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.

chart

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.

Introduction: Senior Research Associate Elise Korejwa

This is Southcoast native Elise Korejwa, returning from Oregon to join the public policy team at my alma mater. (Some of you may remember me by my maiden name Elise Rapoza.) I officially joined the staff at The Public Policy Center (PPC) on September 1st. I bring with me two master’s degrees from Oregon State University in statistics and public policy, which I will use to expand the research capabilities of the PPC.

My research experiences include program evaluation, economic impact analysis, indicator tracking, and empirical research using qualitative and quantitative methods. The fields in which I have conducted research include regional economic development, environmental sustainability, tax policy, and health care. Most recently, I have conducted an economic and budgetary impact assessment of electric vehicle adoption and a mixed-methods case study of state tax credit auctions. I consider myself to be more a methodologist than a subject-area specialist, and look forward to applying sophisticated research techniques to a broad range of research topics.

Having grown up here, I have a deep love for this region and hope to help this area realize its amazing potential. I can be found at live music shows, art gallery openings, and in our beautiful natural areas.

Seeking summer high school interns

The Public Policy Center at UMass Dartmouth is seeking applicants for its 2015 Summer Internship Program for area high school students. The internship program is designed to give students hands-on experience conducting applied policy research on topics relevant to our region’s cities. Students will work alongside UMass Dartmouth undergraduate and graduate students to develop a project that is aligned with their interests and the needs of urban SouthCoast. In previous years, our interns undertook a research project to examine the issue of college access, explored the representativeness of local elected officials, and researched placemaking in the SouthCoast. These projects have resulted in reports, presentations, and local media coverage. We’re eager to see what this year’s interns will do!

Click here for a complete application and instructions.

Online Survey Programs

Online survey programs have extended the capabilities of social scientists to conduct research. The Public Policy Center has used several online survey programs in the past and has utilized SoGoSurvey successfully for the past 12 months.

The basic functionalities of most online applications are available for free (e.g., SoGoSurvey, SurveyMonkey, QuestionPro), with expanded capabilities available for a fee. Users can build surveys easily using these programs, often with more complicated structures like conditional branching. Administration is simple, as users can send the survey to specific e-mails or provide participants with either a general or specific link. Links can be assigned that allow only one-time access to the survey for data quality and confidentiality concerns. Data can also be easily downloaded into Excel or SPSS for analysis. These types of comprehensive features generally require a paid subscription, which can run anywhere from $9.99 to $99.00 per month depending on the number and type of features.

One of the main benefits to using electronic surveys is that the marginal cost of survey research decreases to essentially zero when these tools are utilized. That is, a large number of surveys can be programmed and administered with one subscription. Another benefit is that most of the online survey software allows viewing on multiple platforms (e.g. computer, tablet, cellphone).

Electronic surveys are not appropriate for all situations, however. For instance, community surveys administered to random samples of households are better served by mail- or phone-based surveys. Furthermore, some members of a study population may not have access to technology, or they may not prefer to answer electronically. The PPC experienced the latter challenge while conducting an alumni survey of UMass electrical and computer engineers. You might think that presumably tech-savvy engineering alumni would prefer completing an online survey, yet in our study about a third of respondents still preferred to complete a paper survey. The lesson is that there is more than one way to get the job done, and in these days of declining survey response rates, multi-mode survey administration (e.g., on-line combined with mail or telephone) may be necessary to achieve representative samples.

-Jason

New Resources: The Power of Microdata

By Trevor V. Mattos, MPP Candidate, Graduate Research Assistant, Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Recently, the Public Policy Center tapped into the American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) for two ongoing projects: [1] Socioeconomic Conditions for Immigrants in Worcester, [2] Pay Equity for Women in SouthCoast, MA. These new, extensive datasets allow us to measure a wide range of factors that affect outcomes for women and immigrants in communities around Massachusetts.

Since 2005, the American Community Survey (ACS) has collected detailed socioeconomic data from 250,000 individuals per month, or 3,000,000 people per year. The ACS now serves in place of the since-retired decennial census long form survey, dramatically improving accessibility to current data.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides ACS data to the public in two ways. First, ACS data is published on  census.gov in pre-tabulated formats, which users can access via American FactFinder. Second, a subset of microdata files (roughly two thirds) for both households and individuals are made available for download and independent data analysis.

