Affiliated Centers

Economy and Society Initiative to Launch at UC Berkeley

A major grant from the Hewlett Foundation will support a new hub for research and teaching focused on the intersection of economics and government.

UC Berkeley Campanile

UC Berkeley is launching a new research center dedicated to political economy, a cross-disciplinary field focused on the interplay of markets and government. Funded through a generous seed grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative (BESI) will be housed within the UC Berkeley College of Letters & Science, and will be supported by Social Science Matrix.

Paul Pierson
Professor Paul Pierson

“Political economy can generate insights that are critical for addressing a wide range of global challenges,” says Paul Pierson, John Gross Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley, who is serving as the inaugural director of BESI. “UC Berkeley has an exceptional faculty working in the field of political economy, and there is great enthusiasm for building a vibrant interdisciplinary program. Berkeley also has a unique curricular foundation at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We are excited to strengthen these programs on campus and forge cross-institutional collaborations both in the US and abroad.”

Building on UC Berkeley’s existing strengths in the field — including top-ranked programs in the social sciences, a popular undergraduate major in political economy, and hubs like the Network for a New Political Economy (N2PE) — BESI will support training at all levels, from the undergraduate level through graduate programs to postdoctoral fellowships and faculty mentorship. 

With the Hewlett Foundation’s funding of $10 million over five years, BESI will also sponsor a diverse platform of research aligned around four thematic clusters: capitalism and democracy, environment and climate, technology, and inequality. Each cluster will be led by a program head, with a core interdisciplinary group of faculty actively involved in program planning and a larger set of faculty and graduate students participating. BESI will engage scholars not only from political science and economics, but also from disciplines such as sociology, geography, law, public policy and history.

“Political economy, which brings the social and political into the analysis of the economy, is a vital lens through which we can understand an increasingly complex world,” says Raka Ray, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UC Berkeley. “BESI will provide the opportunity to bring Berkeley’s most exciting scholars together to engage crucial issues of power and inequality in the economy in a deep and thorough way.”

BESI will be located on the UC Berkeley campus on the 8th floor of the Social Sciences Building, alongside Social Science Matrix, a space well-suited for hosting seminars, lectures and conferences. “We are excited to collaborate with BESI to continue to grow UC Berkeley into a world leader in political economy,” says Marion Fourcade, Director of Social Science Matrix. “Berkeley already has superb research in every relevant discipline, and BESI and Matrix together can provide the connective tissue to support truly transformative interdisciplinary collaborations.”

For more information about BESI, please contact



Iris Hui Memorial Graduate Student Scholarship Winners

photo of Iris Hui

Established in 2021, the Dr. Iris Hui Memorial Graduate Student Scholarship honors the vision and goals of Dr. Iris Hui, a PhD graduate of Political Science from UC Berkeley. Family and friends raised funding for this memorial scholarship in Dr. Hui’s name to support researchers and students tackling issues that meant so much to her — urgent, real-world problems facing all of us, including the governance of natural resources, climate change, political empowerment, and migration. As a former graduate student herself, Dr. Hui understood how funding like this can benefit graduate students.

Social Science Matrix is honored to have been chosen as the institutional home for this memorial scholarship, which will be distributed to awarded graduate students each summer. Many people generously donated to establish this memorial scholarship, and we welcome further donations to be able to continue supporting graduate students for many more years into the future. Please contact Eva Seto for information about how to donate.

Past Winners

Soosun You (2023)

Soosun You
Soosun You

Soosun You is PhD candidate in Political Science at UC Berkeley. Her work focuses on addressing various challenges to achieving gender equality. For her dissertation, she is examining how changing norms, expectations, and policies around marriage has shaped support for and opposition against women’s empowerment in South Korea, and East Asia more broadly. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Soosun worked as a journalist in South Korea. Soosun holds a BA in Economics and an MA in Political Science from UC Berkeley, and a Master of Public Policy from Seoul National University.

Research Abstract
My dissertation looks at the role of the marriage market dynamics in shaping gender backlash in South Korea. Specifically, I argue that the marriage market squeeze, where there is an excess of men over women seeking partners for marriage, has engendered gender backlash against women’s empowerment. In examining the relationship between the marriage market squeeze and gender backlash, I examine the following mechanisms: status and economic insurance. Marriage is often regarded as a symbol of status – if one does not marry, it can incur reputational costs for the individual and their families, and these reputational costs are likely higher for men (and their parents) who are expected to continue the family line. Second, marriage may be perceived as economic insurance for the elderly. In an increasingly economically insecure environment, the older generation of men and women are also likely to perceive an economic threat in response to the breakdown of the traditional family model. I test my hypotheses using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, including survey experiments, semi-structured interviews with elites and citizens, and a quasi-natural experiment.

Joseph Greenbaum (2022)

Joseph Greenbaum
Joseph Greenbaum

Joseph Greenbaum’s dissertation work explores resource governance and greenwashing of global supply chains around recycling and electronic waste. He researches land transformations, non-state resource governance, and the global and local logistics of recycling. He received an MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago and a B.S. from Northwestern University.

Research Abstract
Over fifty-million tons of electronic waste are dumped annually. Though East African countries produce very little electronic waste compared to the Global North, East African nations bear some of the highest environmental costs of the global e-waste trade. This project asks how pollution from electronic waste ends up across East Africa with different intensities, who moves waste, and what consequences the toxicity from electronic waste mining has on agriculture and displacement. Using a blend of qualitative and quantitative methods, this work explores both the micropolitics of contamination and extraction in East African communities, and the broader international political economy of regulatory arbitrage and transnational entanglements.

Electronic waste (e-Waste) contains precious metals that can be harvested. Unlike gold and other mineral mining that occurs vertically, in spatially fixed sites prefigured by the position of mineral endowments, e-waste is mobile and is carried thousands of miles. Transnational mining firms are adding smelting of these metal-bearing wastes into their mining repertoires alongside traditional vertical extraction. Many of these smelting sites have begun to populate the Global South skirting regulatory gaps, which increases challenges to governing extractive industries and entrenches North-South inequalities. This work maps these sites out and elaborates emerging forms of extraction.

Gisselle Pérez León (2022)

Gisselle Pérez León
Gisselle Pérez León

Gisselle Pérez León is a PhD candidate in the Department of History.  She is a first-generation college graduate and a member of Prep for Prep’s Contingent XXVII. Her dissertation research focuses on race, gender, and urbanization along the U.S.-Mexico border. The project looks at the development of municipal services (waterworks, electricity, and education) in Nogales, Sonora from the point of view of small business owners, tribal members, migrants, and working-class residents. Prior to graduate school, she served as Paralegal for the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Racial Justice Program and the New York Legal Assistance Group’s (NYLAG) Tenants’ Rights Union.

Research Abstract
Nogales’ rise as a major port of entry in the early twentieth century opened commercial opportunities not only to U.S. investors, but also to Mexican women, Chinese merchants, and other immigrant local-business owners who benefited from cross-border traffic. This project aims to understand what the creation of a commercial hub on a newly established border meant for the people who lived there. How did large-scale trade opportunities change city space and infrastructure? Who held claims to public space and municipal services? How does an urban studies approach change our understanding of the multi-racial U.S.-Mexico borderlands? Gisselle traces the development of public services and municipal governance between 1918, when the first physical boundary divided the border cities, and 1965, when investments from the Mexican National Border Program (PRONAF) and the binational Border Industrialization Program rebuilt the Nogales gateway. Once the border physically divided “Ambos Nogales,” city officials gradually restricted access to space, services, and commerce for individuals excluded from post-revolutionary ideas of urban modernity. Using municipal and state archives, Gisselle explores how working women, Chinese business owners, Indigenous Tohono O’odham, and Native Yaqui asserted rights to waterworks, electricity, and education in a changing border city.

Matrix News

Matrix Announces 2021-2022 Research Teams

UC Berkeley Campanile

How are digital technologies re-shaping property and development? How are unionized employees in the energy sector experiencing climate change? What are the impacts of Chinese surveillance systems deployed across the Global South? How can museums support Indigenous-led environmental activism?

These are among the diverse questions that will be addressed by the eight Matrix Research Teams to be funded by Social Science Matrix during the 2021-2022 academic year. Matrix Research Teams are groups of scholars who gather regularly to explore or develop a novel question or emerging field in the social sciences. These teams convene participants from multiple disciplines, and focus on research questions with real-world significance. This year’s teams were chosen following review by a cross-disciplinary panel of faculty members.

“Matrix is delighted to announce the Research Team awardees for the 2021-2022 academic year,” says Marion Fourcade, Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley and Director of Social Science Matrix. “We received a range of innovative, high-quality applications and subjected them to a rigorous evaluation process. The funded Matrix Research Teams reflect the very best of UC Berkeley’s cross-disciplinary and critical social science, speaking to our most pressing intellectual, theoretical, and social challenges. Social Science Matrix looks forward to working with all of these groups over the course of the next 12 months.”

This year’s funded teams include three faculty-led teams and five student-led teams. Faculty-led teams receive $5000 in funding and hold regular meetings focused on a defined research problem, with a goal to apply for one or more grants for continued research. The student-led teams will receive up to $1500 to explore a new area or question of inquiry, in part to assess whether it has potential for further investigation. Funding for these teams is intended to further collaboration among graduate students, provide professional development, and create opportunities for faculty engagement and mentorship.

In addition to funding, all Matrix Research Teams receive administrative support in coordinating, scheduling, and (after campus reopens) reserving space in our offices on the top floor of the Social Sciences Building (formerly Barrows Hall). Matrix provides communications support to help publicize each group’s work, and Research Teams receive assistance with administering funding, as well as identifying and applying for further funding.

Below are abstracts describing the 2021-2022 Matrix Research Teams, as written by the teams’ organizers in their proposals.

Faculty-Led Teams

Digital Transformations in Property and Development

Team Leads: Desiree Fields, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, UC Berkeley; Hilary Faxon, Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley

Advances in digital technology and platform business models are dramatically reshaping how real estate is planned and developed by public agencies and builders, bought and sold by homeowners and investors, operated by landlords, and inhabited by all of us. In turn, we are witnessing transformations in property and development across cities and hinterlands, from advanced economies with mature formal real estate markets to emerging economies where formal property titles are a recent phenomenon. This Matrix Research Team will draw on ongoing research into case studies from a range of global contexts to investigate a central question: how do digital technologies shape property and development, and with what effects? We pay particular attention to questions of accumulation, inequality, and politics, framing our individual projects and overarching inquiry within an urgent interdisciplinary conversation about tech and social justice. By exploring technology’s impacts on rural and urban development, geopolitics, racial equity, and land commodification in diverse contexts, we seek to understand both the problems and the potential for equitable digital futures. Our research team brings together early-career and established scholars from geography, critical information studies, and political ecology to investigate the shifting relationships between technology, development, and property, aiming to foster a vibrant community of practice in which more senior researchers actively mentor graduate students both at and beyond Berkeley.

Indigenous People, Environmental Sustainability, and Museums

Team Lead: Lauren Kroiz, Associate Professor, History of Art Department, and Faculty Director, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum, UC Berkeley

Under the direction of Dr. Lauren Kroiz, graduate student researcher Pilar Jefferson (Ethnic Studies), and Katie Fleming, Gallery Manager & Education Coordinator at the Hearst Museum, will conduct research across the disciplines of Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, and Museum Studies. Their project aims to broaden the reach of new initiatives at the Hearst Museum linking natural resource protection with contemporary Indigenous art and culture. The project will start in the summer of 2021 and continue through the 2021-2022 academic year. It will have three interconnected phases (a digital timeline, an interview series, and educational resources for undergraduate courses and K-12 students) related to the Hearst Museum exhibition, “The Sea Tore in Two Ways.” The timeline phase of the project will aid the researchers in looking back at the museum’s history to understand its changing relationships with Indigenous communities. In the interview phase the researchers will interview local Indigenous community members and campus faculty and staff, working with them to gather data on what environmental protection challenges Indigenous people are facing and how museums can help them achieve their goals. Finally, the educational resources will take their information from data collected in the first two initiatives to show how museums can be sites to support Indigenous-led environmental activism now and in the future.

