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2021 Grant Recipients

For Applications Received in 2020


Danielle Adams

Assessing real-world access to community-based mental health services for adolescents: A mixed-methods, simulated client study

Danielle Adams is a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Her research uses mixed methods to understand and improve the accessibility of mental health services for children and adolescents in community-based settings.

            Despite the availability of effective treatments for mental health disorders, less than half of all adolescents with mental health disorders ever receive treatment. Adams’ mixed-methods study aims to increase timely access to mental health services in community-based outpatient health agencies. Her dissertation rigorously assesses access to evidence-based mental health services available to youth in community-based settings using a mystery shopper methodology. Policy recommendations will be developed with and disseminated to policymakers.


Alex Albright

Free To Go: The Effects of Eliminating Financial Bail

Irving Louis Horowitz Award

Alex Albright is a PhD candidate in economics at Harvard University. Her research spans both the intersection of law and economics and economic history. Albright’s dissertation aims to investigate the effects of ending the use of “money bail” on total social costs. Her research uses data from a unique policy change in Kentucky. Leveraging policy design features, she illustrates the social trade-offs in tying money requirements to treatment and outcomes in the criminal justice system.


Matt Barno

Understanding Police Reform: Lesson’s from LAPD’s Experience with Consent Decree Regulation

Matt Barno is a graduate of Harvard Law School (2015) and a current PhD candidate in Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine. His research empirically assesses criminal justice policies, programs, and practices using quantitative and qualitative research methods.

            Barno’s dissertation employs a mixed-method approach using archival, quantitative, interview, and observational data to critically analyze the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) reform efforts both historically and contemporaneously. The project uses a historical analysis of past reform efforts to frame and contextualize current department reform efforts and develops a new theoretical perspective for understanding change and continuity within police organizations.


Adrita Barooah

How Do States Vary in the Admission and Care of People with Mental Illness in Nursing Homes?

Adrita Barooah is a Ph.D. candidate in Gerontology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her research interests include U.S. long-term care services and supports, mental health care among older adults, and the direct care workforce. She holds M.S. degrees in Gerontology, Mental Health Counseling, and Human Development and Childhood Studies. Barooah’s dissertation explores how variations in state policies impact nursing home admission rates, the quality of mental health care for individuals with mental illness in these facilities, and the predictors of mental health deficiencies in nursing homes.


Joseph Bruch

The Implications of Private Equity in Healthcare

Trustee’s Award

Joseph Bruch received his Ph.D. in Population Health Sciences from Harvard University in 2021. He is a social epidemiologist investigating the ways financial systems, policies, and institutions affect public health and healthcare. Bruch’s project provides one of the first empirical assessments of private equity’s influence in healthcare. He evaluates changes in profit, quality, and utilization following a private equity acquisition of a healthcare organization, focusing on hospitals, fertility clinics, and ambulatory surgical centers.


Carlos Alberto Echeverria-Estrada

Local Immigration Enforcement and Bureaucratic Discretion: Why Do US Counties Accept the Mexican Consular Card from Unauthorized Immigrants?

Harold D. Lasswell Award

Carlos Alberto Echeverria-Estrada is a policy analyst with experience on program and policy evaluation working with governments, inter-governmental agencies, and non-profits in 12 countries. As a PhD candidate at Claremont Graduate University in public policy, he focuses on migration governance, outcomes measurement, and data analytics and visualization. He continues promoting the use of findings and strengthening trust in data.

            U.S. county bureaucrats use discretion when interpreting immigration law, including decisions of bureaucratic incorporation of immigrants (BII), that promote local membership rights. Local recognition of consular cards as ID forms from unauthorized immigrants is a BII policy that faces scrutiny vis-à-vis the official policies of alienage and immigration enforcement. Using a mixed-methods design, Echeverria-Estrada analyzes the role of county limits to collaboration with ICE on the willingness of service-oriented county agencies to recognize consular cards.


Erica Linn Eliason

The Effects of Health Insurance Eligibility Policies on Maternal Care Access and Childbirth Outcomes

Erica Eliason is a Social Policy Analysis and Economics PhD candidate at Columbia University School of Social Work. Her research examines the effects of health care policies on maternal, child, and reproductive health outcomes, focusing particularly on Medicaid policies and the low-income population.

