Furman Center Releases "15 Years of Research, Analysis and Insight"
Over the past 15 years, the Furman Center has been committed to the highest standards of interdisciplinary empirical and legal research about housing, land use, real estate, and urban affairs. This report looks back at the Furman Center’s past research, events and reports in four focus areas: Housing Finance and Foreclosures, Affordable Housing, Land Use Regulation, and Neighborhood Change.
Bohnett Fellows huddle with 200-plus mayors in DC
Bohnett Fellows pose in front of the White House during their trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, 2011.
Bohnett Fellows from NYU Wagner joined with their counterparts from UCLA and the University of Michigan in attending the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. on January 19-21, 2011, with Professor Rogan Kersh. After sharing information, insights, and ideas with more than 200 of the nation's mayors and many other public service leaders, the Wagner students offered these reports:
"It was by far one of the best networking opportunities of my life. Most of the Conference participants were mayors, and between sessions there was ample time for me to walk up to people and introduce myself. I was amazed at how engaged many of the mayors were. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter must have talked to us for half an hour one evening: He was really interested in what we had to say and fielded all of our questions, including some pretty tough ones, with aplomb.
"I was incredibly impressed with the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan. The conference included many speakers from the national stage, including Nancy Pelosi, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Trade Representative Ron Kirk, House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica, and Alaska Senator Mark Begich. These folks usually spoke for awhile and then took questions from the mayors. Almost without fail, Mayor Quan's hand would slowly rise, she'd be called on, and then, with perfect posture and composure, she asked the most pointed and well-informed question imaginable. It made me happy for the people of Oakland. They've got a real policy wonk running the place.
"More broadly, it was great to be around Republican and Democratic politicians talking about actual issues - from handgun violence to job creation - without reverting to demagoguery It was the sort of situation that might restore a person's faith in the American political system."
"When elected officials are talking about economic development, I expect to hear more about financial incentives than about public services. But the economic-development drivers the mayors were discussing included developing exports, attracting foreign investment, and producing a highly skilled labor force through education and workforce training. Mayors and federal officials echoed that cities must cooperate across other governments and sectors to succeed in these areas. It's not surprising that President Obama articulated some of the Conference's major themes in his State of the Union address of Jan. 25, 2011. Getting to speak personally to some of the mayors completely changed my perspective on urban government, and my work this semester is going to reflect it.
"The Conference was also the first time the Bohnett Fellows at all three schools were able to come together. I really connected with a Fellow from the University of Michigan over our work in Northern industrial cities. She lives and works in Detroit, and I came to NYU from Pittsburgh. I found that we could swap war stories about managing decline, but at the end of the day we were talking about common points of growth and battling inequality."
Elizabeth H. Guernsey:
"The trip to the Conference of Mayors winter meeting was definitely one of the highlights - if not the highlight - of my Wagner career so far. The access to and conversations with so many mayors was great. I came back from the Conference inspired to know that so many smart people are working in local government and really focused on making our cities great places to work and live. I was also struck by the mayors' signing of the Civility Accord in reaction to the Tucson tragedy. It was refreshing to hear the mayors talking about their cities in a nonpartisan way.
"A highlight of the trip was meeting with the Fellows from the other schools and hearing about the work they are doing in other cities. Another highlight was attending the Mayors Against Illegal Guns meeting, and hearing mayors talk openly about what they think needs to be done to protect public safety in our cities. The mayors were able to talk honestly and openly without worry that they might upset their constituencies."
The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship for incoming Wagner students offers "...a great opportunity for students to directly engage in the challenges of governing our vibrant and diverse city," according to David Bohnett, Chairman and Founder of the David Bohnett Foundation. The Fellowship provides full tuition support and summer stipends for three Bohnett Fellows per year. These students must be enrolled in either the Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Urban Planning (MUP) program and express an explicit interest in working for municipal governments to solve our most urgent social issues. The David Bohnett Public Service Fellowship also allows two fellows a terrific opportunity to intern at the highest level of NYC government. The third fellow gets to take on exciting work with the current President of the US Conference of Mayors, which has an ongoing partnership with Wagner.
Helped by Bill Cosby, artist frames the African American experience
"Manchild," by Alonzo Adams, features a young man seated on a pile of tires -- with books at his feet.