Labor and Sustainable Energy: Organizational Bottlenecks and Bottom-Up Dynamics

Team Leads: Cihan Tugal, Professor, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley; Eylem Taylan, Graduate Student, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley; Thomas Gepts, Graduate Student, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley

As ecological disasters intensify, community struggles follow suit. Absent from much of this conflict is organized labor. Many unions take the side of companies accused of ecological damage. Simultaneously, emergent policy frameworks grant labor an increasing role in the transition to sustainable energy. We ask: How do energy employees experience this social, political, and ecological scene? Our theoretical framework approaches energy-sector employees not only as “workers,” but as whole human beings with multiple identities (parents, citizens, neighbors, etc.) and conflicting stakes in the transition to a green future. How does this complexity influence their relationships with their unions and companies? PG&E provides an ideal case to explore these questions. The company has contributed to many calamities throughout the years, but its largest union has sided with PG&E in resisting the restructuring of the company. How do rank and file workers react to debates about PG&E’s future? Have they taken actions on these issues? Are there movement, racial, gender, or community dynamics that might allow them to pull the union in an alternative direction? Our research team will conduct 60 one-on-one and 7-8 focus group interviews to answer these questions. We will situate our analysis of these interviews within a study of the structural history of PG&E and its unions. By attending to the views of energy sector workers, we will contribute to existing political and scholarly debates by better evaluating the challenges and prospects of an ecologically and socially just transition to renewable energy.

Student-Led Teams

Approaches to Operationalizing Equity in Net Zero Emissions Targets

Team Leads: Kate Altemus Cullen, PhD Student, Energy & Resources Group, UC Berkeley; Calder Tsuyuki- Tomlinson, Research Officer, Global Economic Governance Programme, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford; Kaya Axelsson, Net Zero Policy Engagement Fellow, Oxford Net Zero Programme, University of Oxford

Net zero’ commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions now cover 56 percent of the global population, spanning a wide range of actors, including national and regional governments, cities, businesses, and investors (Black et al., 2021). In recognition of the impacts that arise from a global transition to net zero carbon emissions, there are growing calls for these actors to include equity principles in their commitments. However, due to the nascency of net zero as the organizing principle for global decarbonization in addition to the absence of overarching equity mechanisms, there is little consensus on the conceptual formulation and application of equity in net zero commitments. Our research question is therefore: How can equity be meaningfully, precisely, and thoroughly operationalised as part of net zero policymaking? In answering this question, we aim to provide clarity for actors committing to net zero targets on how best to consider equity for a diverse range of stakeholders. We perform a review of the existing literature on the variegated conceptions of climate equity and related terms. The resulting typology is then applied to a dataset of equity commitments found within a stocktake of net zero commitments previously collected by research group members, to build theory on potential drivers of equity processes in net zero policymaking. This theory is used to identify and interrogate exemplary cases through qualitative interview data, which is then utilized to develop an overarching framework on the incorporation of equity in net zero policymaking.


Designing Mechanisms for Fairness and Transparency in Mediated Markets

Team Lead: Andrew Chong, Graduate Student, School of Information, UC Berkeley

Economic interaction increasingly occurs in marketplaces where platform firms exercise autocratic and unilateral control. These centralized markets, fully observable to the firm and governed with explicit algorithms, are deeply at odds with the model of the “invisible hand” in classical political economy, where markets are seen as arising naturalistically and enabling the maximal welfare of society through the decentralized and largely unobservable interactions of economic actors. By contrast, mediated markets are constructed and managed with code, with a single firm often possessing asymmetric visibility and control over market transactions. Such markets require explicit design choices by the firm, who actively manage market outcomes to serve private interests.

Participants in mediated markets hence rely on platform firms to represent market processes and communicate market information. Scholars have argued that such representations can be manipulative. Hwang and Elish, for example, describe Uber’s representation of predicted demand to its drivers as a “mirage of a marketplace” and a form of behavioral control. Such techniques are only one example of a wide panoply of methods firms are undertaking, where marketplace policies are engineered to leverage or evade participant norms, a phenomenon we describe as “norms engineering.”

Economic sociologists and historians have stressed examining the materiality and politics inherent in market institutions and how they shape market outcomes. This research team brings together interdisciplinary perspectives and expertise across human-computer interaction, economic sociology, law, and critical traditions to consider and develop socio-technical mechanisms for fairness and transparency in mediated markets, to better incorporate the values of stakeholders.

Domestic Politics, Foreign Surveillance: Chinese Dataveillance in the Global South

Team Lead: Seyi Olojo, PhD student, School of Information, UC Berkeley

China’s surveillance technology market has found a lucrative foothold in the Global South, competing with the United States for contracts and economic influence. As these international business relationships multiply, so do their effects on domestic socio-political processes. In 2020, Uganda spent $126 million dollars on CCTV surveillance systems developed by Chinese software companies. With China’s investment in the Global South, what price will Uganda pay for Chinese facial recognition technology? With the recent re-election of long-term incumbent President, Yoweri Museveni, much is at stake for Uganda’s surveillance state. Our project aims to understand how China is developing relationships in the Global South to solidify their position and interests in places like Africa or Latin America. We investigate this through a series of questions: how does the introduction of surveillance technologies affect the socio-political climate of Uganda? What are the distinct effects of technology contracts with China on domestic political processes? What do these contracts signify for the future of development in the Global South? Lastly, what are the potential implications of Chinese ownership of data retrieved from the Global South? We use Uganda’s tenuous political climate as the center of our analysis to explore this history of Chinese technology exports in the Global South, tracing the politics of use as predictive analytic for understanding the future of governance in Uganda. This study explores how hegemonic politics further establishes a surveillance state in Uganda and contributes to dataveillance practices in the Global South.

Racial Capitalism

Team Leads: Christian Hosam, PhD Student, Department of Political Science, UC Berkeley; Clara Pérez Medina, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley

Racial capitalism, a burgeoning interdisciplinary field of study, is critical to understanding contemporary instances of climate emergency, neoliberal capital accumulation, the erosion of aordable housing, and a host of other issues core to the status of marginalized communities, within and beyond the United States. Excitingly, the field itself is still in formation. This working group proposes to bring together a number of faculty and graduate students together to think critically about the historical development of the field of inquiry, specific sites of its manifestation, and ways that communities here and abroad can use the insights of the racial capitalism literature in their mobilizations. 

Situating Camps and Confinement Sites beyond Humanitarianism, Periodization, and Area Studies Discourses

Team Leads: Laura Belik, Graduate Student, Architecture, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley; Heba Najada, Graduate Student, Global Metropolitan Studies, UC Berkeley

As places of exception and mass incarceration, the camp constitutes a space set apart outside the boundaries of legal and civil rights. Camps are intimately related to the era of colonization and its attendant processes of invasion, occupation, disruption, and relocation. They are nodes of state power and spatial manifestation of a society that periodically splinters into distinct categories based on belonging or non-belonging. This working group centers its focus on the space of the camp, in an interdisciplinary context, to explore how its “architectures” — the camps themselves, their spatial layout, infrastructure systems and camp-thinking — have operated to shape, detain and enable particular forms of movement. The goal of this project is to forge space for research and debate the different models of encampments and how they shift between various nation-states and periods of time. By tracing and better understanding the multiple histories and iterations of “camps,” we pay attention to the complex mobilities involved in the carceral experience, we broach dichotomies of permanence and temporality, material and immaterial and mobility and stasis. Collectively, we aim to challenge dominant narratives of ‘crisis,’ ‘victims’ and ‘bare life’ by exploring the ways in which camps are transformed, materially and immaterially, through various forms of agency — dissent, resistance, transgression, activism, or submission and dependence — by the bodies that inhabit them.


Other Events

2021 Social Sciences Fest and Matrix Open House

Raka Ray

On April 9, faculty members and graduate students from across the UC Berkeley Division of Social Sciences joined together online for the 2021 Social Sciences Fest and Matrix Open House, a celebration of the accomplishments of the division and a review of Matrix’s activities from the prior year. Traditionally held annually, this was the first Social Sciences Fest in two years, as the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Raka Ray
Raka Ray, Dean of the UC Berkeley Division of Social Sciences

The event was hosted by Raka Ray, Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, who sat before a virtual background displaying many of the books authored by UC Berkeley social scientists over the past two years. “As we approach the end of this academic year, marked by so much loss, anxiety and adjustment, this remarkable division has poured its heart and soul into educating students, looking after their needs, contributing to campus and the profession, and producing excellent research and winning awards, all while working from home, often managing work and home life with home-schooled children,” Ray said. “We are under-staffed, under-resourced and overworked to be sure, but still we persist.”

Ray applauded a few of the division’s many accomplishments from the past year, including high U.S. News and World Report rankings (including top rankings for the Departments of History, Psychology and Sociology), as well as UC Berkeley’s continued influence in the world, particularly as multiple faculty (including Janet Yellen and Danny Yagan) now hold positions at the highest levels of the Biden administration. She noted, for example, an article in The American Prospect that described the influence of the “Berkeley School of Economics” in elevating inequality as a major focus of government policy. Among the other accomplishments Ray cited:


The Division is also preparing to launch a new initiative entitled Toward a Just Social Science, which aims to help create a more inclusive social science that is oriented toward social justice. “We have a new website, and a strong development team ready and willing to work with you to help raise funds for core initiatives and projects,” Ray said.

Throughout the event, Ray introduced new faculty members, who were given an opportunity to introduce themselves and provide an overview of their scholarship. For example, Hannah Sande, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, provided an overview of her work documenting language  in West Africa, focused on “word building that doesn’t involve adding affixes, but instead involves tonal changes to roots, or changing a vowel in a root to change the meaning.”

And Brandi Summers, Assistant Professor of Geography and Global & Metropolitan Studies, gave a summary of her work on Black geographies, urban geography, racial aesthetics, and related fields. Her first book, Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City (featured in an October 2020 Matrix event), focused on Washington D.C., and now she is working on a new book about Oakland. “Ultimately, I’m looking at Oakland as a Black city,” she said. “I’m really engaging in how people are looking at it as a political location for resistance and thinking about reclamation.”

Matrix Year in Review

As part of the “Matrix Open House” portion of the event, Marion Fourcade, Director of Social Science Matrix, introduced Matrix and spoke about how much she is looking forward to returning to our space at the top of the Social Sciences Building.

“Matrix is a concept,” Fourcade explained. “Matrix is a physical realization of the idea that intellectual progress in the social sciences and in society more broadly depends on the cross-disciplinary fertilization of knowledge, methods, and perspectives. The space was actually conceived to catalyze such interactions. So you bump into people you don’t often cross paths with: colleagues and students from other disciplines, non-academics who enjoy coming to our lecture series, and famous out-of-town guests who are giving an intimate presentation.”

Fourcade invited the attendees of the event to sign up for our events and visit Matrix on campus as soon as possible. “You can look forward to a time when we can resume in-person activities, and in-person academic lives,” Fourcade said. “We have missed the space a lot this year, but we’ve missed the people who normally populate it even more.”

Social Sciences Divisional Awards: Distinguished Service Awards

As a highlight of the Social Sciences Fest, Dean Ray presented Divisional Distinguished Teaching and Service Awards for the past year.

Joan Kask

Joan Kask
Joan Kask

The first service award was given to Joan Kask, Administrative Director in the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Program (ISSP). “As her nominating letter writes, her institutional knowledge, attention to detail, and responsiveness are her trademarks,” Ray said. “Joan provides magic in ensuring smooth functioning at the time of scarce resources and unprecedented enrollment growth. Her prescient budgeting and planning are fundamental to the success of our expanding programs…. Joan Kask is a Berkeley treasure who works much harder than anyone should, and the quality of her work is beyond what anyone would expect.”

“None of us works in a vacuum, no matter how much it may have felt like that during this year of isolation,” Kask responded, while accepting the award. “This award is for all my peers who’ve worked so hard and with such dedication. I’ve been really fortunate in my more than 35 years on campus and my four different jobs that I’ve held to work with many, many wonderful people. The group of colleagues I currently work with… are all among the most interesting, knowledgeable, hardworking, kind, sharing, and just awesome people I’ve ever been associated with.”

