APPAM's President-Elect, Christopher (Kitt) Carpenter, is a professor, a health & labor economist, and Founder of the LGBTQ Policy Lab at Vanderbilt University.
Tell us more about “Advancing Policy Research with Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives” in terms of both the 2022 Fall Research Conference and APPAM as an organization. What led you to this theme?
Finding a conference theme that is sufficiently broad so as to be relevant to a wide variety of APPAM sessions while at the same time being sufficiently specific to be meaningful is challenging, especially since recent APPAM programs have also focused on other topics I am passionate about (e.g., the March 2022 conference theme of ‘The Power of Inclusion’) – and I didn’t want to repeat. In my current role at Vanderbilt I have had the opportunity to think about the causes and consequences of policies related to the LGBTQ community, and one of the best parts of that work has been engaging with sociologists, health services researchers, epidemiologists, political scientists, lawyers, education scholars, religious studies scholars, and other experts to more deeply understand why different places have such different policy stances toward LGBTQ people and what the effects of those stances are on health and well-being. APPAM as an organization has a wonderful diversity of disciplinary perspectives, and this is reflected in our excellent journal (JPAM), our research conference, and our association leadership. Focusing on cross-disciplinary perspectives thus seemed like a natural fit for the 2022 Fall Research Conference theme. I hope it resonates with conference participants!
Can you describe some of your work in recent years? What have you been most excited to work on?
I’ve been especially excited about advancing research on LGBTQ health and economic outcomes, especially the role of policies in contributing to those outcomes. My entire career I’ve worked to provide new descriptive patterns on how sexual minorities fare in the labor market relative to heterosexual individuals. As attitudes toward sexual and gender minorities have improved, more datasets have included information that would allow identification of LGBTQ people. This has allowed me (along with many great coauthors) to extend that prior work to examine transgender individuals in addition to lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. It has also allowed more rigorous evaluation methods such as difference-in-differences to evaluate the roles of policies such as legal access to same-sex marriage or employment non-discrimination. More recently, we have branched out to examine not only LGBTQ focused policies (like same-sex marriage) but also population-targeted policies such as Medicaid expansion. With these latter policies we are asking questions like: do policies that do not have an obvious LGBTQ focus have differential effects on LGBTQ people compared to cisgender heterosexual people? And if so, why? Going forward, I am especially interested in the promise (and perils!) of large administrative datasets for studying sexual and gender minorities in the US and other countries, as well as studying the effects of recent high profile efforts to restrict rights for LGBTQ people, especially transgender folks.
You’ve played an important role in helping to expand the LGBTQ researcher community at APPAM. Can you describe your work with the LGBTQ researcher community in the past few years and what you hope to accomplish moving forward?
APPAM has been so welcoming to LGBTQ scholars from the minute I first started attending 20 years ago. Informal networks of senior, mid-career, and early-career LGBTQ identified folks and scholars working on policy research relevant to these communities (often but not always the same group of people) would meet regularly at the Fall Research conference for dinner and discussion about shared interests. These annual interactions at the APPAM conference were critically important to my own professional development as a queer policy researcher. And APPAM has been at the forefront in publishing LGBTQ related research in our association’s journal (see Klawitter and Flatt JPAM 1998!), including LGBTQ voices within association leadership, and creating a ‘Communities’ group for LGBTQ APPAM members. It is a record to be proud of. But we can and should do more, including more active steps to ensure our conferences are inclusive and welcoming especially to non-cisgender folks as well as integrating and learning with and from our other communities (e.g., First Gen, BIPOC, Women in Policy Research, and others) where possible to better understand what does and does not work to increase engagement of diverse voices in policy research.
What are your goals for APPAM that you’d like to accomplish as President-Elect and then President?
My first and most important goal as President-Elect is to have an excellent Fall Research Conference! Our outstanding members submitted thoughtful and engaging conference proposals, and the Program Committee did a wonderful job curating coherent sessions. I am super excited to welcome folks back to Washington, DC and the rich discussions that happen more organically and deeply in an in-person environment. I also hope to continue to prioritize diversity in our organization at all levels, including providing leadership opportunities for policy scholars from a range of backgrounds. Related to this, I am committed to the continued growth and support of APPAM Communities. Finally, I’d like to prioritize student-focused and early-career focused initiatives so we continue to support, develop, and expand the future of our organization.
Headed to #2022APPAM? Check out his Super Session on Friday, November 18 at 3:30 pm ET: "A Roundtable Discussion on the State of LGBTQ Rights: Perspectives from Multiple Disciplines"