Fall Research Conference


2015 Big Data Workshop

Big Data and Public Policy Workshop

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Miami, Florida


Thank you to our workshop sponsors:





About the Workshop

The new availability of data – administrative records, mobile devices, sensors, and many private sources – as well as new processing and analytical techniques, has the potential to transform the practice of science.  In the social science context, the new data can potentially offer information for policy-makers that is much more current, granular and richer in environmental information than data produced by statistical agencies from surveys.  Yet with the unfolding of new research opportunities, there are challenges associated with making use of the new data that are no longer generated and disseminated by statistical agencies, but can be harvested from many individual public, and some private, actions.

Examples of particular challenges for the policy community include:

  • Inadequate understanding of coverage, incentive and quality issues, together with the lack of a comparison group, can lead to incorrect policy advice.  For example, overreliance on, say, Twitter data, in targeting resources after hurricanes might lead to the misallocation of resources towards young, internet savvy people with cell-phones and away from elderly or impoverished neighborhoods.
  • The lack of obvious data stewards who can be entrusted with preserving confidentiality, which can result in questions about the ethical use of new types of data.  For example, since there are no clear rules or guidelines governing the appropriate use of the new types of data, Institutional Review Boards may hesitate to allow new types of research.

Nonetheless, important scholarly work has been done that uses big data in a way that is valuable to policy makers – in areas as varied as finance, labor, education, science, innovation, transportation and development. This JPAM workshop seeks to assess as well as showcase cutting edge empirical work in this vein.

Registration Information

Registration for this workshop is now open. The registration fee of $45 for Members and $65 for Nonmembers. You can register for the pre-conference workshop when you register for the Fall Conference, there is no separate registration process. Click here to register!


Workshop Agenda

Welcome & Introductions
11:00 am - 11:15 am
Monroe Ballroom

New Data
11:15 am - 12:30 pm
Monroe Ballroom

*Presenters listed in bold

Chairs: Paul Decker, Mathematica Policy Research; Julia Lane, New York University

  • Is Public Grading Worth the Costs? An Evaluation of New York City’s Restaurant Grades Policy
    • Rachel Meltzer, The New School; Michah W. Rothbart, New York University; Amy Ellen Schwartz, New York University and Syracuse University; Thad Calabrese, New York University; Diana Silver, New York University; Tod Mijanovich, New York University; Meryle Weinstein, New York University
      Download the full paper here. 
  • The Geography, Incidence, and Underreporting of Gun Violence: New Evidence using ShotSpotter Data
    • Jennifer L. Doleac, University of Virginia; Jillian B. Carr, Purdue University

Lunch Break
12:30 pm - 1:00 pm

Concurrent Sessions

Location: Tuttle North
Chair: Paul Decker, Mathematica Policy Research

  • Urban Policy and Education: 12:45 - 2:15pm

    • Daytime Travel in Spatial Mismatch: Job Accessibility and Employment at Reentry

    • Why Don’t Housing Choice Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Experimental and Big Administrative Data
      • Ingrid Ellen, New York University; Keren Horn, University of Massachusetts at Boston; Amy Ellen Schwartz, New York University and Syracuse University

    • The Challenge of Teacher Retention in Urban Schools: Evidence of Variation from a Cross-Site Analysis
      • John P. Papay, Brown University; Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Harvard University; Lindsay C. Page, University of Pittsburgh; William H. Marinell, Harvard University
        Download the Full Paper Here.  Download the slides.

    • Peer Mechanism:  How Interactive Peers Affect Students in College Online Courses

Location:Tuttle Central
Chair: Julia Lane, New York University

  • Health and other Issues: 1:00pm - 2:15pm

    • Learning from Big Clinical Data: Problems and Solutions for Policy Analysis

    • Empowering Consumers through Data and Smart Technology: Experimental Evidence on the Consequences of Time-of-Use Electricity Pricing Policies
      • Matthew Harding, Duke University; Carlos Lamarche, University of Kentucky

    • The Effect of Piracy Website Blocking on Consumer Behavior
      • Michael D. Smith, Carnegie Mellon University; Rahul Telang, Carnegie Mellon University

Coffee Break 
2:15 pm - 2:45 pm

Concurrent Sessions
2:45 pm - 4:00 pm

Location:Tuttle North
Chair: Paul Decker, Mathematica Policy Research

  • Methods

    • From Epistemology to Public Policy: Checks and Balances on the Use of Big Data in Policy Analysis

    • What Works for Whom? A Bayesian Approach to Channeling Big Data Streams for Policy Analysis
      • Mariel Finucane, Mathematica Policy Research; Ignacio Martinez, Mathematica Policy Research; Scott Cody, Mathematica Policy Research
        Download the full paper here.

    • The AOS: Building the Evidence Base for Studying Policy and Program Impacts on Human Outcomes and Socio-Economic Mobility
      • David Grusky, Stanford University; Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Matt Snipp, Stanford University
        Download the full paper here.

Location: Tuttle Central
Chair: Julia Lane, New York University

  • Text Mining

    • Bringing Big Data into Public Policy Research: Text Mining to Acquire Richer Data on Program Participants, Their Behavior and Services
      • Robert Goerge, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago; Jonathan Ozik, Computation Institute, University of Chicago; Nicholas Collier, Computation Institute, University of Chicago
        Download the full paper here. 

    • Text Data Analytics: A Methodological Review and Demonstration

    • Using Text Analysis to Investigate the Effect of Changes in Research Policy in Norway and the US
      • Jordan Boyd-Graber, University of Colorado; Evgeny Klochikin and Rosa Castro Zarzur, American Institutes for Research; and Erling Barth, University of Oslo

Coffee Break
4:00 pm - 4:15 pm

4:15 pm - 5:00 pm
Monroe Ballroom

Chairs: Paul Decker, Mathematica Policy Research; Julia Lane, New York University

  • Keynote Speaker: Brett Goldstein, University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy
    Comments: Ron Jarmin, U.S. Census Bureau, Assistant Director, Research and Methodology Directorate

Keynote Speaker - Brett Goldstein


Brent Goldstein was appointed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be the first municipal Chief Data Officer in 2011. In this role, he led successful efforts to use data to improve the way city government serves its residents and established one of the largest open data programs in the country.

In 2012, Goldstein also assumed the role of Chief Information Officer for the City of Chicago, where he worked to accelerate Chicago’s growth as a global hub of innovation and technology, adopting modern technology to save taxpayer funds, creating a robust collaboration with Chicago’s developer community and integrating data analytics into everyday government operations. Goldstein began his career in the start-up sector, spending 7 years at OpenTable. Click here for Brett's full bio