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Public Affairs and Policy Lab

Engaging undergraduate students with faculty research.

Apply to Get Paid to Conduct Research With Faculty

The Public Affairs and Policy Lab is a program for undergraduate students who are seeking advanced research experiences in collaboration with an SPA professor.

Every Fall semester SPA faculty will be invited to provide a 300-word description of a research project they are working on and a 200-word description of what an undergraduate research assistant could do to advance the project.

In November, December and January, SPA undergraduate students will be invited to review the proposed faculty projects. The faculty research projects are posted on the website and students are encouraged to determine which project best fits their academic interests. It is highly beneficial for the student to meet with the faculty member whose projects they are interested in before applying. When submitting an application, the student should rank projects by interest as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice. A short statement is required for the application. A written statement for each ranked project is not necessary, but just a general explanation of interest and what skills the student can bring to the project. A letter of reference or recommendation is not needed from the research faculty member that they want to work with. Not all projects are necessarily funded. Therefore, it is in the student’s best interest to have 3 ranked choices in case they are not able to get their first choice.

After the January deadline for student applications, faculty members are sent a list of students that are interested in their projects. Faculty will then rank students they’d like to work with by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice. It is beneficial to students to meet with the faculty member of their interested project to build rapport, which in turn could help them be ranked higher by the faculty member after the application deadline.

The Dean’s Office will review the applications including the faculty project descriptions, the student applications and the letters of reference. The Dean’s Office will award faculty student teams. Each team would get $1,000 for the faculty member and $3,000 for the student.

The student will conduct research for the faculty member over the summer up to 20 hours a week. Students will write a research brief of their work, due at the end of September. Student awardees will be encouraged to engage in an independent study research project with their paired faculty member that might result in a published research project for which the student would get formal recognition in the publication. Students would write another research brief of their work.

If a student does an independent research project and is then admitted to the SPA Honors program for their third year they will be allowed to count their project toward an SPA Honors Colloquium.

The application is currently closed.

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Faculty Projects

Khaldoun AbouAssi, Department of Public Administration & Policy

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency manages seven immigration enforcement programs through which local governments-- counties and cities-- can choose to collaborate to help ICE identify, apprehend, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants. The voluntary nature of participation creates variation in how localities collaborate with ICE-- some local governments choose to collaborate with ICE on all seven programs, some choose to collaborate on zero, and some are selective in the programs through which they choose to collaborate. This research project focuses on explore the effect of interest groups-- immigration advocacy nonprofits-- on the intensity of collaboration between local governments and ICE. A primary purpose of nonprofit advocacy groups is to leverage their organizational resources to attain desirable outcomes for their target population. In order to help ensure outcomes that are beneficial to their constituencies, these groups might seek to affect collaboration among other organizations that bear on their target populations. The influence of nonprofits on the collaboration of other organizations is largely understudied. In this research project, I ask: Does the presence of nonprofit organizations affect ICE-local government collaborations? If so, which features of nonprofits are most closely associated with such effects? These features include organizational capacity, resources, and mission.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
The undergraduate research assistant will contribute to this project in two ways:

  1. Conduct research on the role of immigration nonprofits in shaping immigration policies and procedures. What do these nonprofits do? What challenges they face? What have they been able to achieve? The expected output is a brief summary of 2-3 pages on the topic.
  2. Collect data on the missions of immigration nonprofits and their programs; this is desk research that requires searching for an organization, pulling the mission statement, and then coding the statement. The main purpose here is to figure out whether these organizations focus on immigration advocacy or on delivering services to immigrants. The expectations are that nonprofits that deliver services are going to have less impact on ICE-local government collaboration compared that do advocacy work.

