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Public Management Select Research

Nursing Home Management and Performance
"Management and Performance in U.S. Nursing Homes" by SPA Associate Professor Anna Amirkhanyan, SPA Distinguished Visiting Scholar Ken Meier and coauthors studied the effect of management on different dimensions and measures of performance in public, nonprofit, and for-profit U.S. nursing homes. Their analysis is based on archived government data on nursing home performance combined with a recent nursing home administrators' survey. The study was published by The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in 2017.



Linking Internal Management with Performance Outcomes

Linking Internal Management with Performance Outcomes
"Goals, Trust, Participation, and Feedback: Linking Internal Management with Performance Outcomes" by Nathan Favero, Kenneth Meier and coauthors examines the relationship between such internal management at the mid-level, as perceived by subordinates rather than the managers themselves, and educational performance for more than 1,100 schools in the New York City school system in a three-year period. The results indicate that internal management matters, often sizably, for delivering educational outcomes. Managers' setting challenging goals appears to be especially important in generating educational results. The study was published in The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in 2016.



childhood hunder study, led by SPA Assistant Professor Taryn Morrissey

Children at Risk for Food Insecurity
A study led by SPA Assistant Professor Taryn Morrissey shows that children at risk for food insecurity can be found in communities across the income spectrum. The research, "Neighborhood Poverty and Children's Food "Insecurity," reports that 22 percent of kindergarteners in high-poverty communities lived in food-insecure households, compared to 9 percent of those in low-poverty communities - a lower rate, but still high. The study appears in Children and Youth Services Review.

Democratic leaders are more likely to adopt social media. They are held to higher standards of accountability than their autocratic counterparts.

Research ·

The Internet Bully Pulpit: Why Do World Leaders Adopt Social Media?

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A new report by SPA faculty explores the relationship between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local governments in developing countries.

Research ·

A Look at Lebanon: Untangling the Relationship Between NGOs and Local Governments

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Select Research in American Politics


American Politics Select Research

The Trump Effect

The day after Donald Trump took the oath of office, hundreds of thousands of women traveled to Washington, DC, to demonstrate their opposition to the new president. This groundswell of activism almost immediately led to widespread reporting that Trump's victory was inspiring a large new crop of female candidates across the country. Is Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency really pushing women everywhere to throw their hats into the political ring? Is Donald Trump such a shock to the political system that he's able to spark the kind of political activism and ambition that previous political candidates and major political events simply could not? This report, led by Jennifer Lawless is based on a May 2017 national survey of "potential candidates" - college educated women and men who are employed full-time - begins to provide systematic answers to these questions. Read the report here.

Multiculturalism and Muslim Accommodation

A study by SPA Associate Professor Matthew Wright assesses the apparent effect of political multiculturalism on tolerance of Muslim accommodation among native-born majority members. The principle goal is in understanding how public opinion on religious accommodation varies as a function of both federal multicultural policy, on one hand, and more deeply rooted notions of political culture, on the other. Wright and coauthors do so by examining responses to a pair of survey experiments embedded in surveys conducted in Canada and the United States. The experiments allow us to convincingly demonstrate "Muslim exceptionalism." Contextual comparisons across multicultural policy regimes (Canada and the United States) and within them but across distinct political cultures (Quebec vs. English Canada) lend credence to a fairly subdued role for policy and a much larger one for political culture. These effects are, we argue and show, strongly moderated by support for multiculturalism at the individual-level.

