The Public Policy Lab is led by our Director, Judith A. Levine and Associate Director, Colin J. Hammar.
The Public Policy Lab is grateful to our Advisory Board for advancing PPL’s mission and vision.
2021-2022 Research Fellows
Carm Regan Almonor is a PhD student in the Department of Africology and African American Studies at Temple University. Having both taught Philadelphia urban middle schoolers and practiced federal constitutional law in the public interest through published landmark cases, his scholarship merges the intricacies of interpersonal classroom culture and broad societal implications of major policy reforms.
Project Statement: My project argues for a cultural nexus in all categories of urban middle school conflict. I utilize personal participant-observer classroom ethnography along with multiple methods, theories and analytical devices from intersecting fields of public policy, cultural studies, law and education, etc. The cultural lens is used to reframe various patterned conflicts, from current debates over broadly termed critical race theory and segregation, to the disproportionate behavioral special education placement of Black boys and the fastest growing “Pushed Out” mistreatment of Black girls. Ultimately, my project surveys alternative cultural solutions from the literature and classroom observations to inform a proposed African American Children’s Learning Style Curriculum, tailored to the empirical contours of the conflict problem and its causes.
Courtney Berne is a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. Her research focuses on human-equine relationships within urban environments as they pertain to racialized mobilities, bodily agencies, and re-imaginings of spatial sovereignty.
Project Statement: By integrating ethnography with historical archives, my work seeks to link the history of Philadelphia’s horse drawn streetcar rail lines (1858-1897) to the current community of black horsemen who reside blocks away from an historic Horse Car Depot (1875) in north Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion. I hypothesize that the geographic location of the current stables occupied by the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club (2607-2611 West Fletcher Street) is a remnant of those associated with Philadelphia’s horse drawn streetcar railway system, and therefore an historical legacy that deserves recognition, preservation, and state sanctioned protection. This research is particularly timely in nature due to the already accomplished racialized dispossession of horse-grazing land on West Susquehanna Avenue, which the Riding Club had been using for decades. Current members of the Fletcher Street cowboy community live with the understanding that additional future zoning permits could be posted by the city, rendering their horses unable to remain in a neighborhood they have most likely occupied for over one hundred years (Jones, 2020). My research aims to help tell the broader story of this community to contextualize the unique and invaluable contribution of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club by situating them within an academically supported context while connecting the community to their localized origins.
Nicole Cochran is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Her research focuses on gender, labor, gig working, and the outcomes of neoliberalism.
Project Statement: My project focuses on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) failure to adequately protect consumers, specifically regarding Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) businesses. Using data from interviews with both current and former multi-level marketing participants, my work centers on network marketing companies that target women who are underemployed and seeking work opportunities and financial independence. MLM companies often utilize traditional ideas of gender and labor in order to recruit women, emphasizing one’s ability to work from home, spend time with their children, and set their own schedule. Although multi-level marketing has existed since the 1920s, little literature has documented the challenges of women recruited by these companies. 6.8 million Americans were involved in multi-level marketing in 2019, 74% of which were women, a figure that is projected to rise with the ongoing economic downturn amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The FTC estimates that 99% of network marketing participants lose money. Despite these overwhelming loss rates, FTC guidelines and consumer protection policies attempting to classify multi-level marketing companies as pyramid schemes have repeatedly been met by opposition from powerful lobbying groups.
Dr. Nyron N. Crawford is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Temple University. His teaching and research focus on the racial dynamics of public policy in American politics. He has additional interests in culturally responsive and equitable evaluation of programs designed to promote the well-being of children, families and communities. Professor Crawford received his doctorate in Political Science from The Ohio State University and has held academic appointments at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Project Statement: Too few people eligible for clearing of their criminal record take-up the program. In Michigan, Prescott and Star (2019) estimate that only 6 percent of eligible record-bearers petitioned for expunction. Elsewhere, local jurisdictions report similarly low levels of participation in public expungement events. Much of the existing literature emphasizes the ways in which justice-involved individuals, or record-bearers, are socially and economically punished well beyond the penalty imposed by the state. For example, Pager (2003) finds that applicants who had contact with the criminal justice system, particularly Black Americans, were less likely to receive a call-back from potential employers. Advocates recommend criminal record clearance as a policy option to help mitigate these kinds of collateral consequences. Previous research to date suggests expungements can boost employment rates and wages while reducing re-offending (Presscott and Star 2019; Selbin, Mccrary, and Epstein 2017; Schlosberg et al. 2014). Despite this evidence, take-up by eligible individuals remains low. What explain variation in participating in expungement programs? This project explores how administrative burdens produce barriers for record-bearers seeking to clear their criminal record.
