DC Social Science Team Highlights Research on Improving District Programs

On Tuesday, February 27, The Lab @ DC hosted its latest event, The Forum @ DC, at the University of the District of Columbia. The Lab @ DC is a team of social scientists within the District of Columbia government that conducts scientific evaluations and collects academic research related to the District to design policy interventions that help improve the quality of life for citizens of DC. During the event, researchers presented current studies that could have potential impacts on DC programs and policies. These researchers represented a variety of fields but emphasis was placed on social science and data science.

The first panel was on the topic of “World Class Education in All 8 Wards.” Some highlights of the panel included a study by Veronica Katz, a research associate at the University of Virginia, showing that teacher turnover rates do not always have negative effects on student achievement if the exiting teachers are low-performing. Afiya Mbilishaka, a researcher at the University of the District of Columbia, discussed her findings on the negative psychological effects of biased school rules against African American women’s hair. Panel two, “Healthy Living in All 8 Wards,” was related to health research in DC. This panel featured George Washington University’s Emily Morrison on the impact of broken sidewalks on older citizen’s health; Whitman-Walker Health’s Guillaume Rene Bagal III on the importance of legal assistance services for those living with HIV; and Georgetown University’s Kruti Vekaria on strategies to encourage positive behaviors like bone marrow donations using behavioral insights into future decision-making.

A panel on “Pathways to the Middle Class,” focused on economic inequality in DC. Sonya Grier from American University explained the negative impact gentrification has on community engagement. Sally Hudson from the University of Virginia studied the impact of the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation’s financial aid packages on college enrollment, and found that awards for undergraduates cut the dropout rate by senior year in half, but there was no impact on bachelor’s degree completion for students who took more than four years to finish their studies. The final panel, “A Safer, Stronger DC,” provided information on crime and violence prevention. It included presentations by Michelle Chatman of the University of the District of Columbia on restorative justice, mindfulness, and equity education for youth, and by David Yokum, Director of The Lab @ DC, on the effects of police use of body-worn-cameras.

Learn more about the activities of The Lab @ DC on their website.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Dakota Leonard of Arizona State University.

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