            Eliason’s dissertation examines three health insurance eligibility policies and their impact on maternal health outcomes for low-income women of reproductive age. The first paper examines the effects of expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on fertility among low-income women of childbearing age. The second paper explores the effect of presumptive eligibility policies in Medicaid for pregnant women on access to prenatal care and health insurance coverage. Finally, the third paper exploits state-level differences in eligibility for public versus private insurance under the ACA, and the effects on perinatal coverage patterns, childbirth outcomes, and access to care.


Magdalena Eitenberger

Cyborgs in the Healthcare System: A Policy Analysis of Access to Wearable Technologies for Type 1 Diabetes

Martinus Nijhoff Award

Magdalena Eitenberger is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Vienna and a Junior Research Fellow at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital Health and Patient Safety. Her research focuses on health technologies, needs-based digital healthcare, and decision-making processes in public health policy.

            Magdalena Eitenberger’s project analyzes the social policies around type 1 diabetes technologies. In Austria, the public healthcare system theoretically provides everyone living with type 1 diabetes with the gold standard of wearable devices to manage blood glucose and insulin. For many, however, access is obstructed through entrenched systems of exclusion and discrimination. The project maps out decision-making networks by triangulating interviews, observational data, and policy document analysis. It identifies gaps and obstructions in healthcare technology access, giving policy recommendations for sustainable change in Austria’s healthcare landscape.


Maria-Elena Giner

Did we make a difference? Assessing the Impact of Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Along the Texas-Mexico Border

Maria-Elena Giner is a PhD candidate of public policy at the University of Texas at Austin LBJ’s School of Public Affairs. Her research focuses on public policy and municipal infrastructure, specifically on evidence-based policy-making that includes monitoring and evaluating programs and measuring results based on quantitative and qualitative methods. Infrastructure is typically implemented to address a social need yet is not regularly evaluated to assess its performance against its original objectives. Giner’s research applies a mixed-methods approach for measuring the results of first-time water and wastewater infrastructure on water-borne diseases for traditionally underserved neighborhoods called colonias in Texas.


Kurt Hager

Cost-Effectiveness of Expanding Medically Tailored Meal Coverage for Individuals with Diet-Sensitive Disease

Eli Ginzberg Award

Kurt Hager is a PhD Candidate at Tufts University. His work has centered on alleviating poverty and improving nutrition for low-income populations in the US. Hager has held roles at the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School, Second Harvest Heartland, and Children’s Health Watch. Kurt Hager’s dissertation is focused on the effectiveness of nutrition programs and policies integrated into healthcare in the US. Hager is modeling how changes in Medicare and Medicaid coverage of medically tailored meals could improve health outcomes, healthcare utilization, and healthcare costs for low-income patients with diet-related chronic disease.

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Jeehee Han

The Spillover Effects of Source of Income Anti-Discrimination Laws of Public Housing

Jeehee Han is a PhD Candidate in the Maxwell School’s Department of Public Administration at Syracuse University. She will serve as an Accountability, Climate, Equity, and Scholarship (ACES) Fellow and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Bush School at Texas A&M University starting August 2021.

            Han’s project examines whether and to what extent source of income (SOI) anti-discrimination laws affect the sociodemographic composition of households living in public housing. Landlord discrimination is a major barrier to voucher utilization, disproportionately affecting socioeconomically disadvantaged families, and prohibiting such discrimination may improve voucher utilization and further affect the pool of applicants/recipients of public housing. She finds potentially positive spillover effects of SOI laws that may alleviate “concentration of poverty” in public housing.


Stephanie Holcomb

A Patchy Safety Net: Analyzing County-Level Variation in Access to Cash Assistance

Stephanie Holcomb is a doctoral candidate at Rutgers University. Stephanie’s research focuses on access to the social safety net, equity in the labor market, and program evaluation of education and training programs. In her dissertation, she explores how county-level administration of cash assistance affects program access and equity. To do this, Holcomb uses mixed-methods to analyze county-level differences in the implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and to investigate the way in which these differences relate to geographic and demographic inequities in access to cash assistance for low-income families throughout New Jersey before and during the current economic recession.


