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Electoral Reform

A collection of Policy briefs Outlining Potential Improvements to US Elections

With the U.S. election season around the corner, voting rights considerations will once again take center stage. In collaboration with partners Common Cause Illinois and More Equitable Democracy, the Paul Douglas Institute’s Electoral Reform team is exploring policy solutions to expand voting access responsibly and equitably. The team’s four policy report groups will aid our partner organizations in their advocacy from Chicago to states nationwide.

Mobility and Health in Chicago

Exploring the Impact of Public Transportation on Individual
Well-Being in Chicago’s Communities

This paper investigates the impact of transportation accessibility on public health outcomes in Chicago, and OLS regression analysis finds that reliable transportation facilitates better healthcare access and promotes healthier lifestyles. We analyze how the availability of public transit correlates with various health metrics including obesity rates, chronic disease management, and access to healthcare resources. Using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression analyses, we explore the relationship between transit stop accessibility and health indicators such as routine checkups, prenatal care, and physical activity levels, while controlling for median household income. Our findings indicate that improved transit accessibility could increase the rates of early prenatal care and reduce physical inactivity, but the influence of socioeconomic status remains substantial. We also discuss the disparities in transit accessibility that exacerbate health inequities among Chicago’s South and West Side communities. The study highlights the critical role of public transportation in enhancing public health and offers policy recommendations to improve transit reliability and access, particularly in underserved areas. We provide recommendations for addressing transportation barriers that would ensure a more equitable urban environment that supports the health and well-being of all Chicagoans.

Safe Neighborhoods, Bright Futures

Investigating the Relationship between Urban Crime and College Enrollment in Chicago’s Public School System

Understanding the impact of different types of violent crime on college enrollment is crucial for developing effective strategies to support educational attainment in urban environments. Thus, this research paper investigates the relationship between violent crime and college enrollment in public school districts of Chicago, examining key distinctions between high, medium, and low crime areas. Theoretical frameworks, including social isolation, legal socialization, and strain theory, offer insights into the underlying mechanisms driving the relationship between crime and college enrollment. We analyze data from the official database of crime collected by the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Public Schools, which we obtained through a partnership with the Crown School of Social Work. We find a notable trend of increasing enrollment coupled with decreasing persistence in high and medium-crime areas, suggesting a need for targeted interventions. Proposed solutions aim to address the lack of support systems and the complexities surrounding college enrollment. In conclusion, this research underscores the interconnectedness between crime and education, emphasizing the importance of addressing socio-environmental factors to foster educational success in urban communities.

Tackling the Digital Divide?

Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) was an unprecedented expansion in the magnitude of broadband subsidies. While the ACP clearly reduced broadband costs for connected households, its effect on broadband subscription rates is unclear. In this paper, we employ a zip-code-level regression model using ACP claims and ACS data to estimate the effect of ACP deployment on new broadband subscriptions. We find consistently non-significant results. Our results suggest that the ACP likely resulted in fewer new subscriptions than prior estimates based on qualitative survey data.

The Environmental Justice Activist’s Handbook

The bedrock of the environmental justice movement confronts and ultimately seeks to dismantle a stark reality: America’s most toxic, contaminated environments are predominantly home to disadvantaged people of color. This glaring systemic flaw, termed environmental racism, is one that environmental justice activists from marginalized communities of color have fought against for decades. We have undertaken a project to examine a variety of case studies from across the country to identify five primary resources activists can use to advance their fight for justice. In our research, we have identified several underutilized topic areas that we believe are essential for furthering the cause of the Resilient Activist. Although not exhaustive, these areas encompass coalition building, leveraging representative offices, engaging with public hearing periods, accessing legal aid, and harnessing media coverage and attention.

Misinformation in Media

A solution-oriented investigation into media-borne misinformation and ‘fake news’

There has been a general death of empirical study into the proclivity of the elderly to believe or proliferate ‘fake news.’ The scholarly effort to investigate the impact of ‘fake news’ on old adults internationally has also been minimal. However, from the existing research, there is a general consensus that old adults are major targets of misinformation, and play a major role in sharing it via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. When such a politically powerful, yet vulnerable constituency has been consistently the unwitting target of misinformation campaigns, it is worth wondering first, why old adults are more susceptible to believing ‘fake news,’ and second, why they share it at disproportionate rates.

Data Science Education

Policy Playbooks for how to best implement data science education

These playbooks cover data science policy challenges. These will summarize the current landscapes and provide policy recommendations.

