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Research at SPA

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New Research to Advance Early Child Health and Development Around the World

SPA professor Jeremy Shiffman, and Yusra Ribhi Shawar SPA/PhD/16, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, were among 14 scholars who studied the scope and impact of this problem in a new series of papers, “Advancing Early Childhood Development from Science to Scale,” published Oct. 4 in The Lancet. Shiffman and Shawar also co-authored another paper accompanying the series, “Generation of Global Political Priority for Early Childhood Development: The Challenges of Framing and Governance,” which examines the challenges of defining the challenges and prioritizing services in early childhood development. According to the study, 43 percent of children younger than age five in low and middle income countries around the world are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential because of extreme poverty.

Safety Net Programs Protect Low Income Families from Income Instability

New research from SPA Assistant Professor Bradley Hardy published in Contemporary Economic Policy shows that safety net programs such as SNAP, the EITC, Unemployment Insurance, and public housing provide an important buffer against income instability. He 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 over the past 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. doi:10.1111/coep.12187

Civil Unrest Leads to Student Achievement Decline

In 2014, a highly publicized police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri triggered community protests that had profound effects on student achievement. According to an 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.

Children in Every Neighborhood Currently at Risk of Food Insecurity, Says New Study

A new 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. Nearly one in four (22%) of kindergarteners in high-poverty communities lived in food-insecure households, compared to almost one in ten (9%) of those in low-poverty communities – a lower rate, but still high. The study authors found that household resources, particularly family income and education, rather than neighborhood food access, largely explained much of the link between neighborhood poverty and food insecurity, with the exception of more severe child-level insecurity. Morrissey’s article, “Neighborhood Poverty and Children's Food Insecurity,” was published online in the journal Children and Youth Services Review.

Recession Struck Black Neighborhoods Differently

A study by Derek Hyra finds that the effects of the 2007-2009 recession on three redeveloping black neighborhoods varied because of the type of gentrification each was undergoing. Hyra, together with Jacob Rugh of Brigham Young University, examined Bronzeville in Chicago, Harlem in New York City, and Shaw/U Street in Washington, DC. While Harlem and Shaw/U Street became trendy mixed-race, mixed-income neighborhoods, property values in Bronzeville continued to decline. The reason, the researchers found, was that both Harlem and Shaw/U Street had a much higher percentage of whites and affluent African Americans than did Bronzeville.

Hyra’s article, “The US Great Recession: exploring its association with Black neighborhood rise, decline and recovery,” was published online by the academic journal Urban Geography.

Risks to Children Linked to Parental Depression

A study by Taryn Morrissey links the depression of parents to increased safety risks for their children. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, Morrissey examined associations between measures of parents’ depressive symptoms and their parenting practices related to gun, fire, and auto safety. The results suggest that mothers with moderate or severe depressive symptoms were two percentage points less likely to report that their child always sat in the back seat of the car and three percentage points less likely to have at least one working smoke detector in the home. Overall, one in five households with young children owned at least one firearm, and only in about two-thirds of these homes were all guns kept locked at all times. When both parents exhibited depressive symptoms, children were 2 to 6 percentage points more likely to live in households that owned one or more guns.

Morrissey’s article on the findings, “Parents’ Depressive Symptoms and Gun, Fire, and Motor Vehicle Safety Practices,” was published online by the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

Success in School and Child Care Subsidies

A study by Erdal Tekin examines how the use of child care subsidies influence a child’s ability to succeed in school, both emotionally and cognitively.

The results of the study, co-authored by Chris Herbst of Arizona State University, suggest that children receiving subsidized child care in the year before kindergarten score lower on tests of cognitive ability and reveal more behavior problems throughout kindergarten. The research also tracked child development beyond the kindergarten year, and those results suggest that the impact of subsidy receipt does not persist beyond kindergarten. Titled “The Impact of Child Care Subsidies on Child Development: Evidence from Geographic Variation in the Distance to Social Service Agencies,” Tekin’s article was featured in the winter issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM).

Terrorism and Voting Behavior

A study by Thomas Zeitzoff and Anna Getmansky examines how the threat of rocket attacks affects voting behavior in Israel. Localities in southern Israel have been exposed to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip since 2001. The researchers first show that the evolution of the rockets’ range leads to exogenous variation in the threat of terrorism. Then they compare voting in national elections within and outside the rockets’ range. The research suggests that the right-wing vote share is 2 to 6 percentage points higher in localities that are within the range - a substantively significant effect. The study, “Terrorism and Voting: The Effect of Rocket Threat on Voting in Israeli Elections,” appears in American Political Science Review.