Korneliya Bachiyska, Department of Government

This project is part of a larger conflict prevention research agenda that evaluates the role of third-party actors in domestic conflicts. It examines two instances of political violence that have emerged in 2020 - the dispute over the presidential election in Belarus and violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. This project will analyze whether international actors responded to these crises in different ways, given the different roots of these conflicts. We will evaluate what type of third-party actors responded to the crises, what their specific responses were, whether they aimed to resolve the conflicts, prevent their escalation, or manage the situation, and how effective they were in the end. Previous research shows that timely and decisive international action is essential in preventing low-level conflicts from becoming full-blown civil wars, so analyzing the nature of international response will be the primary focus of this project.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
The research assistant will be responsible for data collection and coding of information on third-party involvement in the conflicts in Belarus and Nagorno-Karabakh. The research assistant will collect English-language (or local if having knowledge of local languages) news sources from national, regional, and international media covering the conflicts with a specific focus on third-party involvement.  S/he will be gathering information on which external actors have been involved in the conflict, differentiating between international and regional organizations, independent states, P5 (permanent members of the UN Security Council) states, and neighboring states. S/he will also be using a typology of conflict prevention mechanisms developed in my previous research to classify the tools that third-party actors use in an attempt to de-escalate conflict – i.e. bilateral and direct talks between the conflicting parties, the use of sanctions, permanent observer missions, fact-finding missions, the deployment of peace operations, or the use of arbitration. Ability to use NVivo for collecting and coding this information is preferred but not required.  The ability to speak Belarusian and/or Armenian and/or Azerbaijani is a bonus.

Tricia Bacon, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology  

I will be beginning a paper in the spring with a PhD student that examines why al-Qaida's affiliates stayed in their alliance with al-Qaida during the Islamic State's challenge. When the Islamic State rose to prominence in 2014, it actively sought to woo al-Qaida's affiliates, trying to entice them to defect from al-Qaida and ally with the Islamic State. The Islamic State had much to offer allies at that time, particularly resources and cachet, compared to al-Qaida. Yet none of al-Qaida's affiliates defected. What explains their decision? What motivates militant groups to stay in an alliance when a better partner is available?

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
A undergraduate research assistant would contribute by doing the main research on one of the affiliates (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or al-Shabaab) and their relationship with al-Qaida. They will help to craft the section of the paper that deals with that affiliate.

Julie Baldwin, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

The purpose of this study is to understand the experiences of offenders with a history of military service. This study utilizes primary data collected in my previous study, Multi-site Evaluation of Veterans Treatment Courts funded by the National Institute of Justice. These data include in-depth interviews with these military veterans and current military personnel in contact with eight veterans treatment courts across three states. In this study, our focus is on the experience of these individuals in terms of their military experience and how it has affected their lives in areas such as physical, mental, and behavioral health, including substance use and misuse; transition from military to civilian society; social and familial relationships; and criminal justice contact, as well as many others and the intersections thereof. Additionally, we will examine their experiences in veterans treatment court programs, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and veteran-to-veteran mentoring. We seek to identify pivotal events and experiences in the life course and how those have affected these military veterans throughout the life course.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
Undergraduate research assistants (URAs) are paramount to the success of this project. For this project, URAs will transcribe the in-depth interviews with these military veterans and current military personnel. If interested, the URAs will be able to note areas that they find interesting and have the opportunity work with Dr. Julie Baldwin on research publications. Benefits to the URAs who participate in this project include gaining qualitative research experience, expanding their research networks, and having the opportunity to co-author research publications and potentially work on future funded research.

Andrew Ballard, Department of Government

Scholars have long been interested in predicting which elected officials choose to run for higher office, or those who have progressive ambition. While thorough analyses of the types of politicians who ultimately run for higher office exist, past approaches give an incomplete account of progressive ambition due the high number of ambitious politicians who ultimately do not act on this desire for higher office. Excluding these inactive yet ambitious candidates from the progressive ambition candidate pool ultimately results in a conflating a lack of ambition and inactive ambition, because only the active and ambitious candidates are analyzed. The electoral efforts of political parties only exacerbate this problem, since party elites are able to effectively coordinate around candidates and winnow the field in the pre-primary stage, so party-approved legislators are much more likely to declare their candidacy for higher office. Furthermore, politicians running for higher office find themselves facing competing tensions between representing their current constituents and pitching themselves to the voters represented by the higher office which they are seeking. These tensions create incentives for ambitious politicians to use the tools of their current office as part of their ambitions for higher office. Specifically, Members of Congress are well-positioned to use their official communications platforms as a means of promoting themselves to a wider electoral audience. We seek to improve our understanding of progressive ambition among Members of Congress by analyzing the rhetorical strategies of members of the House of Representatives who are actively seeking higher. Specifically, using the text of all Congressional tweets, floor speeches, and press releases for all sitting House Members who ran for Senate or Governor between 1994 and 2018, we analyze the communications strategies of ambitious politicians in both the campaign and pre-campaign periods via an application of machine learning techniques for natural language processing.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
In order to study rhetorical factors that predict and explain progressive ambition among Members of Congress, we need research assistants to read and categorize Members’ tweets, press releases, and floor speeches according to important factors related to progressive ambition: emotional content, the degree to which messages fit with party-directed messaging campaigns, and Members’ propensity to talk about local versus national issues. We seek research assistants to reading through these documents and categorize them based on their emotional content (whether they contain anger, disgust, enthusiasm, and optimism) and whether messages are on brand with party messaging. Research assistants would also determine the phrases that members use to refer to localized interests (e.g. "my district", "my constituency") versus state or national interests (e.g. "my state", "our nation"). Research assistants will work closely on this project with a team of graduate students and faculty.