Kim Voss

Kim Voss
Kim Voss

The next honoree for a Distinguished Service Award was Professor Kim Voss, who served as interim dean of the Division of Social Sciences between 2019-2020. “The dedication, intelligence, passion, vision, and roll up-your-sleeves-and-never-give-up perseverance that she puts into each and every service role she performs is both awesome and inspirational,” Ray said. “Kim’s intense work ethic and dedicated participation in faculty governance has yielded collective benefits for her home department of Sociology (of which she was the first woman Chair), the College of Letters & Science, several ORUs  and interdisciplinary research initiatives, the Graduate Division, the Academic Senate, the campus, and, through her scholarship and public outreach, to communities and organizations beyond campus as well.”

“It’s really impossible to win an award like this without the help of many,” Voss said, as she received the award. “My reason for becoming an academic in the first place was that I believed a PhD was the best way to figure out how to make social change…. I was attracted to Berkeley because I wanted my research to have an impact beyond the academy. I knew that doing such work was valued at Berkeley in a way that, at the time, it was not valued by many other top sociology departments. Today, I still want my research to be impactful beyond the academy. However, over time, I have come to see that one of the most significant ways that I can personally help make the world a better place is to refuse to cede the best education and research to the private sphere. Instead, it has become deeply meaningful to me to make Berkeley the university that provides the world’s best education, both to the children of janitors and home health care workers, and to children for more elite families. It has also become profoundly important to me to help ensure that Berkeley remains the place where scholars produce the research needed to create a more just, equal, and sustainable world.”

Social Sciences Divisional Awards: Distinguished Teaching Awards

Ozlem Ayduk

Ozlem Ayduk
Ozlem Ayduk

The first faculty member honored with a Distinguished Teaching Award at this year’s Social Sciences Fest was Ozlem Ayduk, Professor of Psychology. “Ozlem is a beloved mentor because she is able to combine support and care for her mentees at the same time that she is able to provide honest feedback to them, both positive and negative, and have the students emerge wanting to become better scientists,” Ray said. “In essence, Ozlem’s mentoring relationships are grounded in mutual trust, respect, and genuine caring. In the time of the pandemic, Ozlem carefully and deliberately re-engineered the course she had been teaching for over 15 years with the well-being of her students in mind—not only their  educational well-being, but also their psychological well-being. This award then is in special recognition of the exceptional time, attention, and effort she put into her teaching during the Fall 2020 term, truly going over and above to the  benefit of her students.”

“When I first started teaching at Berkeley 19 years ago, the possibility of my receiving this award (or any teaching award for that matter) looked like a long shot,” said Ayduk. “I wasn’t a bad teacher, I was perfectly a fine teacher. But given the extraordinary number of gifted teachers we have on this campus, I just didn’t see myself as a candidate that had that special hump. Therefore having been judged worthy of this award means a lot. It’s both gratifying and verifying to know that I have become a better teacher with effort, time, and experience. And I thank members of the selection committee in acknowledging that and putting their trust in me.”

Keith Feldman

Keith Feldman
Keith Feldman

The second Distinguished Teaching Award was given to Keith Feldman, Associate Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies. “He has been a dynamic leader in curricular innovation, and is an early and effective contributor to numerous campus-wide teaching initiatives,” Ray said. “He’s an incredibly vital lecturer, whom students describe as rigorous, well-prepared, responsive, and dedicated — someone who encourages student participation and is passionate about his subjects. His unwavering ability to balance accessibility, fairness, and rigor make him an exceptional model for others to follow.”

“Teaching is really quite central to my sense of self as a scholar and a member of this campus community,” Feldman said. “So it’s really wonderful to receive this particular recognition. Teaching, in so many ways, is enlivening precisely because of the kind of ordinary practice of exchange that it makes possible, of sitting and thinking and reflecting together, taking risks in a shared space and time. There’s something about the rhythm and ritual of the day, the week, the unit, the semester, returning to a shared space with one another over time. Receiving this award in this of all years has been especially moving, in no small part because of how disruptive the last 13 months have been to all of these rituals and rhythms. I cannot wait to once again sit around a table and think together with Berkeley students and not have to worry about whether my internet is stable or what’s happening in the chat. I’m also incredibly grateful for all the remarkable work that’s gone on at this university to allow us to keep teaching.”


Q&A: Dan Lindheim on Police and the Community

An interview with the former Oakland City Administrator — and member of a new Matrix Research Team on police and the community.


When Dan Lindheim was a freshman at UC Berkeley in the 60s, he was arrested in Sproul Hall for his participation in the Free Speech Movement. “We had a very negative view about police departments, particularly the Oakland Police and Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs,” he recalls.

Years later, while in Argentina, he was badly beaten by the police. “They cracked my skull and rearranged my face, among other things,” he says.

In 2008, Lindheim was appointed by Mayor Ron Dellums to serve as the City Administrator for the City of Oakland. Part of his role was to implement a negotiated settlement agreement that called for a major reform of the Oakland Police Department, including reforms related to internal affairs, supervision of officers, police use of force, training, personnel practices, and community policing. “In my first talk to the assembled masses of Oakland officers, I started by saying, ‘I grew up in Berkeley, and we hated the Oakland cops’,” he recalls. “Then every time I met with the police union, and we were in constant meetings and negotiations, they would always start with how I hated the Oakland Police. It got to be sort of a joke.”

Today, Lindheim is an adjunct professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, and Faculty Director of the Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement. He is also a member of a new Matrix Research Team, “Community Cooperation and the Police in Comparative Perspective,” focused on examining existing work on community relationships and the police in the United States and in developing countries. As part of their collaboration, the team aims to work directly with members of the Oakland Police Department. “Police are an important part of society,” Lindheim says. “In this community, the Oakland Police have been the source of a great deal of community concern and opposition. For a lot of us who grew up and have been active politically in this area, bringing about changes in the Oakland Police Department was something important and necessary.”

We interviewed Lindheim about the “defund the police” movement, changing police culture, and other topics. (Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity.)

Your Matrix Research Team is very timely, given the recent calls for police reform and defunding. How did the team come together?

These are things that we’ve all been involved in and continue to do research in. We actually trained a cohort of Oakland Police in the fall at the Goldman School. Part of the issue is developing a certain level of confidence with officers, so you can talk frankly about issues. The general concern was to talk about developing a sense of police respect for the community, and community understanding and respect for police. In the absence of that, you have warring factions going against each other.

My particular interest is to specifically delineate the various meanings of “abolish” and “defund.” We have a pretty good sense of the range of important police reforms, but I think it’s less clear which current police functions could be more appropriately done outside of the police department. In my view, when people talk about “abolish,” they should be saying abolish certain police functions. No jurisdiction will be abolishing all police functions. It’s reallocating certain police functions to non-police officers and agencies. The police are often first responders on a range of mental illness issues. The police aren’t trained for that; and police don’t want to handle these issues. So there’s a certain level of general agreement that certain calls for service can be offloaded from police to other groups and agencies. But it’s not well defined what those things are, how alternative models would be developed, and what the process is for creating community involvement and buy-in for doing that. My main interest at the moment is trying to get community processes underway to really look at these issues of “abolish.” Defund is then just reallocating the budget from what had been to new arrangements based on changing those functions. It’s a critical issue of our time.

There’s general agreement that police are not the best trained to respond to all mental health issues. But it’s not obvious how you know when a 911 call is only a mental health issue. This is critical, because Dispatch needs to have clear rules for whether to dispatch an officer or a mental health specialist. You have to develop systems for figuring out, how do you do that triage? How do you do that allocation? And what if you have problems? Let’s assume that we have only social workers doing these responses. How do you protect them when things get dicey? These people are all city workers, whether they’re cops or non-cops. And if you’re the city manager or an elected, you’re responsible for the well-being of all of them.

One serious issue is that Dispatch is always underfunded and undertrained, and they have just an incredibly difficult job. But if we’re going to change from automatically sending everything to the police to sending it to some mix of police and to other people, there must be decision rules and training on these new rules.  We must turn this from a political slogan to programmatic reality. Until this is done, you really can’t switch this on. And there must be community buy-in to any new model. Another abolish/defund issue is that the Oakland community is heterogeneous in all of its diverse communities.  Surprising to some advocates, some people in Oakland want more police. Many in flatland communities and communities of color feel they’re generally over-policed and oppressed by police, but many also feel that they are not appropriately served when they have emergent situations. When faced with a violent situation, if they call the cops, they want to be sure that appropriate responders show up. So it’s very much a community-based issue for how you come up with these new rules of engagement, and who’s going to be assigned to do what.

We must turn this from a political slogan to programmatic reality. Until this is done, you really can’t switch this on.

What do you anticipate will be some of the challenges as cities try to “defund” the police?

The police are interested in keeping their current budgets, but just offload some of their current work to other people. From their point of view, this is a win-win: police can do less of the safety net social issues they don’t want to be working on and can then devote their efforts to addressing violent crime, which is what they really signed up to do.  However, because of COVID, cities are in very precarious financial situations. They won’t be able to fund police at current levels while creating new systems for dealing with these safety-net issues. So it’s not going to be so simple.

Oakland has other challenges for reducing police spending. Oakland has a Measure Z parcel tax, which funds many violence prevention services that most everybody supports, as well as about 50 community policing officers. It has two provisions related to defunding. One, it says there must be at least 677 officers, period. At the moment, they’re at 741, so they still have a bit of room, but that provision means you can’t go below that level. So that’s a limitation. Two, it also says if police staffing is below 800 officers (which it is), then no officers can be laid off. So without layoffs, how do you reduce the force? You have to go back to the voters and change the parcel tax, or wait until 2024, when it is up for reauthorization. But that’s going to require time and its own community process. There is still attrition of about 60-70 officers per year, so the total number can come down, but just lopping off 50% of the officers isn’t happening any time soon. Minneapolis, which has said it will completely defund police, is similarly constrained in laying off officers; its charter requires its current level of 735 officers.

Most people are talking about 911 response when they’re talking about taking functions from police. But more than half of officers don’t work in 911. They’re not beat officers. They’re doing other kinds of jobs. They’re on special teams. They’re detectives. They’re in various different functional units. Part of the reimagining process has to look at that other half, because you have to see where the money is and see which of these functions can be reallocated to other agencies.

It is also important to understand that it is not just the number of officers, but how many beats and how many shifts are being funded. If police departments don’t have the requisite number of officers, frequently they just backfill the open slots with overtime. Part of the question is, how do you control that? One former chief told me, ‘if you give me a reasonable budget, then I’ll hold to that budget. But if you give me an unreasonable budget, to hell with it, I’m just going to do what I have to do.’ In my time in Oakland, we were able to control police spending and control overtime, but it took drastic effort, and it took major micromanaging on my part, and it required developing a relationship with the union and the leadership in a way that most city managers don’t have.

Most people are talking about 911 response when they’re talking about taking functions from police. But more than half of officers don’t work in 911.

How can police departments address a challenge like excessive use of improper force?

Excessive and inappropriate use of force is a serious issue. In my view, use of force policy is something that should be discussed and determined by the city’s elected representatives. Addressing use of force issues is difficult and something we worked very hard on. Officers need to understand that their role is not to mete out discipline to the people they consider to be bad guys.  At most, the police role is to turn somebody over to the judicial process if they are suspected of some wrongdoing. But too many police feel that their role is cop, judge, and executioner. This mindset must be removed. A second aspect — and one of the things that I really fought against — is that when police are being disciplined or evaluated, especially on use of force, the department does what’s called a “final frame” analysis to determine whether the officer’s use of force is justified in the final frame, or very last second prior to the use of force. This makes no policy sense whatsoever. It’s quite possible that, in the final frame, the officer felt they were in jeopardy or imminent danger. But the real issue is, why did they put themselves in that position in the first place? To do a meaningful analysis and create appropriate policies, you have to back up a bunch of frames first and make sure that officers don’t put themselves in that final frame in the first place.

Too many police feel that their role is cop, judge, and executioner. This mindset must be removed.

Oakland has mostly banned car chases, except under very special and controlled circumstances, because generally nothing good happens with a car chase. Innocent people get injured, cars get destroyed, and people will wind up dead or severely injured. Police have an attitude of “we can’t let them get away.” The real question is, why not? Putting it in terms of a social cost-benefit, how important is it to always pursue somebody, and what are the costs of that?

Oakland has also stopped pursuing suspects into dark alleys. Again, nothing good happens in these chases. Officers are endangering themselves, and too often the result is an officer involved shooting.  There was a police-involved shooting of somebody accused of something very minor. Officers pursued him down a dark alley, saw a shiny object, which turned out to be a marijuana scale for street sales, and the police brain said, “dark alley, shiny thing, must be a gun,” and they killed him. Now they have a procedure that they don’t chase people into dark alleys.