Lay Belief in Biopolitics and Political Prejudice

Building on psychological research linking essentialist beliefs about human differences with prejudice, SPA Assistant Professor Elizabeth Suhay tested whether lay belief in the biological basis of political ideology is associated with political intolerance and social avoidance. Suhay finds that belief in the biological basis of political views is associated with greater intolerance and social avoidance of ideologically dissimilar others. The association is substantively large and robust to demographic, religious, and political control variables. These findings stand in contrast to some theoretical expectations that biological attributions for political ideology are associated with tolerance. We conclude that biological lay theories are especially likely to be correlated with prejudice in the political arena, where social identities tend to be salient and linked to intergroup competition and animosity. The study was published by the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

SPA Professor Jennifer Lawless and coauthor Danny Hayes focus on U.S. House elections to look at the factors that keep women out of politics in their book Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era. They show that the vast majority of women who run for office are treated - by the media and voters - no differently than men. Women are under-represented not because of what happens on the campaign trail, but because they are much less likely to run in the first place. And misperceptions about bias against female candidates are one reason why.

Power Without Constraint: The Post-9/11 Presidency and National Security

A new book by Chris Edelson makes a thorough comparison of the Bush and Obama administrations' national security policies and the ways in which President Obama asserted power in key areas-military action, surveillance, and state secrets. Edelson contends that this legacy of the two immediately post 9/11 presidencies raises crucial questions for future presidents, Congress, the courts, and American citizens.

Latino Electoral Participation: Variations on Demographics and Ethnicity

Using the 2012 Latino Immigrant National Election Study, the 2012 American National Election Study, and the 2012 Current Population Survey, SPA Professor Jan Leighley documented the demographic factors that influenced Latino (native-born and immigrant) voter turnout and participation in the 2012 presidential election. She estimated multivariable models of turnout and participation, including standard demographic characteristics (education, income, age, gender, marital status) as explanatory variables. She and her coauthor Jonathan Nagler found that the relationships between these characteristics and participation are much less consistent across these datasets than the conventional wisdom would suggest. Understanding these results likely requires survey data-with large sample sizes-including information on the resources (including education and income) available to immigrants in their home countries to better understand the lingering influences of immigrants' experiences in their countries of origin on voter turnout. The study was published by The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.

Sex, Bipartisanship, and Collaboration in the U.S. Congress

Despite growing bodies of research about party polarization, women's leadership, and legislative effectiveness, largely open questions still remained. Until now. Our comprehensive study of gender and cooperation on Capitol Hill is a first cut at assessing the conventional wisdom that women of both parties are more likely than their male co-partisans to be "problem solvers" - people who create a climate for passing legislation rather than serving partisan goals. But as we illustrate in this report, the results indicate only the faintest evidence for this argument, write Jennifer L. Lawless and Sean M. Theriault. Read the report here.

Select Research in Comparative Politics


Comparative Politics Select Research

Electoral Systems, Ethnic Diversity and Party Systems in Developing Democracies

A study by SPA Professor David Lublin highlights how party system nationalization is often viewed as critical to national unity, the production of public goods, and may have implications for democratic success. His study assesses the impact of ethnic diversity and electoral rules in 74 economically developing democracies. Contrary to past studies, majoritarian electoral systems heighten the tendency of ethnic diversity to reduce nationalization while proportional representation greatly reduces its impact. Presidential systems produce higher levels of nationalization than parliamentary systems but the effect reverses as the number of presidential candidates increases. Though ethnic party bans may increase nationalization, ballot access requirements, the level of freedom, and relative prosperity have no effect. The study was published in the journal Electoral Studies.

Select Research in Political Theory


Nonprofit Management Select Research

Politics of Enlightenment

"Methinks I am like a man, who having narrowly escap'd shipwreck," David Hume writes in A Treatise of Human Nature, "has yet the temerity to put out to sea in the same leaky weather-beaten vessel, and even carries his ambition so far as to think of compassing the globe." With these words, Hume begins a memorable depiction of the crisis of philosophy and his turn to moral and political philosophy as the path forward. In this book, SPA Associate Professor Thomas W. Merrill shows how Hume's turn is the core of his thought, linking Hume's metaphysical and philosophical crisis to the moral-political inquiries of his mature thought. Merrill shows how Hume's comparison of himself to Socrates in the introduction to the Treatise illuminates the dramatic structure and argument of the book as a whole, and he traces Hume's underappreciated argument about the political role of philosophy in the Essays. Learn more about the book.