TaLisa CarterDepartment of Justice, Law & Criminology

Perceptions of justice have real-world implications. Individual beliefs about the criminal justice system, criminal justice professionals and broader concepts regarding justice manifest into law, policy, informal social interactions and everyday practices. Scholarship firmly establishes the differences in criminal justice experiences and outcomes for people based on their racial/ethnic identity. However, far less examine the role skin color plays in issues of justice. This project examines the relationship between perceptions of justice and colorism. Qualitative and quantitative data are collected. The next phase of the project involves data analysis.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
As a result of their work on this project, an undergraduate research assistant will build/strengthen a wide variety of research skills that can be applied within the criminal justice system and other social science disciplines. Duties of the research assistant include the following:

  • Reviewing literature on relevant topics.
  • Training on how to analyze qualitative data using the statistical software program NVivo according to human-subject protocols.
  • Working with the faculty member in preparing reports, manuscripts, and presentations that are appropriate for a range of audiences including academics and the general public.

Depending on progress, the assistant may have the opportunity for authorship on a peer-reviewed publication.

Bill Davies, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

The project is in the area of European legal history and looks specifically at the first hearing held at the European Court of Justice in 1954. The case heard was, in reality, not particularly significant, but what is of much greater interest are the procedural and symbolic preparations undertaken by this brand new court - envisioned to be Europe's Supreme Court - for its first ever hearing. Newly released archival materials detail records of preparations from drawing up court procedures to the style and color of judicial robes. This project, which will become a book, will describe and analyze that preparatory process.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
The archival materials are in the EU archive in Florence, but have been made available to me digitally. The archive materials are primarily in French, but with some in the other 3 EU languages at that time (German, Italian, Dutch). The student's assistance will be used to (i) where linguistically possible, work directly with the archival materials, and (ii) comparative archival and bibliographical research on the issue of how other major courts (SCOTUS, European national courts, international courts) have prepared for their opening hearings.

Seth Gershenson, Department of Public Administration & Policy

School closures and shifts to home schooling caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have re-ignited interest in the phenomenon of summer learning loss (SLL). SLL occurs when students learn at different rates (or even lose ground) during the summer vacation, where learning is measured by performance on standardized tests. There is much confusion and disagreement in the research literature about whether and to what extent SLL is a real problem. This confusion is largely due to researchers using different definitions of SLL and attempting to estimate the extent of SLL using wildly different methods and datasets.

The proposed project will provide a definitive review and discussion of SLL. It will proceed in three parts. First, we will provide a thorough literature review of the empirical evidence on SLL, socioeconomic and racial disparities in summer learning rates, and socioeconomic and racial disparities in access to school-like summer activities and resources. Second, we will review the methods used in those studies, present a proper empirical model of summer learning, and provide a list of best practices for researchers conducting research on SLL and related school closures. Here, will use the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study –Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) data to estimate SLL using our preferred method and showing how sensitive SLL estimates are to various modeling mistakes and choices. Finally, we will draw on the results of the first two parts of the study to offer guidance and predictions about student learning, socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps, and potential policy remedies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
An undergraduate research assistant (and hopefully an eventual co-author) would contribute to this project in three general ways. First, and most importantly, they would assist in the literature review phase of the project. Here, they’d assist in collecting and reading the articles on SLL that have been published since 1996, when the last serious review was conducted. Together we’d make tables that summarize each study’s data, method, and results. Second (and this part is optional), they will help with preparing the ECLS-K data and even running some of the empirical analyses to the extent that they’re interested and familiar with OLS estimation of linear regression models. Finally, for the conclusion where we extrapolate out to the Covid-related school closures, they’d help collect background information on when and where schools initially closed in the spring and re-opened in the fall. They’d then use publicly available data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to gather demographic data for those districts. Should the research assistant be interested in seeing the project through to publication in a peer-reviewed journal, I’d happily involve them in the writing process and include them as a co-author.