In the recent case in Georgia, the cop and [Rayshard Brooks], who ultimately wound up dead, were talking for over half an hour. And the officers had the guy’s car, they had his keys, they knew who he was, they knew where he lived. So he did something he wasn’t supposed to do. He grabbed the guy’s taser and ran. But it wasn’t like they had to do anything. They knew who we was! They could just wait a few minutes, drive around the corner, and arrest him. So trying to change that mental attitude — that you don’t have to use deadly force just to stop someone from running away — is a crucial aspect to all of this.

Another issue is that too many police self-select. Many senior officers say that when you hire inexperienced, young kids, give them a hot car and a weapon, plus you give them a certain amount of authority, it’s a recipe for bad things happening. And so, you really have to control it.

One of the things I learned in Oakland was that if you want cops to act differently, you have to order them to act differently. During the Oscar Grant demonstrations, I ordered them to act differently — not to use their tanks and not to come dressed in battle gear — no “hats and bats.” I said, you guys should be in solidarity with the demonstrators and demonstrating as well. What happened to Oscar Grant was reprehensible, and thank goodness it wasn’t an Oakland cop who did it. And you Oakland cops need to bond with the community. But it’s complicated., When people start throwing bottles at the police, then the question is, is it still okay to not have them using “hats and bats”? They are city employees who you are responsible for, so what seems reasonable becomes more complicated.

A lot of police are ex-military and see their role in that way. It’s a generalized problem across the country, not necessarily just the militarization in terms of the use of tools, which is a serious problem, but there’s this military attitude, and that has to change. You’re just not going to have decent, acceptable police community relations if you have that.

What is the value of having a high level of trust between the police and the community?

Police have very few tools to do any crime fighting or crime solving. If the community won’t give them information, and they can’t deal with the community or they don’t have trust, they have no ability to learn anything. Even when community members know who did what, there’s this whole attitude of, “don’t snitch”. Sometimes it’s because people are afraid, and sometimes it’s just that I people don’t want to be helping the cops. Unless you have some real relationship, it’s very hard for you even to do your job.

One of the issues in a lot of communities, and particularly in Oakland, is that flatland communities are most impacted by policing. Oakland is a very segregated city, and most policing takes place in communities of color, largely because there is a coincidence between where violent crimes are committed and these flatland areas. Most White folks live on the hill side of highway 580. There are almost no homicides and little violent crime and these areas don’t get much policing, much to their feelings of detriment. A few years ago, there was a move to actually hire neighborhood security guards because some of the hill communities felt like they didn’t have any officers.

When police believe that they have to stop people in order to prevent crime, and then wind up disproportionately stopping people of color, this has an impact on the whole community. Police need to understand these impacts. The fact that police mostly stop people of color, and primarily African Americans, is less a function of individual officer racism (which of course exists to some extent in Oakland and elsewhere) and more a function of where police do policing. What I tell my students, and the officers, is that the disproportionate stop numbers are the responsibility of senior policymakers who decide where police are assigned. If officers are assigned to areas that comprise predominantly people of color, the stops will largely be people of color. But that explanation doesn’t make it OK. Stopping people is oppressive to the people being stopped, especially if there isn’t a specific and justifiable reason for making the stop. Car stops, particularly unnecessary stops, harm community police relations. The best way for police to prevent or solve crimes is to have the respect and support of the community. It’s really an efficiency issue more than just a political issue.

When police believe that they have to stop people in order to prevent crime, and then wind up disproportionately stopping people of color, this has an impact on the whole community.

What kind of framework or process do you imagine will be needed to help guide efforts to defund the police?

Let’s take something like mental health. We could bring in various mental health experts and say, what kind of calls can you handle? And how would you know in advance whether you actually can handle them safely? Do you want to handle them with teams of mental health workers, or do you want to have joint teams of mental health workers and police? How do you configure that, and what do you need to know in advance so that a dispatch person can send the appropriate response?

It’s easy to say that mental health calls can be offloaded from police to social workers. But there are a lot of details. How do you pair people up? How do you allocate people? How do you dispatch? How do you protect people? And that’s just on the mental health calls. With domestic violence, there are other sets of issues. How do you determine which is the appropriate response and how do you protect your workers? It’s not so much coming up with an end allocation of who might do what, but how do you inform the debate? To the extent we can define these issues in a more precise and clear way, I think we could make a contribution to whoever we’re dealing with. This debate is just beginning. It is not going to just disappear. Moreover, it’s not something that can just happen in an instant. It’s not like you can just lop off X percent of your police force. You’ve got to come up with specific plans for how you want to deploy and organize, and how you train and how you staff, let alone how you finance it.

On the flip side, if you’re going to start having social workers replace cops, how are you going to deploy your cops? What do you want cops to do? In a place like Oakland, with a high number of violent crimes, what is the community feeling about what they want? They want the city to respond to violent crime and protect them. It may be more police, it may be different kinds of police. To me, one of the most important issues is that this can’t be a top-down kind of process. This has to be a genuine, community-developed process. Because without that, it’s just not going to be able to succeed.

It’s not like you can just lop off X percent of your police force. You’ve got to come up with specific plans for how you want to deploy and organize, and how you train and how you staff, let alone how you finance it.

If you were speaking to either a city administrator or a police chief, what advice would you have about how to approach this to achieve the desired outcomes?

What I’ve told one local chief is that you need to start looking at your calls for service, and trying to figure out in your own mind, which are the low hanging fruit that can and should be handled by non-sworn staff? And how would you know in advance that they’re the obvious ones?

The great advantage of the moment is that cops don’t want to be doing this stuff. It’s not like we have competing demands here. I don’t know that the social workers want to be doing it. (And I’m using social workers as a proxy word, it may or may not be a social worker.) From the police point of view, analyze your calls for service, analyze what your special teams are doing, and see which of these have to be officers and why. What are the gray areas, and how can you offer support? What happens if something goes bad? What’s the best way of staffing those types of calls?

The current police response is, we should have more social workers, but they should work in teams with our people, as opposed to our people getting training on dealing with mental health issues. For community folks, the question is, how do you define mental health calls and how do you want those handled? What kind of people should respond to which kinds of calls? And how do you protect these people if things go bad? It has to go from the sort of sloganeering, “off with your heads, and off with 50%,” into a reasoned discussion in which people can sit around a table and say, this is what I want here, this is not what I want.

I’m not presuming that people are going to agree. But at least you can refine these issues to a certain extent. To me, my real role is trying to educate a community process to make some kind of decisions and at least bring these issues closer to something people can discuss and either agree or disagree about, to come to some sense of what an alternative staffing model might look like, and what it might cost, and is it plausible?

Part of the reimagining is coming up with alternative models, and to the extent that we can help people, let’s just say reimagine alternative models, then that’s really where we have a substantial potential contribution. Otherwise, saying “cut 50%” works great as a slogan, but in the real world, that doesn’t help you a whole lot.

All of a sudden, this is a front-page issue. Once these protests happened, we said, this is an opportunity we can’t miss. We have to have some involvement with the department. This is the burning issue of the moment in this world of police, policing, and community. And I don’t think it’s going to be going away anytime soon. We have to spend whatever time we can to be helpful or useful and in providing whatever knowledge we may have to help the process.

Matrix News

2020-2021 Matrix Research Teams Announced

Data feminism, Asian cities, and community cooperation and police are among the topics to be explored by the seven new Matrix Research Teams selected for the 2020-2021 academic year.

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Social Science Matrix is proud to announce that seven new Matrix Research Teams have been selected to receive support during the 2020-2021 academic year. Matrix Research Teams are groups of scholars who gather regularly to explore or develop a novel question of significance in the social sciences. Matrix teams typically integrate participants from several social-science disciplines and diverse ranks (i.e. faculty and graduate students), address a compelling research question with real-world significance, and deploy or develop appropriate methodologies in creative ways.

“Matrix is delighted to announce the Research Team awardees for the 2020-2021 academic year,” says Michael Watts, Emeritus “Class of 1963” Professor of Geography and Development Studies at UC Berkeley and Acting Director of Matrix. “As in past years, the application process produced a raft of exceptionally high quality and innovative projects that made the task of the selection committee especially difficult. The funded Matrix Research Teams reflect the very best of UC Berkeley’s cross-disciplinary and critical social science, speaking to our most pressing intellectual, theoretical, and social challenges. Social Science Matrix looks forward to working with all of these groups over the course of the next twelve months.”

Matrix supports two different kinds of teams: Project teams receive funding in the amount of $5000. Prospecting teams receive funding in the amount of $1500. Matrix Research Teams additionally receive communications and administration support, and may have access to space in the Matrix space at the top of Barrows Hall, as allowed by campus policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s teams were chosen following review by a cross-disciplinary panel of faculty members. Below are abstracts describing the 2020-2021 Matrix Research Teams, written by the teams’ organizers.

Project Teams

Community Cooperation and the Police in Comparative Perspective

Team Leaders: Aila Matanock, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science; Dan Lindheim, Faculty Director, Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement; Leo Arriola, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Director of the Center for African Studies Groups

A fundamental role of the state is to provide security and order, and the police are the consummate street-level bureaucrat serving to provide these functions, but their success fundamentally relies on earning the trust and cooperation from citizens. We explore how positive relationships between citizens and the police are built. We examine existing work on community relationships and the police in the United States and, especially, across developing countries; in both contexts, we look at traditional policing and crime as well as nontraditional enforcement on countering insurgency and enforcing quarantines. We propose to reanalyze studies across context to see what they suggest in aggregate; to explore short case studies on moments of change in policing structures to understand variation in citizens’ trust and cooperation with the police from developing countries; and, finally, to generate new collaborative work where existing literature has left gaps in our understanding of these dynamics.

Psychology & Economics of Poverty

Team Leaders: Mahesh Srinivasan, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; Supreet Kaur, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

The Psychology and Economics of Poverty (PEP) Initiative represents a new research agenda exploring the cognitive and behavioral effects of poverty, by cultivating a tight-knit community of development economists, cognitive and social psychologists, and other scientists working on poverty reduction. The initiative will strengthen a nascent community of practice by: coordinating cross-disciplinary lab meetings and a reading group with faculty and students from UC Berkeley, other UCs, Stanford University, and additional West Coast universities; an annual international conference focusing attention on how poverty interacts with cognition, brain development, behavior, and human welfare; and supporting exploratory and pilot research as well as larger-scale empirical research studies proposed by members of the community to pursue new lines of inquiry. The ultimate goal of the PEP initiative is to drive original interdisciplinary research on how poverty affects cognition, health, and well-being, toward the end of positively influencing social and economic development programming on a large scale. Insights from the PEP initiative have the potential to help both the public and private sectors with designing and targeting interventions that effectively increase welfare for the world’s poor.

Prospecting Teams

The Asian City: New Models of City-Making

Team Leaders: Meiqing Li, PhD Student, City and Regional Planning; Jolene Lee, PhD Student, Architecture; Liubing Xie, PhD Student, City and Regional Planning

Driven by convergent and disparate forces of governance and capital markets, the contemporary Asian city represents a new model that differs from those in the Anglo-American or European planning traditions. Beyond a site of engagement with capitalism or postcolonialism, Asian cities are nodes of specific local, regional, and national articulations in the pursuit of globality. The ‘Asian city’ thus requires a reflexivity of interdisciplinary fields to situate inter-city comparisons, references, and models. The workshop and seminar series will bring together faculty, researchers, and graduate students from multiple disciplines in humanity and social science, to study a variety of contemporary cases in Asia. We believe that an Asian perspective will not only inform urban studies research and planning practice, but also help shed light on how the unresolved tensions and friction between cultural norms and values and the various scales of governance impact the processes of city-making and remaking amidst current global crises.

