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Scholars from the University at Albany, Abt Associates, Vanderbilt, and Westat Earn the PhD and Vernon Awards

October 4, 2018 09:09 AM

University at Albany alumnus Garima Siwach has been selected to receive the PhD Dissertation Award. Authors from Abt Associates, Vanderbilt University, and Westat have been selected as recipients of the Raymond Vernon Memorial Award for a paper published in the Fall 2018 issue of the Journal of Pubic Policy Analysis and Management.

Congratulations to each of the winners!

Both awards will be presented during the new Membership and Awards Breakfast on Friday, November 9, at the Fall Research Conference. If you plan to attend this free breakfast, please RSVP here.

PhD Dissertation Award

Garima Siwach is an Economic Researcher at the American Institutes for Research. Her work focuses on employment-related interventions for marginalized populations, including those with disabilities, individuals with criminal records, and transition youth from low-income households.

Siwach earned her PhD in Economics from the University at Albany, State University of New York, in 2017. Her dissertation, entitled Impact of Employment Barriers on Individuals with Criminal Records: An Econometric Evaluation of Criminal Background Checks in New York, is at the intersection of economics, public policy and criminology and won the University at Albany Distinguished Dissertation Award in 2017. The dissertation is structured as three essays. Using data from New York State, Siwach analyzed individuals with criminal records who were provisionally hired for work in non-licensed direct access care position in 2008 and 2009.

In chapter one, entitled “Unemployment Shocks for Individuals on the Margin: Exploring the Recidivism Effects,”she estimates the effect of employment denials in background checks. Chapter two, “Criminal Background Checks and Recidivism: Bounding the Causal Impact,”tracks three years of employment history for these individuals, and chapter three, “Predictive Analytics in the World of Legal Mandates: An Empirical Evaluation of Strategies for Criminal Background Checks in Employment,”shows that “background check decisions could create unequal opportunities for minorities since minorities are more likely to have criminal records.”

“The results of this paper are of considerable practical importance. I expect it to draw much attention from policy makers in the near future. By all means, Garima’s dissertation is an excellent example of research with direct policy relevance,” wrote a member of Siwach’s dissertation committee. “What distinguishes her research from the existing papers is that she takes the so-called “micro” approach rather than the “macro” approach. While most researches use aggregate data such as county-level or state-level crime rates, she directly uses individual-level data on criminal records and employment."

The PhD Dissertation Award seeks to recognize emergent scholars in the field. This year’s selection committee included H. Elizabeth Peters (chair), Urban Institute, Joseph Cordes, George Washington University, Kenneth Couch, University of Connecticut, and Jason Fletcher, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Honorable mentions for the 2018 award:

  • Y. Nina Gao, University of Chicago: What Gets Measured (Gets Done): Essays On Healthcare, Policy, And Perils Of the Subjective Made Objective
  • Allison C. Kelly, University of Washington: Improving REDD+ (Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Programs

Raymond Vernon Memorial Award

Published in the Fall 2018 issue of JPAM, What Interventions Work Best for Families Who Experience Homelessness? Impact Estimates from the Family Options Study was coauthored by Daniel Gubits, Abt Associates, Marybeth Shinn, Vanderbilt University, Michelle Wood, Abt Associates, Scott Brown, Vanderbilt University, Samuel Dastrup, Abt Associates, and Stephen Bell, Westat.

The article explores findings from the Family Options Study in which three different interventions were provided for families recruited from homeless shelters in 12 sites. The interventions included priority access to long-term rent subsidies, short-term rent subsidies, and transitional housing in supervised programs with intensive psychosocial services. The data was collected in two waves at 20 months and 37 months after the initial intervention.

Read the JPAM Featured Article interview and listen to the podcast.

“In addition to producing robust causal evidence on effectiveness, the paper provides detailed information on family use of services as well as an assessment of the costs of each intervention,” wrote Dylan Conger, chair of the selection committee. “The study provides direct, actionable results for policymakers about the most effective way to reduce homelessness in families. Above all, the article is well-written, the analysis is well-executed, and the subject is of tremendous policy relevance.”

Compared to usual care, the authors found that long-term rent subsidies had a greater reduction in homelessness and food insecurity and an increase in housing stability and child well-being at a cost of nine percent higher than usual care. By contrast, short-term subsidies and transitional housing had little impact, but short-term subsidies did cost nine percent less than usual care.

“To our knowledge, the study is the first largeā€scale evaluation to use random assignment to investigate the effects of alternative types of assistance for families who experience homelessness,” the authors wrote. “Although this was not a nationally representative set of communities, the study nonetheless improves on prior research that has focused on single communities or single programs.”

The Raymond Vernon Memorial Award, in 1985, seeks to annually recognize excellence in research through the selection of a paper published in the current volume of JPAM. The 2018 selection committee included Dylan Conger (chair), George Washington University, Dave Marcotte, American University, Scott Allard, University of Washington, and Nicolas Ziebarth, Cornell University.

Daniel Gubits, Abt Associates

Marybeth Shinn, Vanderbilt University
Michelle Wood, Abt Associates
Scott Brown, Vanderbilt University
Samuel Dastrup, Abt Associates
Stephen Bell, Westat


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