Crime in Gated and Non-Gated Communities

A study by Lynn Addington and co-author Callie Marie Rennison confirmed that housing units in gated communities experience fewer burglaries than their non-gated counterparts. The study, "Keeping the Barbarians outside the Gate: Comparing Burglary Victimization in Gated and Non-Gated Communities," also emphasized diversity within gated communities, in stark contrast to commonly held perceptions of the areas as "affluent enclaves." The study found there is evidence, however, that these communities not only push crime to other, less secure, areas, but also present an increased risk for other crimes, including "intimate partner violence." It appears in Justice Quarterly.


Book cover: Back Channel to CubaRated Best Book of the Year by Foreign Affairs, Back Channel to Cuba by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh is an essential read to make sense of the ongoing normalization between Cuba and the United States. LeoGrande and Kornbluh present a vast, secret history of negotiations between the erstwhile antagonists.

Book cover: Hume and the Politics of EnlightenmentThomas Merrill’s book, Hume and the Politics of Enlightenment, demonstrates the meaning and relevance of the Socratic analogy David Hume employs in A Treatise of Human Nature. Merrill’s work won the Delia Winthrop prize for best, recently completed book in political philosophy.

Book cover: Administrative Law for Public ManagersIn 2014, two of David Rosenbloom’s most renowned publications, Administrative Law for Public Managers and the coauthored Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector, were published in second and eighth editions, respectively.

Book cover: Running from OfficeRunning from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics by Jennifer Lawless and co-author Richard Fox is a compelling new book detailing the rise in political apathy among America’s youngest generations.

Book cover: Who Votes Now?Jan Leighley and co-author Jonathan Nagler draw on a wealth of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American National Election Studies in their book Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States. Critics around the country highly endorsed their analysis.

Book cover: Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, DCComing this Fall, Capital Dilemma: Growth and Inequality in Washington, DC, co-edited by Derek Hyra, uncovers and explains the dynamics that have influenced the contemporary economic advancement of Washington, DC.


Select Publications

Addington, L. A. & Rennison, C. M. (2015). “Keeping the Barbarians outside the Gate?: Comparing Burglary Victimization in Gated and Non-Gated Communities,” Justice Quarterly, 32, pp. 168-192


Amirkhanyan, A. A., Kim, H. J., and Lambright,K. T. (2014). “The Performance Puzzle: Understanding the Factors Influencing Alternative Dimensions and Views of Performance,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 24(1), pp. 1-34


Eisenstadt, T. A., Levan, A. C., and Maboudi, T. (2015). “When Talk Trumps Text: The Democratizing Effects of Deliberation during Constitution-Making, 1974-2011,” American Political Science Review, 109(3), pp. 592-612


Hyra, D. (2015). “The Back-to-the-City Movement: Neighhourhood Redevelopment and Processes of Political and Cultural Displacement,” Urban Studies, 52(10), pp. 1753-1773


Morrissey, T. W., Jacknowitz, A., and Vinopal, K. (2014). “Local Food Prices and Their Associations with Children’s Weight and Food Security,” Pediatrics, 133(3), pp. 422-430


Romzek, B., LeRoux, K., Johnston, J., Kempf, R. J., and Schede Piatak, J. (2014). “Informal Accountability in Multisector Service Delivery Collaborations,” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 24(4), pp. 813-842


Hayes, D. and Lawless, J. L. (2015). “As Local News Goes, So Goes Citizen Engagement: Media, Knowledge, and Participation in U.S. House Elections,” Journal of Politics, 77(2), pp. 447-462


Lublin, D. “Electoral Systems, Ethnic Heterogeneity, and Party System Fragmentation,” British Journal of Political Science (forthcoming 2015)


Johnson, D. and Maguire, E. R. (2015). “The Structure of Public Opinion on Crime Policy: Evidence from Seven Caribbean Nations,” Punishment & Society, 17(4), pp. 502-530


Morrissey, T. W. (2014). “Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Weight-Related Parenting Behaviors,” Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18(6), pp. 1328-1335


Rosenbloom, D. H. and Liu, A. C. (2014). “Mission-Extrinsic Public Values as an Extension of Regime Values: Examples from the United States and the People’s Republic of China,” Administration & Society, 46(March 2014), pp. 199-219


Tekin, E. and Currie, J. (2015). “Is There a Link Between Foreclosure and Health?” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 7(1), pp. 63-94


Wilkins, V. M. and Wenger, J. B. (2014). “Belief in a Just World and Attitudes Toward Affirmative Action,” Policy Studies Journal, 42(August 2014), pp. 325-343