Fall Research Conference


2014 Online Paper Collection

The following represents a selected cross section of papers presented at the 2014 Fall Research Conference in Albuquerque, NM last November. The conference included more than 260 sessions, featuring over 900 papers on the most cutting edge public policy research being conducted today. This collection of 13 papers exemplifies the types of issues and research discussed at the conference. As you will see below, the papers are broken out into the policy areas for the 2014 conference. The collection is meant to give Association members, members of the greater public policy community, students, practitioners, and policymakers a sense of the research that APPAM members do, the policy issues their research addresses, and the insight they can and do provide in the policy making process.


Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Head Start, pre-K, kindergarten, elementary education, high school, college, student loans, school and teacher accountability, disadvantaged students, charter schools, grants and financial aid, teacher evaluation and effectiveness, curriculum, student achievement and attainment, class size and composition, after school and summer programs, Veterans (GI Bill), arts and culture programs in schools, etc..

Family and Child Policy

Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Marriage and marriage education, child support enforcement, child care access, child care subsidies and quality, infants and toddlers, child wellbeing, parental education and employment, vulnerable children and families, school readiness, intergenerational mobility, childhood hunger, family resource and income management, familial immigration concerns, single parent and child custody issues, family planning, etc.

Health Policy

Papers in the policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), barriers to health care access, wellness programs for aging populations and persons with disabilities, rehabilitation programs for veterans, obesity and nutrition (exclusive of SNAP and WIC), reproductive health, health care costs, physician behaviors, health literacy, alcohol, drug and tobacco use, arts programs as rehabilitation, etc.

Natural Resources Security, Energy, and Environmental Policy

Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Energy options and use, research for new sources of energy, pollution, waterways, conservation efforts, protected land and species, natural resource scarcity and management, green economies, land reform, climate change, sustainability, etc.

Poverty and Income Policy

Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Food insecurity, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, Home Energy Assistance Programs (HEAP), welfare, school breakfast and lunch programs, personal retirement planning and income, the Great Recession outcomes, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), poverty reduction programs, savings and asset accumulation, disaster assistance, veterans assistance, disability programs including Social Security Disability Insurance  and Supplemental Security Income, etc.

Public and Nonprofit Management and Finance

Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Performance management, citizen assessments of public performance, measuring efficacy of federal, state and local programs, block grants, intergovernmental finance, nonprofit management and finance, program implementation, citizen engagement, tax policy, knowledge management, public information sharing, budget cuts, government priorities, etc.

Science and Technology

Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Funding and interpretation of science, research and development impacts, science as evidence in policymaking, innovation, knowledge sharing across national borders, knowledge management, technology’s effect on changing mores, etc.

Tools of Analysis: Methods, Data, Informatics, and Empirical Design

Papers in this policy area include, but are not limited to, research on the following issues: Methods of analysis, big data, data collection and structuring, research design, policy informatics, computational modeling, system dynamics, data visualization, applications of analytic methods, evidence-based decision making, estimating causal effects, assessing bias, etc.


Charter High Schools’ Effects on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings
by Ron Zimmer, Vanderbilt University, Kevin Booker, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Brian Gill, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and Tim Sass, Georgia State University
New Perspectives on School Choice         

Since their inception in 1992, the number of charter schools has grown to more than 6,000 in 40 states, serving more than 2 million students. Various studies have examined charter schools’ impacts on test scores, and a few have begun to examine longer-term outcomes including graduation and college attendance. This paper is the first to estimate charter schools’ effects on student earnings, alongside effects on educational attainment. Using data from Chicago and Florida, we find evidence that charter high schools may have substantial positive effects on persistence in college as well as high-school graduation and college entry. In Florida, where we can link students to workforce data in adulthood, we also find evidence that charter high schools produce large positive effects on subsequent earnings.

Promise Scholarship Programs as Place-Making Policy: Evidence from School Enrollment and Housing Prices
by Michael LeGower, Federal Trade Commission and Randall Walsh, University of Pittsburgh
Promise Scholarship Programs: Evidence from Recent Evaluations         

Following the example of the Kalamazoo Promise initiated in 2005, place-based "Promise" scholarship programs have proliferated over the past 8 years. These programs guarantee money towards the costs of attendance at selected colleges and universities provided that a student has resided and attended school within a particular public school district continuously for at least four years prior to graduation. While some early programs have been studied in isolation, the impact of such programs in general is not well understood. In addition, although there has been substantial (and controversial) variation from the original program's design, there is no direct evidence on how outcomes vary along with these design choices. Using data from multiple Promise sites, we adopt a difference-in-difference approach to compare the evolution of both school enrollment and residential real estate prices around the announcement of these programs within affected Promise zones and in surrounding areas. Taken together, our estimates suggest that these scholarships have important distributional effects that bear further examination. In particular, while estimates indicate that public school enrollment increases in Promise zones relative to surrounding areas following Promise announcements, schools associated with merit-based programs experience increases in white enrollment and decreases in non-white enrollment. Furthermore, housing price effects are larger in neighborhoods with high quality primary schools and in the upper half of the housing price distribution, suggesting higher valuation by high-income households. These patterns lead us to conclude that such scholarships are primarily affecting the behavior of already advantaged households.