Hyein Kang

The Child Tax Credit and Labor Market Outcomes of Mothers

Hyein Kang is a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests are labor and public economics, with a special interest in female labor supply, inequality, childhood poverty programs, and understanding the impacts of government policies on low-income families. Kang’s dissertation examines the impact of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) on labor supply of single and married mothers. The CTC is an in-work tax benefit for working individuals with dependent children under age 17. The project uses variation from simulated tax benefits, changes in the maximum credit generosity, and event study empirical methods to understand how child-rearing subsidies affected maternal labor supply behavior. 


Alexis Kennedy

Examining Stakeholder Relationships, Priorities, Values, and Rulemaking Strategies through the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)

Alexis Kennedy is a PhD candidate at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver. Her research focuses on public and private relationships and their impact on the production and provision of public goods and services. She is also interested in community-engaged decision-making and social equity issues. To better understand how policy affects private investment of public outcomes, Kennedy’s dissertation examines how the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires banks to invest in community development. This research also explores whether the activities of banks over time align with the original intention of the CRA, and how stakeholders have participated in changing the CRA.


Eden Kinkaid

Assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on Arizona food systems

Eden Kinkaid is a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Arizona. Their research focuses on issues affecting local food systems in the state of Arizona, including food justice, COVID-19’s impacts on food and agriculture, and the intersections of food systems and economic development. Kinkaid’s study investigates the impacts of COVID-19 on food and agriculture in southern Arizona and examines how responses to these impacts are reshaping local food systems. This research aims to inform policy and institutional responses to support more equitable and resilient local food systems.

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Cesar B. Martinez-Alvarez

What Makes the Local Stewardship of Forests Work? Institutions for Collective Action, Poverty Alleviation, and Ecosystem Protection in Mexico

César B. Martínez-Álvarez is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on environmental and climate change politics. In his dissertation, he studies the role of institutions and collective action in the stewardship of common-pool resources in Mexico.

            Over the last few decades, scholars and practitioners worldwide have promoted the decentralization of forest governance as a social policy that aims to reduce poverty and protect ecosystems from environmental degradation. Although research has shown that access to secure communal property rights is an effective way to enable sustainable development, Martinez-Alvarez’s dissertation explores why this is the case and under what circumstances by analyzing more than 32,000 rural communities in Mexico that collectively own the majority of the country’s forests.


Chika Okafor

Prosecutor Politics: The Impact of Election Cycles on Criminal Sentencing in the Era of Rising Incarceration

Chika Okafor is a PhD Candidate in Economics at Harvard University. His scholarship lies at the intersection of law, economics, and public policy. It combines economic theory, econometric techniques, and legal analysis to explore socioeconomic inequality. Chika earned a JD from Yale Law School and a BA from Stanford University.

            Okafor’s research investigates how political incentives affect district attorney behavior. To do so, it compiles one of the most comprehensive datasets on the political careers of district attorneys in office during the steepest rise in U.S. incarceration. The project uses quasi-experimental methods to find causal evidence of the impact of election cycles on criminal sentencing outcomes and explores mechanisms behind these findings.


Vedavati Patwardhan

Maternal Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition: Evidence from India

Vedavati Patwardhan is a Ph.D. Candidate in Public Policy and Management at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research focuses on women’s economic empowerment and child nutrition in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. She holds an MA in Global Studies from UCSB and a BA in Economics from Pune University.

            Nutritional deficits during early life are detrimental for human capital outcomes. Hence, it is important to examine the impact of policies that target women during pregnancy and the post-natal period on child nutrition. Patwardhan’s research examines the impact of a conditional cash transfer “Mamata Scheme” targeted to pregnant and lactating mothers in Odisha, India. Using nationally representative survey data, she uses a difference-in-differences analysis to estimate program impacts on standardized height and weight measures for children under 5 years. Given that the Mamata Scheme is not means-tested, findings from this study are especially informative for the design and implementation of maternity benefit schemes in similar low and middle-income country contexts.


Elizabeth Pfeffer

Varieties of Punitiveness: The Political Economy of Punishment in Advanced Democracies

Robert K. Merton Award

Elizabeth Pfeffer is a doctoral student at the University of Oxford in the Department of Politics and International Relations and studies the interplay of welfare state institutions and the criminal legal system. Her broader research interests include comparative political economy, electoral systems and behavior, inequality, race and ethnicity, and state capacity. Given the absence of definitive causality between crime and incarceration rates, Pfeffer’s dissertation asks why some countries address crime with punitive policies while others provide social welfare. Utilizing cross-country comparisons and a political economy framework, she investigates the political incentive structures and tradeoffs underpinning variation from both citizen and government perspectives.