Alonzo Adams was working by day as a salesman for an electronics and appliance chain and taking art classes in the evening when he unwittingly planted the seeds of his commercial success and acclaim as a painter of the African American experience. Many of Adams' figurative works in oils will be on view throughout February at the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner. The exhibition, free to the public, commemorates Black History Month.
For Adams, the brief episode began one day in late 1980s when he suddenly suppressed his usual sales pitch and instead advised a kindly customer not to buy her selected merchandise at full price, nor pay for a service contract.
"We made our money getting people to buy this type of stuff and I had done all that," the artist said of the job he held after graduating from college. "But this particular woman reminded me so much of my mother, I just couldn't do it, my heart wouldn't let me. I called her back from the cash register aisle and explained how she could actually save a lot of money."
"I'm going to return the favor one day," the grateful customer said.
"Don't worry about it," Adams replied. "Just become a better shopper."
Six months later, the local newspaper in Adams' northern New Jersey community published the first article ever written about him, describing his artwork and ambition. His talent at the time lay in watercolor, a usually loose medium that he used with the technical precision of his earlier efforts in pencil. He told the reporter that African American art seemed destined to catch, since even popular TV programs like The Cosby Show were showing works in the background by black artists.
"The lady I helped at the store read the article and showed it to Mr. Cosby. It turned out that her son appeared as a guest actor on the show -- and she liked to go to the Astoria studio when the program was being taped," said Adams.
Cosby sent word to Adams, who was 26, to meet him at the studio and to bring along his watercolor "Amazing Grace," pictured with the newspaper article. Cosby looked it over and said "This is amazing," recalled Adams.
"What do you want to do with your life," the entertainer asked Adams.
"I want to be the best black artist in the world."
"Don't limit yourself to being the ‘best black artist in the world,' " Cosby suggested. "Try to become the best artist in the world."
Cosby said, "You're good but not great - you have potential." He offered to send the younger man to graduate school, saying, "Get in on your own merit to any school in the world, don't mention my name, and I'll pay for it," according to Adams.
Adams earned his MFA at the University of Pennsylvania, courtesy of Bill Cosby, "and my whole world opened up." It was Cosby who'd advised him to learn how to paint in oils because such paintings have greater longevity. Adams' ensuing portraits and landscapes --informed by his family history, his Harlem roots, Jazz, and contemporary urban life -- would be purchased by professional athletes, celebrities, CEOs, and corporate foundations. His studio and gallery are now located in Plainfield, N.J., where he lives in an early-19th century home with his wife and their two sons, 10 and 13.
The NYU Wagner exhibition of Alonzo's works will begin with an opening reception on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 5:30 p.m., for which RSVP is required. Entitled "Sienna Visions: Paintings by Alonzo Adams," the show is presented, together with Wagner, by NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and cosponsored by Wagner's Black Student Alliance.
Adams lost his mother, Katie, with whom he was exceptionally close, last year. In one sense, the Gallery show marks his return "from the valley," as he put it.
"You've got to climb back up to that mountaintop and pull yourself back into your work again."
Bill Clinton counselor's latest assignment - teaching at Wagner
Politico.com's "Playbook," a roster of the latest DC news and happenings compiled by reporter Mike Allen, included the following item on January 19 about NYU Wagner's Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration Doug Band:
"ALUMNI NEWS: After conceiving and building the Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton counselor/consigliere/post-presidency architect Doug Band recently joined the NYU staff as an adjunct professor and will use his nearly 16 years working for the Clintons to teach a public service, policy and politics course (despite earning his master's and law degrees from Georgetown). Doug also serves on the international advisory board for Coca-Cola, and on the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Vote Vets boards, all while still running Clinton, Inc., helping heads of state around the world transition out of office, and raising his son Max, who recently turned one (and has started walking), with his wife Lily in NYC."
Professor Ospina Chosen as Co-Editor of Public Administration Journal
Professor Sonia M. Ospina will serve as a co-editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, a top-tier journal of public administration.
As the official journal of the Public Management Research Association, it serves as a bridge between public administration or public management scholarship and public policy studies. Having served as an active reviewer, Dr. Ospina will now be one of six co-editors shaping the articles submitted and selecting what is published.
