Thursday, October 13, 2016

An APPAM/MDRC Institutional Member Forum: The Future of Applying Behavioral Science to Social Policy

MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science (CABS) and APPAM are hosting a forum on December 13, 2016 which will explore the future of behavioral science research, practice, and policy. This event brings together distinguished experts from MDRC, academia, and the government to share their work and provide insight on next steps for research, practice, and policy.


Preview the Winter JPAM

Preview the articles found in the Winter 2014 issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

The Impact of Earnings Disregards on the Behavior of Low Income Families
Jordan D. Matsudaira and Rebecca M. Blank

This paper investigates the impact of changes in earnings disregards for welfare assistance received by single mothers following welfare reform in 1996. Some states adopted much higher earnings disregards (women could work full-time and still receive substantial welfare benefits), while other states did not. We explore the effect of these changes on women's labor supply and income using several data sources and multiple estimation strategies. Our results indicate these changes had little effect on labor supply or income.

An Application of Unconditional Quantile Regression to Cigarette Taxes
Johanna Catherine Maclean, Douglas A. Webber, and Joachim Marti

This study investigates heterogeneous response to state cigarette tax increases using unconditional quantile regression (UQR). We make two contributions to the empirical policy analysis literature. First, we argue that UQR provides more policy-relevant information than conventional quantile regression in most empirical state policy analyses. Second, we document cigarette tax elasticity across a sample of adult smokers in the Current Population Survey Tobacco Use Supplements between 1992 and 2011.

Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from a Six-Campus Randomized Trial
William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, Kelly A. Lack, and Thomas I. Nygren

Online instruction is quickly gaining in importance in U.S. higher education, but little rigorous evidence exists as to its effect on student learning. We measure the effect on learning outcomes of a prototypical interactive learning online statistics course by randomly assigning students on six public university campuses to take the course in a hybrid format (with machine-guided instruction accompanied by one hour of face-to-face instruction each week) or a traditional format (as it is usually offered by their campus, typically with about three hours of face-to-face instruction each week).

What Happens the Morning After? The Costs and Benefits from a Six-Campus Randomized Trial
Tal Gross, Jeanne Lafortune, and Corinne Low

Emergency contraception (EC) can prevent pregnancy after sex, but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. Over the past 15 years, access to EC has been expanded at both the state and federal level. This paper studies the impact of those policies.

Strategic Involuntary Teacher Transfers and Teacher Performance: Examining Equity and Efficiency
Jason A. Grissom, Susanna Loeb, and Nathaniel A. Nakashima

Despite claims that school districts need flexibility in teacher assignment to allocate teachers more equitably across schools and improve district performance, the power to involuntarily transfer teachers across schools remains hotly contested. Little research has examined involuntary teacher transfer policies or their effects on schools, teachers, or students.

Does Universal Coverage Improve Health? The Massachusetts Experience
Charles J. Courtemanche and Daniela Zapata

In 2006, Massachusetts passed health care reform legislation designed to achieve nearly universal coverage through a combination of insurance market reforms, mandates, and subsidies that later served as the model for national reform. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we provide evidence that health care reform in Massachusetts led to better overall self-assessed health.

The Effect of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Seat Belt Use by Socioeconomic Position
Sam Harper, Erin C. Strumpf, Scott Burris, George Davey Smith, and John Lynch

We investigated the differential effect of mandatory seat belt laws on seat belt use among socioeconomic subgroups. We identified the differential effect of legislation across higher versus lower education individuals using a difference-in-differences model based on state variations in the timing of the passage of laws.

From Birth to School: Early Childhood Initiatives and Third-Grade Outcomes in North Carolina
Helen F. Ladd, Clara G. Muschkin, and Kenneth A. Dodge

This study examines the community-wide effects of two statewide early childhood policy initiatives in North Carolina. One initiative provides funding to improve the quality of child care services at the county level for all children between the ages of 0 to 5, and the other provides funding for preschool slots for disadvantaged four-year-olds. Differences across counties in the timing of the rollout and in the magnitude of the state financial investments per child provide the variation in programs needed to estimate their effects on schooling outcomes in third grade.


Legalization of Marijuana
Kenneth A. Couch, Editor

Longstanding arguments exist for legalization and regulation of the growth and possession of marijuana. States are taking the lead, again serving as engines of innovation on this policy issue. Some states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, while others have allowed for the production and use of medical marijuana. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have additionally legalized recreational use.

Marijuana Liberalizations Policies: Why We Can’t Learn Much from Policy Still in Motion
Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and Eric L. Sevigny

California legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes nearly 17 years ago, representing a major challenge to the federal government's scheduling of marijuana as a Schedule I drug in the 1970 Controlled Substance Act. As many predicted, California was simply the first. As of May 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia now provide legal protection to patients, and in many cases caregivers, for possession and supply of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: How Likely is the Worst-Case Scenario?
D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees

Last fall, voters in Colorado and Washington approved measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. In the near future, residents of these states who are 21 years of age and older will be able to purchase marijuana at retail stores. Although it can be challenging to predict future behavior, Mark Kleiman, a prominent drug policy expert, described what might be characterized as the worst-case scenario.

Natural Experiments in a Complex and Dynamic Environment: The Need for a Measured Assessment of the Evidence
Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and Eric L. Sevigny

While there are several areas of agreement with the points made by Anderson and Rees, we do have a few key points of departure. First, we disagree with their conclusion that much has been learned from “clearly defined natural experiments” of medical marijuana liberalization policies, not because this literature lacks methodological rigor but because it has not adequately accounted for state-level policy heterogeneity and implementation uncertainty.

The Role of Dispensaries: The Devil is in the Details
D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees

Relying on results from Pacula et al., Pacula and Sevigny argue that medical marijuana dispensaries increase the consumption of marijuana, increase the consumption of alcohol, and lead to more alcohol-related traffic fatalities.


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