Select Research in Health Policy & Management


Health Policy Select Research

Food Prices and Obesity

A study by SPA Associate Professors Taryn Morrissey and Alison Jacknowitz, and Katie Vinopal SPA/PhD'16 finds that high prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI) in young children in low- and middle-income households. The article, "The Influences of Local Food Prices on Children's Obesity and Eating Habits," finds when the prices of fruits and vegetables go up, families may buy fewer of them and substitute cheaper foods that might be less healthy and have more calories. The research appears in Pediatrics.

Extreme Poverty and Childhood Development

SPA professor Jeremy Shiffman, and Yusra Ribhi Shawar SPA/PhD '16, who held a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, contributed to a study exploring the scope and impact of extreme poverty on the developmental potential of children. The article, "Advancing Early Childhood Development from Science to Scale," focused on the critical early years when adversity can disrupt brain development and cognition. It was published in 2016 in a series of papers in The Lancet.

Air Quality and Infant Health

A study coauthored by SPA Professor Erdal Tekin shows how Turkey's use of natural gas, instead of coal, can have a positive effect on air quality and results in healthier infants. The study, "Air Pollution and Infant Mortality: Evidence from the Expansion of Natural Gas Infrastructure," showed that a nationwide move toward natural gas has led to improvements in air quality by reducing emissions from coal, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. The research appears in The Economic Journal.

Depression and Child Safety

A study by SPA Associate Professor Taryn Morrissey examines links between mothers' and fathers' depressive symptoms and their parenting practices relating to gun, fire, and motor vehicle safety. The research, titled "Parents' Depressive Symptoms and Gun, Fire, and and Motor Vehicle Safety Practices," uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, and concludes that interventions that identify and treat parental depression early may be effective in promoting appropriate safety behaviors among families with young children. The study is published in Maternal and Child Health Journal.

Linking Obesity to Cancer

A study coauthored by SPA Distinguished Professor Jeff Gill (led by E.C. Benesh) and colleagues identifies a link between obesity and prostate cancer in mice and may offer insights in human obesity links with cancer. The study, "Maternal Obesity, Cage Density, and Age Contribute to Prostate Hyperplasia in Mice," finds that prostate tissue was adversely affected during early life by the mother's overnutrition, size of her cage, and her age. The research appears in Reproductive Sciences.

Select Research in Nonprofit Management


Nonprofit Management Select Research

How Nonprofits Shift Funding Priorities

SPA Assistant Professor Khaldoun AbouAssi and Mary Tschirhart of Ohio State University explain the variation in nonprofit organizations' response to shifts in funding priorities. The study presents a parsimonious "Strategic Response Model" for organizational behavior by examining both the level of dependence on a donor and the ties an organization has within the donor's network. Using four cases of nonprofit organizations in Lebanon, the model helps explain why networks of recipients of funding may change over time and predicts organizational responses to changing demands from resource providers. The article, titled "Organizational Response to Changing Demands: Predicting Behavior in Donor Networks" appears in Public Administration Review.

Capacity-Building and Financial Growth

SPA Associate Professor Lewis Faulk and Amanda J. Stewart, SPA/PhD'14, evaluate foundations' capacity-building grant programs, which are designed to improve nonprofit performance through organizational capacity development. This study adds new research to better understand whether these capacity-building programs achieve their intended results by evaluating fifteen years of capacity-building grants. Findings show that capacity building contributes to nonprofit financial growth in time and inform sector leaders who dedicate resources to capacity-building programs about the outcomes of these efforts. The article, titled "As You Sow, so Shall You Reap? Evaluating if Targeted Financial Capacity-Building Improves Nonprofit Financial Growth," was published in Nonprofit Management and Leadership (2017).