Robert Johnson, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

To improve my core class (The Prison Community) and to update my research on women in prison, I plan to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing research on women in prison, examining adaptation to prison and reentry upon release from prison. This review should lay the groundwork for future research.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
I would expect a student to take the lead in identifying existing research and developing an annotated bibliography of that body of research, which in turn could be mined to establish central themes in the literature and gaps in the literature that might be filled with future research.

Silvia Kim, Department of Government

This project seeks to build a preliminary understanding of how fundraising platforms ActBlue and WinRed respectively serve the Democratic and Republican parties in facilitating individual campaign contributions. The two conduits---alternatively referred to as intermediary committees---are alike but not symmetric. Both serve to advance, respectively left-leaning and right-leaning candidates, and both seek to tap into small and habitual donors. However, WinRed is endorsed both by President Trump and the Republican party and has features that support/endorse particular candidates. Several media reports also reported that the Republican party sanctioned candidates that did not switch their fundraising platform to WinRed. Despite their importance in recent elections, there are very few research works on conduits. This research project attempts to build key descriptive statistics and eventually to move on to causal questions. Some important descriptives are as follows: what proportion of federal candidates rely on conduits in their official campaign platforms? How much of their money comes through conduits? Who, within the Republican party, switched to the party-endorsed fundraising platform? Who did not? Did this switch (or lack thereof) affect the cash influx of campaigns? What key features differ between how ActBlue and WinRed process transactions, and what are the resulting political implications? I have collected preliminary data throughout the 2020 cycle and plan to continue the data collection into the 2022 election cycle. The data collection can be vastly improved, as it was put together hastily due to its time-pressing nature. I would benefit from help with data collection and cleaning.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
There is much data already gathered. However, the tools need to be improved if data collection is to be continued into future cycles. In addition, the existing datasets need additional work before analysis can be done, such as data cleaning and augmentation. I am most interested in research assistants that have experience in R (or are willing to learn fast) and are willing to get knee-deep in writing data collection code, data cleaning, and some manual augmentation. While working on this project, you will learn basic R for data science, tidyverse, project-based workflow, using version control with Git, and plenty of web scraping. Of course, I am hoping that the potential research assistant is interested in campaign finance. If you are already familiar with some of the aforementioned skills, that will be an added bonus. However, if not, this will be an opportunity to learn principled data collection and analysis.

Alan Levine, Department of Public Administration & Policy

I am seeking a research assistant to help me complete a manuscript entitled The Idea of America in European Political Thought: 1492 - 9/11. My book is about America as a symbol, one of the most powerful symbols of the modern world. Beginning with the “discovery” of America and spanning the 500 years until today, my project identifies four major periods of interpreting America: 1) the Spanish Renaissance theorists who first tried to explain this strange New World; 2) Enlightenment thinkers' attempts to explain America as the home of natural man; 3) the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reactions to the political experiment that is the United States; and 4) the twentieth century view of America as the epitome of technology.

We see that America has stood for two pairs of polar opposites: the essence of nature and the essence of technology as well as both the origins and the endpoint of the world; the Indians are said to represent the world’s beginning and the United States is perceived as the epitome of modernity and thus the world’s future. Despite these polar differences, my study also highlights surprising consistencies that European thinkers ascribe to America. For example, the Indians are variously described as innocent, naïve, child-like, simple, vulgar, shallow, and lacking depth and higher spirituality. These are essentially the same charges that European elites level at the United States today. My book argues that the fact that ways of life as opposite as the Indians’ and the United States’ are described in fundamentally the same terms indicates a problem in the substantive nature of the representations. It argues that European thinkers’ battle over America is largely a proxy war over their own hopes, fears, and anxieties for European civilization, the Enlightenment, liberalism, and modernity itself.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
I will ask a summer research assistant to: 1) take my class GOVT 408 in Spring 2021 which is on this topic and read some of my writing to get caught up on the project; 2) in coordination with me, choose some part(s) of the project with which I need research assistance to work on; and 3) research it. Research will consist primarily in finding texts and the careful analyzation of texts and arguments. This might mean finding and reading primary and secondary sources, summarizing arguments, finding relevant quotations, checking references, etc. I have done most of this already and will be asking an assistant to flesh out points, hunt down leads, and double check.

