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2023 Grant Recipients

For Applications received in 2022

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Lauren Beard

The Transition Shock: Emancipating into State-Defined Adulthood


Robert K. Merton Award

Lauren Beard is a Sociology PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago. She utilizes mixed methods to study how youth and young adults navigate their wellbeing across social institutions spanning child welfare, education, and more. Lauren also founded the University of Chicago’s first-generation, low-income (FGLI) graduate student network and mentors FGLI and LGBT young adults. Lastly, she is committed to communicating complex social topics to broad audiences through her work as a Research Fellow for NPR’s Invisibilia, Graduate Fellow at the Smart Museum of Art, and contributor to the South Side Weekly.


Almost four million referrals were made to the U.S. child welfare (CW) system in 2021, and the number of children who aged out of CW was over 20,000. Youth who “age out” are discharged from care, meaning that they reached the formal age limit of the system (typically 21 years old) before they were stably placed in a long-term home. Youth aging out often experience housing insecurity, psychiatric crises, and more, yet also commonly disengage from available supports during this process. To address why youth disengage, this study utilizes longitudinal interviews with Chicago-based youth – in coordination with national administrative data and interviews with staff – to better understand this so-called "transition cliff." Its resultant theoretical and empirical insights further identify how policy frameworks shape youth wellbeing during their exit from the child social safety net and entrance into adulthood.

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Deepon Bhaumik

The Impact of Privatizing Long-Term Services and Supports

Deepon Bhaumik is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Yale University. His research interests are in long-term care and aging, with a specific focus on the different delivery models used by public insurance programs to expand access to and utilization of LTSS.


The need for Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) is increasing significantly for various demographic groups, across all ages. In recent years, the number of states contracting out the delivery of LTSS to private managed care organizations has risen drastically. Deepon's dissertation project will study if the decision of States to privatize LTSS through managed care, is an effective way to reduce fiscal spending, expand LTSS access, and ultimately patch our fractured healthcare system.

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Kieran Blaikie

Redistributive Policies for Health Equity: Examining How State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Programs Modify Intersectional Inequities in Mental Health

Kieran Blaikie is a PhD candidate in Epidemiology at the University of Washington. His research aims to demonstrate the importance of state and federal policy in creating, maintaining, and dismantling social inequities in health, with a particular focus on redistributive policies, mental health, and intersectionality


Historical social policies affecting taxation and social assistance bear a large responsibility for producing the inequitable distribution of health and resources we see in the US today. Through three interconnected projects, Kieran aims to examine whether State Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) policies modify intersectional inequities in mental health, and how State EITC policies could be adapted to do so more effectively. Using existing secondary data and novel empirical methods, Kieran aims to: 1) document how intersectional inequities in mental health have varied over recent decades nationally and across State EITC policy contexts; 2) causally evaluate whether State EITC policies have modified social health inequities to-date; and 3) conduct a number of simulation-based policy evaluations examining how adaptations to State EITC program availability, eligibility, and generosity criteria might reshape current intersectional inequities in mental health.

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Jason Buxbaum

An All-Payer Study of the Impact of COVID-19 Relief Funds on Hospitals, Patients, and Disparities

Jason Buxbaum is a PhD candidate in Harvard University's health policy program. His research focuses on the long-term affordability of acute care. Prior to entering the PhD program, Jason worked at the National Academy for State Health Policy, the Michigan Public Health Institute, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Jason received his BA from Bates College and MHSA from the University of Michigan.


Surges in COVID-19 throughout 2020 and early 2021 triggered severe shortages of hospital staff, inpatient beds, ventilators, and essential protective equipment. Patients of minority-serving institutions tended to fare worst amid the chaos. Congress responded with $178 billion in emergency funding for hospitals and other healthcare providers. Little is known about the impact of this funding on hospitals, patients, and disparities. This project will use all-payer administrative data to evaluate the impact of resource infusions by leveraging “all-ornothing” cut-offs used in the allocation of relief.

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Kacie Dragan

Health shocks and housing instability among urban Medicaid enrollees


Eli Ginberg Award

Kacie Dragan is a doctoral candidate in the Harvard University PhD Program in Health Policy. She draws on theories and methods from both economics and epidemiology to study how health systems interact with the broader social safety net to influence well-being. Her current research focuses specifically on policies in the housing and child/family services sectors, with an emphasis on low-income populations enrolled in Medicaid and on children with chronic diseases.