Relationship Between Nonprofit and Government Services

A study authored by SPA Assistant Professor Khaldoun AbouAssi, Associate Professor Lewis Faulk, and doctoral students - Minjung Kim, Lilli Shaffer, and Long Tran-test the relationship between individuals' satisfaction with local government services and their use of nonprofit services, adding to our understanding of the roles of, and gaps in, government and nonprofit services on the local level. They find strong evidence that nonprofit services compliment rather than replace government services on the local level. These findings support theories of interdependence between government and nonprofit sectors and point to the importance of inter-sector collaboration to fully serve all individuals on the local level. Findings were presented at the Public Management Research Conference, which was hosted by SPA in July, 2017.

How Citizens Influence Government

A forthcoming book by SPA Associate Professor Anna Amirkhanyan and Kristina Lambright SUNY Binghamton College of Community and Public Affairs' Associate Dean Kristina Lambright is based on a simple premise: in democracies, power originates with citizens. Governments today contract with nonprofit and for-profit organizations to deliver a wide array of services. Yet, little is known about how citizens influence government decisions and policies in this context. Based on nearly 100 interviews with public and private managers, Amirkhanyan's research examines the state of citizen participation in contract governance. Widespread, and yet narrow in their forms and impact, the participation practices this study helps identify do not live up to the ideals of democracy and self-governance. The book is titled, "Citizen Participation in the Age of Contracting: When Service Delivery Trumps Democracy."

Select Research in Policy Analysis


Policy Analysis Select Research

Tracking Data Trends

In 2017, SPA offered a one-credit course on data visualization and presentation design. The course was taught by Senior Fellow Jonathan Schwabish, a researcher, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, and author of "Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks." He introduced students to ways they can maximize the impact of their research results with different graphic types and purposes, and provided ways to create and give more effective presentations.

Understanding the Diversity of Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods

American University's Metropolitan Policy Center launched the annual DC Area Survey (DCAS) in 2016 to study neighborhood and resident well-being in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. The DCAS focuses on priority themes in strategically selected types of neighborhoods. The 2016 pilot survey concentrated on attachment to place, health, safety, trust in local organizations, and governance, and focuses on the experiences of DC area residents in two relatively new types of neighborhoods: Latino neighborhoods and "global neighborhoods." Survey results will inform research initiatives led by AU faculty and provide insights that will be shared with stakeholders throughout the area.

Civil Unrest Leads to Student Achievement Decline

In 2014, the highly-publicized police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri triggered community protests that had profound effects on student achievement. According to a study published August 2, 2016 by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), disruptive outside events can cause student and teacher absences, leading to lower grades and test scores. The research was conducted by Seth Gershenson, assistant professor at American University's School of Public Affairs, and Michael S. Hayes, assistant professor at Rutgers University, Camden.

Teachers and Racial Bias

A recent study by Seth Gershenson suggests implicit racial bias may impact teacher expectations of students. The research found that non-black teachers have significantly lower expectations than do black teachers when evaluating the same students. Many believe that teacher expectations have a significant impact on educational development and attainment. The working paper, titled "Who Believes in Me? The Effect of Student-Teacher Demographic Match on Teacher Expectations," was published by the Upjohn Institute.

Select Research in Homeland Security Policy


Homeland Security Policy Select Research

Exploring Hurdles to Terrorism Alliances

A study by SPA's Tricia Bacon examines what inhibits terrorist organizations from working together. Contrary to how terrorist alliances are often portrayed, terrorist organizations struggle to form and sustain alliances. Thus, the article was an important correction. The research, "Hurdles to International Terrorist Alliances," finds that even groups like al-Qaida, which have an exceptional ability to form alliances, experience obstacles that can hinder their relationships. This offers underutilized opportunities to exploit and disrupt terrorist partnerships. The study appeared in Terrorism and Political Violence.

Truth, Lies and Terrorism

A study co-authored by Joseph Young explains why terrorists strategically avoid truthfully claiming responsibility for an attack. The research, "Lying about Terrorism," is published in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism.