In normal times, much of this research would be library work (at AU, other area universities, or public collections such as the Library of Congress), but of course this might not prove feasible in our Covid age. In that case, accommodations will be made to do the best we can using online resources and deliveries. No specific background or knowledge is necessary, but familiarity with the history of Western philosophy (or, at least, Western history) and reading knowledge in a Western language in addition to English are plusses. I seek someone for 20 hours per week during the summer. During the following academic year, we will continue to work on this project through an Independent Study with the goal of publishing a journal article, for which you would receive formal recognition.

Thomas Merrill, Department of Government

Recent years have seen attempts to revitalize general education programs at colleges and universities across the United States. Yet which reform efforts will be successful in the long run is unclear. It is therefore useful for colleges and universities to think through and evaluate different approaches to general education. One such approach that is worth considering is core texts pedagogy. Core texts pedagogy aims to encourage an ethos of self-reflection and continuing inquiry by confronting students (and faculty) with rich, morally complicated texts of enduring historical value. These texts are diverse in disciplinary home (political science, philosophy, literature, history, African-American studies, and others) and in the race, gender, and political perspective of the authors. Core texts pedagogy has deep roots in American higher education and has institutional homes at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and Yale (the Directed Studies and Grand Strategy programs) as well as at many liberal arts colleges across the country. Moreover, there has been a resurgence of commentators reaffirming the basic approach of core texts pedagogy. Recent books arguing for version of this approach include Zena Hitz, Lost in Thought, Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead, and Anika T. Prather, Living in the Constellation of the Canon: The Lived Experiences of African-American Students Reading Great Books Literature. In this research project, I will be attempting to evaluate how well programs that use core texts pedagogy work. After reviewing the literature about this approach, we will contact faculty who run programs using core texts pedagogy and interview them about strengths and weaknesses of their programs. We are especially interested in the experiences of African-American students in such programs. We will write a report describing what we learn and hope to propose metrics for the evaluation of such programs.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
The main task for this project will be to identify, contact, and interview faculty using core texts pedagogy at different institutions. The research assistant will help will all aspects of that activity, including compiling a bibliography on this topic; contacting target faculty and setting up appointments with these faculty; and participating in (and possibly conducting some) interviews with the faculty we speak to. I have contacts at Columbia, the University of Chicago, Michigan State University, Notre Dame, Perdue, University of Houston, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Ursinus College, Mercer College, and Roosevelt University, among others, who would be appropriate for this project. The assistant will be required to transcribe and summarize these interviews. After that, the research assistant will work with me to write a report summarizing what we have learned. We will also try to formulate some preliminary criteria for a program of evaluation for core texts programs and think about what other modes of evaluation (like student interviews) would be useful for this project.

Ryan Moore, Department of Government

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election highlighted, state election laws shape the electorate and determine which votes count. This ongoing project seeks to build a comprehensive data set of state election laws from 1972 to the present; during the next year, we will maintain a special focus on the most recent changes to state election laws.
The data will be made available in stages on a public GitHub site, where researchers will be able to access the data and also contribute to its maintenance and updating. Professor Jan Leighley and Professor Ryan Moore, who is working as data scientist on the project, will be writing several papers--one on methods, one on research labs, another on measurement-- using the data before it is distributed to the scholarly community.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
Students will use Lexis/Nexis and other sources to collect data, code state election laws using an established classification scheme, maintain up-to-date bibliographic records, respond to coding and documenting issues raised by external research teams working with us to verify the utility of the data site and validity of the data measures. We look forward to teaching a new assistant valuable research skills.