Renewable Energy and Infrastructure Investment

The Effectiveness of a Tax Incentive on Growth

Renewable energy (RE) investment is a necessary step towards reducing carbon emissions worldwide while meeting growing energy demand. There are many policies that seek to support a growth in RE capacity, with varying degrees of both political and economic success. Given the complex nature of energy markets and transmission, any concentrated effort of both public and private entities to make the green transition will result in inevitable trade-offs. Thus, in this paper, we first qualitatively analyze the political realities of RE investment and policy status in the United States, subsequently proposing an econometric analysis of the effectiveness of a specific support policy—tax incentives—in the United States using panel data and a time-series regression framework. The results—which we stress should be considered a preliminary analysis that seeks to raise further research topics—show that there are significant relationships between RE investment growth and the implementation of tax incentives. Such results suggest that, with support policies, the United States may be able to reach a double objective: increasing energy capacity and investment while also reducing carbon emissions and reaching a greener future. Our research also highlights potential future research areas and statistical analyses that may provide deeper and greater insight into the effectiveness of tax incentives on RE investment growth.

The Heart of Hyde Park

A Preliminary Analysis of the Relationship between Hyde Park Small Businesses and the University of Chicago

Small businesses are an integral component of their community – a role that has become increasingly impacted by external forces from the pandemic to gentrification of neighborhoods. Literature examining Chicago’s Hyde Park is virtually non-existent. This student project seeks to illuminate the role of small businesses in our community through a research paper and film. Interweaving the voices of small business owners with student survey responses, we provide an introduction into the small business community of Hyde Park and their nuanced relationship with the University of Chicago.

The Effects of Truth-In-Sentencing Legislation

How Truth in Sentencing legislation effects varied outcomes

“Truth-In-Sentencing” (TIS) refers to a broad set of laws first enacted in the United States in 1984 in the state of Washington.1 Subsequently in 1998, truth-in-sentencing laws were adopted in Illinois. These laws increased the minimum amount of time that incarcerated people must serve before they can be considered for release. Initially, the goal of these laws was to create greater transparency in sentencing as people would be required to serve the exact amount or close to the number of years they received on paper. It was also believed that judges would proportionately balance out the longer prison stay mandated by TIS by giving out shorter sentences in the first place. This did not turn out to be true, as the decrease in sentence length was insignificant so that prisoners stayed in prison longer for the same crimes

Proactive Fair Housing in Chicago

Options for City Policymakers

Despite progress towards fair housing in Chicago over the past 50 years, housing discrimination
remains a challenge across the city. Additionally, since the 2015 HUD rule Affirmatively Furthering
Fair Housing, the goals of fair housing programs are broader and more ambitious. In order to limit
ongoing discrimination and meet higher federal standards, the City of Chicago should consider the
following courses of action: Strengthening housing protected classes in line with other major US cities by explicitly protecting Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) holders, adding a separate and explicit reasonable accommodations provision, adding protections against discrimination based on alienage or citizenship, and expanding terminology around and creating examples of “gender identity discrimination”. Addressing discriminatory homeseeking by prohibiting agents from accepting the instructions of a client who asks for assistance in a search that avoids a protected class, broadening the category of advertising materials which must not contain discriminatory content, and including online postings. Protecting against changes in federal fair housing policy by incorporating Obama-era disparate impact burden-sharing standards in local law, seeking local-level accountability for housing-related algorithm use.

Automated Driving System Testing in

Trends in Collision and Disengagement Data

This report compares California’s regulations for ADS testing with a safety driver to five other states’ regulations. It analyzes self-reported disengagement and mileage totals for ADS equipped vehicles testing in California between 2014 and 2018 and collisions involving ADS equipped vehicles which occurred on or before April 14, 2019. Rear-end collisions made up 72% of reported collisions in autonomous mode. Approximately 78% of collisions resulted in minor damage. All reported collisions occurred within the Bay Area. Most Cruise collisions occurred in downtown San Francisco and most Waymo collisions occurred around Mountain View. Approximately 97% of collisions occurred on an urban street. Large numbers of a sample of 2018 disengagements listed issues with the ADS technology in the disengagement cause description. Software, planning, and perception discrepancy were each reported in disengagement causes significantly more than other words or phrases. Most of the disengagement cause descriptions which mentioned an object did not describe what the object was. External factors such as traffic lights or lane markings occurred much less frequently. There are significant differences in the requirements that companies must meet to test ADS with a safety driver from state to state. While the permitting process in California is similar to other states, test driver certification is generally more comprehensive. Of the six states compared in this report, disengagement reporting is unique to California, and only California and Pennsylvania require that entities simulate road testing conditions in a controlled environment.

Municipal Housing Law Enforcement in Chicago

Eviction and Just Cause Ordinances

This paper will provide a legal definition of eviction, a data-driven analysis of the impact of eviction in Chicago, and case-studies of big time landlords in various cities. Ultimately, it is stories of those facing eviction that offer a true definition. Eviction is the names, and the faces, and the stories of everyday Americans who lose their homes to profit driven, often faceless and corporate, landlords. Krystal’s story is the reality for millions of Americans, but this does not have to be the case. In our analysis, we explore the use of just cause ordinances and find that the current administration of Chicago recognizes the urgent need to change current eviction practices and would ultimately support the adoption of a Just Cause Ordinance.