Professor Ospina is Faculty Director of RCLA -- the Research Center for Leadership in Action.
2002 Alumnus Who Advised Newark Mayor Goes to Washington
After working for more than four years alongside Mayor Cory Booker to improve public education in the City of Newark, NYU Wagner alumnus De'Shawn Wright (MPA '02) has garnered an exciting new position in public service -- he has been named the new deputy mayor for education by Washington, D.C., Mayor-elect Vincent Gray. The Mayor-elect was quoted referring to Wright and another new appointee as "top-notch professionals" in policy and management for large and complex urban school systems.
Gray chose Wright, who formerly worked for the New York City Department of Education, on the strength partly of his school reform work in Newark, N.J. In addition, Wright served as a partner with the Newark Charter School Fund, which was successful in gathering support to help fund the city's charter schools.
Since graduating from Wagner, Wright has returned to Wagner on numerous occasions, including in 2009 for a public event with Mayor Booker. We wish him well as he begins his latest leadership position.
Former UK Prime Minister on the Promise of Globalization
Ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks about globalization, Dec. 14, 2010.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown participated in an engaging public discussion cosponsored by NYU Wagner on Dec. 14, 2010, describing what he sees as hopeful economic possibilities presented by globalization. Brown spoke before an audience composed largely of students, and was interviewed on the stage at Vanderbilt Hall by Robert M. Shrum, the renowned U.S. political consultant and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Introduced by NYU President John Sexton as the University's inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence and "one of the great citizens of the world," Brown in turn hailed what he called NYU's "path-breaking" initiative as the first global network university.
During the discussion with Shrum and a question-and-answer session with the audience, the former prime minister focused on the prospects for growth in European, U.S., and African exports and employment that China's rapidly expanding economy may generate in the years ahead. In light of the 2008 financial meltdown, Brown also spoke of a pressing need for consistent rules and standards for responsible behavior by markets and governments worldwide. He also discussed his role in recognizing the necessity for his government and that of the U.S. to recapitalize tottering European banks as the meltdown was happening.
"We had capitalism without capital - the banks did not have enough capital," Brown said. Through his efforts and those of other world leaders, "we avoided what could have been a Great Depression." He stepped down as prime minister in May, 2010, after his Labour Party lost control of Parliament.
A current Member of Parliament, Brown was in New York to publicize his new book, "Beyond The Crash." Asked by an audience member about the WikiLeaks release of U.S. diplomatic cables, Brown said while American policy was predominantly shown to be honest, "there are certain parts that you'd question, certain parts nobody will like." He said he had suffered personal "embarrassments" from the release but then noted, "You've just got to accept that."
Afterward, the former prime minister signed copies of his new book, chatted with students about their programs of study, and posed for photographs. An article on the event published in the next day's New York Times described the reaction of one NYU Wagner student, who has lived in London. Patrizia Mancini commented: "I have to say that he seems like a different person. He's way more relaxed. As a politician, he would seem fake when he smiled, but now he seems so natural."
Professor Zhan Guo Wins Award for Best Paper
Dr. Zhan Guo, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Transportation Policy and Director of Research at the Rudin Center, has won the award for Best Transportation Paper, presented by the University Transportation Research Center, Region 2. Professor Guo's paper, "Does the Built Environment Affect the Utility of Walking? A Case of Path Choice in Downtown Boston," was published in Transportation Research D: Transport and Environment, Vol. 14 in 2009.
Assoc. Prof. Robertson Work Appointed to Fulbright Specialist Program Global Roster
Prof. Robertson Work facilitates global workshop on climate change in Brazil, 2009.
NYU Wagner Associate Professor Robertson Work was recently appointed to the global roster of the Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars and the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State. Through FSP institutions of higher learning overseas can request Prof. Work's services with support of Fulbright. To date Prof. Work has received a request from a university in Nepal to design a leadership and management curriculum and from a poverty research center in Pakistan to help create a strategic organizational plan and rollout. Prof. Work teaches Innovative Leadership for Human Development at Wagner.
