Team that competes nationally. Students like Felician Crisostomo, who are on team, also partook in the marketing of this new program. Crisostomo spoke about how this was one of the most exciting and rich experiences he has had at UCLA.

He was contacted by Dr. Kerri Johnson, Interim Vice Chair, this past spring quarter to aid with the project and connected him with Mr. Allen. They took the summer to put together a 5-minute video. Part of the project was for Crisostomo to really get to know the expertise within the department. He was most impressed with visiting professors’ labs and classes and witnessed how different methods are utilized to advance the field. Crisostomo noted that by working side by side with a person who has been an expert in the field with 20 years of experience allowed him to gain many transferable skills.

In particular, Crisostomo appreciated being part of the decision-making process by assisting with the images and messaging for the video. Crisostomo said, “It was exciting, because we got to work with Mike [Allen] an industry expert in marketing and pick his brain about the campaign along with Paul [Connor] for the video. I got first-hand experience with the manuscript, messaging and the actually filing of the video.”

Crisostomo believes that this experience has enabled him to be a more competitive member of the Bruin Marketing and Advertising campus organization and prepared him for work beyond the university.

This process is reflective of the types of expertise the department holds which bridges the expertise of the alumni and community partners to give its students a more comprehensive and suitable experience. Crisostomo has come to understand all the benefits and advantages of the PhD program, so much so, that he himself is seriously considering applying for the program. “Prior to this I never considered anything after undergraduate, but learning more about the program has opened me up to graduate school and [how it’s] applicable in my industry. It has broadened my views on opportunities that are out there.”

Dr. Kerri Johnson shares the excitement for the new program that arises from a department that produces cutting-edge research in three areas: cognitive, political, and computational. She shares that the faculty realized that given the work that the department does alongside their alumni and community partners that a premiere PhD program would inevitably come to fruition. The department is growing with the arrival of three new faculty members that will be available to the first incoming cohort. Dr. Johnson said that this program would provide world-class graduate training based on an interdisciplinary approach that includes multi-method training. Dr. Johnson was very excited to also work with Mr. Allen and Mr. Crisostomo in a collective manner.  She stated, “The team reported to me what we needed for the print material and the video in order to best advertise the new PhD program. Paul is a fantastic videographer that made a difference.”

We anticipate this PhD program will attract a diverse and competitive group of students and will yield cutting edge research that will impact academia and influence different industries. Interested applicants will need to submit their application by December 15.