Policy Analysis

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.

Putting a Price on the Welfare of Our Children and Grandchildren

Putting a Price on the Welfare of Our Children and Grandchildren
In "The Globalization of Cost-Benefit Analysis in Environmental Policy", edited by Michael A. Livermore, and Richard L. Revesz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Maria Damon, Kristina Mohlin, and Thomas Sterner
02/04/2013

Discount rates have a profound effect on estimates for costs and benefits that accrue over time or in the future. Given that minute differences in discount rates can result in enormous differences in future values, discounting implicates moral as well as technical issues. This chapter reviews some of the main issues that discounting presents and discusses some important recent debates over time-varying discount rates and the importance of relative prices when examining effects of public policy in the far future. The authors also collect and discuss the discount rates currently used by decision makers around the world, and explain how differences in level of development should and should not affect the discount rates used by analysts.

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. 

State Unemployment Insurance Trust Solvency and Benefit Generosity

State Unemployment Insurance Trust Solvency and Benefit Generosity
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 32(3): 536-53.

Smith, Daniel L., and Jeffrey B. Wenger.
01/01/2013

This paper employs panel estimators with data on the 50 American states for the years 1963 to 2006 to test the relationship between Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund solvency and UI benefit generosity. We find that both average and maximum weekly UI benefit amounts, as ratios to the average weekly wage, are higher in states and in years with more highly solvent trust funds. This result holds after controlling for state-level unemployment rate, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), population growth, legislative political ideology, partisan control of the executive and legislative branches, and gubernatorial election year across multiple specifications, including fixed-effects and dynamic panel estimators. We propose a theory of moderate coupling as the causal mechanism, whereby UI program benefits and financing are directly related but are not as tightly linked as in other social insurance programs, such as Medicaid. The findings have important policy implications for the funding of states’ UI systems. As a consequence of moderate coupling, the countercyclicality of the UI program is dampened. 

From Endeavor to Achievement and Back Again: Government's Greatest Hits in Peril

From Endeavor to Achievement and Back Again: Government's Greatest Hits in Peril
In To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government. Steven Conn, Ed., Oxford Univeristy Press

Paul C. Light
07/01/2012

"These 10 articles from leading scholars address federal government activism in such areas as health, education, transportation, and the arts. In some areas, federal involvement has been direct; for example, while school public systems are governed locally, Washington provides about 10% of k–12 funding. Similarly, antipoverty programs, such as the New Deal’s Social Security Act and Aid for Dependent Children, have played a major role in reducing the poverty rate from around 40% in 1900 to 11.2% in 1974. At other times, Washington has exerted influence more subtly, through regulations and research. Examples include the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which mandated the separation of investment and commercial banking and the WWII-era research that yielded compounds to prevent and cure malaria, syphilis, and tuberculosis. Further, as public policy scholar Paul C. Light points out in a fascinating concluding piece, more than two-thirds of leading governmental initiatives have been supported by both Democratic and Republican administrations. However, Light adds, the massive tax cut in 2001 “continue[s] to constrain federal investment in problem solving.” The scholars brought together by Ohio State historian Conn (History’s Shadow) persuasively demonstrate how the growth of “big government” throughout the 20th century has benefited ordinary Americans so comprehensively and unobtrusively that they have often taken it for granted."

Publishers Weekly

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-19-985855-2

Performance Measurement and Evaluation Systems: Institutionalizing Accountability for Governmental Results in Latin America

Performance Measurement and Evaluation Systems: Institutionalizing Accountability for Governmental Results in Latin America
In S. Kushner & E. Rotondo (Eds.), Evaluation voices from Latin America. New Directions for Evaluation, 134, 77–91.

Cunill-Grau, N., & Ospina, S. M.
06/08/2012

Results-based performance measurement and evaluation (PME) systems are part of a global current in public administration. In the Latin American context, this trend is also a reflection of the broader processes of reform of the latter half of the 20th century, including the modernization of public administration, as well as broad processes of decentralization and democratization, both of which are dimensions of development in Latin America, regardless of the political and ideological orientation of specific governments. This chapter documents the development of such evaluative approaches to organizational quality and raises some issues for further discussion.

Environmental Policies and Political Realities: Fisheries Management and Job Creation in Pacific Island Countries and Territories

Environmental Policies and Political Realities: Fisheries Management and Job Creation in Pacific Island Countries and Territories
Journal of Environment and Development

Maria Damon and Joshua Graff Zivin
05/07/2012

Effective environmental policymaking requires an understanding of how environmental goals interact with other political goals. This article analyzes development strategies in the PICT’s, where policymakers aim to leverage tuna resources into sustainable economic development and job creation. The authors develop a model that analyzes costs and benefits of different development strategies, with a focus on job creation and local socioeconomic factors that drive optimal policy mixes across PICTs. The analysis demonstrates that investment in fisheries management can effectively encourage economic development and create employment opportunities, and compare this strategy to others such as selling access permits and investing in processing capacity. While many benefits of fisheries management are widely recognized, its ability to create high-quality employment opportunities is often overlooked. For many PICTs, this may represent the lowest cost strategy for jobs creation and, coupled with selling fishery access to foreign vessels, can form a strong basis for economic development plans.

Policy Instruments for Sustainable Development at Rio +20

Policy Instruments for Sustainable Development at Rio +20
Journal of Environment and Development, June 2012

Maria Damon and Thomas Sterner
04/30/2012

Twenty years ago, governments gathered for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The “Rio Declaration” laid out several principles of sustainable development, including the central role of policy instruments. In this article, we take stock of where we stand today in implementing sound and effective environmental policy instruments throughout the world, particularly in developing and transitional economies. We argue that, as our experience with market-based environmental policies has deepened over the past two decades, so has the ability to adapt instruments to complicated and heterogeneous contexts—but we are only just beginning, and the need to be further along is dire. One key factor may be that economists have not yet meaningfully accounted for the importance of political feasibility, which often hinges on risks to competitiveness and employment, or on the distribution of costs rather than on considerations of pure efficiency alone.

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