Occupational Licensing of Social Services and Nursing Home Quality: A Regression Discontinuity Approach

Source: John R. Bowblis, Austin C. Smith, ILR Review, Volume 74 Issue 1, January 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Occupational licensing has grown dramatically in recent years, with more than 25% of the US workforce having a license as of 2008, up from 5% in 1950. Has licensing improved quality or is it simply rent-seeking behavior by incumbent workers? To estimate the impact of increased licensure of social workers in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) on service quality, the authors exploit a federal staffing provision that requires SNFs of a certain size to employ licensed social workers. Using a regression discontinuity design, the authors find that qualified social worker staffing increases by approximately 10%. However, the overall increase in social services staffing is negligible because SNFs primarily meet this requirement in the lowest cost way—substituting qualified social workers for unlicensed social services staff. The authors find no evidence that the increase in licensure improves patient care quality, patient quality of life, or quality of social services provided.

Business Improvement Districts and Contemporary Local Governance

Source: Dan Ziebarth, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst, Published October 23, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have become an increasingly prevalent method for contemporary public management and economic revitalization. BIDs are private non-profit organizations established primarily in urban areas to deliver public services and improve economic conditions by imposing additional assessments on property owners. This dynamic allows improvement districts to serve as quasi-public entities inextricably intertwined with local policy measures and government officials, while concurrently operating as private organizations. This paper begins by providing an introduction outlining the role BIDs play in modern local governance, followed by a brief overview of the historical progression of improvement district implementation in cities. The contemporary state of debate surrounding the efficacy and implications of BIDs on local governance is then reviewed, while discussing the impact of recent research on the field of study. It concludes by reflecting on proliferation of improvement districts as an entity for modern public service delivery, as well as suggesting future directions for research pertaining to BIDs.

Political Openings: Class Struggle During and After the Pandemic

Source: Sam Gindin, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, OnlineFirst, Published December 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Capitalism’s sustained failures to address popular needs, hopes, and fears have led to a delegitimation of state institutions and mainstream political parties. The crisis is consequently not primarily economic but social and political. The pandemic further exposed capitalism’s social irrationalities, intimated how unprepared we were for the much larger environmental pandemic to come, and generated a new level of empathy for the value of frontline workers and the workplace health risks they are exposed to. Building on these openings requires identifying a few key demands around which to unify fragmented social movements; acquiring new understandings; placing larger issues of property rights and democracy on the agenda; and creating workplace, local, and national organizations with the capacity to realize substantive change. The strategic demands the article suggests and elaborates are an emergency wealth tax, conversion of industrial capacity for environmental reconstruction, and the strengthening of unions as a social force.

Panic in the Streets—Pandemic and Protests: A Manifestation of a Failure to Achieve Democratic Ideals

Source: Adrienne Katner, Kari Brisolara, Philip Katner, Andrew Jacoby, Peggy Honore, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 30 Issue 3, November 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
America is at a critical crossroads in history as the COVID-19 pandemic expands. We argue that the failure to respond effectively to the pandemic stems from the nation’s protracted divergence from the democratic ideals, we purport to value. Structural racism and class-based political and economic inequity are sustained through the failings of the nation’s democratic institutions and processes. The situation has, in turn, fostered further inequity and undermined science, facts, and evidence in the name of economic and political interests, which in turn has encouraged the spread of the pandemic, exacerbated health disparities, and escalated citizen tensions. We present a broad vision of reforms needed to achieve democratic ideals which we believe is the most important first step to achieving true political representation, achieving a resilient and sustainable economy, and fostering the health of vulnerable communities, workers, and the planet.

Job Stress and Health of Elementary and Secondary School Educators in the United States

Source: Paul A. Landsbergis, Elina Shtridler, Amy Bahruth, Darryl Alexander, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 30 Issue 3, November 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Elementary and secondary school educators face many work stressors, which appear to be increasing due to economic, political, and social trends. Therefore, we analyzed data from a 2017 national American Federation of Teachers survey of U.S. education staff, including data from two New York School districts that have adopted collaborative labor-management practices. The national American Federation of Teachers sample of educators reported significantly higher prevalences of several work stressors and poorer physical and mental health compared to the U.S. workers overall, adjusted for age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Compared with educators nationally, educators in districts with collaborative labor-management practices did not have a consistently higher or lower prevalence of work stressors or poorer health. Findings suggest the importance of reducing work stressors among U.S. educators. Results should be interpreted with caution due to the low educator survey response rate.