COVID-19 & Natural Resources

Team Leader: Stephanie Postar, Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow in Natural Resource Economics and Political Economy, Department of Geography

“COVID and Natural Resources” examines how the 2020 coronavirus pandemic interrupted the ways minerals, oil, and gas are mined, processed, circulated, and consumed. Gold prices, unsurprisingly, rose with the number of the sick, while the unthinkable — a negative price for oil on the West Texas Intermediate on April 20 — made international news, raising panic about American jobs and the overall state of the U.S. economy. However, economic and geopolitical analyses of resource prices and market trends leave us with incomplete understandings about how the pandemic continues to impact the people and communities who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods and bear the environmental impact of resource exploitation. We aim to bring to broader audiences more grounded stories of how the virus impacts people’s lives via the resources they extract and acquire. On-the-ground fieldwork is either not possible or limited; despite this constraint, sharing the stories of how coronavirus impacted everyday life along resource commodity chains will be necessary to bring into focus how marginalized workers and their communities are weathering these uncertain times. We will convene two workshops as part of the project: the first to support each other in strategizing how to collect data during the pandemic; the second to provide critical feedback on material for publication. This project will produce a series of blog posts for the general public and a special collection as part of an academic journal.

Critical University Studies

Caleb Dawson, PhD Student, Graduate School of Education; Juliet Kunkel, PhD Student, Graduate School of Education; Alice Taylor, PhD Student, Graduate School of Education; Nicole Rangel, Independent Scholar, UCB alumna; Rachel Roberson, PhD Student, Graduate School of Education; David Maldonado, PhD Student, Graduate School of Education

A scholarly community led by graduate students, Critical University Studies (CUS) seeks to: 1) deepen our theoretical inquiry of critical studies of higher education and develop theoretical and empirical connections with critical studies of race, gender, and class. We draw inspiration from the black radical tradition, black feminism, indigenous studies, and decolonial theory. Next, we seek to 2) strengthen our methodological approaches in order to conduct ethical and rigorous research. To this extent, we reflect on our own positionalities, and encourage non-traditional modes of knowledge production and participatory approaches. Lastly, we 3) cultivate community that supports graduate students at UC Berkeley through milestones and degree completion and create a network of faculty and graduate scholars beyond Berkeley. We aim to accomplish this goal through fostering connections among scholars at UC Berkeley and other institutions in the U.S. and transnationally.

Data Feminism(s): Troubling data and power in our backyard and elsewhere

Team Leaders: Gauthami Penakalapati, PhD student, Energy Research Group, with a Designated Emphasis in Gender and Women’s Studies; Elizabeth Resor, PhD student, School of Information

The present pandemic is highlighting how gender and racial disparities in labor and health impacts one’s exposure and susceptibility to COVID. Now, we’re furiously collecting as much data as possible. But once we have this data, what becomes of it? Disaggregating data and ensuring representative samples are important statistical practices, but what material results do these data encourage in individuals’ lived experiences? We can look beyond COVID into global development work as well. Technologies after technologies have been deployed to better women’s health, but inequities remain, illustrating that problems lie in social systems as well as technical ones. Our interdisciplinary team aims to dissect how research questions, data tools, and data collection can reinforce and even exacerbate inequitable situations. Using feminist, decolonial, and critical theory, we also explore best practices, new ways of data collection, new strategies for sharing results with research participants and partners, and methods to practice reflexivity.

Post-Imperial Oceans

Team Leader: Sharad Chari, Associate Professor, Department of Geography

Despite recognition of human reliance on the world ocean, we live in a world of oceanic fragments splintered by legacies of past and present imperial processes. The Post-imperial Oceanics working group thinks across the fragmented aftermaths of oceanic imperial processes, drawing from historical and geographic work on the ocean world, as well as from the environmental humanities. Including graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and scholars connected to Berkeley Geography, this working group connects scholarship across topics, including race and migration across the Black Mediterranean and the Black Pacific, the intellectual world of British imperial seafaring, South Asian energy geopolitics, the colonial Indian Ocean oil sardine fishery, U.S. imperialism in the Arctic, Australian botanical science, the blue economy in the Southern African Indian Ocean, sharks in the Middle Passage, and other oceanic questions. We meet for rotating discussions and will be linked to a workshop on post-imperial oceans.



COVID-19: UC Berkeley Social Sciences Portal

In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Social Science Matrix created a portal to aggregate insights about the coronavirus pandemic from the UC Berkeley social science community.

In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, Social Science Matrix created this page to aggregate insights about the coronavirus pandemic from the UC Berkeley social science community. UC Berkeley researchers are invited to contribute to this portal, whether by submitting original commentary or links to outside publications to

Visit for information on UC Berkeley’s prevention and response efforts related to the COVID-19. The Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources has launched a portal with links to research, commentary, videos, and other resources that relate to the coronavirus.

The Impact of COVID 19 on University Research and International Collaborations

The Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) recently convened a panel focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international research collaboration. “International knowledge networks are essential for research and research is a core function of universities. All aspects of university work are currently strained by the COVID-19, but international programs, including research collaboration, are especially pressured. These programs have produced some of the most creative and innovative results in many disciplines.” The panel discussed “both the challenges that international research collaboration is facing in the current environment and will describe plans for supporting these efforts and planning for their future post-pandemic.” Participants included: Margaret Heisel, Senior Associate, Center for Studies in Higher Education; David Bogle, Pro-Vice-Provost of the University College London (UCL) Doctoral School; France A. Córdova, an astrophysicist and the 14th director of the National Science Foundation (NSF); Jim Hyatt, Senior Research Associate (CSHE), Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance and CFO Emeritus; Randy Katz, Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley; and Tim Stearns, Senior Associate Vice Provost of Research at Stanford University. Watch the video here.

Student depression, anxiety soaring during pandemic, new survey finds

The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing depression and anxiety among college students, with more than a third reporting significant mental health challenges. A recent Berkeley News article by Edward Lempinen cites a new survey co-led by the Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE). “The survey of students at nine U.S. public research universities nationwide found that 35% of undergraduates and 32% of graduate and professional students screened positive for major depressive disorder, while 39% of all students screened positive for anxiety disorder, according to the report released on August 18 by the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium. The rate of anxiety and depression was more pronounced among low-income students, students of color, LGBTQ+ students and those who are caring for loved ones. ‘As the pandemic continues, universities need to be prepared for a surge of student requests for mental health services in the fall and beyond,” said SERU Consortium Director Igor Chirikov, a senior researcher at CSHE. “Current plans to continue education with remote or hybrid instruction won’t be effective without adequate resources for mental health support programs.'”

Prospects of Social Democracy in a Post-Pandemic World

In a recent essay posted on 3 Quarks Daily, Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Graduate School in the UC Berkeley Department of Economics, examined the impact the pandemic could have on social democracy, particularly in the wake of recent trends like the rise of automation and globalization, the decline of working-class trade unions, and the increase in inequality and insecurity. Bardhan to “looks at the prospects of social democracy in the post-pandemic world, at the strengthening or weakening of pre-existing tendencies in this respect, and at new elements, circumstances and challenges,” noting it should be seen “as neither a straight-forward prediction, nor just a matter of wishful thinking, more a clear-eyed analysis of constraints and opportunities that social democrats are likely to face or have to be prepared for.”

Beth Piatote writes about love and antibody farms in her fictional story ‘Level 8 Risk’

Beth Piatote, Associate Professor of Native American Studies, published a fictional story called “Level 8 Risk,” depicting a future world in which immigrants can earn their citizenship by joining the Civilian BioMedical Corps (or CivCo for short), in which they are infected with diseases so they can produce antibodies that are harvested and sold. An excerpt: “Three years after the implant gave me an infection, I’m about to get another one. Another microchip implant, that is, and possibly another infection. I’d call it a level 3 risk. Implant infection was only a level 1 risk last time and I got one, so I’m upping the odds. Esau says it’s good to be prepared, especially with re-entry on the horizon. Re-entry has been on the horizon the entire three years I’ve been here. Every time I get scanned the date pops up: May 1, 2028, embedded in the bar code as 010528. At first, I tried to memorize my whole ID, but the green digits on the screen always disappeared too quickly. Once I caught sight of the date in the sequence, I began to focus on that. And thus I became the date of my discharge, which seems as good an identity as any. It’s called discharge, not release or emancipation, because the Civilian BioMedical Corps (or CivCo for short) was designed to mirror the military structurally if not practically. I used to think of the Army and CivCo as twins, like my brother Saul and me, but CivCo is more like that spoiled step-brother who came along after Uncle Sam got remarried to his much younger second wife.” Read the full piece. Read the full piece (behind a paywall on the SF Chronicle site).

Measuring the labor market at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis

UC Berkeley’s Jesse Rothstein, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics, and Matthew Unrath, a PhD candidate at the Goldman School Public Policy — together with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago — have continued their work measuring the collapse and partial recovery of the U.S. economy, largely using data from Homebase, a private-sector firm that provides time clocks and scheduling software to small businesses. “We use traditional and non-traditional data sources to measure the collapse and subsequent partial recovery of the U.S. labor market in Spring 2020,” they wrote in the abstract. “Using daily data on hourly workers in small businesses, we show that the collapse was extremely sudden — nearly all of the decline in hours of work occurred between March 14 and March 28. Both traditional and non traditional data show that, in contrast to past recessions, this recession was driven by low-wage services, particularly the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors. A large share of the job loss in small businesses reflected firms that closed entirely. Nevertheless, the vast majority of laid off workers expected, at least early in the crisis, to be recalled, and indeed many of the businesses have reopened and rehired their former employees. There was a reallocation component to the firm closures, with elevated nrisk of closure at firms that were already unhealthy, and more reopening of the healthier firms. At the worker-level, more disadvantaged workers (less educated, non-white) were more likely to be laid off and less likely to be rehired. Worker expectations were strongly predictive of rehiring probabilities. Turning to policies, shelter-in-place orders drove some job losses but only a small share: many of the losses had already occurred when the orders went into effect. Last, we find that states that received more small business loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and states with more generous unemployment insurance benefits had milder declines and faster recoveries. We find no evidence so far in support of the view that high UI replacement rates drove job losses or slowed rehiring substantially.”

The High-Finance Mogul in Charge of Our Economic Recovery

A recent New Yorker profile about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, written by Sheelah Kolhatkar, included insights from Barry Eichengreen, George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science, who noted the broad economic challenges the pandemic has wrought, drawn in comparison to crises from the early 20th century. “’I think what’s missing compared to those earlier crises is fully institutional, innovative thinking about how the structure of the economy—of the financial system and of the public sector in particular—needs to change in light of events,” he said. “I have this strong sense that we now need to turn from keeping restaurants and businesses afloat and keeping people on the payroll to thinking about how the economy after the coronavirus is going to look different than it looked before. The crisis is a reminder that the private sector, left to its own devices, doesn’t always manage those challenges optimally. That kind of strategic planning, thinking about what happens next, isn’t happening. And it needs to.” When I asked Mnuchin whether he had thought about initiating bigger structural changes, he paused for a long time, as if struggling with what to say. “I like to study economic history, and I love biographies,” he said eventually. “I think you learn certain lessons from the past. But, again, no situation is ever the same….’ Eichengreen disagreed that the protests had little to do with economic inequality. He noted the vast numbers of young people of all races who were participating, and pointed out that, in addition to anger and frustration about systemic racial inequities, they were likely despairing over their diminishing prospects and the possibility that they would never achieve the living standards of their parents. “People take to the streets in part when they can’t take to the office,” he said. “We know from previous crises, such as 2008 and 2009, that these economic events cast a very long-lived economic scar—that, if you don’t get that internship in the summer between junior and senior year, you’re never going to get on the ladder of employment in that industry. Kids know that. We were already worried about all these things before. People have been reminded of the fragility of their economic prospects and the fragility of their hopes.” Read the full story.

Structural Racism and COVID-19: The Political Divide, Re-Opening the Society, and Health Impacts on People of Color

Recorded on June 26, this panel — presented as part of the Berkeley Conversations — featured john powell, Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, Cristina Mora, Co-Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies, and Mahasin Mujahid, Epidemiologist, School of Public Health — exploring the impact of a polarized society on COVID19, especially for vulnerable populations. Mora shared data that revealed significant differences of opinion among Californians from different racial backgrounds and political leanings over questions about the threats posed by COVID-19. “In some analyses, we found that even the most liberal whites expressed less concern about COVID-19 than some of our most conservative Black and Latinx respondents,” she said. Watch the video of the panel here.

