Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

News from faculty and staff

Student services program assistant Mary Mead is now department administrator the design studies department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Human Ecology.

The La Follette School is one of nine institutions nationwide to be awarded a grant to provide insights into health reform, including issues related to state-level implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. Director Thomas DeLeire will lead the project, Planning for ACA Coverage Expansion: How Insurance Coverage for Childless Adults Will Affect Utilization. It is funded by a $199,708 grant from the State Health Access Reform Evaluation, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In another project, DeLeire shows that economic opportunity is not the same for everyone in the United States. While 84 percent of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents did at the same age, those born at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to stay there as adults. DeLeire and co-author Leonard Lopoo of Syracuse University conducted the study for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Poverty expert Tim Smeeding has edited another book, From Parents to Children: The Intergenerational Transmission of Advantage, published by Russell Sage Foundation. It explores how economic inequality in one generation leads to inequality of opportunity in the next. The contributors find that inequality in mobility-relevant skills emerges early in childhood in all of the countries studied. They use data from 10 countries with differing levels of inequality. The book compares whether and how parents' resources transmit advantage to their children at different stages of development and sheds light on the structural differences among countries that may influence intergenerational mobility.

Research by economist Barbara Wolfe explores the association between socioeconomic status and the hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory that stress is known to affect. Wolfe and her co-authors find that children from lower income backgrounds had lower hippocampal gray matter density than children from higher income families. The findings suggest that differences in the hippocampus, perhaps due to stress tied to growing up in poverty, might partially explain differences in long-term memory, learning, control of neuroendocrine functions and modulation of emotional behavior.

David Weimer has been elected vice president and presi-dent-elect of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis, an international group of practitioners, academics and others who seek to improve the theory and application of benefit-cost analysis.

In a series of presentations, economist Andrew Reschovsky has been addressing the public finance challenges U.S. cities face, public school financing, the effect of the housing crisis and the Great Recession on central city revenues. One analysis finds that although state governments are recovering from the severe budget crises caused by the Great Recession, city governments continue to face reduced revenues from the property tax and from state and federal grants.

Economist Menzie Chinn has been arguing that inflation is the best bet for beating the debt crisis and helping the global economy recover. He and co-author Jeffry Frieden of Harvard University have been making their case in articles and in media interviews. "Debtors — households, business and governments — find servicing their loans easier as prices and wages rise," Chinn says. "Once the real burden is reduced, borrowers can resume their regular economic behavior, which will stimulate investment and consumption." Noting that inflation is very low at the moment, Chinn and Frieden suggest inflation at a rate of 4 to 6 percent for several years. One option would be for the Federal Reserve to tie inflation to the unemployment rate. To avoid a decade of lost economic growth, Chinn says, banks and other financial institutions need to channel savings into productive projects, and households and firms need to go back to a more balanced mix of saving and spending that supports growth
and full employment.

Management expert Donald Moynihan won an award from the American Political Science Association in recognition of the impact his 2008 book has had on public administration scholarship. Moynihan received the Herbert Simon award for The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. The Academy of Management's Public and Nonprofit Division named it the best book for 2009. Last summer, Moynihan shared his expertise at three conferences, including a presentation of his research funded by the National Science Foundation on how different levels of government, non-profit and private actors can prepare to respond to crises.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has appointed political scientist Melanie Manion a Vilas-Jordan Distinguished Achievement Professorship. The honor demonstrates the high esteem in which Manion is held by the dean and her colleagues in the College of Letters and Science.

This compendium appears in the fall 2012 La Follette Notes newsletter for alumni and friends.