Introduction: Undergraduate Research Assistant, Sal Balkus

Hi everyone! My name is Sal Balkus, and I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Public Policy Center. I am from Franklin, Massachusetts, and I am currently a freshman at UMass Dartmouth, majoring in Data Science. I also serve on the university’s Honors Council, and I enjoy rock climbing and hiking with the Outdoor Club.

Working at the PPC provides an exciting opportunity for me to do social science research and apply my data analysis and statistics skills to a variety of data. I am passionate about all things data science and I hope to pursue graduate study, as well as a career in the field. As such, I am very glad that I am able to work a job on campus that is relevant to my future career goals and yields valuable experience that will aid me in the future.

The 2020 Census and The Importance of the Hard-to-Count Population

By Robert Stickles

Every decade, when an updated version of the U.S. Census is published, questions regarding the accuracy of the information arise – and for good reason. The U.S. Census Bureau has the monumental, overwhelming task of counting every person in the United States and recording basic information such as race, sex, and age. But how can the Bureau accomplish this without making any errors? Well, it is almost impossible to collect perfect data without any mistakes, especially because many populations throughout the country are considered “Hard-to-Count.”

According to the Census Bureau, the groups that are especially difficult to gather data for are racial/ethnic minorities, linguistic minorities, lower income persons, homeless persons, undocumented immigrants, young mobile persons, and children. The government reported that in 2010 alone, the U.S. Census missed more than 1.5 million minorities nationwide after experiencing difficulty in counting black Americans, Hispanics, renters and young men. On the other hand, it was also reported that parts of the U.S. population had been over-counted, largely due to duplicate counts of affluent whites owning more than one home.

So, why is it crucial for U.S. Census to collect accurate data? To examine this topic, it is important to understand what the Census is used for. For the most part, the U.S. Census is used for population and demographic information. Population counts plays a large role in the way the government is run, as the correct population figures ensure that every community is given full representation in the halls of government. On top of that, the Census also assists in making the decisions regarding the distribution of public funds when it comes to educational programs, healthcare, law enforcement, and highways. If up-to-date population data are not available, areas of the country might not get their fair share of state Representatives or public funds.

The Hard-To-Count Hot Spots in Massachusetts and Greater Boston

Source: The Census 2020 HTC Map developed by the CUNY Mapping Service at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

In Massachusetts, many of the hard-to-count populations appear to be located in or around the larger cities such as Boston, Worcester, New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, and Brockton. Boston, the largest city in Massachusetts, faces the largest challenge in obtaining data for every person. In 2010, there were many tracts in Boston where fewer than 60 percent of households mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire.

For Massachusetts, this means that anywhere that there is a large population of “Hard-to-Count” individuals, entire communities may not get the funding or the political representation that they need to fairly serve and provide for their citizens.

Introduction: Undergraduate Research Assistant, Robert Stickles

Hello Everyone,

My name is Robert Stickles and I am an Undergraduate Research Assistant here at the Public Policy Center. I am currently a sophomore at Umass Dartmouth, where I am majoring in Finance and minoring in Accounting. Before attending Umass Dartmouth, I went to Tabor Academy for four years and also attended Stonehill College for one year, where I studied Business and played on the men’s ice hockey team. I grew up around the Cape Cod/Buzzards Bay area and in my downtime, I can usually be found at one of the local beaches or partaking in other outdoor activities. I enjoy assisting in the gathering of research that will help to strengthen towns and communities. The team here has been extremely welcoming and I am eager to contribute to the Center.

Introduction: Graduate Research Assistant, Jim DeArruda

Hello, I’m Jim DeArruda, a Graduate Research Assistant at the UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Center. I just began in the Fall 2017 semester. I began matriculation toward a Master’s in Public Policy in Fall 2015 by starting with the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Policy.

I came to the PPC after a 25-year career in newspapers (the last 20 at the same one), and the transition feels just right. The completion of my BS in Business Management plus my graduate studies wonderfully informed my past few years as an editorial writer, but I’m ready to put my effort into assisting the great academic research done at the PPC. In my first few weeks, my expectations have been well met, thanks to my new colleagues, some of whom have been my instructors. I consider myself very fortunate to be in this place right now.

