Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

The La Follette School Seminar Series engages participants in discussion of a range of public policy issues and showcases the research of faculty from the La Follette School, other UW-Madison departments, and outside the UW-Madison community. Faculty, students, and visitors take part in lively dialogue about topics such as poverty and welfare, health, education, international affairs, trade and finance, and the environment. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Unless otherwise noted, all presentations are from 11 a.m. to noon at the La Follette School of Public Affairs, 1225 Observatory Drive, and there is no cost to attend. Click here for a printable schedule. Please check back periodically for the most current information.

Spring 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Quality Measurement in Israeli Health Care: Technical Tools in Health System Context
David Chinitz, a professor of health policy and management in the School of Public Health at Hebrew University and Hadassah in Jerusalem, will discuss his paper about measuring and reporting the quality of health care, which has become an assumed feature of health systems around the world. His paper shows only sporadic knowledge about the impact of quality-measurement programs and even less about how such tools are integrated into the culture of health care delivery organizations. Chinitz will offer comparisons to quality measurement in the United States.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Beyond Incarceration: Criminal Justice Contact and Mental Health
Kristin Turney, an associate professor sociology at the University of California-Irvine, will examine the relationship between criminal justice system contact and mental health. Turney's research - stemming from a rich tradition of social stratification inquiry - shows that arrest, conviction, and incarceration have similarly deleterious associations with mental health, although some evidence shows that certain types of incarcerations are more consequential. She uses a variety of theoretical perspectives, methodological strategies, and population-based data sources to unravel puzzle about family inequality and how the institution of the family interacts with other societal institutions, such as the educational system and the penal system.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Public-Private Differences in Frontline Discrimination among Belgium Elderly Care Organizations
Sebastian Jilke, an assistant professor at Rutgers University's School of Public Affairs and Administration, will discuss his project that studied the extent to which frontline workers discriminate against ethnic minorities who want to learn about how to access elderly-care services. To test their theoretical predictions, Jilke and others performed a field experience across all Belgium elderly-care organizations. This seminar is co-sponsored by the Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence at UW-Madison.

February 21, 2017
Local Ordinances Designed to Control Payday Lending
Robert Mayer of the University of Utah will discuss his 18-month study that documents how local communities positively organize to control payday lending in their jurisdictions and thereby create important legal change.

Mayer, a professor of family and consumer studies, and Nathalie Martin of the University of New Mexico traveled to three regions - northern California; metropolitan Dallas, Texas; and the Salt Lake City region - to see how local entities produced ordinances aimed at halting the spread of payday lending.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Nudging Diversity: Field Experiments in Police Recruiting
Elizabeth Linos of The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) North America will present her study on performance gaps in testing between non-white and white police force applicants that is unrelated to ability or future job performance. Linos and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial in cooperation with a United Kington police force that was experiencing a disproportionate drop in minority applicants at one stage in its assessment process, the Situational Judgment Test (SJT).

After redesigning the email message to applicants about participating in the SJT, they found a 50 percent increase in the probability of passing the test for black and minority ethnic applicants. The intervention closed the racial gap in the probability of passing the test without lowering the standard or changing the assessment questions.

This seminar is co-sponsored by the Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence at UW-Madison.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Democracy in Crisis - Or Politics as Usual?
On both sides of the Atlantic, commentators suggest that democracy is in crisis. Some even say that we are witnessing the decline of the West or the end of the liberal world order. Are these commentators right - and if so, what is the cause of democracy's decline? Or are they entirely wrong? Perhaps we are just witnessing a return to "politics as usual" after a period of unusual calm in the life of leading Western states.

Alasdair Roberts' most recent book, "Four Crises of American Democracy," was published by Oxford University Press in January. Roberts is a Professor of Public Affairs at the Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri. This seminar is co-sponsored by the Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence at UW-Madison.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Politicized Bureaucracy in a Merit-based System: Permanent Secretaries’ Tenure in the UK
Oliver James of the University of Exeter, UK, will discuss his research on neutral, non-party political employment of senior government officials. The United Kingdom often is considered the archetypal case for this important model of government organization. Following political change, though, the conventional wisdom needs revision, with associated implications for government expertise and responsiveness.

This seminar is co-sponsored by the Jean Monnet European Union Center of Excellence at UW-Madison.

Thursday, April 6, 2017
La Follette School Spring Symposium
Europe in Crisis: The Future of the EU and Transatlantic Relations, Discovery Building

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Measuring and Charting the Development of and School Impacts on Student Social-Emotional Learning
Andrew Rice, vice president of Education Analyticswill summarize two papers that exploit data from the first large-scale panel survey of students on four social-emotional constructs: growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. Rice is vice president of research and operations for Education Analytics, a Madison-based nonprofit organization working across the country to solve tough problems with reach and actionable solutions that improve education systems for all students. An economist, Rice leads the organization's technical division and advises on policy implications of his work.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Putting Representative Bureaucracy to Test: A Meta-Analysis of Individual-Level Data of the Outcomes of Police Vehicle Stops
Representative bureaucracy (RB) theory suggests that the ethnic identity of public sector employees matters for their implementation of bureaucracies’ legal mandates vis-à-vis ethnic minorities. RB theory seems particularly pertinent to the relations between the police and minorities in the United States. Sharon Gilad of Hebrew University in Jerusalem puts RB theory to test by aggregating data from existing research, as well as original datasets, to gauge differences between Caucasian and minority police officers’ inclination to use their formal powers to ticket, search, and arrest when stopping Caucasian and minority drivers. Tentative findings suggest that minority police officers are less inclined to make use of their powers to search and arrest drivers, regardless of their ethnicity. These findings provide partial support for RB theory.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
The Economic Returns to Interventions that Increase Learning
In the past decade, hundreds of studies have measured the learning outcomes of education interventions. The impact sizes often are reported in terms of "standard deviations," making them difficult to communicate to policymakers beyond education specialists. David Evans of the World Bank will discuss two alternative approaches to demonstrate the effectiveness of learning interventions: one in "equivalent years of schooling" and another in terms of the net present value of increased lifetime earnings. The results demonstrate that many interventions deliver sizeable learning gains relative to business-as-usual schooling.

Past Seminars