Teacher Layoffs, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Discretionary Layoff Policy
by Matt Kraft, Brown University
Assessing the Effects of the Great Recession on the Teacher Labor Market        

In this study, I analyze the implementation and consequences of discretionary layoffs in the 18th largest public school district in the nation to provide some of the first empirical evidence on performance-based layoffs in education. In total, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) eliminated almost 2,000 employees, including over 1,000 teaching positions in the two years following the onset of the Great Recession. I estimate the differential effects of layoffs based on teacher seniority and effectiveness, by exploiting quasi-experimental variation where some rising cohorts of students in a school entered grades in which a teacher was laid off, while others did not.

The Uneven Implementation of Universal School Policies: Maternal Education and Florida’s Mandatory Grade Retention Policy
by Christina LiCalsi-Labelle and David Figlio
from the session Consequences of Grade Retention and Academic Probation      

Universal educational policies are a popular tool to address inequalities in educational achievement. These policies may be ineffective, and may actually exacerbate inequality, if families of high socioeconomic status are better able to advocate for their children, make informed decisions, or circumvent policy to their child’s benefit. We examine whether a statewide policy enacted in Florida in 2002, mandating that promotion to the fourth grade be conditional upon meeting a minimum standard of reading, resulted in differential retention and later achievement dependent on mothers’ level of education. Because the Florida policy relies on a strict score cutoff for determining retention, we employ a regression-discontinuity design to look at differences in the implementation and effect of the policy for the marginal student. We find that students who score just below the cutoff for promotion are much less likely to be granted an exemption from the retention policy if they have a less educated mother. Scoring below the promotion cutoff results in an increase in retention probability that is 20 percent larger for students whose mothers have less than a high school degree than for students whose mothers have a bachelor’s degree or more. We do not find consistent evidence that students are differentially impacted by the policy dependent on maternal education. Short term achievement gains were found for all students which faded to insignificance.

Family and Child Policy

Are Parental Welfare Work Requirements Good for Disadvantaged Children? Evidence from Age-of-Youngest-Child Exemptions
by Chris Herbst
from the session Inputs into Children’s Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Wellbeing            

Between 12 and 30 percent of school-aged children reportedly skip breakfast on a given weekday. To mitigate any impacts on health and academic performance, many schools implement universally free breakfast programs for students. This paper exploits the staggered implementation of an in-classroom breakfast program in San Diego elementary schools, which provides meals to all students during class time, to determine the impacts of universally free school breakfasts on student attendance rates, classroom behavior and academic performance.

Health Policy

Early Impacts of the ACA Dependent Coverage Mandate on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment
by Brendan Saloner, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Benjamin Lê Cook Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research/ Department of Psychiatry Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School
ACA and Young Adults        

The dependent coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act went into effect in September 2010. It allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance as dependents and applied to most individuals age 19-25. This is the first study to examine the effect of the mandate within a nationally-representative population of young adults with possible behavioral health disorders. We hypothesized that the mandate would significantly increase use of both mental and substance use treatment, reduce out-of-pocket spending, and shift treatment to settings that are more difficult for uninsured individuals to access.

Natural Resources Security, Energy, and Environmental Policy

Greenhouse Gas Policy in the Electric Sector - Measuring the Costs and Ancillary Benefits  
by Jared C. Woollacott, RTI International, Boston University and Ian Sue Wing, Boston University
from the session Electricity Systems for the Future   

This work leverages a uniquely-constructed dataset of the US electric grid, integrated into a general equilibrium framework, to assess the costs associated with implementing greenhouse gas policies in the US electric sector. Particular attention is paid to the current menu of available generation and abatement technologies and how substitution among those technologies generates both costs and ancillary benefits in meeting policy requirements. Specifically, we find that while gross policy costs associated with 10-20% greenhouse-gas abatement in the electric sector are on the order of $10 Bn., much of that cost is offset by the ancillary benefits of reduced morbidity and mortality arising from lower levels of NOx and SOx as particulate-matter precursors. With only a subset of ancillary benefits considered, greenhouse-gas abatement in the electric sector may well be a "no regrets'" policy.

Is collaboration a good investment? Modeling the impact of government support for nonprofit collaborative watershed management councils
by Tyler Scott, University of Washington
from the session Non-Regulatory Governance and Environmental Outcomes: Analyzing the Design and Implementation of Non-Regulatory Environmental Policy Tools           

Grants from public agencies often support collaborative environmental management groups. There is little evidence, however, about the extent to which these grants improve environmental outcomes. The extant literature hypothesizes that grants for ‘capacity building’ and other institutional purposes have indirect, long-term effects that are not immediately observable. For instance, the Puget Sound Partnership in Washington state and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) both provide grants to hire local watershed council coordinators, assuming that institutional changes generated by a full-time coordinator ultimately manifest in better environmental conditions. In this study I test this assumption using time-series Oregon watershed quality and grant data to explore the following question: To what extent do specific grant types -and features- affect long-term environmental conditions?