I live in Dighton, Mass., in the home my father grew up in, and in which I raised my three children. I like doing things around my house by myself, whether it’s crafting tools, making home repairs or making jellies or other foodstuffs from the land around my home.

In Dighton, I’m the chairman of the Historical Commission, the secretary of the Council on Aging, and the Historical Commission representative to the Community Preservation Committee. My participation in town government has been rewarding and challenging, and is another example of how my graduate education has made other parts of my life richer.

I have spent most of my life living around and working in Southeastern Massachusetts. Generations of my family have worked on farms and in textile factories of Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford, so the work done at the PPC is very important to me. I consider it a privilege to be able to contribute to it.

Introduction: Undergraduate Research Assistant, Nathaniel Roberts

My name is Nathaniel Roberts. I am sophomore Political Science/Economics Double Major at UMass Dartmouth. I am a lifelong resident of Fall River. Fall River is a community that has been often overlooked and ignored due to a poor economic situation. The degrees I am working towards will help me put Fall River back on the map, hopefully one day as its political leader.

Interning here at the Public Policy Center is a step forward towards that goal. I am looking forward to having a deeper understanding of data analysis, something I think all future policy makers should have, and something I have wanted to attain since taking AP Statistics in high school.

I am most excited to be able to work in a field more closely related to my future goals and interests, since last summer I worked in a bread factory, and the summer before that in a kids’ youth camp.

Anna Marini – introduction

Hello my name is Anna Marini and I have just started as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Public Policy Center. I am at the final stages of acquiring my Master’s of Public Policy at UMass Dartmouth, and have really loved the program – courses and professors (2017 graduation!). I’m thrilled to be working at the PPC and to participate in detailed and meaningful data analysis, studies, and evaluations; putting to work all that I’ve learned over the years. The staff here are great and I’m looking forward to learning from them.

I come to the PPC with a Master’s in Health Administration and years of experience in hospital management in Boston teaching hospitals (Brigham and Women’s, Children’s and Tufts). I’ve also worked as a consultant doing business development in health care and have managed and sold a small manufacturing business. I have maintained a deep connection to all things health care related through the years, and currently serve on the Patient and Family Advisory Committee at Beth Israel Deaconess-Plymouth. I’m looking forward to working on some health care related projects at the PPC.

I live in Cape Cod (Bourne), but over the last few years have become more knowledgeable about the SouthCoast region. First, during travels here (my daughter attends Bishop Stang High School) and second, from participating in the Leadership SouthCoast program (2015 graduate). I’ve grown to really love the region. I’m really looking forward to the opportunities presented by the PPC and to contributing to its work.

Joy Smith- Introduction

Hello everyone, I’m Joy, one of the new Graduate Research Assistants at the Public Policy Center. I just recently graduated from UMass Dartmouth, where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. I decided to continue my education at UMass Dartmouth to pursue a Master’s of Public Policy with a concentration in Environmental Policy.

This past summer, I interned at the Westport Land Conservation Trust as the Stewardship and Special Projects Intern. There, the idea of having a career protecting land, and ultimately benefiting our environment, became a passion. The summer prior, I interned at the Westport River Watershed Alliance where I assisted the Education Director with summer programs. We taught children about the different types of habitat around Westport and the types of animals and insects who reside in these areas. With my background in land management and outreach, I’ve got a lot to learn about policy and data analysis. I’m extremely excited to work at the PPC and alongside such an amazing group of individuals.

Census Publishes Commuting Data for Massachusetts!

