Social Policy

Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights

Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights
Furman Center Policy Brief; March 2014

Vicki Been, John Infranca, Josiah Madar, Jessica Yager
03/19/2014

A new report by the NYU Furman Center details the untapped potential for NYC’s transferable air rights program, a critical tool for high-density housing development in New York City. Using case study examples, the report outlines limitations to the city’s current TDR policies and suggests a policy approach that could unlock millions of square feet of unused air rights to help produce more affordable housing.

Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools

Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools
Journal of Housing Economics 23(1), 2014: 28-40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhe.2013.11.005

Ingrid Gould Ellen, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Keren Horn
03/06/2014

The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. Rather than concentrating low income households in designated developments, vouchers allow families to choose their housing units and neighborhoods. In this project we explore whether low income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. Unlike previous experimental work, which has focused on a small sample of voucher holders constrained to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, we look at the voucher population as a whole and explore the broad range of neighborhoods in which they live. Relying on internal data from HUD on the location of assisted households, we link each voucher holder in the country to the closest elementary school within their school district. We compare the characteristics of the schools that voucher holders are likely to attend to the characteristics of those accessible to other households receiving place based housing subsidies, other similar unsubsidized households and fair market rent units within the same state and metropolitan area. These comparisons provide us with a portrait of the schools that children might have attended absent HUD assistance. In comparison to other poor households in the same metropolitan areas, we find that the schools near voucher holders have lower performing students than the schools near other poor households without a housing subsidy. We probe this surprising finding by exploring whether differences between the demographic characteristics of voucher holders and other poor households explain the differences in the characteristics of nearby schools, and whether school characteristics vary with length of time in the voucher program. We also examine variation across metropolitan areas in the relative quality of schools near to voucher holders and whether this variation is explained by economic, socio-demographic or policy differences across cities.

Partisan Priorities: How Issue Ownership Drives and Distorts American Politics

Partisan Priorities: How Issue Ownership Drives and Distorts American Politics
Cambridge University Press.

Egan, Patrick J.
07/22/2013

Americans consistently name Republicans as the party better at handling issues like national security and crime, while they trust Democrats on issues like education and the environment – a phenomenon called “issue ownership.” Partisan Priorities investigates the origins of issue ownership, showing that in fact the parties deliver neither superior performance nor popular policies on the issues they “own.” Rather, Patrick J. Egan finds that Republicans and Democrats simply prioritize their owned issues with lawmaking and government spending when they are in power. Since the parties tend to be particularly ideologically rigid on the issues they own, politicians actually tend to ignore citizens' preferences when crafting policy on these issues. Thus, issue ownership distorts the relationship between citizens' preferences and public policies.

Financial Incentives and Fertility

Financial Incentives and Fertility
Review of Economics and Statistics, Volume 95 (Number 1), March 2013, pp. 1-20.

Dehejia, Rajeev and Alma Cohen.
03/01/2013

This paper investigates how fertility responds to financial incentives. We construct a large, individual-level panel data set of over 300,000 Israeli women during the period 1999–2005 with comprehensive information on their fertility histories, education, religious affiliation, ethnicity, and income. We exploit variation in Israel’s child subsidy program to identify the impact of changes in the price of a marginal child on fertility. We find a positive, statistically significant, and economically meaningful price effect on fertility. This positive effect is strongest for households in the lower range of the income distribution, weakens with income, and is present in all religious and ethnic subgroups. There is also a significant price effect on fertility among women who are close to the end of their lifetime fertility, suggesting that at least part of the effect that we estimate is due to a reduction in total fertility. Finally, we investigate how changes in household income affect fertility choices. Consistent with Becker (1960) and Becker and Tomes (1976), we find that the income effect is small in magnitude, and is negative at low income levels and positive at high income levels.

Growing Older in Hong Kong, New York and London

Growing Older in Hong Kong, New York and London
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. Hong Kong, 2012.

P. Chau, J. Woo, M. Gusmano, D. Weisz, and Rodwin, V.
05/08/2012

Declining birth rates, increasing longevity and urbanization have created a new challenge for cities: how to respond to an ageing population. Although population ageing and urbanization are not new concerns for national governments around the world, the consequences of these trends for quality of life in cities has only recently started to receive attention from policy makers and researchers. Few comparative studies of world cities examine their health or long-term care systems; nor have comparisons of national systems for the provision of long-term care focused on cities, let alone world cities.

