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Sexual Harassment and Assault: Guidance Needed to Ensure Consistent Tracking, Response, and Training for DOD Civilians

Prison-Release Discretion and Prison Population Size State Report: Connecticut


The Effects of Negative Equity on Children’s Educational Outcomes

A Better Way to Place Students: What Colleges Need to Know About Multiple Measures Assessments

Glossary of Student Mental Wellness Concepts


Better Choices: Evidence-Based Policymaking Can Improve Florida’s Outcomes

Federal Research Grants: The Office of Management and Budget Should Take Steps to Establish the Research Policy Board

Summary of the Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions for 2020: Quarter 3

Uneven Growth: Automation's Impact on Income and Wealth Inequality

Explaining the Economic Impact of COVID-19: Core Industries and the Hispanic Workforce


Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults in the United States, 2015–2018

Giving a Voice to Home Care Workers: An Empowering Data Collection Method and Source of Caregiving Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic

February 19, 2021


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to track reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault involving its federal civilian employees, but its visibility over both types of incidents is hindered by guidance and information-sharing challenges. While employees may not report all incidents for a variety of reasons, DOD also lacks visibility over those incidents that have been reported. For example, from Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019, DOD recorded 370 civilian employees as victims of sexual assault and 199 civilian employees as alleged offenders. However, these data do not include all incidents of sexual assault reported over this time period. Specifically, based on DOD guidance, examples of incidents that could be excluded from these data include those involving civilian employee victims (1) occurring in the continental United States, (2) employed by DOD components other than the military services, such as defense agencies, and (3) who are also military dependents. Without guidance that addresses these areas, DOD does not know the extent to which its civilian workforce has reported work-related sexual assault worldwide. Additionally, the authors found that DOD civilian employees' ability to make restricted reports of sexual assault—confidential disclosures that do not initiate official investigations, but allow the victim to receive DOD-provided sexual assault support services—varies across components. According to DOD officials, they have not taken action to resolve this variation due to conflicts with federal statute, among other things. By reporting to and requesting any needed actions from Congress to resolve any conflicts with statute, the department can alleviate such inconsistencies and minimize legal risks for DOD components. The authors provide 19 recommendations including that DOD issue guidance for comprehensive tracking of civilian work-related sexual assaults, enhance guidance on the structure of anti-harassment programs for civilians, and report to and request any needed actions from Congress on the ability of civilian employees to make restricted reports of sexual assault.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

This report series provides an overview of states approaches prison-release discretion and the relationship between rules for prison release and prison population size, including an assessment of each state’s degree of indeterminacy. States that have a low degree of indeterminacy provide a short window from first release eligibility to the maximum prison term, thus making the total prison stay length more predictable. In contrast, states with a high degree of indeterminacy have long windows spanning years, or even decades depending on the individual sentence. Overall, the authors place Connecticut’s prison-sentencing system in the category of low indeterminacy, but this is a judgment that splits the difference between two very different prison-release subsystems. For nonviolent offenders the system operates with a moderate degree of indeterminacy. Judges and back-end officials with prison-release discretion enjoy roughly comparable amounts of control over time actually served in individual cases. In contrast, for violent offenders, the system is one of extremely low indeterminacy (or, by the authors’ alternative terminology, extremely high determinacy). Judicial sentences in cases of violent crime are very strong predictors of actual time served. For nonviolent offenders, the parole board holds significantly more back-end discretion over time served than the department of corrections, although both have non-trivial powers. For violent offenders, the parole board and department of corrections hold nearly identical and overlapping authorities, but the quantum of release discretion that they share is small.