Conversation Starter: The WikiLeaks Document Flood
Professor John Gershman writes:
The recent WikiLeaks document dump and the associated reporting by several prominent newspapers have made many researchers enthusiastic and fanned the flames of hyperbole both on the part of WikiLeaks and its detractors. Both sides exaggerate the significance of the leaks, and the hyperbole obscures more significant issues.
The documents cover a period from 1966 to February 2010 from a range of embassies and personnel. The ones involving Iran and the Middle East garner the greatest attention, although most are unsurprising to anyone who follows the region. One less widely reported view is that of former National Security Council staffer Gary Sick, who argues that the documents indicate that the Obama administration has yet to seriously try an engagement strategy with Iran and that Washington has largely resisted the drumbeat for attacking Iran from its allies in the region.
The broader question is whether these kind of leaks lead to longer-term difficulties for the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy. To the extent those policies include the routine use of diplomats as spies, it will be a good thing if the leaks reduce those efforts.
But some ask: Will foreign leaders will be less willing to be forthright in their views and opinions if they think they will appear soon on the internet?
Short answer: probably not. CNN tweets that while calling another government to talk about the leaks, Secretary Clinton was told, "Don't worry about it, you should see what we say about you."
Others have asked: Will U.S. diplomatic personnel be less forthright about their own opinions or expressing the views of others in diplomatic cables.
Again: probably not. Perhaps the language will be less colorful.
Will the now ramped-up security measures for these and presumably other types of documents inhibit the kind of information sharing that was pointed to as missing prior to the 9/11 attacks. Short Answer: Possibly -- but getting the balance right takes time.
Finally, will the leaks will make some countries whose cooperation with the U.S. is unpopular at home retreat from their collaboration. Short Answer: Possibly in the short-term.
Don't Buy the Hype
But those may not be the most important dimensions of WikiLeaks' impact.
"Cablegate" - as the document dump has been dubbed -- is in some ways a form of celebrity shock journalism, the equivalent of a s speech by Bono on African poverty monopolizing press attention while the people who have been working in the trenches on these issues for decades get overlooked. Outfits like the National Security Archive, Open the Government, and freedominfo -- among many others -- slog away on a daily basis, working to hold officials accountable and do the nitty-gritty work required to make the Freedom of Information Act meaningful and governments around the world more open and accountable.
Cablegate has, in fact, sparked a valuable debate on the benefits and limits that transparency can and should play in foreign policy. This kind of debate will only strengthen our democratic institutions as we publicly debate and identify the benefits and risks associated with secrecy. For example, even Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame suggested that some things should remain secret, at least for a period of time. Recent experiences suggest that such a debate is an important and valuable one -- and that this is potentially a benefit that far outweighs the short-term risks to the conduct of foreign policy.
What's your opinion? Comment HERE.
"FolkloRican" Exhibit Draws Attention
"Iluminado" by Pepe Villegas
With "FolkloRican," the latest—and current—exhibit showing in the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner, renowned multi-media artist Pepe Villegas presents a 10-piece collection of oil paintings that delve into an intriguing archive of personal and cultural memories referencing his Puerto Rican upbringing. Ranging from striking representational and semi-representational portraiture to abstract and symbolism-rich canvases, this highly evocative and criollista sampling is deeply rooted in cultural pride, introspective contemplation, and national nostalgia.
"FolkloRican," which opened Nov. 17, 2010, and continues through January 31, 2011, commemorates Latino Heritage Month at New York University and is co-presented by NYU Wagner, the Latino Studies Program, the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and NYU Steinhardt. Curated by Wagner's Frank Crescioni-Santoni, the exhibition drew extensive coverage in New York City's El Diario newspaper (November 28, 2010).
Please note: the Gallery Space at NYU Wagner - at 295 Lafayette Street, 2nd Floor, will be closed Dec. 24th through Jan. 3rd. For more information, such as hours and directions, please call 212.998.7400.
Urban Design is a Matter of Public Health [Video]
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley was the keynoter at the "Speeding Summit" held at NYU Wagner on November 19, 2010 -- and he pledged a major new public health emphasis on urban design.
"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," said Dr. Farley. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "
The event, sponsored by the nonprofit group Transportation Alternatives, examined a proposal by cycling and other traffic safety advocates to reduce the side-street speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph, and was hosted by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU Wagner.