The housing-health relationship is thought to be bidirectional, yet little research examines impacts of negative health events on housing stability, despite a growing qualitative literature documenting this phenomenon. To fill this gap, Kacie's project leverages high-frequency data to estimate to what degree—and for whom—health shocks can trigger housing issues. This research will empirically quantify breaks in housing trends following major health events among Medicaid enrollees and will examine effect heterogeneity: Is health-induced housing instability more persistent for some health conditions? Are some providers, like those providing higher-quality medical care or with robust partnerships with social services, able to blunt the impact? What role does access to subsidized housing play in this relationship? Health systems nationwide are rapidly launching housing support initiatives for patients, generating demand for research identifying who is uniquely vulnerable to residential instability—and policy factors that can modify risk.

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Allison Dunatchik

National Family Policies and Gender Gaps in Unemployment Outcomes: A 21 Country Study

Allison Dunatchik is a joint PhD Candidate in Sociology and Demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include gender, work and family, with a particular focus on how social policies affect gender inequalities inside and outside of the household. Her current research explores how gender inequality is produced and reproduced within different-sex couples in a context of changing gender norms and changing patterns in family demography across high-income countries.

Emerging evidence shows that unemployment experiences among men and women in different-sex couples are starkly gendered. While husbands’ unemployment is often treated as a family emergency, with substantial family resources redirected to facilitate their job search, wives’ unemployment is treated as less urgent. These dynamics may have important implications for gender inequalities in unemployment outcomes, such as the duration of unemployment spells and the quality of job match upon re-employment. However, little research has examined these potential gender gaps. In “National Family Policies and Gender Gaps in Unemployment Outcomes: A 21-Country Study,” Dunatchik uses largescale longitudinal data from 21 countries in Europe and the U.S. to analyze differences in unemployment outcomes between men and women and tests whether work-family policies mitigate these inequalities. Amid continued concern among economists of an impending recession, this study aims to provide timely evidence on the extent to which work-family policies can alleviate gender inequalities in unemployment outcomes, facilitate women’s re-employment and help reduce the long-term impact of unemployment on gender inequality at work and at home.

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Callie Freitag

What precedes poverty in later life? : Three studies on later-life employment and poverty transitions in the 21st century United States

Callie Freitag is a mixed-methods policy researcher and demographer. Her work focuses on anti-poverty and income support policies for older adults and people with disabilities. Before she began work on her Ph.D., Callie spent three years as policy analyst in Sacramento, California, most recently for the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA). At CWDA, Callie led the advocacy efforts to establish Home Safe, a grant program to prevent homelessness among older adults who have experienced abuse and neglect. Prior to her advocacy role, she worked at the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office in California and in the budget office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.


Callie's dissertation explores why poverty persists among older adults in the United States despite social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare. The first chapter uses Current Population Survey data to find that adults over 50 who exit the labor force for any reason are significantly more likely to enter poverty that year. The second chapter uses nationally representative qualitative interview data from the American Voices Project to explore older adults' experiences of poverty and material hardship, the life events that lead to these experiences, and the strategies older adults use to make ends meet. The third chapter examines the consequences of disability determination age rules for the Supplemental Security Income program

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Robert French

Gentrification or Neighborhood Revitalization? The Welfare Impacts of Neighborhood Change on Incumbent Residents

Robert French is a PhD candidate in Public Policy at Harvard University, where he studies urban economics. His research combines administrative data and economic theory to examine the impacts of neighborhood change and urban policies on low-income residents. Previously, Robert earned his BA and MA in economics from the University of Toronto.


In recent decades, countless American central city neighborhoods have been transformed through gentrification, a process characterized by rapid changes in the socioeconomic composition of once-low-income neighborhoods. In this project, Robert combines rich administrative data with economic theory to examine how the transformation of these inner-city neighborhoods impacted the low-income residents who originally resided there. His analysis shows how the effects of gentrification vary substantially across neighborhoods, residents, and the degree of neighborhood change.

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Priyanka Goonetilleke

The Impact of Race on Perceptions of Attorney Credibility

Donalt R. Cressey Award

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. My research is in Empirical Microeconomics focusing on questions at the intersection of law and economics. My research interests include policing behaviour, illegal drug markets, and the quantitative impact of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.