Source: Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, University of Minnesota


This study examines the effects of negative equity (owing more on the mortgage than the value of the house) on children’s academic performance, using data on children attending Florida public schools and housing transactions from the State of Florida. The authors’ empirical strategy exploits variation over time in the timing of family moves to Florida in order to account for household sorting into neighborhoods and schools and selection into initial mortgage terms. In contrast to the existing literature on foreclosure and children’s outcomes, they find that Florida students with the highest risk of negative equity exhibit significantly higher test score growth. These effects are largest among Black students and students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. They find evidence supporting two underlying mechanisms: (1) consumption patterns suggest that families in negative equity may reduce the impact of income losses on consumption by forgoing mortgage payments, and (2) mobility patterns suggest that families exposed to high levels of negative equity may move to schools that are of higher quality on average. While negative equity and foreclosure are undesirable, the changing incentives in terms of mortgage delinquency may have helped families manage the economic shocks caused by the great recession, as well as temporarily reduced the housing market barriers faced by low-income households when attempting to access educational opportunities.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

Each year, colleges place millions of students into developmental math and English courses upon enrollment. Developmental courses are basic courses designed to give students the skills they need to be successful in college-level courses, but students do not earn college credit for these courses. To do so, colleges most often use a high-stakes placement test, which numerous research studies have shown to be highly inaccurate in determining how well students are prepared for college. As a result, these tests underplace many students into developmental education classes who would have been successful immediately if they had taken college credit-bearing courses instead. Developmental education courses are designed to give students the skills they need for success in college-level courses, but they also delay students’ enrollment in credit-bearing coursework, lengthen the time it takes them to earn a degree, and may decrease the chances they will ever graduate. Colleges could boost incoming students’ college-level course pass rates by improving the assessment tools they use to place those students, with the goal of minimizing underplacement and increasing the number of students taking college-level courses. Using more than one measure to assess students’ skills—a strategy known as a multiple measures assessment—can be an excellent way to achieve this goal. This report summarizes the findings from a study of the impacts of two multiple measures assessment models at seven 2-year state colleges in New York and at four 2-year state colleges in Minnesota as an alternative to the high-stakes testing that colleges typically use to make placement decisions. The study found that students who are placed into college-level courses using multiple measures assessment are more likely to complete gatekeeper courses—basic introductory or prerequisite college-level courses—than their counterparts who are placed into developmental courses using placement tests. These findings held for placements in math and English courses in the first semester and after three semesters. The study also found that student success rates can improve when multiple measures assessment is applied and students who would have otherwise been placed into developmental education courses are instead referred to college-level courses.

Source: MDRC

To help inform the policymaking process, it is important to understand the connections and distinctions between the many terms and phrases used in the context of child development, student mental wellness, and school-based mental health services. This glossary defines common terms related to student mental wellness at the individual and system levels and highlights potential connections between them. Definitions are provided for terms such as adverse childhood experiences, behavioral health, executive function, mental health, resilience, and trauma. Links to additional resources are also provided.

Source: Education Commission of the States

Government Operations

Evidence-based policymaking techniques hold the potential for enabling Florida to spend existing resources more strategically. These techniques – sometimes called the “Moneyball for Government” approach – use the best research and data on program results to guide policy and budget decisions, targeting resources to programs that work, and eliminating interventions that deliver poor results regardless of intentions. This information is now available from a growing network of research clearinghouses that rate the effectiveness of programs in many policy areas. This report describes the components of evidenced-based policymaking and how it has been used in several states. It highlights examples of components of this approach used in Florida and makes recommendations of next steps for Florida to take advantage of these techniques including: (1) compiling a comprehensive inventory of state programs; (2) requiring that agency programs be classified by their effectiveness; (3) giving preference for funding to programs that achieve high returns on investment dollars; (4) creating monitoring standards to assure programs are implemented with fidelity; and (5) creating a central database of agency performance measures that can be used to issue agency report cards.

