PhD Dissertation Award

About the Award for Best Dissertation in Public Policy and Management

The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) seeks to recognize emergent scholars in the field by presenting an award for the best PhD dissertation in public policy and management. 

For the 2021 nominations, any dissertation that had been completed in the academic years 2019 - 2020 or 2020 - 2021, and granted a degree in that period, was eligible for consideration. No dissertation that had been completed prior to May 1, 2019 was accepted and previously submitted dissertations were not considered. Dissertations from any discipline were acceptable as long as they dealt substantively with public policy issues and were nominated by a faculty member from an APPAM institutional member university. The faculty member need not be the major adviser or supervisor of the student’s dissertation, but could nominate the dissertation based on the belief that it makes a strong contribution to policy analysis.
Winners receive a cash award in the amount of $1,500 in addition to a plaque, recognition at the annual Fall Research Conference, and publication of an abstract in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM). A separate grant covering travel costs to the Fall Research Conference will also be provided. The award winner and two honorable mentions will be given an opportunity to display posters of their dissertations during the conference.

Congratulations to the 2021 Recipient! 







George Zuo
University of Maryland, 2021

The 2021 PhD Dissertation Award for Best Dissertation in Public Policy and Management will be presented to George Zuo. Currently an associate Economist at the RAND Corporation, George Zuo earned his PhD from the University of Maryland in 2021. His dissertation, Essays on Bridging Economic and Educational Disparities in America covers topics such as broadband technology, school disciplinary procedures and the effects of federal place-based grants on localities. Learn more about his work here.

The four 2021 Honorable Mentions are:

  • Zachary Bleemer, University of California Berkeley, On the Meritocratic Allocation of Higher Education
  • Brandyn Churchill, Vanderbilt University, Three Essays in Health Economics
  • Ezra Karger, University of Chicago, Essays on the Measurement of Income in Economic Analysis
  • Jun Li, University of Michigan, Medicare Incentives, Payment Reform, and Quality in the Nursing Home Health Care Sector

Prior Winners

2019 - 2020

Cody Tuttle, University of Maryland
Government Responses to Crime and Racial Inequality

Honorable mentions
Theresa Anderson, George Washington University
What If Mom Went Back to School? A Mixed Methods Study of Effects and Experiences for Both Generations When Mothers Return to School

Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Harvard University
Essays on the Economics of Education

2018 - 2019

Shiran Victoria Shen, Stanford University
Political Pollution Cycle: An Inconvenient Truth and How to Break It

Honorable mentions:
Patricio Dominiquez Rivera, Inter-American Development Bank and Elizabeth Pérez-Chiqués, CIDE

2017 - 2018

Garima Siwach, University at Albany, State University of New York
Impact of Employment Barriers on Individuals with Criminal Records: An Econometric Evaluation of Criminal Records in New York
Honorable mentions:
Y. Nina Gao, University of Chicago and Allison C. Kelly, University of Washington

2016 - 2017

Mallory Flowers, Georgia Tech School of Public Policy
Green Certification Pathways: The Roles of Public Goods, Private Goods and Certification Schemes
Honorable mentions:
Alan Zarychta, University of Colorado - Boulder

2015 - 2016

Vincent Reina, University of Southern California, Sol Price School of Public Policy
The Impact of Mobility and Government Rental Subsidies on the Welfare of Households and Affordability of Markets
Honorable mentions:
Eric Roberts, John Hopkins University and Daniel Sebastian Tello-Trillo, Vanderbilt University


Manasi Deshpande, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Essays on the Effects of Disability Insurance
Honorable mentions:
Alexander Smith, University of Virginia and Gabriel Cardona-Fox, University of Texas, Austin


Anjali Adukia, Harvard University
The Role of Basic Needs in Educational Decisions: Essays in Education and Development Economics
Honorable mention:
Sara Heller, University of Chicago


Sarah Anzia, University of California, Berkeley
Election Timing and the Political Influence of the Organized
Honorable mention:
Hosung Sohn, University of California, Berkeley


Daeho Kim, Brown University

Essays in Health Economics

Honorable mentions:

Chloe Gibbs, University of Chicago

Christopher Robert, Harvard University JFK School of Government


Kurt Lavetti, University of California-Berkeley

Essays on the Estimation of Prices in Implicit Markets

Honorable mentions:

Cassandra Marie Doll Hart, Northwestern University


Heidi Williams, MIT

Essays on Technological Change in Healthcare Markets

Honorable mentions:

Kristin Seefeldt, University of Michigan

Judith Scott-Clayton, Harvard University JFK School of Government

2008 - 2009

Steven Hemelt, University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Essays in Education Policy: Accountability, Achievement, and Access

Honorable mentions:

None recognized for this year


Haitao Yin, University of Pennsylvania

The Environmental and Economic Impacts of Environmental Regulations: The Case of Underground Storage Tank Regulations

Honorable mentions:

Maria Fitzpatrick, University of Virginia

Jeremy Rosner, University of Maryland


Christopher Herbst, University of Maryland-College Park

Effects of Social Policy Reforms and the Economy on Welfare Participation and Employment of Single Mothers

Honorable mentions:

Douglas Carr, University of Kentucky

Stephanie Cellini, University of California-Los Angeles


Kilkon Ko, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

Behaviors of Policy Analysts in Public Investment Decisions: How Policy Analysts Make Decisions

Honorable mentions:

Leah Brooks, University of California-Los Angeles

Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, Northwestern University


Asim Zia, Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy

Cooperative and Non-Cooperative Decision Behaviors in Response to the Inspection and Maintenance Program in the Atlanta Airshed, 1997-2001

Honorable mentions:

Margaret Patrick Haist, University of Kentucky

Sergio Fernandez, University of Georgia


Shreyasi Jha, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Linkages Between Trade and Liberalization and Environmental Policy: Evidence from India

Honorable mentions:

Zhong Yi Tong, University of Maryland

Jesse Levin, University of Amsterdam and Tinbergen Institute


Rucker Johnson, University of Michigan

Essays on Urban Spatial Structure, Job Search and Job Mobility

Honorable mentions:

R. Karl Rethemeyer, Harvard University JFK School of Government

Gail Corrado, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill


Mark Long, University of Michigan

The Effects of Education Policy on College Entry and Household Savings

Honorable mentions:

Brian Jacob, University of Chicago

Katherine Magnuson, Northwestern University


Jacob Hacker, Yale University

Boundary Wars: Political Struggle Over Public and Private Social Benefits in the U.S.

Honorable mentions:

Jean Marie Abraham, Carnegie Mellon University

Shanti Rabindran Gamper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Susanna Loeb, University of Michigan

Economic Analyses of Elementary and Secondary School Resource Provision

Honorable mentions:

Laura J. Dugan, Carnegie Mellon University

Patrick McEwan, Stanford University


Meredith Phillips, Northwestern University

Early Inequalities: The Development of Ethnic Differences in Academic Achievement During Childhood

Honorable mentions:

Karen Baehler, University of Maryland

Carol Silva, University of Rochester


Kevin Volpp, University of Pennsylvania

Market-based Reforms and the Impact on Quality of Care: An Examination of the Quality Impacts of the Transition from Hospital Rate-Setting to Price Competition in New Jersey

Honorable mentions:

Kim Rueben, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Katherine Baicker, Harvard University JFK School of Government


Xavier De Souza Briggs, Harvard University JFK School of Government

Brown Kids in White Suburbs: Housing Mobility, Neighborhood Effects and the Social Capital of Poor Youth

Honorable mentions:

Ingrid Gould Ellen, New York University

Rebecca London, Northwestern University


Sheila E. Murray, University of Maryland-College Park

Two Essays on the Distribution of Education Resources and Outcomes


Johannes M. Bos, New York University Wagner School of Public Service

The Labor Market Value of Remedial Education: Evidence from Time Series Data on an Experimental Program for School Dropouts


Kathryn A. Foster, Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Special Districts and the Political Economy of Metropolitan Service Delivery

Thomas J. Nechyba, University of Rochester

Fiscal Federalism and Local Public Finance: A General Equilibrium Approach with Voting


Kenneth Langa, University of Chicago Harris School of Policy Studies

Medicaid Cost-Containment in the 1980s: Did It Encourage Interpayer Differences in Hospital Care


Thomas J. Kane, Harvard University JFK School of Government

College Entry by Blacks Since 1970: The Role of Tuition, Financial Aid, Local Economic Conditions and Family Background

About the 2019 Recipient: Shiran Victoria Shen, University of Virginia