Dr. Cheryl A. Hyde is Associate Professor in the School of Social Work (College of Public Health) at Temple University. Her areas of scholarship include community capacity building and civic engagement, multicultural education, feminist theory and practice, organizational transformation, diversity in human service organizations, social movements and social change, socioeconomic power and privilege, and macro practice ethics.
Dr. Johanna Jarcho is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Temple University. She has a joint appointment in the Cognition and Neurosciences Area and the Social Area, for which she is currently Director. Dr. Jarcho’s research bridges the areas of social, developmental, and cognitive neuroscience to study how social processes evolve during adolescence and change across the lifespan.
Project Statement: Annual public health costs associated with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and Alzheimer’s Disease Related Dementias (ADRD) are expected to increase from $305 billion to $1 trillion over the next three decades. Common genetic factors, such as being one of the 27% of Americans who carry the APOE e4 allele, are a non-modifiable risk for AD/ADRD that are associated with a 2-22-fold increase in susceptibility. Given the lack of a cure for AD/ADRD, there is a critical public health need to identify modifiable risk factors that may delay or prevent its onset. Initial evidence suggests that psychosocial factors, such as social disconnectedness, chronic rejection, and loneliness, may potentiate the relationship between genetic risk for AD/ADRD and expression of cognitive deficits. As such, psychosocial factors are promising modifiable risk factors to target via interventions. Because almost nothing is known about the mechanisms by which these psychosocial factors may buffer against risk for cognitive decline, progress towards developing effective interventions has been hampered. A critical first step towards developing novel interventions for AD/ADRD is to isolate features of social interactions with the greatest impact on self-reported affective responding and neural function. A multimodal approach is vital given that neural responses combined with APOE e4 carrier status are a better predictor of cognitive decline in older adults than behavioral or self-report measures. I propose to conduct a study in which older adults at high and low risk for AD/ADRD (due to APOE e4 carrier status) undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while rating their affective response to social interactions that vary on a number of dimensions (e.g., identity of interaction partner, domain of feedback, valence of feedback). We will assay distinct temporal phases of the social interaction to pinpoint whether neural response during the anticipation or receipt of feedback varies across high and low risk participants. Finally, because memory of social experiences may influence perceptions of social disconnectedness and loneliness, we will link neural response to subsequent memory for the type of feedback received. Neural and behavioral responses will be related to well-established measures of social disconnectedness, chronic rejection, loneliness, and cognitive function at the time of fMRI and at a 1-year follow-up session.
Dr. Rhiannon Jerch is Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Temple University. Her research uses applied methods in microeconomics to understand the relationship between urban growth dynamics, public goods provision, and environmental regulation.
Project Statement: Are man-made investments—like infrastructure—or natural advantages—like ports—more predictive of where economic activity clusters across space? My project will explore whether the initial siting of an urban sewage system is predictive of where economic activity clusters within the city of Philadelphia. I use historic maps of Philadelphia's earliest sewer lines from 1838 to test whether neighborhoods connected to these initial sewer lines are persistently wealthier, attract more businesses, and other major public investments (like public schools) today relative to neighborhoods that received sewer lines several decades later following centralized efforts by the city to expand the sewer system. A second component of this project will explore how early decisions about urban sewerage infrastructure affect health disparities today. I will test whether combined sewer systems—a vestige of nineteenth century engineering pervasive across over 700 US cities in the Northeast—lead to costly illnesses in local populations. On days with heavy rainfall, combined sewer systems can convey untreated sewage waste into local waterways. I will test whether exposure to these outfall events lead to significant health costs and whether such exposure risk is concentrated in economically dis-advantaged areas of a city. Results of this research will inform how urban infrastructure creates path dependence of economic activity and how such infrastructure affects health disparities.
Dr. Kevin Loughran is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Dr. Loughran researches urbanization and its intersections with race, culture, knowledge, political economy, and the environment.
Project Statement: My research project, “Global Warming, Urban Flooding, and Racial Inequality,” critically examines new public policies and urban plans that aim to combat the social impacts of flooding. The realities of climate change have prompted calls to enact mitigation and adaptation strategies, but policy responses in the US – including newly prominent programs such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which distributes federal funds to local jurisdictions to conduct “buyouts” of flood-prone homes – have been fragmented, and their social consequences are only beginning to come into view. My project investigates the divergent trajectories of emerging urban adaptation efforts with a particular focus on what these policies mean for racial inequality, residential mobility, and the urban future.