A growing body of qualitative evidence suggests that bias against minority attorneys causes judges to discount their arguments. My project quantitatively examines the extent to which such bias may affect case outcomes for the clients of minority attorneys. Using data from MiamiDade county first appearance hearings, I exploit the double randomisation of cases to public defenders and cases to judges to identify the causal effect of racial bias against attorneys.

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Solhee Han

Welfare State Financing and Redistribution and its Impacts on Public Attitudes


Joshua Feigenbaum Award

Solhee is a PhD student in Social Policy at the University of Oxford. She conducts comparative studies on welfare state financing and redistribution through taxes and transfers and its impacts on public attitudes towards the welfare state. Her areas of interests also include the evaluation of income security and labour policies using quantitative research methods.


Her dissertation examines how taxes and transfers jointly affect welfare state redistribution and how it shapes taxpayers’ attitudes towards the welfare state. The project analyses the net tax-benefit balance across income groups and examines the levels and structures of taxes and transfers to explain the redistribution outcome. It further explores how one's net paying or benefiting position besides income affects attitudes towards the welfare state by matching data on taxes, transfers, and attitudes.

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Youngjin Stephanie Hong

The Impact of Cash and Near-Cash Benefits on Infant Health and Child Development: Evidence from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Earned Income Tax Credit

Youngjin Stephanie Hong is a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She studies how public policies influence the wellbeing of families and children’s development among marginalized populations, as well as their implications on poverty and inequality.


There has been a growing trend of joint participation in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, most prior research primarily focused on evaluating a single program. Her dissertation first examines the individual effect of the generosity of each program, EITC and SNAP, on infant health (measured as birth weight) and child development at kindergarten-entry. Then, her dissertation examines the interaction effects between two programs on infant health and child development. This interaction effect analysis can reveal whether EITC and SNAP serve as complements (i.e., creating synergistic effects), substitutes, or neither in their effects on those outcomes.

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Kathleen Hui

The Impact of E-cigarette Regulation on Tobacco Consumption, Addiction, and Health

Kathleen Hui is a PhD candidate in economics at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies how individuals respond to health policy and the implications for public health.


Cigarettes are the leading cause of preventable death, prematurely taking 480,000 lives per year. E-cigarettes (vapes) entered the US market in 2007, and have since generated much controversy, public debate, and regulation. On the one hand, vapes have the potential to reduce health harms from cigarettes when smokers substitute to vaping. On the other hand, youth may begin vaping, and potentially transition to smoking. This project quantifies the impact of vape regulation on cigarette smoking, addiction, and health to provide policy recommendations that protect public health.

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Jonah Kushner

Exploring the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Workforces: A Mixed Methods Approach

Jonah Kushner is a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and a PhD candidate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His research interests lie at the intersection of labor economics, post-secondary education, and the future of work.


The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) has sparked concerns about task automation and job loss. Meanwhile, some economists have argued that AI could have mixed or even positive effects on labor demand, reallocating labor to new tasks and altering the mix of skills that firms demand from workers. Jonah's dissertation uses nontraditional data sources such as patents and online job postings, as well as qualitative evidence from firms, to explore the effect of AI on firms' demand for labor, skills, and credentials. It will inform the national conversation around AI and help policymakers redesign education, training, and income support programs for the future.

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Jessica Lapham

The Influence of Labor and Employment Conditions on Worker's Health in the United States

I am a PhD Candidate in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington. My research focuses on state policy contexts and health inequities among economically disadvantaged groups.


Utilizing a health equity lens, my dissertation research examines whether variations in US state preemption of four labor laws is associated with adverse mental health outcomes and health care access for US workers, and whether these outcomes are patterned by gender, race, ethnicity, and insurance. In addition, using biomarkers of cardiovascular (CV) health, I consider whether irregular and nonstandard work schedules, a potential consequence of fair scheduling preemption laws, are getting “under the skin” of workers in young adulthood and early mid-life. Drawing on a “health in all policies” agenda, my work aims to inform targeted policy making and eliminate population health disparities.