Poverty and Income Policy

Income Receipt and Labor Supply of Low Income Family: Evidence from Earned Income Tax Credit  
by Tzu-Ting Yang
from the session Policies Affecting Employment and Wages of Low-Income Individuals   

This paper provides the first evidence on the relationship between timing of income payments and employment of low-income families in a developed-country context. In particular, I exploit large and anticipated income change in the first quarter of calendar year induced by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to identify the effect of income receipt on employment of low-income families. I conduct triple differences estimation by using comparison groups to purge any shocks to employment that are unrelated to the EITC around the timing of credit receipt. My result suggests the employment of married women is sensitive to the timing of EITC receipt. Receiving 1,000 USD EITC payment could significantly reduce the employment rate of married women, by 1.6 percentage points (baseline is 47 percent), during EITC disbursement months. However, married men and single women do not reveal such employment patterns. The subgroup analysis suggests that married women from liquidity-constrained families, such as those with zero liquid assets, high loan-to-value ratios for housing, or low educational attainments, exhibit a larger negative employment response to the EITC payments than ones from less constrained families.

Public and Nonprofit Management and Finance

Examining Perceptual and Archival Measures of Performance in the Context of Nursing Home Care
by Examining Perceptual and Archival Measures of Performance in the Context of Nursing Home Care by
Ama A. Amirkhanyan, American University, Kenneth J. Meier, Texas A&M University, Laurence J. O'Toole, Jr., University of Georgia, Mueen A Dakhwe, Texas A&M University and Shawn Janzen, American University
from the session What Does Government Performance Mean and How Do We Know? Different Perspectives

Striving to enhance the generalizability of performance measures across different organizations and policy areas, public management research has extensively relied on the managers’ perceptual assessments of organizational performance. Recent empirical studies in the field of public education suggest that these self-evaluations may in fact be biased: managers tend to systematically overestimate the performance of their agencies, even after accounting for the difficulty of their task or resource constraints. Perceptual measures also do not correlate strongly with the objective (or “archival”) measures of organizational performance. In addition, while examining the effect of management on the perceptual measures of performance derived from the same survey, the measures are likely to suffer from common source bias. On the other hand, depending on the process of data collection and the stakeholders involved in the evaluation process, the archival measures can also be biased. For instance, performance data created by government employees could be biased against nongovernmental (e.g., for-profit) service providers.

Science and Technology

Falling out of Step: Understanding Trends in Gender, Race, and Ethnic Differences on the Pathway to a Career in Biomedical Research   
by Misty L. Heggeness, Lisa Evans and Sherry Mills, National Institutes of Health
from the session Diversity in STEM Fields       

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director’s (ACD) Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers (2007) considered gender disparities in the biomedical research workforce in response to the National Academies report “Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.” The NIH ACD’s Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce (2012) identified concerns with differences in the proportion of individuals receiving R01 grants by race and ethnicity compared to the total U.S. population. Both these reports identified that the proportion of women and underrepresented populations in biomedical research was not equal to their proportion in the total population.

Gender and the Institutional Environment in STEM-H Innovation and Entrepreneurship       
by Margaret Blume-Kohout and Dennis Barber, III, MBK Analytics, LLC
from the session Diversity in STEM Fields    

Innovation and entrepreneurship are closely linked activities, both of which have potential to increase economic productivity and growth, and thereby ultimately improve social welfare. Given the substantial public investment in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health sciences research (STEM-H), taxpayers and their representatives are understandably concerned about the translational value of those investments on society and the economy, including potential disparities in benefits that accrue to individuals by gender, race and ethnicity. This paper focuses on women who pursue graduate training in STEM-H fields, to identify and assess what financial, structural, and organizational factors might significantly discourage or facilitate women’s subsequent participation in scientific research occupations and STEM-H/innovation-based entrepreneurship.

Tools of Analysis: Methods, Data, Informatics, and Empirical Design

The Rapid Emergence of Communication Networks Following the April 20, 2013 Ya'an Earthquake in Lushan County, China

by Haibo Zhang, Center for Social Risk and Disaster Management, Nanjing University and Louise Comfort, Center for Disaster Management, University of Pittsburgh
from the session Measuring Change in Policy Networks: Adaptive Processes, Complex Systems, and Extreme Events   

With its rising use in disaster management, social media plays a bigger role than traditional media in facilitating the adaptation of emergency management in China. Based on an analysis of the response system that emerged following the April 20, 2013 Ya’an Earthquake in Lushan County, we address five questions. First, what roles do social media play in emergency management in China? Second, how do these roles contribute to the adaptation of emergency management policies and practices to the threat of hazards in China? Third, why are social media able to facilitate the adaptation of emergency management functions more quickly than traditional means of disseminating and managing information? Fourth, what are the drawbacks in the use of social media in the Lushan Earthquake in emergency management? Fifth, how do we improve the performance of social media in emergency management in the future in China?