By extending the work of the CADENZA and World Cities Projects , this report investigates how three world cities -- Hong Kong, New York and London -- are coping with this challenge. These world cities are centers of finance, information, media, arts, education, specialized legal services and advanced business services, and contribute disproportionate shares of GDP to their national economies. But are these influential centers prepared to meet the challenge posed by the “revolution of longevity?” How will these world cities accommodate this revolutionary demographic change? Are they prepared to implement the health and social policy innovations that may be required to serve their residents, both old and young? Will they be able to identify the new opportunities that increased longevity may offer? Can they learn from one another as they seek to develop creative solutions to the myriad issues that arise? Finally, can other cities learn from the experience of these three cities as they confront this challenge?

To address these questions, we examine comparable data on the economic and health status of older persons, as well as the availability and use of health, social and long-term care across and within these cities. In the report “How Well Are Seniors in Hong Kong Doing? An International Comparison”, a first attempt was made to compare the situation in Hong Kong with five economically developed countries. This report extends this study by comparing the situation in Hong Kong with two other world cities—New York City and London, which are more comparable in terms of population size and economic characteristics.

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing

Valuing Improvement in Value Based Purchasing
Circulation:  Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.  5:163-170  

Borden, William and Jan Blustein.
03/01/2012

Background

Medicare will soon implement hospital value-based purchasing (VBP), using a scoring system that rewards both achievement (absolute performance) and improvement (performance increase over time).  However, improvement is defined so as to give less credit to initial low performers than initial high performers.  Since initial low performers are disproportionately hospitals in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, these institutions stand to lose under Medicare’s VBP proposal. 

 

Methods

We developed an alternative improvement scale, and applied it to hospital performance throughout the US.   Using 2005-2008 Medicare process measures for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and heart failure (HF), we calculated hospital scores using Medicare’s proposal and our alternative.  Hospital performance scores were compared across 5 locational dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage: poverty, unemployment, physician shortage, high school and college graduation rates.

 

Results

Medicare’s proposed scoring system yielded higher overall scores for the most locationally advantaged hospitals for 4 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 2 out of 5 for HF.  Using our alternative, differences in overall scores between hospitals in the most and least advantaged areas were attenuated, with locationally advantaged hospitals having higher overall scores for 3 out of 5 dimensions in AMI and 1 out of 5 dimensions for HF. 

 

Conclusions

Using an alternative VBP formula that reflects the principle of “equal credit for equal improvement,” resulted in a more equitable distribution of overall payment scores, which could allow hospitals in both socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged areas to succeed under VBP.

 

 

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011

The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011
January 2012

Ballon, Hilary
01/01/2012

Laying out Manhattan's street grid and providing a rationale for the growth of New York was the city's first great civic enterprise, not to mention a brazenly ambitious project and major milestone in the history of city planning. The grid created the physical conditions for business and society to flourish and embodied the drive and discipline for which the city would come to be known. Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York celebrating the bicentennial of the Commissioners' 1811 Plan of Manhattan, this volume does more than memorialize such a visionary effort, it serves as an enduring reference full of rare images and information.

The Greatest Grid shares the history of the Commissioners' plan, incorporating archival photos and illustrations, primary documents and testimony, and magnificent maps with essential analysis. The text, written by leading historians of New York City, follows the grid's initial design, implementation, and evolution, and then speaks to its enduring influence. A foldout map, accompanied by explanatory notes, reproduces the Commissioners' original plan, and additional maps and prints chart the city's pre-1811 irregular growth patterns and local precedent for the grid's design. Constituting the first sustained examination of this subject, this text describes the social, political, and intellectual figures who were instrumental in remaking early New York, not in the image of old Europe but as a reflection of other American cities and a distinct New World sensibility. The grid reaffirmed old hierarchies while creating new opportunities for power and advancement, giving rise to the multicultural, highly networked landscape New Yorkers thrive in today.

 

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