The Covid Crisis in Historical Perspective and Related Issues in International Finance

Barry Eichengreen, George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science at UC Berkeley, was interviewed by scholars from Economia PUC-Rio (the Department of Economics from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro) about how the current pandemic (and resulting economic crisis) compare to past crises. “This crisis is fundamentally different from financial crises past, and in the most part fundamentally different from other economic crises past,” Eichengreen said. “People like to compare this crisis with the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic, which was global to be sure, but also was very different from what we’re going through now. That pandemic started in the midst of World War I, where governments had already ramped up public spending and were on the verge of ramping it back down. That pandemic occurred in a much less urban, industrial world than today, so it spread in urban centers like this pandemic is spreading in urban centers. But economies were less urban then than they are now. Its incidence was different in terms of hitting young people the hardest, rather than older people. All of these comparisons are highly imperfect, highly incomplete, and potentially misleading.”

Why the US has so many Filipino nurses

Catherine Ceniza Choy, Professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley and author of Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History, was featured in a video about “the push and pull factors and the history that led to the large presence of Filipino nurses in the US.” The accompanying article, by Christina Thornell, notes that “Filipino nurses have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in the US. And that’s because they make up an outsize portion of the nursing workforce. About one-third of all foreign-born nurses in the US are Filipino; it’s been a growing phenomenon for the past 50 years. Since 1960, 150,000 Filipino nurses have come to work in the US. It began with the US colonization of the Philippines under the guise of “benevolent assimilation” and has increased due to a series of US immigration policies. It has resulted in a pipeline that allows the US to draw nurses from the Philippines every time it faces a shortage. But there are factors pushing nurses out of the Philippines too. Check out the video to learn about the push and pull factors and the history that led to the large presence of Filipino nurses in the US.” Professor Ceniza Choy led a Matrix Research Team entitled “Migration, Racialization, and Gender: Comparing Filipino Migration in France and the United States.”

The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Workers in California: An Overview of Research to Date

At the federal, state, and local levels, expansive new policy is being developed and implemented to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating effects on workers, businesses, and the economy generally. The UC Berkeley Labor Center is working to provide research on how California specifically is experiencing the pandemic; analysis of what these new policies offer the state’s workers and businesses (and what is still needed); and curated lists of resources, information, and tools for workers and their advocates. Among the findings: more than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment to date; the CA unemployment rate increased from 5.5% in February to 15.5% in April; just under 29% of California’s workers (including those who are self-employed) have now filed for unemployment insurance; and over 5.5 million initial claims were filed in the eleven weeks between March 15th and May 30thVisit this page for more information, or download a PDF of the synthesis report.

Labor Market Impacts of COVID-19 on Hourly Workers in Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses: Homebase Data Through May 23

In their latest update, researchers at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), the California Policy Lab, Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth, and the University of Chicago Poverty Lab provided an up-to-date picture of COVID-19’s labor market impact. They are taking advantage of granular data on exact hours worked among employees of firms that use the Homebase scheduling software. Reflecting data through May 23, they found that thirty percent of firms from the baseline sample remain shutdown, down from a high of 45 percent in the beginning of April. Of the firms that ever have shutdown, nearly half (44%) had reopened and remained open. Visit the IRLE’s COVID-19 research and resources page for updates.

Rage Against the Pandemic

In an opinion piece published in Project Syndicate, Barry Eichengreen, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and a former senior policy adviser at the International Monetary Fund, argues that the protests following the death of George Floyd stemmed in part from the race-based inequality exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “While it has been widely noted that the social turmoil unfolding in the wake of Floyd’s death may worsen the already-acute COVID-19 crisis, the connection running in the other direction — from the pandemic to the demonstrations — has received far less attention,” Eichengreen wrote. “Without diminishing for a moment the horror of Floyd’s death, the question is: why now?…. It is not incidental that African-Americans work disproportionately in the service sector, where employment has been decimated. It is not incidental that the share of the nonelderly US population lacking health insurance is 1.5 times higher among blacks than among whites. And it is not incidental that the COVID-19 mortality rate is 2.4 times as high among black Americans as white Americans. Even without more images of police brutality, the situation facing many African-Americans, disproportionately affected by the pandemic, was already approaching the unbearable. That is because of America’s threadbare social safety net.” Read Eichengreen’s piece here.

Modi’s Performance and the Tragedy of India’s Poor

Writing for Project Syndicate, Pranab Bardhan, Professor of Graduate School at the UC Berkeley Department of Economics — and author, most recently, of Globalization, Democracy and Corruption: An Indian Perspective — argues that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must do more to support the nation’s poor. “By imposing one of the world’s harshest COVID-19 lockdowns before preparing adequately or consulting with lower levels of government, Modi has inflicted unprecedented damage on India’s economy and on the poor, who live hand-to-mouth at the best of times,” Bardhan wrote. “In general, the government’s response has largely excluded hundreds of millions of daily wage laborers and urban workers. A substantial increase in cash assistance to all these people — with or without bank accounts — would have gone a long way toward boosting aggregate demand. Likewise, the government could have done more to discourage major non-farm employers from shedding their workforce, such as by offering a significant wage subsidy for workers on their payrolls (as many other countries, both rich and poor, have done). The Modi government has also ignored the pressing need for a large-scale transfer of central funds to near-bankrupt state governments…. Given that India, a country of extreme wealth inequality, taxes neither wealth nor inheritance, and under-taxes capital gains and real property, plenty of untapped revenue sources are available. A “corona levy” toward an overhaul of the country’s public-health system would also be timely. Needless to say, vested interests will vehemently oppose any new taxes. But there is no better time than a crisis to overcome such resistance.”

In a separate article for the blog 3 Quarks Daily, “Universal Basic Income in Post-Pandemic Poor Countries,” Professor Bardhan weighs the pros and cons of implementing universal basic income (UBI) programs as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. “Over the last decade and a half the world has been subject to many traumatic events—the financial crisis, stringent austerity policies, deep slump in many economies, large-scale job losses, technological disruptions, creeping authoritarianism and ethno-nationalist excesses, increasing incidence of natural disasters (probably attributable to the on-going climate change), agro-ecological distress, mass dislocations, and a whole sequence of epidemics, the coronavirus being the latest. All of this has dangerously exposed the fragility and insecurity of the lives and livelihoods of billions of ordinary people. This has been particularly acute in developing countries, where numerous people live a hand-to-mouth existence even in the best of times, with very little in the form of social insurance. A universal basic income supplement can provide some minimum economic security in those countries, which even under the pressing fiscal constraints may not be unaffordable.” Read the post here.

The effect of large-scale anti-contagion policies on the COVID-19 pandemic

According to a new research paper published in Nature by UC Berkeley researchers, anti-contagion policies like closing schools and enforcing shelter-in-place restrictions have “signifcantly and substantially slowed” the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Solomon Hsiang, Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy and Director of the Global Policy Lab, a global team of scholars compiled data on “1,717 local, regional, and national non-pharmaceutical interventions deployed in the ongoing pandemic across localities in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States.” They then applied “reduced-form econometric methods, commonly used to measure the efect of policies on economic growth, to empirically evaluate the efect that these anti-contagion policies have had on the growth rate of infections…. We estimate that across these six countries, interventions prevented or delayed on the order of 62 million confrmed cases, corresponding to averting roughly 530 million total infections. These fndings may help inform whether or when these policies should be deployed, intensifed, or lifted, and they can support decision-making in the other 180+ countries where COVID-19 has been reported.” A write-up about the research by Berkeley News reporter Edward Lempinen can be found here.

COVID-19 Has Hit African Americans the Hardest. Here’s Why.

African Americans are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as would be expected based on their share of the population. To understand why, Brandon Patterson, writing for California magazine, a publication for UC Berkeley alumni, interviewed Tina Sacks, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare whose research focuses on poverty, inequality, and racial inequities in health. “The United States is built around structural inequality,” Sacks said. “Those things play out in terms of what’s happening with COVID because black people don’t have as many buffers. Black people are not concentrated in jobs in which they can work from home. They’re also more likely to be in jobs that don’t have paid sick leave. They’re in public-facing jobs that bring them in contact with the public all the time like postal workers or a conductor on BART. That’s one big factor. There are [also] other factors related to health. Black people have been systematically denied medical treatment for hundreds of years. They receive substandard medical treatment. Consequently, black people are much more likely to suffer from chronic health problems that make them more susceptible to COVID and dying from COVID. The conditions in which black people live and work are harmful to our health. Black people are much more likely to live in segregated communities that are fundamentally separate and unequal. They do not have the same institutional anchors that even lower income white communities have in terms of grocery stores, having some place to exercise, and fresh air. So black people’s health is really compromised at every level—and not to mention the psychic trauma that black people endure all the time in terms of police violence and day-to-day exposure to racism. The reasons are numerous but they’re really essentially the same across the country.” Read the full interview here.

Where’d The Money Go, And Other Questions

Martha Olney, a Teaching Professor in Berkeley’s Economics Department, was interviewed by Darian Woods, of NPR’s “Planet Money,” for a segment focused on “where the money actually goes when the economy crashes.” Olney provided an explanation of the difference between wealth and income. “Part of the question comes from using the word money to mean more than one thing…. In the pandemic, what’s gone is income. In a normal time, one person will spend money, and that becomes the income of the next person, and their spending becomes the income of the next person. And so we have this flow of funds through the economy, and that’s what generates income for a person…. The money didn’t disappear. The $20 bills still exist in that sense. What doesn’t exist anymore is the income that we would have received in March and April and into May as a result of other people buying the things that we produce…. Our wealth is the value of the assets that we own. And so the gold bar in the vault is an asset that we own…. The physical wealth is still there. So the garage is still there. The tools are still there. My computer is still here. And my office, I believe, is still there, although we haven’t been allowed on campus for two months. And so those things still exist, and they still have value.” Listen to the full interview here.

Jobs Numbers across Countries since COVID-19

UC Berkeley economists Jesse Rothstein and Danny Yagan, together with Martha Gimbel, of Schmidt Futures, released research on how the U.S. labor market compares with others during the pandemic. The study “compiles and compares official jobs numbers from seven major countries through April 2020. Post-COVID job losses have varied dramatically across countries. The United States experienced the largest January-to-April rise in unemployment and along with Canada lost over 15% of employment,  amounting to 25 million newly jobless U.S. individuals. Germany, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Israel lost only 0.7%-4.4% of employment – equivalent to 18-24 million fewer jobless individuals on  America’s population base. Germany and Japan each lost only 0.9% of employment as millions of their workers received assistance while working reduced hours under previously established ‘short-time’ work systems. In contrast, employers in the United States and Canada eliminated jobs altogether as the virus spread. South Korea and Australia share strong travel ties with China but contained their outbreaks quickly, experiencing respective employment declines of only 3.6% and 4.4%. Hence, job losses have been lowest in countries that either contained the virus early or had robust systems for subsidizing jobs at reduced hours.” Read the paper here.

UC Berkeley study finds homeless youth in need of support

The UC Berkeley School of Public Health released a report this month revealing that providers for youth experiencing homelessness should be supported in order to adequately care for those who are unable to shelter in place. The report, titled “On the COVID-19 Front Line and Hurting,” discusses the needs of providers for youth experiencing homelessness in the East Bay as well as of the youth themselves. As reported by Luis Cobian in the Daily Californian, the report was the result of a collaboration between the UC Berkeley Catalyst Group to End Youth Homelessness, sponsored by Innovations for Youth, or i4Y, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health COVID-19 Community Action Team. ‘Both in Alameda County and in Berkeley, youth homelessness is vastly, disproportionately, African American,’ said Coco Auerswald, UC Berkeley professor and principal investigator of the study, who has been researching youth homelessness for almost 25 years. ‘And that’s in Berkeley, which is by no means a predominantly African American community.’ According to her research, Berkeley’s population is approximately 8% African American, yet 75% of minors who were getting services for homelessness in Berkeley were Black. The report found that what is most needed for youth experiencing homelessness are clean and sanitary public restrooms, shower and laundry facilities, easy access to masks and packaged food, decriminalization of homelessness and access to information and services that can help them shelter in place the best they can. It also found that, to support youth experiencing homelessness, the providers for the youth must also be given funding for disinfectant and hygienic supplies, personal protective equipment including masks, mental health support, hazard pay and on-demand COVID-19 testing for both the youth and providers, regardless of symptoms.” Read the Daily Cal article here. Read the full report, “On the COVID-19 Front Line and Hurting.”