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Kun Lee

Social Inequalities of Public Pensions in Aging Welfare States: A Comparative Perspective

Kun Lee is a doctoral student in social policy at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention (DSPI) and a member of Wolfson College at the University of Oxford. Previously, he was a visiting PhD student at Humboldt University of Berlin and the University of Mannheim and worked as a research and administrative officer at Seoul National University. He has been involved in various policy-related projects, including contributing to the Oxford Supertracker Database and writing policy reports for the Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea. His research interests broadly encompass how social policies and institutions shape social inequalities in the context of demographic transitions. In his doctoral project, Kun investigates the evolution of inequalities in old-age work and retirement as policies increasingly promote extending working lives through changes in public pensions and labor market systems. He also explores the relationship between lowest-low fertility and the institutions of labor market and family policy in the East Asian context. Methodologically, he combines comparative approaches with advanced quantitative methods. Originally from South Korea, Kun holds a dual BA degree in Social Welfare and Economics with high honors from Seoul National University, as well as an MSc in Comparative Social Policy (Distinction) from the DSPI at the University of Oxford.


My dissertation project concerns how rising inequalities among older people can be tackled through reconfigurations of social policies. Three empirical studies in the project investigate why some countries show higher inequalities in work and retirement compared to others, focusing on the role of minimum pensions and flexible retirement schemes. Methodologically, the project combines diverse analytical approaches of micro- and macro-level analysis, including dynamic panel data methods, social sequence analysis, multilevel models, and comparative case studies. In the context of rapid demographic transitions across aging welfare states, the project contributes to providing evidence for policymakers on effective policy designs, such as combinations of minimum pensions and flexible retirement schemes, that can address social inequalities in working-life extensions while also improving the financial sustainability of public pensions.

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Angela Zorro Medina

The Effects of Anti-Gang Laws on Crime and Inequality

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Sociology Department at the University of Chicago and a JSD graduate from Yale Law School, specializing in criminology and social inequality. My research focuses on understanding the impact of criminal legislation on crime, incarceration, and inequality outcomes. I have explored the effect of criminal law in Latin America and the U.S., evaluating the impact of implementing adversarial criminal justice systems on pre-trial detention, crime, conviction rate, and imprisonment rates. In my Ph.D. dissertation, I study the impact of anti-gang legislation in the U.S. on crime, incarceration, expansion of the police force, and inequality.


My project conducts a rigorous test of anti-gang laws at the U.S. national-level by examining the effects of six types of anti-gang legislation on ten crime rates, arrest rates, and incarceration rates. I will estimate the impact of passing comprehensive anti-gang acts, anti-gang curfew laws, anti-gang participation laws, anti-gang recruitment laws, anti-gang intimidation laws, and antigang criminal intelligence laws. My project contributes to the public conversation about crime deterrence and criminal justice inequality in two ways. First, my results will evaluate whether an increase in the severity of crime could lead to substitution between offenses to others that involve a lower sentence. Second, my project will be able to identify the most efficient strategy to fight gangviolence with the lowest impact on inequality. This project will contribute to the ongoing public debate around the effectiveness of anti-gang legislation in fighting gangrelated criminal activity. In this project, I test whether the discretion introduced by the anti-gang legislation exacerbates racial inequality through the expansion of social control while offering few benefits in terms of crime. My results will provide policy-makers empirical evidence about the social consequences of enacting laws that may have low efficacy rates and can be detrimental to racial and social groups historically marginalized and targeted by the criminal justice system

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Matthew Mleczko

Convergence: An Analysis of Residential Integration in the 21st Century

Irving Louis Horowitz Award

Matt Mleczko is a doctoral candidate in Population Studies and Social Policy and a Prize Fellow in the Social Sciences at Princeton University. He primarily studies housing inequality and housing policy, with a particular interest in policies that promote affordable housing and integrated, cohesive communities. Matt is also a graduate student researcher with the Eviction Lab, a consultant with the Fair Share Housing Center, and a former member of the Princeton Affordable Housing Board.


In his dissertation, Matt traces the evolution of residential integration in the metropolitan U.S. in the 21st century and highlights the role that zoning and land use policies have played in shaping its trajectory. He focuses on zoning and land use policies in particular given the outsized role they play in shaping the ethnoracial and socioeconomic segregation that characterizes so many U.S. communities. He investigates the potential negative externalities and spillovers of exclusionary zoning by revealing not only its effectiveness as a tool of segregation and exclusion, but also as an aggravator of social inequities in already disadvantaged areas. In addition, he explores the possibility that zoning and land use reform is not only possible, but can lead to sustained and successful integration by assessing the role that historical fair housing litigation played in shaping future zoning and land use policies.