Melissa E. Noel, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

The primary research question for this study is, “Whether and in what ways does the experience of parental incarceration impact young adults’ perceptions towards the criminal justice system?” In lieu of the exposure of racial discrimination and social injustices within the criminal justice system, the study aims to understand how young adults use their experience of parental incarceration to shape these perceptions of criminal justice legitimacy. The study seeks to examine young adults’ perceptions on institutions that may influence their life outcomes. This research project builds upon data collected among 19 young adults who have experienced parental incarceration to further understand these impacts of their perceptions. These interviews contain information on young adults’ viewpoints on whether the process that led up to their parent’s incarceration was handled fairly, the roles of criminal justice actors (e.g., police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, correctional officers, probation/parole officers), and areas in need of reform. The goal of the study is to unveil the effects of parental incarceration on young adults who are now emerging into adulthood and the consequences that may lead to their feelings of distrust and social exclusion.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
An undergraduate research assistant can assist with this research project in several ways. For example, tasks related to this research project would consist of the following: (1) conducting literature reviews related to legitimacy and perceptions toward the criminal justice system; (2) reading through interview transcripts and coding through a qualitative software program; (3) assisting in the recruitment process of additional participants for this study; (4) maintaining and organizing a list of community connections and organizations; and (5) transcribing interviews from new participants. This student would also be encouraged to attend virtual weekly check-in sessions to discuss the research process, additional training, and feedback on their workload. Overall, the goal is for this undergraduate research assistant to gain the ability to synthesize literature, develop qualitative research skills, and gain a valuable mentor-mentee experience.

Jane Palmer, Department of Justice, Law & Criminology

In the midst of calls for defunding the police and prison abolition, this project will focus on models, ideas, and initiatives that advance community-based responses to prevent or respond to sexual assault and intimate partner violence outside of the criminal legal system.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project? 
The research assistant will conduct background research, literature review, interviews, and possibly surveys to collect information on community-based responses to gender-based interpersonal violence, ways to measure the impact of these initiatives, and funding available for these types of initiatives.

Aparna Soni, Department of Public Administration & Policy

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, there was widespread concern that the nearly 30 million Americans who lack health insurance coverage would be disproportionately affected by both the coronavirus and the recession. The uninsured are more likely to be essential workers and unable to socially distance, which may lead to higher infection rates and greater levels of psychological distress. Moreover, uninsured people are more likely to have unmanaged chronic disease, and it is well-documented that the coronavirus is more likely to cause serious illness or death in patients who have worse baseline health. Several policymakers have expressed hope that Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income people, might protect those who are risk for uninsurance. In states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, many low-income workers facing job loss will become eligible for Medicaid. Indeed, early reports suggest that Medicaid enrollment increased by millions as the pandemic rolled out and that increases were driven by expansion states. However, there has been little empirical analysis of the correlation between Medicaid expansion and health and financial outcomes for low-income individuals.

This study will fill that gap by assessing the relationship between state expansion of Medicaid and physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing in a population of low-income, non-elderly adults in the United States. We will use newly available, nationally representative survey data to compare outcomes for adults living in expansion versus non-expansion states, before and after COVID hit. The final products of this research will be two academic research papers: the first on the impacts of Medicaid expansion on physical and mental health during the pandemic, and the second on the effect of the Medicaid expansion on financial wellbeing. Our findings will inform policymakers the efficacy of Medicaid expansion as a policy tool to combat COVID-19 and future pandemics.

How could an undergraduate research assistant contribute to this project?
This project offers the Research Assistant an opportunity to engage in multidisciplinary research cutting across the fields of policy, economics, and medicine. The Research Assistant will learn how to read and summarize academic papers, utilize online databases to gather data on state policies, and create data visualizations. Specific tasks include:

  1. Conduct a review of the existing policy literature on the interaction between Medicaid expansion and low-income people’s physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing during the pandemic. 
  2. Gather data on states’ Medicaid expansion status from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
  3. Download and clean survey data on individuals’ health and financial wellbeing from the Centers for Disease Control.
  4. Study the public health and health economics literatures and identify potential mechanisms through which health insurance may affect access to care and health status.
  5. Use Microsoft Excel, Stata, and other software to create figures and maps displaying trends and relationships between Medicaid expansion and health and financial outcomes.