The White House’s favored recovery strategy could permanently scar the economy

UC Berkeley’s Jesse Rothstein, professor of public policy and economics, together with Jared Bernstein, chief economist to former vice president Joe Biden, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that the federal government should continue to provide stimulus to the economy after the Cares Act is phased out to avoid “scarring effects,” the ongoing damage resulting from economic downturns. “Research has found that even short-lived recessions cause lasting damage to both labor and product markets,” Rothstein and Bernstein wrote. “Workers who are displaced or unable to find jobs at the beginning of their careers are slowed in their progress. It takes them many years to make up lost ground, and they have lower employment and earnings in the meantime, even if the overall economy has recovered….The imperative to avoid scarring also elevates the need to both preserve businesses through virus-induced shutdowns and create fertile ground for start-ups on the other side. Congress has legislated business-preservation programs, but they’ve focused too much on payroll maintenance and too little on helping firms avoid bankruptcy through meeting their non-labor costs. Many European countries have done both — simultaneously ensuring payroll and preventing bankruptcy. Based on our analysis, this should pave the way for quicker recoveries in those countries. It’s not too late to emulate their approach, and a group of Senate Democrats recently introduced a smart, efficient plan designed to equally support workers and businesses as they gradually reopen.” Read the op-ed here.

COVID-19 in the global south: economic impacts and recovery

On June 10, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) will sponsor a panel featuring four experts from the CEGA research community to discuss ongoing and completed research that sheds light on the economic toll of the pandemic, as well as the optimal design and targeting of cash transfer programs. Panelists include: Ted Miguel, Oxfam Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics in the Department of Economics at UC Berkeley and Faculty co-Director of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), who will present new evidence from Kenya demonstrating the economic toll of COVID on poor households; Supreet Kaur, Assistant Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and CEGA affiliate, who will share research on the impacts and legacy of scarcity and economic shocks in India, with implications for other countries; Paul Niehaus, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, San Diego, who will explain GiveDirectly’s tested social safety net model (unconditional cash transfers), reviewing evidence from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda; and Josh Blumenstock, Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information and Director of the Data-Intensive Development Lab, who will discuss the potential to use machine learning approaches and nontraditional data sources (including mobile phone records) to quickly and effectively target the delivery of social safety net programs. Carson Christiano, CEGA Executive Director, will moderate the panel. Watch here.

COVID-19: California poll findings and what they mean for our future

On May 27, as part of the Berkeley Conversations series, researchers from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) and the California Initiative for Health Equity & Action (Cal-IHEA) discussed the findings of a recent poll on Californians’ opinions and attitudes related to COVID-19. IGS Co-Directors Cristina Mora and Eric Schickler and Cal-IHEA Director Hector Rodriguez delved into the significance and meaning of the data, and what it might portend for California and the nation in the current context of political polarization and racial inequality. The results point to a wide range of potential political and societal impacts arising from our still-unfolding responses to the pandemic. “One of the biggest trends that stuck out was the racial and class differences we found across the board,” Mora said. “Going into the poll we knew that COVID would exacerbate the racial and class inequality, but we didn’t know how much and in what ways this would be the case…. The results were quite stark. On the one hand, Latinos, Asians, and blacks were all much more likely to say that COVID was a serious threat to their health — much more likely than whites to say that, for example. The perceived threat was already there. But we also found that racial minorities were also more in situations that were more likely to be exposed to COVID. There’s a 20 point difference between whites and Latinos in terms of who is able to work from home safely.” Watch the full conversation here. (Note the video begins around 12:48.)

COVID at Home: Gender, Class and the Domestic Economy

In a discussion coordinated by the Institute for South Asia Studies, Raka Ray, Professor of Sociology and South & Southeast Asia Studies and Dean of the UC Berkeley Division of Social Sciences, engaged in conversation with Amita Baviskar, Head of the Department of Environmental Studies and Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology & Anthropology at Ashoka University, about the impact of COVID on households in India. “Whether it be called lockdown, as in India, or sheltering in place, as in California, the home has assumed particular significance, for it is to this space that we are all confined,” Ray said. “For those of us who have jobs and can work from home, the boundaries between home and work are blurred…. And for those of us who no longer have jobs, home takes on an entirely different meaning as well. And so we want to talk about the effect of COVID on the place that we call home. Home as we know it is not just a place of safety and refuge for us to nurture our families and be nurtured by our families. For many, home is a place of labor. Paid and unpaid, it is a place of pain and it is a place where inequalities are reproduced and produced.” Watch the full conversation here.

California Voters Strongly Divided About President Trump’s Attribution of COVID-19 to China

Between April 16 and 20, 2020,the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) and the California Initiative for Health Equity & Action (Cal-IHEA), polled 8,800 registered voters about the racialized language President Trump uses when referring to COVID-19. Overall, Californians who approve of the President are not only more likely to blame the Chinese government for the pandemic and shortage of medical supplies but they are also more likely to agree with calling the coronavirus the ‘China virus’.  When asked whether it is acceptable for President Trump to refer to COVID-19 as the ‘China virus,’ the ‘Chinese virus,’ or the ‘Wuhan virus’, only 29% of California voters endorse the use of these terms.  Of voters who disapprove or strongly disapprove of the President, only 8% believe that his use of these terms is acceptable, compared to 76% of voters who approve or strongly approve ofthe President.  As the coronavirus has spread across the U.S., a surge in anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes has occurred. Asians have historically been blamed for being disease carriers. According to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, this led to over 1,500 reported coronavirus-related racist incidents against Asians in one month since the group began tracking cases in March. Read more about the poll.

What Black America Knows About Quarantine

Brandi T. Summers, assistant professor of geography and global metropolitan studies at UC Berkeley — and author of Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City — published an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that black Americans have long been “trapped in place,” whether by remote, uninhabitable housing projects or constant policy surveillance. “Under the quarantine, much has been made of Americans’ regulated lack of mobility,” Summers wrote. “But our cities have long kept their black residents contained and at the margins…. One might even consider the black experience as a kind of never-ending quarantine — and indeed Jim Crow laws that grew partly out of concerns that black people spread ‘contagion,’ like tuberculosis and malaria, affirmed as much…. We can fight for opening our cities — politically, economically and racially — with the same energy they are putting toward opening our streets. We must create solutions that benefit the masses, not a select few. A true end to quarantine demands ending the quarantining city. It may not be the best we can do, but it’s the least we can ask.” Read the op-ed here.

Nordics and COVID-19: Public health, economic and public policy responses

Nordic countries are regularly cited as exemplars of healthy and resilient societies. A Berkeley Conversations discussion sponsored by the UC Berkeley Haas Center for Responsible Business, the UC Berkeley Department of Scandinavian, the Institute of European Studies, the Peder Sather Center, and Nordic Talks at Berkeley will focus on comparing and contrasting the Nordic public health, economic, and public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the responses by Denmark and Sweden, and consider learnings that may be drawn by the U.S. Hosted by Dr. Laura Tyson, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, the event will feature Dr. Robert Strand, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business and leading expert on Nordic sustainable business and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Dr. Ann Keller, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management and leading expert on pandemic responses. Watch the conversation here.

How COVID-19 will shape the 2020 election

A recent panel convened as part of the Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19 brought together experts in political science, public policy, cybersecurity, and law to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the November 2020 election. Presented by Berkeley Public Affairs, the discussion focused on an array of issues, from presidential approval ratings, the Constitution, election law, unemployment rates to the security of digital voting, the scholars concluded it was still too uncertain to draw any sweeping conclusions. Except that November 2020 will be an election without precedent. “The Trump administration has decided to make an enormous policy and political bet, and the bet is that they can re-open the economy, and the economy will come back in time for the election, and that COVID-19 won’t re-erupt in a way that will either stifle those efforts or kill lots of people,” said Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy when asked to sum up the next six months. Others, like Bertrall Ross, a professor at Berkeley Law, wondered how the threat of contracting COVID-19 would affect voter turnout, especially among black and Latinx voters who are at higher risk of serious complications if they contract the virus. Philip Stark, a professor of statistics and an expert in election security, wondered if there would be “convincing evidence that the reported winners actually won. Or, are we going to have to take it on faith?” Sarah Anzia, a professor of politics and public policy, noted that there is some hope amid the uncertainty: An messy election could open the door for election law reform, including increased use of vote-by-mail ballots. But on balance, the group said, there is still much to figure out. “Will we be able to hold an election in November that will maximize the ability of people to vote consistent with public health?” asked Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law. “I don’t think we know right now.” View the video on the Berkeley Conversations website.

The underlying condition weakening coronavirus-stricken California

An editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board drew upon research from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation to highlight how California’s housing crisis is worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent study, the Terner Center estimated that more than a quarter-million tenant households in the San Francisco-Oakland area depend on industries hurt by the pandemic, and their median rent amounts to more than 80% of the minimum unemployment benefits they can expect under Congress’ stimulus legislation. “The trouble with letting a crisis linger is that a new one inevitably arrives,” the Chronicle Editorial Board wrote. “California’s leaders have finally waited long enough: The state’s housing shortage has been joined by another disaster, one that compounds and complicates the consequences of the first. The coronavirus pandemic and the strict distancing measures imposed in response administered a financial shock to a state already weakened by housing scarcity. The pathogen arrived to find more than 150,000 of the most vulnerable among us in shelters, tents and doorways, rendering them that much more susceptible to infection and worse. The state’s economy and revenues, for all their strength, have been constrained by the crisis, leaving our government and society less able to sustain the blow. And the opportunity to clean up the mess in good times has finally elapsed, forcing a scramble to manage both crises simultaneously.” Read the full San Francisco Chronicle editorial here.

Broad Support for Farmworker Protections in COVID-19 Context

UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) has released a poll showing broad public support for protecting farmworkers and providing access to paid sick leave, medical benefits, and full replacement wages if they fall sick with COVID-19.  However, these views vary by region, partisanship, trust in the federal government, and attitudes toward immigrants. Between April 16 and 20, 2020 the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) and California Initiative for Health Equity & Action (Cal-IHEA), polled 8,800 registered voters about COVID-19. While the majority of employed Californians can work from home, farmworkers continue to work to maintain the country’s food supply during a period of critical need. California farmworkers harvest over a third of U.S. vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. However, they remain economically and medically vulnerable to repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters in the Central Valley, however, are less likely to support protections for farmworkers despite being the most productive agricultural region of the state and most dependent on farmworkers for their local economy. A quarter of Central Valley voters (25.2%) opposed employer provision of equitable medical and paid sick leave to all farmworkers, regardless of their legal status, if they fall sick with COVID-19, compared to 12.5% of San Francisco Bay Area and 10.4% of Los Angeles County voters. Read the full press release here.

In an op-ed written for The Guardian, Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and now Carmel P. Friesen Professor of Public Policy in the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy (and author of the new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It), examined some of the structural issues that have made the U.S. particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. He points to the nation’s failure to provide universal healthcare or basic sick leave, its weak unemployment system, and its widespread unsafe working conditions. “With 4.25% of the world population, America has the tragic distinction of accounting for about 30% of pandemic deaths so far. And it is the only advanced nation where the death rate is still climbing,” Reich wrote. “So who and what’s to blame for the worst avoidable loss of life in American history? Partly, Donald Trump’s malfeasance. But the calamity is also due to America’s longer-term failure to provide its people the basic support they need.” Read the piece here.

Raids on Immigrant Communities During the Pandemic Threaten the Country’s Public Health

In an editorial published by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), Miriam Magaña Lopez, a research and policy analyst with the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, and Seth M. Holmes, Associate Professor and Chair of Society and Environment and Medical Anthropology at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, argued that the ongoing raids of immigrant communities by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have harmful impacts on public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Far from promoting public health and safety, these raids, detentions, and deportations contravene public health recommendations and threaten to worsen the pandemic in the United States and beyond on several important levels—leading to avoidable exposures, infections, and deaths,” the researchers wrote. “ICE raids produce skepticism of public health recommendations and institutions. Trust is broken when local, state, and federal governments order everyone to stay home and avoid all activities unless essential to survival while simultaneously continuing to raid immigrant and minoritized communities, separate families, and detain and deport individuals. Experiences of raids at any time produce increased stress at the community level, thereby worsening health outcomes, as well as distrust of public health institutions, leading to decreased utilization of important health services for prevention and treatment. During this pandemic, it is likely that these raids will lead community members to avoid necessary treatment if experiencing symptoms of COVID19.” Read the full editorial here.