Shriya Rangarajan

Characterizing resilience of local food systems: Influences of social capital and resource efficiency in building adaptive capacity

Shriya Rangarajan is a PhD Candidate in Regional Science at Cornell University. Her research interests are largely derived from prior work with tribal communities in India and fall at the intersection of community resilience, food systems, and the circular economy. She holds prior degrees in urban planning and biotechnology. Rangarajan’s dissertation uses the pandemic as a natural experiment to investigate social capital’s role in the resilience of local food supply networks in Upstate New York. Data from surveys and interviews about farmers’ production and marketing adaptations will be modeled using social network analysis. It has implications for farmer organization, vegetable marketing, food security, and community resilience.


Shoshana Shapiro

Human Services Deserts?: Mapping the Safety Net in Possible Low Service Provision Counties

Shoshana Shapiro is a PhD Candidate in Public Policy and Sociology at the University of Michigan. Shoshana is originally from Upstate New York and has previously worked in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and as a middle school English teacher.

            Wide geographic variation exists in access to the nonprofit human services safety net. In her dissertation, Shapiro uses IRS-990 data to identify counties that appear to have extremely low levels of human services provision, many of which are small and rural, and interviews local officials and service providers in these counties to learn more about the human services landscape. This research supports the policy goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to critical social safety net services such as food banks, homelessness shelters, emergency cash assistance, transportation assistance, and high-quality, affordable housing, no matter where they live.


Hazal Erçin-Swearinger

The Availability and Generosity of Medicaid Home & Community Based Services for Economically Vulnerable Older Adults: State Differences and Their Relationship to End of Life Outcomes

Hazal Erçin-Swearinger is a Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Social Work, University of Washington. Her research focuses on health and social policies for individuals with chronic diseases and at the end of life. She is a fellow with Carol LaMare Scholars and Center for Integrative Oncology and Palliative Care Social Work. Erçin-Swearinger’s dissertation focuses on how state policies vary for home and community-based services and the association between this association and end of life outcomes of economically vulnerable older adults.


Jonathan Tebes

The Impact of Aggressive Policing on the Early-life Trajectory of Minority Teenagers

Donald R. Cressey Award

As a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University, John Tebes broadly studies the causes and consequences of urban poverty. His research examines the impact of aggressive policing on children’s trajectory, the socially efficient level of police stops, and how holistic mentoring services can help low-income families achieve economic self-sufficiency.

            Black boys have lower incomes in adulthood than white boys in 99% of Census tracts. Police contact differs substantially by race within these neighborhoods. Tebes’s research will provide the first causal estimates of the cumulative effect of aggressive policing on education, crime, mortality, employment, and earnings of neighborhood teenagers.


Catherine Thomas

Advancing dignity in aid through narratives of agency: Evidence from the US, Kenya, and Niger

John L. Stanley Award

Catherine Thomas is a PhD candidate in social psychology at Stanford University. Using insights from behavioral science and the lens of cultural psychology, she examines how economic and aid policies can be designed to both affect poverty reduction and social inclusion, with particular attention to dignity, agency, and economic behavior.

            Aid initiatives and governments are increasingly calling for ‘dignity’ as a policy goal, yet little research has specified its operationalization or advancement. In her dissertation, Thomas explores the concept across cultural contexts and examines how narratives of agency and psychological interventions might promote dignity, alongside poverty reduction and social inclusion, in social policy.


Kasey Zapatka

The Divergent Effects of Gentrification and Segregation on Housing Affordability

Kasey Zapatka is a PhD candidate in sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He uses quantitative and spatial methods to study urban and spatial inequality. His dissertation focuses on how neighborhood change and segregation differentially shape housing affordability patterns across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum. Zapatka’s dissertation links spatial and household-level data to examine how gentrification and segregation differentially shape housing affordability patterns across the racial and socioeconomic spectrum. He is specifically interested in how intensifying affordability pressures impact minority and immigrant households and how they increasingly burden middle-class renters and homeowners.

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