Policy Analysis

Pension Obligation Bonds and Government Spending

Pension Obligation Bonds and Government Spending
Public Budgeting and Finance, 33(4):43-65

Thad Calabrese and Todd Ely
10/29/2013

We examine the use of pension obligation bonds (POBs) as a financing strategy to address the effects of unfunded pension liabilities on government operating budgets. POBs are publicly marketed as money-saving mechanisms that reduce pension system payments while allowing for increased spending on other government priorities. We review general POB usage and examine whether POBs altered school district spending patterns in Oregon and Indiana. Our results indicate that districts issuing POBs have not increased educational spending relative to other districts. Because POBs cost money to issue and manage, decision makers are encouraged to consider annual budgetary effects prior to issuance.

Calorie Labeling, Fast Food Purchasing and Restaurant Visits

Calorie Labeling, Fast Food Purchasing and Restaurant Visits
Obesity, 21: 2172–2179. doi: 10.1002/oby.20550

Elbel, B., Mijanovich, T., Dixon, L. B., Abrams, C., Weitzman, B., Kersh, R., Auchincloss, A. H. and Ogedegbe, G.
10/17/2013

Objective
Obesity is a pressing public health problem without proven population-wide solutions. Researchers sought to determine whether a city-mandated policy requiring calorie labeling at fast food restaurants was associated with consumer awareness of labels, calories purchased and fast food restaurant visits.

Design and Methods
Difference-in-differences design, with data collected from consumers outside fast food restaurants and via a random digit dial telephone survey, before (December 2009) and after (June 2010) labeling in Philadelphia (which implemented mandatory labeling) and Baltimore (matched comparison city). Measures included: self-reported use of calorie information, calories purchased determined via fast food receipts, and self-reported weekly fast-food visits.

Results
The consumer sample was predominantly Black (71%), and high school educated (62%). Postlabeling, 38% of Philadelphia consumers noticed the calorie labels for a 33% point (P < 0.001) increase relative to Baltimore. Calories purchased and number of fast food visits did not change in either city over time.

Conclusions
While some consumers report noticing and using calorie information, no population level changes were noted in calories purchased or fast food visits. Other controlled studies are needed to examine the longer term impact of labeling as it becomes national law.

Public Policy Investment: Risk and Return in British Politics

Public Policy Investment: Risk and Return in British Politics
British Journal of Political Science, 43, pp 741-773. doi:10.1017/S0007123412000567.

Anthony M. Bertelli and Peter John
10/01/2013

This article sets out and tests a theory of public policy investment – how democratic governments seek to enhance their chances of re-election by managing a portfolio of policy priorities for the public, analogous to the relationship between investment manager and client. Governments choose policies that yield returns the public values; and rebalance their policy priorities later to adjust risk and stabilize return. Do the public reward returns to policy capital or punish risky policy investments? The article investigates whether returns to policy investment guide political management and statecraft. Time-series analyses of risk and return in Britain 1971–2000 reveal that risk and return on government policy portfolios predict election outcomes, and that returns, risk profiles and the uncertainty in public signals influence the prioritization of policies.

Democratization and Universal Health Coverage: A comparison of the experiences of Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal

Democratization and Universal Health Coverage: A comparison of the experiences of Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal
Global Health Governance, 6(2): 1-27.

Grépin, Karen and Kim Yi Dionne
09/23/2013

This article identifies conditions under which newly established democracies adopt Universal Health Coverage. Drawing on the literature examining democracy and health, we argue that more democratic regimes – where citizens have positive opinions on democracy and where competitive, free and fair elections put pressure on incumbents – will choose health policies targeting a broader proportion of the population. We compare Ghana to Kenya and Senegal, two other countries which have also undergone democratization, but where there have been important differences in the extent to which these democratic changes have been perceived by regular citizens and have translated into electoral competition. We find that Ghana has adopted the most ambitious health reform strategy by designing and implementing the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). We also find that Ghana experienced greater improvements in skilled attendance at birth, childhood immunizations, and improvements in the proportion of children with diarrhea treated by oral rehydration therapy than the other countries since this policy was adopted. These changes also appear to be associated with important changes in health outcomes: both infant and under-five mortality rates declined rapidly since the introduction of the NHIS in Ghana. These improvements in health and health service delivery have also been observed by citizens with a greater proportion of Ghanaians reporting satisfaction with government handling of health service delivery relative to either Kenya or Senegal. We argue that the democratization process can promote the adoption of particular health policies and that this is an important mechanism through which democracy can improve health.

Scientific Publications on Firearms in Youth Before and After Congressional Action Prohibiting Federal Research Funding

Scientific Publications on Firearms in Youth Before and After Congressional Action Prohibiting Federal Research Funding
Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA];310(5): 532-533.