Furman Center Presents New Data on NYC Mortgage Lending
State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods 2009
The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a joint research center between NYU Wagner and NYU Law, recently released its fourth annual analysis of FFIEC’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, called Mortgage Lending in the Great Recession: HMDA 2009.
The analysis reflects several surprises in a tumultuous year. While home purchase mortgage lending declined throughout the recession, the study found that lending to low and moderate income home buyers increased in 2009, as did the number of new mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veteran’s Administration (VA). In 2009, 16 percent of New York City home purchase mortgages were FHA/VA-backed loans, compared to less than one percent of loans issued from 2005 to 2007.
The study also found, in contrast to home purchase lending, that mortgage refinancing increased substantially in 2009. The increase in refinancing activity, however, was not uniform across New York City’s different racial and ethnic communities. Black and Hispanic homeowners did not refinance at the same rates as white and Asian borrowers, which suggests that not all New York homeowners were equally able to take advantage of lower interest rates and reduce their monthly payments.
Impact of 2010 midterm elections debated at NYU Wagner [Audio]
Senior Fellow Shrum sizes up 2010 midterm elections with Prof. Kersh and National Review's Williamson.
The struggling economy offers the most basic explanation for why voters heavily rewarded Republican candidates at the polls in the 2010 midterm elections, two years after a very different set of results.
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are likely to push through a series of targeted spending cuts over the next two years, but with little or no effect on the national deficit or overall government performance. And the Obama administration will be constrained as it navigates the partisan divide as well as stepped-up congressional subpoena activity.
These were the main points of agreement that emerged during a lively, hour-long discussion [audio] about the 2010 midterm elections on Nov. 8 at NYU Wagner. The forum featured National Review deputy managing editor Kevin Williamson, veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shrum, and Paul Light, a noted critic of the federal service.
Rogan Kersh, associate dean and professor at Wagner, moderated the discussion and question and answer session. The analyses of the historic election and its potential ramifications in policy and politics brought out dozens of students.
"Actually we've had three extraordinary national elections in a row - 2006, 2008, and 2010," began Bob Shrum, who teaches at Wagner. "In each case, they were a rebellion against the status quo, and they were a rebellion against two very different status quo's."
The panelists sought to make sense of it.
The 2010 midterms, said Williamson, do not represent a national mandate for Republicans, as conservatives "haven't done anything to earn back the trust they frittered away over the course of eight years during the Bush Administration."
What is more, the editor said, "there's always a danger that they're going to do something dumb, and I think that they're right on the cusp of doing it" -- such as maintaining federal spending levels at thigh levels while cutting taxes. The combination would only make a dangerously troubled economy even shakier, he said
Still, a bad economy would hardly be bad news for Republicans come the 2012 presidential election.
"Barack Obama would love it if unemployment were at 7 percent in 2012, but I think we're looking ahead to 11 percent unemployment, or even higher," said Williamson. "We are in for some rougher times than even those we've experienced economically, and there's no easy way out of it."
No easy way indeed, Shrum agreed.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure from Tea Party Republicans to deliver on this promise of a 'smaller government' and to achieve some of these cuts," Shrum said. "They'll succeed in some places, but overall we're not going to get to this dream, in part because there's not much reality behind the dream." For when Republicans begin selecting programs to cut - be they aid for education, or aircraft safety - a public backlash is likely to arise.
"We're headed for a train wreck on all sorts of things because the newly elected Republicans simultaneously want to extend the tax cuts and cut the deficit," Shrum warned. "It's what Ronald Reagan said he was going to do in the early 1990's. If Reagan, who I think was a masterful president, couldn't pull that off, then I don't think we are going to see it done very well here."
Light, a professor at Wagner, cautioned against another new flurry of "micro-oversight" of the federal government. He called instead for aggressive oversight of troubled agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, and, moreover, an overarching plan to create a productive, accountable and effective national government, a true overhaul that could save taxpayers $1 trillion over 10 years.
"It takes a lot to do that, and it would take a Democratic Party that actually steps up to the plate. President Obama has had virtually no interest in big-ticket federal reform; Republicans continue to argue for pay freezes, hiring freeze and pay cuts, which is small potatoes," said Light.