An International Green New Deal

Executive Summary for the forthcoming 'Data for the Green New Deal' series

This brief is a summary of a larger report, currently under review, that proposes design components of an International Green New Deal. It discusses the impact of COVID-19 on international climate policy, proposes 5 key policy objectives, and delineates an implementation timeline for U.S. international policy from 2020 onwards.

The underlying report 1) presents a rather expansive review of international climate policy literature, with a focus on using the most up-to-date emissions data and climate projections throughout; there are 200+ unique references; 2) shares a new, more granular dataset on global carbon pricing as a rough proxy for global climate progress. For building the dataset, all emissions pricing initiatives reported in the World Bank Carbon Dashboard6 were individually analyzed, using direct government data where available. The data reveals we are greatly underpricing CO2, but even more substantially underpricing methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), which are 728-86x and 264-298x as powerful as CO2, respectively.

Breaking Down Barriers to Affordable Housing Through Dialogue

Two Case Studies from the Chicago Area

This study will add to our previous understanding by synthesizing accounts of how proponents of affordable housing respond to community intransigence. It will provide a framework for understanding how these activists counter opposition narratives based on concerns about property values and crime. It will further provide a blueprint for activists using existing community institutions to combat anti-integration sentiment.

Assessing the Illinois Referendum as a Tool for Democracy

In Collaboration with the Chicago Center on Democracy

This paper examines data on Illinois referenda in the context of findings from prior research on tools of direct democracy. We review existing literature on referenda and initiatives to conclude that their use drives more democratically-aligned policy outcomes and a more engaged populace, and that factors including policy topic, wording, voter turnout, and campaign spending can all significantly affect referendum outcomes, possibly undermining the referendum’s efficacy as a policy tool. We analyze data on Illinois referenda since 1980 to assess the impact of policy topic, election type, and election turnout. We find that Presidential elections and higher voter turnout both significantly negatively impact pro-referendum vote share, and that passage rate varies significantly with policy topic area.

Win-Win: Housing for People with Criminal Records (abr.)

Report by the Heartland Alliance with contributing research from the Paul Douglas Institute

In Illinois, 50% of the population is estimated to have an arrest or conviction record. That’s nearly 5 million people who face barriers to finding stable housing, which has proven to be foundational for employment success, family stability, and overall well-being. This report recommends a number of policies and practices—ranging from small changes to the more robust—for housing providers to use to increase housing opportunities for people with criminal records. This brief and set of recommendations was produced out of a diverse partnership, with each partner sharing deep expertise, including Cabrini Green Legal Aid:, Heartland Housing, Inc., Interstate Realty Management, LUCHA, Mercy Housing Lakefront, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and The Paul Douglas Institute at University of Chicago. The work was generously supported and catalyzed by The Chicago Community Trust’s Housing + Criminal Records Initiative. See the Heartland Alliance announcement for more.

Judicial Retention Elections in Cook County

What Determines the Retention Outcomes of Trial Judges?

In Cook County, judges are elected through partisan primary and general elections and are subject to voters’ scrutiny in retention elections at the end of their terms. This paper examines three different attributes of judges – length of tenure, gender, and quality of bar evaluations – and their relationships with the judges’ affirmative percentage votes received in retention elections. We find statistically significant relationships between each attribute and a judge’s retention vote percentage, but only the effects of bar evaluations are substantial: judges who are typically rated “qualified” earn on average 10.6% more of the vote than those who are typically rated “unqualified”.

Evictions per Filing in Illinois

Racially Disparate Patterns in Eviction Filing Outcomes

Recent research has highlighted the long-term consequences to tenants of receiving an eviction filing — even a filing that does not lead to an eviction. We examine census block group-level data to (a) determine which populations in Illinois are most affected by eviction filings that do not result in evictions, and (b) study the relationship between a census block group’s racial makeup and that its evictions per filing (EPF) rate — a measure of the likelihood that a given filing will result in a legal eviction. We estimate that while African Americans in Illinois from 2000 to 2016 are overall more likely to experience eviction filings and eviction judgments, they also experience the lowest EPF rate of any racial group, suggesting that they are the population most likely to have an unjustly marred eviction record. Specifically, we find that controlling for income and other factors, a 10 point increase in a census block group’s percentage of African-American residents is associated with a 4.4 percent decrease in that block group’s EPF rate.

A Universal Basic Income for Chicago

Simulating a supplementary UBI’s effects on the labor market, income distribution, and quality of life

We simulate the effects of a $500 per month Universal Basic Income (UBI) on the income distribution of Chicago. We generate a representative distribution of 10,000 Chicago incomes, then simulate the UBI transfer, a progressive income tax scheme to fund it, and the resulting decreases in labor supply. We find that our proposal leaves the poorest 78.8% of Chicago wealthier than before, and the poorest third will each see their incomes increase by at least 15%. We compare the UBI to three popularly-proposed alternative welfare policies. Finally, we combine observations about social conditions in Chicago with existing evidence from past UBI experiments to make qualitative predictions about the possible effects of UBI on quality-of-life outcomes such as mental health, nutrition, gender equality, hospitalization, and education.

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