Microdata allows researchers at the Public Policy Center to answer highly specific, relevant questions about social and economic conditions in many different settings. Microdata are separated into state-level files, within which geographic areas containing roughly 100,000 people, called Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMA), further delineate the data. Careful use of PUMS’ complex survey data can yield nearly endless options for statistical inference and estimation. Using PUMS can be tricky though, as one first has to isolate the data of interest using less-than-intuitive geographical area codes, then weight the data appropriately. Finally, researchers must navigate statistical software like SPSS or Stata to derive estimates, margins of error, and statistics. A few examples of the analytic potential of such data follow:

[1] The median annual income, in 2013 U.S. dollars, for white, employed women over the age of 16, with a high school education (or less) in SouthCoast, MA is $23,880.27, while that of Hispanic or Latino women with matching characteristics is $16,398.19.

 

[2] In Worcester county central, or Worcester city proper, there are 17,943 native born individuals holding a 4-year university degree, while for the foreign-born population there are 6,401. However, comparing these estimates to total population estimates reveals that 16% of the foreign-born population holds a degree, while only 13% of native-born individuals in Worcester are 4-year degree-holders.

 

[3] For the average foreign-born worker in Massachusetts, a statistically significant relationship exists between ‘years in country’ and ‘average annual income’. Regression analysis of ACS microdata shows that for each additional year in country, the average foreign-born Massachusetts worker earns an additional $927.11 per year, in 2013 US$.

 

The Public Policy Center is surging ahead with a number of different projects supported by the new analytic potential of ACS Public Use Microdata Samples. We are excited to use these new tools to inform the conversation on social and economic issues that impact SouthCoast, Massachusetts and beyond!

 

 

Minimum Wage

I have been writing a paper about the minimum wage for our microeconomics course, and I found the topic quite interesting. Most of the public favors raising the minimum wage (Dube, 2013), which is not surprising given that the real value of the minimum wage has fallen since the 1960s even as worker productivity has doubled (Krugman, 2013). The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, and some state minimums are higher.

One of the arguments against raising the minimum wage is that the increased cost of labor has a negative effect on employment. However, much of the evidence seems to suggest that negative effects on employment are small or non-existent (e.g., Blanchard, Jaumotte, & Loungani, 2014; Dube, Lester, & Reich, 2010; Leonard, Stanley, & Doucouliagos, 2014). For context, note that the Congressional Budget Office (2014) estimates that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would increase the earnings of 16.5 million workers and lift 900,000 people out of poverty while costing the economy 500,000 jobs. Given this estimate, it seems favorable to raise the minimum wage. It is worth mentioning that a debate is still ongoing regarding the best methodology to use in this line of research.

Some opponents of raising the minimum wage claim that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is more effective at assisting low-income workers. The EITC is a refundable tax credit that is available to low-income households that earn income from wages, salaries, tips, business or farm revenue, or disability income (IRS, 2014). Interestingly, the EITC puts downward pressure on wages, and the minimum wage helps to mitigate this (Dube, 2013). Thus, the EITC and the minimum wage are complementary policy tools.

Furthermore, some claim that the minimum wage only benefits teenagers from well-to-do families. Cooper and Hall (2013) provide demographic information for low-income workers that debunks this myth. Nearly 88 percent of workers earning the minimum wage are over 20 years old, around 55 percent work full-time, nearly 45 percent have some post-secondary education, and nearly 70 percent of workers’ families earn less than $60,000 per year. Furthermore, the average minimum wage worker earns nearly half of their household income.

Given this evidence, it seems that raising the minimum wage is a good idea. Doing so would provide security to working families and may lift a significant number of workers out of poverty. Some of the arguments against raising the minimum wage seem out of date given the knowledge that we now have regarding the effects of such a policy choice. Please see this blog post, written by SOC 350 students Victoria Wood and Lioma Terrero Soto, for local context.

-Jason Wright

Blanchard, O. J., Jaumotte, F., & Loungani, P. (2014). Labor market policies and IMF advice in advanced economies during the Great Recession. IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 3(2), 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.izajolp.com/content/3/1/2

Congressional Budget Office. (2014) The effects of a minimum-wage increase on employment and family income [Publication 4856]. Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved from http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44995-MinimumWage.pdf

Cooper, D., & Hall, D. (2013, March 13). Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would give working families, and the overall economy, a much-needed boost. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/publication/bp357-federal-minimum-wage-increase/

Dube, A. (2013, November 30). The great divide: The minimum we can do. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/30/the-minimum-we-can-do/

Dube, A., Lester, T. W., & Reich, M. (2010). Minimum wage effects across state borders: Estimates using contiguous counties. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(4), 945-964.

Internal Revenue Service. (2014, February 25). Do I qualify for EITC? Retrieved from http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Do-I-Qualify-for-EITC%3F

Krugman, P. (2013, February 17). Raise that wage. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/opinion/krugman-raise-that-wage.html?_r=0

Leonard, M. L., Stanley, T. D., Doucouliagos, H. (2014). Does the UK minimum wage reduce employment? A meta-regression analysis. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 52(3), 499-520.