Impact of Rocket Threats on Voting

A study by SPA Assistant Professor Thomas Zeitzoff and Anna Getmansky of the University of Essex focuses on how the threat of rocket attacks affects voting behavior in Israel. The study, "Terrorism and Voting: The Effect of Rocket Threat on Voting in Israeli Elections," looks at the localities in southern Israel that have been exposed to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip since 2001. The research shows the evolution of the rockets' range leads to exogenous variation in the threat of terrorism. Comparing voting in national elections within and outside the rockets' range, the authors find the rightwing vote share is two to six percentage points higher in localities that are within the range - a substantively significant effect. The research appears in American Political Science Review.

Why Terrorists Join Forces

A forthcoming book by SPA's Tricia Bacon, examines what causes terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, to develop alliance networks. The book, "Alliances for Terror," finds groups that cluster and ally with hubs, tend to be the ones that are most violent, the most resilient, and pose the largest threat. The conventional wisdom has been that shared ideas and ideologies motivate groups to form these relationships, but Bacon discovers that organizational needs and weaknesses drive groups to seek allies. The book is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Select Research in Criminology


Criminology Select Research

College Women and Violence

A study by SPA's Lynn Addington and co-author Callie Marie Rennison review the limitations in current studies of violence against college women particularly in the ways in which violence is defined and operationalized. The research, titled "Violence Against College Women: A Review to Identify Limitations in Defining the Problem and Inform Future Research," suggests college women are exposed to a variety of risks regarding violence that often are overlooked in most research. The study is published in Trauma, Violence and Abuse.

Beyond Community Gates

A study co-authored by SPA's Lynn Addington explains how households in gated communities experience fewer burglaries than their non-gated counterparts, but identifies unintended costs of living in gated communities. The research, titled "Keeping the Barbarians Outside the Gate? Comparing Burglary Victimization in Gated and Non-Gated Communities" also emphasizes diversity within gated communities, in contrast to common perceptions that the areas are "affluent enclaves." The study appears in Justice Quarterly.

Select Research in Public Management


Public Management Select Research

Nursing Home Management and Performance

"Management and Performance in U.S. Nursing Homes" by SPA Associate Professor Anna Amirkhanyan, SPA Distinguished Visiting Scholar Ken Meier and coauthors studied the effect of management on different dimensions and measures of performance in public, nonprofit, and for-profit U.S. nursing homes. Their analysis is based on archived government data on nursing home performance combined with a recent nursing home administrators' survey. The study was published by The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in 2017.

Linking Internal Management with Performance Outcomes

"Goals, Trust, Participation, and Feedback: Linking Internal Management with Performance Outcomes" by Nathan Favero, Kenneth Meier and coauthors examines the relationship between such internal management at the mid-level, as perceived by subordinates rather than the managers themselves, and educational performance for more than 1,100 schools in the New York City school system in a three-year period. The results indicate that internal management matters, often sizably, for delivering educational outcomes. Managers' setting challenging goals appears to be especially important in generating educational results. The study was published in The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory in 2016.

Governance Reform in the National Nuclear Security Administration

SPA Professor Barbara Romzek is currently researching contracting and accountability dynamics characteristic of federal government national laboratory contractors. She currently serves on a Congressionally mandated panel assessing the National Nuclear Security Administration's responses to longstanding problems affecting the nuclear security enterprise. The problems were documented in the 2014 congressional advisory panel report. The nuclear security enterprise comprises both a highly technical mission and a complex government management challenge - and many of the problems to be addressed may have roots in that duality, particularly contracting and accountability. This joint panel is convened by The National Academies of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration, and they report to Congress quarterly. The first report titled, "Review of Governance Reform in the National Nuclear Security Administration" published in April 2017.

