Skip to main content

Policy Briefs

Browse policy briefs below or find more briefs in our archive.

2020

Using Generalization to Improve  the Accuracy of Education Studies

Using Generalization to Improve the Accuracy of Education Studies

By Elizabeth Tipton, Jessaca Spybrook, Katie Fitzgerald, Qian Wang, and Caryn Davidson

If research studies are not based on the right combination of people, places, and contexts, then they are not much help in supplying evidence to make good policy. How can researchers best choose the classroom, school, and school district samples to evaluate educational programs? IPR statistician Elizabeth Tipton studies how to improve research methods so that evidence is more generalizable and provides concrete help for designing accurate studies.

Read the brief

Preliminary Neighborhood Level Impact Analysis Communities Partnering 4 Peace

Preliminary Neighborhood Level Impact Analysis Communities Partnering 4 Peace

By Andrew V. PapachristosSushmita V. GopalanRose WerthDawna Leggett, and David Hureau

In the summer of 2017, eight outreach organizations in Chicago joined together to create a comprehensive, long-term intervention to combat gun violence and gang activity. The initiative, Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), is mobilizing a four-pillar approach to violence. This brief presents preliminary results of a community-level analysis, looking at what happened to gun violence trends in CP4P treatment communities from 2017–19.

Read the brief

When Heating Is More Affordable, Fewer People Die

When Heating Is More Affordable, Fewer People Die

By Seema Jayachandran, Janjala Chirakijja, and Pinchuan Ong

Heating represents the largest portion of annual home energy spending in the United States, despite being used for only part of the year. Low-income households often face a difficult choice between paying for adequate heating or spending on other necessities. IPR economist Seema Jayachandran, Janjala Chirakijja (PhD 2018) of Monash University in Australia, and Pinchuan Ong, a Northwestern PhD student, are the first to find a direct effect between lower heating prices and a reduction in the number of Americans who die in winter.

Read the brief

Bipartisanship and Public Opinion

Bipartisanship and Public Opinion

By Laurel Harbridge-Yong and D.J. Flynn

The U.S. is facing historic levels of party polarization, along with some of the lowest approval ratings for Congress in decades. Yet existing research overlooks how the public responds to legislative gridlock—one of the most discussed consequences of partisan conflict. In a study, IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge-Yong and D.J. Flynn of the IE School of Global and Public Affairs find that while Americans generally prefer Congress to compromise instead of miring itself in gridlock, their commitment to avoiding gridlock hinges on the issue and which party is seen as winning. 

Read the brief

2019

Funding vs. Inaccuracy in the 2020 Census

Funding vs. Inaccuracy in the 2020 Census

By Bruce Spencer and Zachary Seeskin

The U.S. Census Bureau continues to prepare to launch the 2020 Census on April 1, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. In a recent working paper, statisticians Bruce Spencer of IPR and Zachary Seeskin of NORC (PhD 2016) weigh the importance of taking an accurate census count versus the financial expense of gathering information for the census. They find that while census accuracy is expensive, is it crucial. The census determines how many representatives each state gets and how federal dollars are distributed. Census error, exacerbated by past funding shortfalls, could easily shift seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and misallocate billions in federal funding, due to an inaccurate count.

Read the brief

2018

Predicting Police Misconduct

Predicting Police Misconduct

 

By Max Schanzenbach and Kyle Rozema

Police shootings have captured the public’s attention in recent years, leading to protests and a lack of trust in the police. A new study by IPR associate Max Schanzenbach, the Seigle Family Professor at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, and Kyle Rozema, the Wachtell Lipton Fellow in Behavioral Law and Economics at the University of Chicago Law School, identifies how civilian allegations can help reduce the gravest incidents of police misconduct by identifying which police officers pose the highest risk for serious misconduct

Read the brief

The Impact of Violent Crime on Sleep and Stress

The Impact of Violent Crime on Sleep and Stress

By Emma Adam and Jennifer Heissel

The United States registered nearly 1.25 million violent crimes in 2016. Strong evidence indicates that children exposed to violence in and around their neighborhoods suffer academically, but the mechanisms that explain how such crimes get “under the skin” are poorly understood. Jennifer Heissel (SESP PhD 17), who is on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School and a former IPR graduate research assistant, IPR developmental psychobiologist Emma Adam, and their colleagues studied sleep and the stress hormone cortisol in adolescents exposed to violent crimes in their communities. They found that adolescents’ sleep and cortisol patterns were disrupted the night and day following nearby violence, and that more violent crimes led to more serious disruptions. Disruption of both sleep and cortisol have been linked to poorer academic performance.

Read the brief

2017

Policies to Protect Workers from Wage Theft

Policies to Protect Workers from Wage Theft

By Daniel Galvin

Raising the minimum wage is a hot-button topic in the United States, yet the discussion often ignores “wage theft”, which includes when employers pay their employees below the minimum wage. Existing research views wage theft in economic terms—employers underpay their workers because the financial benefits outweigh the potential costs of getting caught—but IPR political scientist Daniel Galvin frames it as a policy issue. Analyzing wage- and-hour laws and minimum wage violations in all 50 states, Galvin finds that workers are significantly less likely to be paid below the minimum wage in states with stricter laws against wage theft. And states that have enacted treble damages—triple back pay as a penalty—have seen the steepest declines in wage theft. However, effective policies require three conditions: favorable partisan majorities in state government, determined coalitions of workers’ advocates lobbying for change, and strong enforcement of penalties. 

Read the brief

The Benefits of Increased School Spending

The Benefits of Increased School Spending

By Kirabo Jackson

Does money matter for schools? This controversial topic of debate originates with the influential 1966 Coleman Report that found no connection between how much money is spent per student and test performance. IPR economist Kirabo Jackson leads a study that takes a fresh approach beyond just examining K-12 standardized test results to observing long-term effects, such as how much students earn as adults. Examining changes in K-12 public school spending due to school finance reforms in 28 states, Jackson and his colleagues find strong ties between increased school spending and positive outcomes.

Read the brief

SNAP's Short- and Long-Term Benefits

SNAP's Short- and Long-Term Benefits

By Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is the fundamental safety net for American families, lifting 5 million people out of poverty in 2014 (the most recent data available). With more and more families receiving benefits from programs like SNAP, IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is examining the program’s short- and long-term effects. She finds that SNAP improves birth outcomes and long-term health for recipients, and leads to better economic outcomes for women.

Read the brief

2016

The Safety Net as an Investment

The Safety Net as an Investment

By Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays an important role in the lives of low-income children. After accounting for underreporting in the data, researchers have found that in 2012 the program lifted 4.9 million children out of poverty—and also lifted more than 2.1 million children out of deep poverty, defined as having an income level less than half of the poverty line. In addition, two-thirds of total SNAP benefits go to families with children. A growing body of evidence suggests it is particularly important to protect children from deprivation. In recent work the authors find that SNAP’s impact on children is large and the benefits endure into adulthood, especially when implemented at key developmental points in infancy and childhood.

Read Northwestern's press release

Read the brief