Source: LeRoy Collins Institute, Florida State University

Federal research funding is key for advancing science and innovation. But federal funding comes with administrative requirements—e.g., documentation and reporting—that allow for oversight. Are those requirements getting in the way of research? The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could find out. As of January 2021, OMB had not established the Research Policy Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. The act requires OMB to establish the board within 1 year of the December 13, 2016 enactment of the act. The board is to provide information on the effects of regulations related to federal research requirements. The OMB stated that it had not established the Board because of issues with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) and other federal agencies’ full participation in the board’s potential activities to develop or implement a modified approach to indirect cost policies. By not having established the board, OMB is missing opportunities for the board to provide information on the effects of regulations related to requirements for federally funded research, and to make recommendations to harmonize and streamline such requirements. Further, OMB has limited time to establish the board and the board may have insufficient time to complete its work before the board is set to terminate on September 30, 2021.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

For the 100 largest public employee pension systems in the country, assets (cash and investments) totaled $4,170.4 billion in the third quarter of 2020, increasing by 4.7% from the second quarter of 2020 level of $3,982.7 billion. Compared to the same quarter in 2019, assets for these major public-pension systems increased 4.1% from $4,006.5 billion.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The benefits of new technologies accrue not only to high-skilled labor but also to owners of capital in the form of higher capital incomes. This increases inequality. To make this argument, the authors develop a tractable theory that links technology to the personal income and wealth distributions – and not just that of wages – and use it to study the distributional effects of automation. The authors isolate a new theoretical mechanism: automation increases inequality via returns to wealth. The flip side of such return movements is that automation is more likely to lead to stagnant wages and therefore stagnant incomes at the bottom of the distribution. The authors use a multi-asset model extension to confront differing empirical trends in returns to productive and safe assets and show that the relevant return measures have increased over time. Automation accounts for part of the observed trends in income and wealth inequality and macroeconomic aggregates.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

As the United States prepares for a COVID-19 recovery, policymakers need to understand why some cities and communities were more vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic consequences than others. In this paper, the authors consider the association between a city’s core industry, its economic susceptibility to the pandemic, and the recession’s racially disparate impact across six select metropolitan areas. The authors find that areas with economies that rely on the movement of people—like Las Vegas with tourism—faced substantially higher unemployment at the end of 2020 than cities with core industries based on the movement of information. Further, they find the hardest-hit areas have larger Hispanic or Latino communities, reflecting the demographic composition of workers in heavily impacted industries and susceptible areas. The authors conclude by recommending targeted federal policy to address the regions and communities most impacted by the COVID-19 recession.

Source: Brookings Institute

Health and Human Services

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015–2020 suggest that a healthy eating pattern include consuming a variety of different fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are sources of many essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and consumption is associated with decreased risk of chronic disease. This report examines the percentage of adults aged 20 and over who consumed fruit and vegetables on a given day by sex and income in 2015–2018 and trends in fruit and vegetable consumption. Key findings include that more than two-thirds (67.3%) of adults aged 20 and over consumed any fruit on a given day, and fruit consumption was higher among women (70.5%) compared with men (63.8%). Approximately 95% of adults consumed any vegetables on a given day. The percentage of adults who consumed any fruit; citrus, melon, or berries; and other types of whole fruit on a given day increased with income. The percentage of adults who consumed dark green, red and orange, other vegetables, and any vegetable types on a given day increased with income. The percentage of adults who consumed any fruit on a given day decreased from 77.2% in 1999–2000 to 64.9% in 2017–2018, but there was no change in the percentage consuming any vegetables.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The authors provide a brief background on (1) the important role that home care workers play in the United States, particularly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic; (2) how they gathered these workers' perspectives through the use of journaling; and (3) how journaling can serve as a valuable source of support and a flexible data collection method, especially when circumstances are changing rapidly, as in a public health crisis. The authors gathered qualitative data to examine the concerns of, and potential solutions to support, home care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journaling offered a way to obtain home care workers' reflections on their work experiences during the pandemic while minimizing constraints on when data would be collected by the study team and eliminating physical contact, in compliance with public health measures. Participants were encouraged to express thoughts and experiences in other areas on a weekly basis, and to submit written or verbal diary entries. The study team then provided feedback to participants to build rapport, encourage participation, and make participants feel heard. Journaling is a promising intervention to help home care workers and other caregiving professionals exercise self-care and cope with the various stressors they face in their professional and personal lives – particularly in very demanding periods, such as during a pandemic.

Source: RAND Corporation

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