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Lauren Peterson

The Role of State Medicaid Policy Design in Home and Community-Based Services Utilization and Outcomes for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Martinus Nijhoff Award

Lauren Peterson is a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice. She draws on her training and professional experience in public health, public policy, and social work to study how Medicaid policy and care delivery affect service access and utilization for adults with disabilities and chronic health conditions.


There is substantial state discretion and variation in Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) policies. Research is critically needed to understand the effects of these policies, particularly for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Peterson’s dissertation research first analyzes administrative documents to develop a unique state Medicaid HCBS policy dataset to empirically describe characteristics of state Medicaid HCBS programs and identify distinct policy trade-offs in Medicaid HCBS program design for adults with I/DD across states, and second, links this dataset to Medicaid claims to investigate the role of state Medicaid HCBS policies and program design patterns in HCBS utilization and outcomes. The long-term goal of this research is to advance our conceptual understanding of state Medicaid HCBS programs and to equip policymakers with guidance on how state Medicaid HCBS programs can be structured to address disparities in HCBS utilization and improve health outcomes for adults with I/DD and other priority populations.

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Sarah Riley

Pretrial Risk Assessments as Organizational Processes

I’m an information science PhD candidate at Cornell, where I study municipal algorithmic systems, race/ism, and inequality. My interest in municipal algorithmic systems arose while working at the New York City Department of Education to re-engage out-of-school youth and volunteering for the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a national coalition working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. I also have a master’s in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley and internship experience with a variety of organizations, including Data 4 Black Lives and Crime Lab New York.

I study municipal algorithmic systems, race/ism, and inequality. My dissertation focuses on the administration of pretrial risk assessments in Virginia. I use a mixedmethods approach to understand how human discretion in the pretrial process—particularly on the part of pretrial officers—affects risk scores, pretrial detention decisions, and life outcomes for accused people.

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Amanda Spishak-Thomas

Medicaid Estate Recovery and its Unintended Consequences on Low-Income Families

Amanda Spishak-Thomas is a PhD candidate at the Columbia School of Social Work. Her scholarship draws upon her experience as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and inpatient medical social worker, which informs how she understands health policies as wealth policies. Her research agenda centers the role of health insurance as a scaffold for low-income families, focusing on Medicaid, intergenerational wealth, and long-term care.

Americans are living longer, but are less likely to have pensions and have lower overall savings, resulting in fewer resources to pay for long-term care. My research examines the impact of Medicaid estate recovery – programs designed to recoup costs associated with Medicaid postmortem – on the financial health of lowincome families. My research seeks to holistically understand the scope of estate recovery using a combination of descriptive methods, causal inference, and the application of a state case study. Given its means-tested nature, most individuals with Medicaid have few assets to begin with. This implies that estate recovery – targeted at those who are poor – may not be the most effective way to recover costs. Evidence in this area is important as Congress addresses the long-term care crisis.

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Samantha Steimle

The Effects of Cash Transfers on Low-Income Families’ Food Insecurity and Psychological Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Samantha Steimle is a PhD candidate in psychology at Georgetown University, where she also received her MPP. Her research centers on how economic hardships negatively affect the well-being of parents and children and investigates ways we can leverage and improve public policies to address these issues.

Research has found that cash assistance is a powerful tool at providing economic and psychological relief for families struggling with food insecurity and its harmful correlates with parent and child well-being. However, what is not yet understood is the best way to deliver this cash to maximize family well-being. This study explores the differential effects of two forms of cash transfers disbursed to families during the COVID-19 pandemic: a one-time, relatively large stimulus check in contrast to a series of smaller, monthly Child Tax Credit payments on families’ food insecurity and psychological well-being. For instance, were stimulus checks associated with greater short-term effects, but lesser long-term effects compared to Child Tax credit payments? Answers to questions like these answered in this dissertation could have profound implications for how we understand the mechanisms behind the effects of cash on families, how policymakers can better target cash policies to the neediest families, and most importantly, how we can best use cash to promote child and parent well-being.