Ladapo, Joseph, Benjamin Rodwin, Andrew M. Ryan, Leonardo Trasande, Jan Blustein
09/04/2013

In January 1996, Congress passed an appropriations bill amendment prohibiting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using “funds made available for injury prevention … to advocate or promote gun control.” This provision was triggered by evidence linking gun ownership to health harms, created uncertainty among CDC officials and researchers about what could be studied, and led to significant declines in funding. We evaluated the change in the number of publications on firearms in youth compared with research on other leading causes of death before and after the Congressional action. We focused on children and adolescents because they disproportionately experience gun violence and injury.

Medicaid's Next Metamorphosis

Medicaid's Next Metamorphosis
Public Administration Review, Vol 73, no. 4

Charles Brecher and Shanna Rose
08/20/2013

Medicaid’s transformation since its inception rivals the biological changes of metamorphosis, and that process is not yet over. Past metamorphoses are the change from a small program with eligibility linked to the states’ cash welfare benefits to one with national eligibility standards covering many not receiving cash benefits, from a traditional fee-for-service payment program to one dominated by capitated managed care arrangements, and under the ACA to a widely accepted component of a national system for near universal insurance coverage. An analysis of the forces behind these significant changes suggests that future transformations are likely, and four potential scenarios are presented and assessed.

Policy Agendas in British Politics

Policy Agendas in British Politics
Comparative Studies of Political Agendas Series; Palgrave Macmillan August 2013. ISBN 9780230390393.

Peter John, Anthony Bertelli, Will Jennings, Shaun Bevan
08/01/2013

Through a unique dataset covering half a century of policy-making in Britain, this book traces how topics like the economy, international affairs, and crime have changed in their importance to government. The data concerns key venues of decision-making - the Queen's Speech, laws and budgets – which are compared to the media and public opinion. These trends are conveyed through accessible figures backed up by a series of examples of important policies. As a result, the book throws new light on the key points of change in British politics, such as Thatcherism and New Labour and explores different approaches to agenda setting helping to account for these changes: incrementalism, the issue attention cycle and the punctuated equilibrium model. What results is the development of a new approach to agenda setting labelled focused adaptation whereby policy-makers respond to structural shifts in the underlying pattern of attention.

How New York Housing Policies Are Different -- and Maybe Why

How New York Housing Policies Are Different -- and Maybe Why
In Andrew Beveridge and David Halle, New York City-Los Angeles: The Uncertain Future. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Ellen, I.G. & O'Flaherty, B.
05/07/2013

Almost everyone says New York City is exceptional, and many people think that housing is one of the most exceptional aspects of New York life. But New York’s housing conditions are not so different from those in other large US cities, or at least not in the ways that are commonly believed. Policies, not conditions, are what truly set New York’s housing market apart.  Our aim in this chapter is to describe New York City’s policies, to explore how and why they differ from those in Los Angeles and other large cities, and whether they have shaped how New York City’s housing market has weathered the recent downturn. The policies we consider are public housing, in rem properties, other subsidized housing, rent regulation, housing allowances, city capital subsidies for construction and rehabilitation, special needs housing, local tax structures, and building codes. Do unusual housing market conditions lead to these unusual policies? Do some common factors cause both unusual policies and conditions? Naturally, we cannot answer these questions definitively. But we can offer some alternative explanations.

Politics, management, and the allocation of arts funding: evidence from public support for the arts in the UK

Politics, management, and the allocation of arts funding: evidence from public support for the arts in the UK
International Journal of Cultural Policy, 20:3, 341-359, DOI: 10.1080/10286632.2013.786057

Anthony M. Bertelli, Jennifer M. Connolly, Dyana P. Mason & Lilian C. Conover
04/16/2013

Studies of distributive public policy claim that electoral incentives shape the geographic distribution of government grants to individuals and organizations, such as those in arts and culture. Public management scholarship suggests that managers bring value to their communities and stakeholders within them through their capacity and skill. This study combines these literatures in a quantitative study of the geographic distribution of Grants for the Arts (GFA) in the UK between 2003 and 2006. Employing statistical regression techniques for count data, we find that GFA program in this period had a nonignorable distributive political character. Local authorities with swing voters for the governing party in Westminster received more GFA grants than did local authorities with its core supporters. We also find significant evidence that, at the same time, well-managed local authorities, as measured by performance assessment ratings, act as a magnet for GFA grants. Our conceptual discussion, quantitative modeling strategy, and results blend distributive politics and public management in a novel way for the study of cultural policy.

Balanced Budget Requirements and State Spending: A Long-Panel Study

Balanced Budget Requirements and State Spending: A Long-Panel Study
Public Budgeting & Finance 33(2): 1-18.

Smith, Daniel L., and Yilin Hou.
01/01/2013

This study tests the effects of balanced budget requirements on three measures of state expenditure using data on 48 states for the years 1950 to 2004. We find that the following rules are effective in constraining expenditures: 1) requiring that the governor submit a balanced budget; 2) placing controls on supplemental appropriations; and 3) prohibiting the carry-over of a deficit from one fiscal year or biennium into the next. The latter two rules exert larger individual effects than the first. All else equal, states can best improve their prospects of reigning in spending by instituting technical rules that govern budgetary outcomes, as opposed to political rules that dictate how the budget is assembled and approved. 

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