Dr. Ajima Olaghere is Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University. Her research focuses on advances our understanding of the interrelated nature of communities, place, policing, and reentry. She approaches her work with a strong belief that the act of research—the way researchers conduct themselves and their studies—Is critical to producing meaningful impact on policies, practices, and affected communities. In this regard, her orientation focuses on intentional, meaningful, and upfront community engagement on studies which will invariably affect the way local decision-makers implement quality of life policies at the place level.
Project Statement: I am planning to explore and examine whether police mobilization of community members translates to collective efficacy and residential management of places in micro communities. Micro communities are neighborhoods on a small scale or micro level like a street block. Two realities inform this project. First, the evidence about the efficacy of community-oriented policing (COP) is mixed. Second, broader concerns about fair and just policing and democratic calls for reduced and minimal reliance on police services to address residential issues. The decades of community disenfranchisement and marginalization from social, economic, legal, and political resources also informs the purpose of this project. This historical context of places complicates resident-driven innovation and management of solutions for improved quality of life. An understudied reality is at stake here. This reality concerns actualizing a renewed approach to community policing and the extent to which police officers and police departments can harness community capacity. The potential consequence for public policy is a shifting or shifted dynamic of police-community relations. Specifically, the potential for a partnership of mutual aid and support, when activated, between police and communities, as opposed to the status quo: imposition of control, containment, and the singular focus on the reduction of crime, and at the expense of addressing root causes.
Research Team Fellow
Dr. Laura A. Orrico is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Dr. Orrico uses qualitative and ethnographic methods to better understand everyday experiences of precarity in the urban context.
Project Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption in urban economies as well as the experience of work, layering onto preexisting vulnerabilities that workers face. Together with Ewa Protasiuk, this project examines the way "flexible" work arrangements, life circumstances, and social position may unevenly produce and distribute “precarity” during and following crisis. We use in-depth interviews with freelancers, artists, and entrepreneurs to explore the way work experiences become linked to additional arenas of life, such as childcare, health, and housing. Furthermore, we consider the development and role of innovative communities and collaborative endeavors that may have been created to fill supportive roles otherwise unmet by any social safety net. Rather than offering an economic snapshot, this qualitative focus on the challenges and opportunities people face, as well as the decisions people make, will better inform comprehensive policy suggestions that extend beyond short-term financial assistance.
Research Team Fellow
Ewa Protasiuk is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology and a research assistant in the School of Social Work at Temple University. Her research explores precarious and low-wage work, urban sociology, and policy implementation
Project Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption in urban economies as well as the experience of work, layering onto preexisting vulnerabilities that workers face. Entrepreneurs as well as the self-employed, while not always thought of as “workers,” are among those affected. Flexibility and autonomy are attractive aspects of entrepreneurship for many people; however, entrepreneurship itself is inherently risky, and the other side of flexibility can be precarity. Additionally, entrepreneurship itself can be a response to limited opportunity within the labor market. In turn, Dr. Laura Orrico and I are conducting a study which explores the experiences of entrepreneurs, the self-employed, and freelancers during the pandemic. We are curious about how they have navigated work throughout the pandemic, impacts on work and life outside of work, potential shifts in the meaning of work, and the interplay of policy in these dynamics. Additionally, we are interested in the role that place, such as the urban context or coworking space, has played in the experience of entrepreneurship and self-employment in uncertain times. Alongside my dissertation research on ongoing changes in the restaurant industry, this research seeks to shed light on work and inequalities in the urban context.
Dr. Viviane Sanfelice is Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Temple University. Her research lies on the broad field of applied microeconomics. Within this field she studies topics in urban, public, and development economics.
Project Statement: Crime imposes monetary and social costs on society. Removing firearms used in the commission of crimes or in illicit possession limits the ability of criminals to reoffend. This project measures whether the seizure of firearms by the police force has an impact on future crimes. Measuring this effect is hard because firearm seizure is by definition positively associated to both crime and policing dynamics, which in turn are correlated with the trajectory of crime rates. The empirical strategy leverages longitudinal data and uses exogenous variation on police allocation within a city to account for endogeneity from time varying confounders. Findings of this project could provide support for red flag laws and help on gun control laws and law enforcement strategies
Bohui Wang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Her research areas are race, immigration, sociology of education and labor market inequality.
Project Statement: My study explores the underlying mechanism of the lower returns to immigrant minorities’ foreign credentials. I investigate whether the human capital framework, which suggests a foreign education is of poorer quality, or the credentialism explanation, which implies that a foreign education has lower status, better explains why a foreign education translates into lower returns in the U.S. labor market.
- Visit our Past Fellows Archive Page to view Past Fellows.