One audience member asked whether New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg could become president in 2012. Shrum replied that an Independent Bloomberg candidacy could be viable, but only in a three-way race in which the main Republican nominee had a polarizing effect -- and if the economy was still suffering.
"His claim to fame is being a billionaire and telling you how much salt to put on your French fries. I don't suppose that's going to be something that's going to catapult him to the White House," he said.
Students taking it straight to the media
NYU Wagner students are making their points of view and observations known through the news media by publishing their own articles.
Dave Algoso, a second-year Wagner student specializing in international development policy, wrote a piece Oct. 26, 2010, for the influential Foreign Policy website, entitled "Don't Try This Abroad." The article is a thoughtful retort to New York Times columnist Nick Kristof's tribute in the Sunday Magazine to the rise of "the fix-the-world-on-your-own generation."
"Unfortunately," Algoso writes, "such stories don't reflect reality. Spend a little time in any community in the world, and you'll see people from that community finding ways to improve it - not outsiders....Yet these people are absent from Kristof's stories."
Algoso, who in his spare time keeps up an interesting blog, Find What Works, also had some words of praise for the Times columnist's account of international aid workers and the organizations that support them. He wrote that "Kristof's article does some good if it convinces more people to pursue international development as a career. We all start as amateurs. The difference is whether we seek to learn more or assume that we can just start doing something, muddling through as we go."
Kristof posted a response to Algoso's and others' reactions, citing his Times article.
The future of international development aid also caught the attention of Barbara Kiviat, a David Bohnett Fellow at NYU Wagner. Kiviat covered the October 21-23 Microfinance Innovation & Impact Conference organized by Professor Jonathan Morduch and the Financial Access Institute, of which Morduch is managing director. The research-based conference was held at the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation, where Kiviat filed two pieces for Reuters: The Real Revolution in Microfinance and The Less You Know About Finance, the Better.
Kiviat worked as a journalist for the better part of a decade, mainly as a staff writer at Time magazine. There, she covered business and economics and wrote cover stories on topics such as job creation and the housing market.
Meanwhile, Wagner first-year student Ruthie Warshenbrot coauthored a recent article for e-Jewish Philanthopy flagging the puzzling absence of women in one major organization's recent listing of "Jewish Community Heroes."
Warshenbrot is the Lisa Goldberg Fellow of Jewish Professional Leadership at NYU Wagner/Skirball Dual Degree program, and a Wexner Graduate Fellow.
"In our Jewish tradition, women are revered, respected and valued in so many ways. What is different about contemporary Jewish life that regards female leadership as less heroic?" she asks in the piece, coauthored by Shannon Sarna, external relations coordinator at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation.
Global Experts Offer First Look at New Research on Microfinance
More than 200 researchers, practitioners and business leaders convened in New York City for a first look at research results on the impact of microfinance. The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010, co-hosted by the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at NYU Wagner and other leading research and financial institutions, was held Thursday, October 21st; 22nd; and 23rd at headquarters of the Deutsche Bank and the Moody's Corporation.
The research presented at the Conference follows on the heels of an initial report, released in 2009, about the first-ever randomized evaluations of microfinance, which sparked a debate over whether and how much microfinance is helping the poor. The results of several follow-up studies presented at the latest Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference offer fresh insights on how and to what degree microfinance affects the lives of poor households around the world.
"The results of the first microfinance impact evaluations were controversial because the world was eager to find that one magic bullet that will finally "solve" poverty," said Esther Duflo, co-author of one of the first-ever impact evaluations of microfinance in India, and professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "The studies showed that microfinance is not magic. But while we didn't discover that microfinance launches people out of poverty, we did discover that it's making a very real difference to some people. The new, forthcoming research will help us discover more about who benefits from microfinance and help us design financial products that work better for the poor."
The Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference 2010 attracted senior researchers, policymakers, practitioners and investors committed to preparing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in microfinance, and to the global expansion of financial markets in poor communities. The event was hosted by not only the Financial Access Initiative (FAI), but also by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Moody's Corporation, Deutsche Bank and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).
Important new impact results from a randomized evaluation of a microfinance program in Morocco were aired, along with evaluations of microsavings and microinsurance, and livelihood programs for the "ultra poor." Conference sessions were devoted to the presentation of new research on microfinance product design, social performance measurement, and consumer protection. Additionally, illuminating sessions were dedicated to bringing together researchers and practitioners to design future research on product design and financial inclusion that will help usher in the next generation of services for the "bottom billion."