Guiding Government Leaders

"The Handbook of Federal Government Leadership and Administration: Transforming, Performing and Innovating in a Complex World" edited by David Rosenbloom, Patrick Malone, and Bill Valdez gives public servants a new tool to navigate the changing nature of their work. The book includes 13 chapters written by a mix of authors who are currently federal leaders or have had long careers with the government. Topics range from adaptive leadership to organizational change to relationships with political forces. It was published by Routledge in 2017.

Select Research in Social Policy


Social Policy Select Research

Income Instability and Response of the Safety Net

A 2016 study by SPA Associate Professor Bradley Hardy shows that safety net programs such as SNAP, EITC, Unemployment Insurance, and public housing provide an important buffer against income instability. Hardy finds that this instability is very often driven by job loss and larger macroeconomic shocks, and that income instability is highest among low-income and less-educated households in the last 30 years. For many low-income households, resources are not only limited but perhaps less predictable as well. The challenges with meeting these income swings are heightened for families lacking adequate savings or access to credit to weather these economic challenges. The study was published in Contemporary Economic Policy.

Children at Risk for Food Insecurity

A study led by SPA Assistant Professor Taryn Morrissey shows that children at risk for food insecurity can be found in communities across the income spectrum. The research, "Neighborhood Poverty and Children's Food "Insecurity," reports that 22 percent of kindergarteners in high-poverty communities lived in food-insecure households, compared to 9 percent of those in low-poverty communities - a lower rate, but still high. The study appears in Children and Youth Services Review.

High Priced Food and Childhood Obesity

A study by SPA Associate Professor Taryn Morrissey, Associate Professor Alison Jacknowitz, and then Ph.D. student Katie Vinopal, finds in 2013 that high prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI) in young children in low and middle income households. The study, "The Influences of Local Food Prices on Children's Obesity and Eating Habits," focuses on households under 300 percent of the federal poverty line. The findings are published in Pediatrics.

Select Research in Law & Society


Law & Society Select Research

Gangs and Gang Violence in the Caribbean

This international symposium convened leading scholars who study the gang problem in the Caribbean. Participants examined the latest findings related to gangs and responses to gangs to improve the knowledge base on the Caribbean region's gang-related problems and their potential threat to democratic governance and human security in the Caribbean. The symposium covered a range of gang types, from inexperienced and disorganized neighborhood youth gangs engaged in petty property crime, to more organized and violent adult gangs that represent a serious threat to public order in some nations. The symposium also focused on the causes, correlates, and consequences of the gang problem, including the destabilizing effects of gangs on legitimate governance in Caribbean nations. The main purposes of the symposium were to discuss the strengths and limitations of existing research on gangs and gang violence in the Caribbean and to develop a research agenda for the Consortium about these issues.

Occupy Wall Street and the Police

On September 17th, 2011, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) officially launched in New York City's Zuccotti Park. OWS spurred a larger Occupy movement that spread quickly across the country, with Occupy sites emerging throughout the U.S. in a matter of days. The Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has provided funding to American University to carry out a nation-wide research study that will take stock of how police departments have responded to the OWS protests. Through interviews with police officers, city officials, and protesters, this study showcased the experiences of U.S. police agencies. This study culminated in the production of a guidebook that outlines the experiences and lessons learned by these departments. This guidebook serves as an invaluable resource in helping police agencies develop thoughtful community policing practices for managing social movements in the most effective, efficient, respectful, and just manner.

Preventing Wrongful Convictions

This project, led by SPA Professor Jon Gould and funded by the National Institute of Justice, is a unique collaboration between academic researchers and criminal justice professionals, including representatives of the prosecutorial and defense communities. The research began by identifying a set of 460 erroneous conviction and near miss cases that met a stringent definition of innocence. We then researched and coded the cases along a number of variables, including location effects, nature of the victim, nature of the defendant, facts available to the police and prosecutor, quality of work by the criminal justice system, and quality of work by the defense. The cases were subsequently analyzed using bivariate and logistic regression techniques. With the assistance of an expert panel, we also explored the cases from a qualitative perspective.