Transparency in Local Governments: Patterns and Practices of Twenty-first Century

Source: Redeemer Dornudo Yao Krah, Gerard Mertens, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst, Published November 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The study is a systematic literature review that assembles scientific knowledge in local government transparency in the twenty-first Century. The study finds a remarkable growth in research on local government transparency in the first nineteen years, particularly in Europe and North America. Social, economic, political and institutional factors are found to account for this trend. In vogue among local governments is the use of information technology to enhance transparency. The pressure to become transparent largely comes from the passage of Freedom of Information Laws and open data initiatives of governments.

Learning From the Joneses: The Professional Learning Effect of Regional Councils of Government on Municipal Fiscal Slack in Suburban Chicago

Source: David Mitchell, Whitney Davis, Rebecca Hendrick, Public Budgeting and Finance, Advance Articles, First published: October 30, 2020 (subscription required)

From the abstract:
Fiscal slack scholars have sought to identify the primary generators of unreserved fund balance (UFB) within local governments, including economic, organizational, demographic, institutional, and political factors. Guo and Wang (2017) extend this endeavor spatially; however, geography may mask the professional learning impact of subregional councils of governments (COGs). This study examines 265 Chicago suburban municipalities to reveal through a pairing approach that municipalities who belong to the same subregional COG generally have more similar UFB levels, independent of geographical proximity. Policymakers can therefore utilize COGs when making decisions regarding a municipality’s most vital resource for strategic investments and fiscal stress.

A Manager’s Guide to Free Speech and Social Media in the Public Workplace: An Analysis of the Lower Courts’ Recent Application of Pickering

Source: Adam M. Brewer, Public Personnel Management, OnlineFirst, Published September 4, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public organizations are experiencing a burgeoning of workplace challenges involving employee use of social media. Comments, images, or videos ranging from racist remarks, to calls to violence, simple criticism of one’s organization, to full on whistle blowing significantly challenge public organizations’ policies for addressing speech that creates discord in the workplace. With the blurring of lines between personal and professional lives, these challenges create uncertainty for public organizations regarding how to maintain the efficient operation of the workplace, deal with the social and political fallout of such instances, and manage organizational liability. This article performs content analysis on 33 federal lower court opinions involving speech/social media workplace issues. The study analyzes the manner in which the lower courts apply free speech precedent on contemporary workplace speech cases. The findings suggest that patterns emerge from the opinions providing key insights for public managers regarding how to better manage these complex issues.

The Role of Strategic Human Capital Management in the Performance of Federal Agencies

Source: Andrew Wesemann, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The current human capital crisis, compounded by tumultuous workforce conditions in the public sector, holds consequential implications for governmental performance. As a result, scholarship has emerged emphasizing the importance of strategic human capital management (SHCM), which is explicitly intended to curtail organizational instability and concurrently improve performance levels. There is, however, a paucity of empirical research testing whether SHCM does, in fact, influence performance in public sector organizations. In an effort to fill this gap in the literature, this study tests for such a relationship in an analysis of agencies throughout the U.S. federal government. Using data from a large sample of federal employees, within 45 agencies, hierarchical linear modeling results reveal that SHCM holds a significantly positive relationship with performance measures at the employee level, although agency level results are less conclusive. Nevertheless, findings provide foundational quantitative evidence that the performance related benefits of SHCM are generalizable to the public workforce and transcend sector boundaries.

Always Essential: Valuing Direct Care Workers in Long-Term Care

Source: Kezia Scales, Michael J Lepore, Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 30, Issue 4, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In the United States and worldwide, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disproportionately impacted the long-term services and supports (LTSS) sector, which serves those individuals who are most at risk of morbidity and mortality from the disease. Although devastating, the crisis also, importantly, heightened the visibility of the direct care workforce—thanks to increased attention on the LTSS sector and extensive news coverage of the responsibilities and risks shouldered by these workers (Almendrala, 2020; Lyons, 2020; Quinton, 2020; Woods, 2020)—and catalyzed action to improve direct care job quality. This new momentum to improve direct care jobs builds on decades of efforts to reinvent the financing mechanisms, laws and policies, and regulatory processes that have historically marginalized this workforce. However, with the largest payer for LTSS in the United States being Medicaid, a means-tested public assistance program, past efforts to improve LTSS and elevate direct care jobs have tended to achieve incremental progress at best, and more often have ended in political gridlock or inertia (Lepore, 2019). Drawing on empirical data and historical and theoretical analyses of direct care work in the United States, this article examines how efforts to improve direct care jobs have historically been stymied by the incongruence between the moral value and material value attributed to this work (Lepore, 2008). We argue that this incongruity of values has not been sufficiently emphasized in past LTSS reform efforts, and recommend an approach for aligning these values in the post–COVID-19 era.