We are super excited at The Public Policy Center that Massachusetts has finally joined the rest of the country in releasing the data that is used in the production of two important Census Bureau data products: Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) and LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES). The LODES data will be instrumental in a recently launched study of the economic connections between southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island by allowing us to look at commuting patterns at the city and town level (formal announcement forthcoming). This data was just released yesterday afternoon and I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with the data via the Census’s OnTheMap tool. Here are a couple of the data visualizations that I produced using OnTheMap:

This first image shows the inflows and outflows for the Southcoast of Massachusetts in 2014 (defined here to include Swansea, Somerset, Fall River, Westport, Dartmouth, Freetown, New Bedford, Acushnet, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Rochester, Marion, and Wareham). According to the LODES data, 41,463 people who work on the Southcoast live elsewhere, 66,613 people who live on the Southcoast work elsewhere, and 76,289 people both live and work on the Southcoast.

This next image shows the distance, direction, and volume of commutes into the Boston Workforce Investment Area. The color indicates distance and the size of each slice indicates volume. This graph suggests that the greatest number of people commute from South of Boston, while people to the West and Southwest travel the longest distances. In 2014, an estimated 6,844 people commuted from the Southcoast to the Boston Workforce Investment Area. Meanwhile, 8,192 commuted from the Southcoast to the workforce investment area for Greater Rhode Island.


Now it’s time to learn how to work with the raw data so I can develop customized data processing algorithms. Fun!

Introduction – Holly Stickles

Hello Everyone,

My name is Holly Stickles and I have recently joined UMASS – Dartmouth’s Public Policy Center as a Graduate Research Assistant. While I am quite new to the program, I am no stranger to UMASS – Dartmouth where I recently earned a B.S. in Finance. During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate enough to have interned at the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board. There, I assisted in the creation of models for workforce development and helped to market programs to local stakeholders. I also interned at Community and Economic Development Authority of Wareham, where I helped reconcile funding budgets while completely redeveloping the organization’s policies and procedures manuals to maximize efficiency. That being said, I am excited to put my acquired skills set to use within the parameters of this new role and, all the while, I am hoping to develop more knowledge in the field while pursuing an advanced degree in Public Policy.

2015 APPAM Conference

I just attended the Association for Public Policy and Analysis (APPAM) fall conference in Miami with Mike Goodman and Nick Anguelov. This was my first time attending and presenting at a major research conference. My poster was on the potential effect of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on risk perception. I conducted this work with Chad McGuire and Mike Goodman. The NFIP was created to help share risks with flood-prone communities with the hope of mitigating risky behavior through insurance price signaling (Anderson, 1974). Prior research suggests that insurance premiums do indeed act as a proxy for risk (Browne & Hoyt, 2000; Petrolia et al., 2013; Siegrist & Gutscher, 2006). The problem is that current premiums collected annually are not enough to cover the claims paid by the program, which suggests a subsidy. As subsidies lower the price of insurance, they signal a lower level of risk. We examined the relationship between the proportional cost of the insurance (premium divided by value insured) and the average policy value at the municipal level for the 331 Massachusetts towns for which data are available. We found that proportional cost was significantly negatively correlated with average policy value, suggesting that higher valued properties pay proportionately less for their insurance. The people who stopped by my poster seemed interested in the project and were generally unaware of the NFIP.
The selection of sessions and interests seemed endless, and I found myself choosing between multiple sessions for each timeslot. The most interesting sessions to me were on managing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) data and analyses of family and sick leave policies. I met some great scholars and had some interesting and impactful conversations about research across disciplines. Some of these conversations were helpful as I prepare applications for doctoral programs, and others helped refine my research interests and exposed me to new data sources. Overall, this was a fun and influential experience. I am grateful for the support I received from the Public Policy Center, the Graduate Student Senate, and the Office of Graduate Studies.

Anderson, D.R. (1974). The National Flood Insurance Program: Problems and potential. The Journal of Risk and Insurance, 41(4), 579-599.

Browne, M.J., & Hoyt, R.E. (2000). The demand for flood insurance: Empirical evidence. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 23(3), 291-306.

Petrolia, D., Landry, C., & Coble, K. (2013). Risk preferences, risk perceptions, and flood insurance. Land Economics, 89(2), 227-245.

Siegrist, M., & Gutscher, H. (2006). Flooding risks: A comparison of lay people’s perceptions and expert’s assessments in Switzerland. Risk Analysis, 26(4), 971-979.