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Camille Wittesaele

Ending intergenerational cycles of disadvantage: A community-based study of children of adolescent mothers

Camille holds an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and a Bachelor of Arts & Sciences from Amsterdam University College. In a distinctly collaborative approach, Camille’s PhD involves support from three leading research institutions (LSHTM, University of Oxford and University of Cape Town). Camille is a doctoral candidate at the LSHTM where her research examines child healthcare service access and engagement among children of adolescent mothers in South Africa. Camille's work has focused on conducting impact-driven maternal, adolescent and child health services research while gaining substantial operational experience. Camille has worked on the design, development and implementation of multiple research projects with the distinct aim of identifying the most effective services for high-risk groups including adolescents and their infant children in HIV/AIDS-affected communities. She also has extensive fieldwork experience in rural and urban settings in South Africa.


The project examines engagement to essential child health services among children of adolescent mothers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Adolescent motherhood remains an intractable challenge in the sub-Saharan Africa. Lower education, stigma and poor access to health services drives poor health and cognitive outcomes for their children. Given the projected growth of this highly vulnerable demographic, improving their engagement in healthcare services is a critical policy challenge. To support evidence-based social policy and health services programming, this research will answer two principal questions: What factors are associated with poor engagement with child health services among children of adolescent mothers? What adaptations can be implemented to ensure that children of adolescent mothers benefit from timely and quality essential health services? This will be achieved through three studies using data from a representative and community-based cohort of children of adolescent mothers in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

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Liana Woskie

Counting Coercion: Female Sterilization & Routinized Rights Violations in Contemporary Healthcare

Trustee's Award

Liana Woskie is a PhD candidate in the London School of Economics' (LSE) Department of Health Policy and a visiting graduate student at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. She is completing a fellowship year at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, after which she will join the faculty at Tufts. Her research focuses on health system accountability, spanning US health financing, comparative health system performance and reproductive rights.


Liana's doctoral work examines the contemporary prevalence coercion in female sterilization care - looking at how we measure un-informed consent, and in turn quantify more routinized rights violations in healthcare. She leverages patient level data to estimate the prevalence of involuntary care and its drivers across India. She also utilizes quasi-experimental methods to identify and assess policy interventions that may reduce it.

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Amy Yao

Food Insecurity and Mental Health among Urban Women, and the Effects of Policy Changes during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Amy Yao is a PhD candidate at Boston University School of Social Work. Her research centers on public policy with a focus on program participation, behavioral insights and financial wellbeing among urban women. She completed her BA in Economics at Lehigh University, and holds an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania, concentrating on social policy.


Using nationally representative data collected during the pandemic, this dissertation project seeks to evaluate the impact of major policy changes on low-income urban women’s food insecurity and mental health status to provide important program evaluation and policy recommendations.

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Shira Zilberstein

The Making of Ethical AI: Developing Artificial Intelligence Solutions in Healthcare

John L. Stanley Award

Shira Zilberstein is a PhD candidate in sociology at Harvard University and a Science and Technology Studies Fellow. Her research focuses on cultural sociology, science and technology studies and organizations, as well as qualitative and mixed methods. She is interested in the production, interpretation and evaluation of ideas and the dynamics between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forms of knowledge in institutional and technical settings. Her dissertation focuses on applied interdisciplinary research collaborations and the ways in which knowledge is put into practice to define and address social problems.


In The Making of Ethical AI, Shira analyzes how those involved in creating and incentivizing AI production in healthcare understand the social good and the resultant effects on technical production, processes and practices. Social science research often highlights the effects of AI on society, pointing out the ways in which technologies reshape, enhance and present obstacles for social groups. In the field of AI, the question remains how the organization of scientific and technological production influences the ways in which researchers define social problems, evaluate technological solutions and put knowledge into practice. She focuses on case studies of interdisciplinary research teams creating machine learning solutions for healthcare, as well as efforts to produce resources for and standardize the field such as granting programs, national task forces and data generation projects. Data include interviews, participant observations, and documentary analysis. The research fills critical gaps in understanding how the organization of scientific production shapes the creation, understanding and translation of ideas about the role of technology and the social good from guiding principles and ideas into concrete practices and products, and the ways in which research groups are shaped or constrained by the fields in which they work.

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