Getting Out the Vote, Innovatively
A fascinating article in the Sunday magazine of The New York Times describes how techniques developed by behavioral science researchers are at the forefront of a dramatic change in how politicians and parties get out the vote. The emerging data-driven approach to moving voters was co-pioneered by Don Green, currently Visiting Distinguished Professor at NYU Wagner & NYU Abu Dhabi.
"As the 1998 elections approached, Green [and fellow Yale professor of political science Alan Gerber] partnered with the League of Women Voters to split 30,000 New Haven voters into four groups," the article explains. "Some received an oversize postcard encouraging them to vote, others the same message via a phone call or in-person visit. One control group received no contact whatsoever. After the election, Gerber and Green examined Connecticut records to see who actually voted. The in-person canvass yielded turnout 9.8 percent higher than for voters who were not contacted. Each piece of mail led to a turnout increase of only 0.6 percent. Telephone calls, Gerber and Green concluded, had no effect at all."
The Times article goes on to describe why the results have proven so seminal.
As it happens, the article appeared just a few days after Professor Green spoke at Wagner's doctoral colloquium October 28.
Green has written extensively on a range of topics, including voter turnout, campaign finance, perceptual bias, rational learning, experimental methods, and rational choice theory. He is currently writing a book on field experiments in the social sciences. His resume and other materials can be found here.
"Forward 50" honors Berman Jewish Policy Archive's director
Steven M. Cohen
"The Forward 50" consists of "people whose religious and cultural values propelled them to engage, create and lead in a decidedly Jewish voice." Among the newly announced honorees: GOP congressman Eric Cantor, Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, Google co-founder Sergey Brin - and sociologist Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner.
BJBA recently collaborated on a case study of the Jewish community in the U.S., entitled "Baby Boomers, Public Service, and Minority Communities."
Kristof responds! NYT columnist answers critique from Wagner's own Dave Algoso
On Friday, 10/29, Nicholas Kristof responded to some critiques of his column in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, including one penned by Wagner student Dave Algoso for Foreign Policy. Kristof writes, "My Sunday magazine piece a week ago on young Americans engaging in do-it-yourself foreign aid projects sparked a good bit of reaction, including some thoughtful criticisms. You can read the comments below the previous blog post to get a flavor. Let me try to address some of the complaints."
Read the rest of his response.
Conversation Starter: Mayor Bloomberg's Bid to Ban Soda Purchases with Food Stamps
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long made it a paramount goal to rid New York City of unhealthful foods, and he recently asked the Federal government for permission to prohibit Food Stamp recipients from using stamps to buy soda and other sugared beverages in the city.
Supporters are cheering Bloomberg’s stance, saying he’s striking a blow for better dietary habits and ultimately lower public health costs and consequences such as obesity. But critics question the move, seeing it as an example of big government, even patronizing toward the poor.
Research can be a valuable guidepost for public officials. In 2009, after Mayor Bloomberg required restaurant franchises to put calories counts on their menus, NYU Wagner professors Rogan Kersh and Brian Elbel sought to measure the impact of the calorie labeling initiative on consumer habits at fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods. Their survey of 1,156 adult found little direct evidence to support the Mayor’s view that the posting of calorie counts causes fast-food patrons to buy items containing fewer calories. Elbel’s and Kersh’s widely discussed study, published in the journal Health Affairs, emphasized that follow-up studies are needed to determine the value and effectiveness of menu labeling and other obesity-related policies.
Professor Elbel describes the Mayor’s current proposal to prohibit the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda and sugary drinks as “an extremely innovative policy approach to tackle the complicated and multifaceted problem of obesity. It deserves a rigorous assessment, to evaluate its overall impact on healthy food choice and obesity,” says Professor Elbel, assistant professor of medicine and health policy. “The rest of the nation can then learn from the New York City experience as these and other policies to fight obesity are considered across the country.”
What’s your opinion of the Mayor’s food stamp initiative? Is it good public policy? Or should it just be allowed to fizzle out? Visit Wagner’s Public Service Today blog to post your comment today.