Not Under Lockdown: Sweden’s Singular Response to COVID-19

On May 13 at 12pm, the Institute of European Studies will present a virtual discussion on the how Sweden has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some European countries opted immediately for a lockdown policy to prevent the virus from spreading, others — such as the Netherlands and the UK — soon abandoned earlier plans to fight the disease with a herd immunity strategy before implementing their own lockdowns. Only one European country, Sweden, chose a different path. While the Swedish government did impose a series of limitations, it did not decide to place the nation under total lockdown. In doing so, it followed the recommendation of its most eminent virologist, Anders Tegnell. In this discussion, Ludvig Norman, Associate Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Stockholm University and Senior Fellow at the UC Berkeley Institute of European Studies, will discuss life in Sweden under COVID-19 and offer some thoughts on how the strategy has been legitimized politically and why Swedes place such high faith in their Public Health Agency. Participants will have a chance to engage in the conversation with questions for Dr. Norman. The conversation will be moderated by IES Director Jeroen Dewulf and Associate Director Akasemi Newsome. This virtual event will be held on Zoom. Register here.

Californians’ Views Towards President Trump Shape COVID-19 Attitudes

Californians’ views towards President Trump are a powerful predictor of their attitudes towards COVID-19, according to a recent poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. “Californians who either strongly approve or disapprove of the way that President Trump is handling his job have dramatically different opinions on the risks posed by COVID-19 to themselves and their neighbors, and on the usefulness of social distancing and other policies to limit its spread,” IGS announced in a press release. “Where supporters fall on the question of Trump’s performance is connected to how concerned they are about the pandemic. Among all respondents, 48% say that they are very concerned that they will spread the virus to others. However just 24% of strong Trump supporters are very concerned about this as compared to 58% of strong Trump disapprovers. Nearly half of strong Trump supporters are not concerned about spreading the virus, while only 13% of those who strongly disapprove of Trump are not concerned. ‘That Trump supporters are much less likely to believe in the efficacy of practices, such as social distancing, and are generally much less worried about contracting COVID-19, denotes just how powerfully politics can shape understandings of health and safety,’ said IGS Co-Director Professor Cristina Mora.”

How COVID-19 will shape the 2020 election

An upcoming Berkeley Conversations panel, sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy, will examine the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had (and will continue to have) on the 2020 presidential election. “In the months ahead, it will shape every facet of the contest: the issues, the mechanics of campaigns, how candidates engage the voters, and ultimately, how we cast our ballots. A panel of Berkeley political scientists and election experts will discuss election law and security, voter participation, and how COVID-19 may permanently change how America votes.” Watch the video panel here on Friday, May 8 from 12pm-1pm PDT.

Bangladesh’s garment industry unravelling

Sanchita Banerjee Saxena, Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies at UC Berkeley and Director of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, published an article on East Asia Forum’s website highlighting the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on Bangladesh’s garment industry. Saxena is the editor of Labor, Global Supply Chains, and the Garment Industry in South Asia: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza (Routledge, 2020), and in her piece, she highlights how reforms intended to improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry have failed to lift wages for workers. “During this time of global upheaval, brands have used their unequal power positions with suppliers to justify cancelling or postponing orders and refusing to pay for orders that suppliers have already produced and materials that have already been procured, despite having a contractual obligation to do so,” Saxena writes. “Brands have benefited from cheap labour from Bangladesh for decades but do not feel obliged to take care of those at the bottom of their supply chains. As a result, tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh may die, not from COVID-19, but from starvation.” Read the full piece here.

Berkeley Interpersonal Contact Study

To measure the effectiveness of social distancing measures in reducing face-to-face contact in the United States, Dennis Feehan and Ayesha Mahmud, Assistant Professors in the UC Berkeley Department of Demography, launched the Berkeley Interpersonal Contact Study (BICS), with seed funding from the Berkeley Population Center. “By the start of April 2020, the majority of people living in the United States were under orders to dramatically restrict their daily activities in order to reduce transmission of the virus that can  cause COVID-19,” Feehan and Mahmud wrote in the abstract to a paper presenting their initial findings. “These strong social distancing measures will be effective in controlling the spread of the virus only if they are able to reduce the amount of close interpersonal contact in a population. It is therefore crucial for researchers and policymakers to empirically measure the extent to which these policies have actually reduced interpersonal interaction. We created the Berkeley Interpersonal Contact Study (BICS) to help achieve this goal.” Social Science Matrix interviewed the scholars about the paper here.

Urban slums are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19. Here’s how to help

Residents of the world’s slums are highly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic, and governments should do more to step in, argues a new report published April 24 in the Journal of Urban Health. As reported by Berkeley News’ Kara Manke, “The report, authored by a team of public health experts and epidemiologists working in collaboration with community leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from urban slums around the world, provides eight urgent recommendations for reducing the impact of COVID-19 on people living in poverty. These recommendations are crucial not just for people living in urban slums in the global south, but for other vulnerable populations, such as migrant farm workers and those living in refugee camps and homeless encampments and on Native American reservations in the United States, the authors say. Early evidence now suggests that the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting black Americans in some U.S. cities, possibly due to similar structural factors, such as the inability to take time off of work. ‘The political and economic shocks and instability that are happening now and are likely to follow from this epidemic will likely kill more and lead to more disability in this population than the coronavirus itself,’ said Jason Corburn, a professor of public health and of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of the paper. ‘We felt we needed a strategy that recognized the unique needs of the urban poor at the front.'” Read the full story here.

Climate Change and COVID-19: Can this crisis shift the paradigm?

On April 27, the Rausser College of Natural Resources will present the latest “Campus Conversation” with a panel featuring four scholars discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect climate change. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy is skidding into recession. Reduced consumption and transportation also mean reduced CO2 emissions. From India to China to the United States, skies are blue and the air is cleaner and healthier in cities than it has been for years. The pandemic has caused seismic shifts in how we produce and consume goods and could open a path to a more sustainable future. Or, government bailouts and investments could double down on the fossil fuel economy, and set back efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. This conversation will feature Berkeley researchers discussing the science and policy behind CO2 emissions and opportunities for a different path forward.” Panelists include David Ackerly, Dean of the Rausser College of Natural Resources; Daniel Kammen, Professor and Chair of the Energy Resources Group and Professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy and the Department of Nuclear Engineering; Kate O’Neill, Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; and Valeri Vasquez, a PhD candidate with a designated emphasis in Computational Data Science and Engineering in the Energy and Resources Group under the Rausser College of Natural Resources.

Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19: Mental health and well-being for ourselves and our children

As part of the Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19 live webcasts, UC Berkeley psychologists Dacher KeltnerSonia Bishop and Frank Worrell offered advice on how to tackle COVID-19 stress. “The intense social isolation, stress and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is shaping up to be its own mental health pandemic,” wrote Berkeley News reporter Yasmin Anwar in a write-up about the panel. “Already, spikes in post-traumatic stress disorder are being documented among vulnerable populations, health workers and other front-line personnel. ‘Before there were stay-at-home orders, quite a lot of people were not necessarily feeling that anxious — maybe not taking it that seriously,’ said Bishop, an associate professor of psychology and an expert on the cognitive neuroscience of anxiety. But now, she added, ‘many more people are seeing people who are like them, and are getting ill,” and she mentioned recent surveys showing that six out of 10 adults are reporting anxiety.'” Watch the video and read the write-up here.

Industries at Direct Risk of Job Loss from COVID-19 in California: A Profile of Front-Line Job and Worker Characteristics

In a blog posted by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, Sarah Thomason (research and policy coordinator at the Labor Center), Annette Bernhardt (director of the Labor Center’s Low-Wage Work Program), and Nari Rhee (Director of the Retirement Security Program) wrote about potential differences in the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on California’s workers, focusing on major industries that are at highest risk of job losses or hours reduction stemming from social distancing and public health directives. “Because of time lags in the gathering of government data, we do not yet have enough data on current job losses in California by industry,” they wrote. “However, the major impact sectors are already evident, such as restaurants, hotels, and retail…. Here, we profile these industries in terms of the prevalence of low-wage work and demographic characteristics of the workforce, focusing on front-line occupations that are likely to be the first to experience hours reductions or outright job loss.” Among their findings: 31 percent of the state’s low-wage workers are employed in major industries at risk of job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to only 12 percent of middle- and higher-wage workers. Read the article here.

COVID-19 is blind to legal status, but can disproportionately hurt immigrants

In an article on the Social Science Matrix website, Irene Bloemraad, Class of 1951 Professor of Sociology and founding director of the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative (BIMI), and Dr. Jasmijn Slootjes, BIMI’s Executive Director, argue that more support services are necessary for immigrants, who are particularly vulnerable to exposure to the coronavirus and face a variety of barriers to access to healthcare. “The bottom line is that everyone needs to be protected, physically, mentally, and economically, regardless of where they are born or their immigration status,” they write. “If immigrants are more likely to be infected by the coronavirus, yet they delay or avoid medical care, or if they feel forced to keep working because they are not protected by government programs, this will extend and deepen the public health crisis for everyone. We can take many steps, big and small, to tackle these challenges.”

BIMI’s Mapping Spatial Inequality project is the first comprehensive immigrant services database in the Bay Area, and provides an overview of legal and health services in the nine-county Bay Area, which provides immigrants, policy makers, and community advocates with information on health and legal resources that serve immigrants in the Bay Area.

How can African governments persuade citizens to follow coronavirus guidelines?

Writing for the Washington Post‘s “Monkey Cage,” Allison Namias Grossman, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at UC Berkeley, drew upon her research with Leo Arriola, Associate Professor of Political Science, to argue that public health messaging should be localized to be more effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Africa. “My research with Professor Leo Arriola in the West African country of Guinea suggests that governments and their international partners may gain higher levels of compliance if they tailor the messenger of those guidelines,” Namias Grossman wrote. “Specifically, this research finds that members of politically marginalized groups are more likely to comply if they hear health advisories coming from local — rather than national — political authorities. To contain infectious diseases, government informational campaigns often target ways to alter intimate practices such as sexual behavior (HIV/AIDS), burial customs (Ebola) — and now, for covid-19, emphasizing hand-washing and enforcing social distancing. But some communities in Guinea may be suspicious of government campaigns and motives, especially if they feel the government does not represent their community.” Read the Monkey Cage post here, or read Grossman and Arriola’s full findings in “Ethnic Marginalization and (Non)Compliance in Public Health Emergencies,” a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Politics.  in Public Health Emergencies

Student Futures and Life Under COVID-19

In a blog post on the Matrix website, Michael Watts — Acting Director of Social Science Matrix and Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Co-Chair of Development Studies at UC Berkeley — explores how COVID-19 is likely to upend the work of PhD students, and argues that philanthropic institutions should step in to provide relief. He also considers new solutions that may be needed if student enrollment sharply declines in the fall. “This is a moment — early on in the economic and political lifecycle of COVID-19 — when foundations should think about a collective intervention that includes the establishment of a relief fund to ensure that ‘all but dissertation’ students (ABDs) and recent PhDs do not fall out of the system,” Watts writes. “The challenge is to turn what may become a large cohort of non-enrolled college students into a powerful social force for good, and for personal betterment, growth, and, yes, education. It might be an opportunity to road-test what some have suggested is the future of higher education: spending time on and off campus, in and outside of ‘the workforce.’ There are no easy answers to these questions — and the radical uncertainty of COVID-19 dynamics makes planning hazardous — but there is a conversation to be had in and outside of the academy — and urgently.” Read the full post.

Hand-washing in the Time of COVID-19

In the era of COVID-19, the public health directive to “wash your hands” is a challenge for people with limited access to clean water, writes Isha Ray, Professor in the UC Berkeley Energy Resources Group, Co-Director of the Berkeley Water Center, in an essay on the Social Science Matrix website. “I’ve been a water and sanitation researcher for 30 years, and these days I’m thinking about the prospects for hand-washing among the world’s poor as they confront COVID-19,” Ray writes. “Hand-washing is arguably even more important when people live shoulder-to-shoulder, near trash heaps and open drains…. But how do you adhere to these expectations if you have no access to piped water, or even if you are one of the lucky households with piped water, but from a communal tap that is only intermittently supplied?… In the current crisis, it is imperative for governments and donors to generously fund affordable, reliable, and accessible water services, here in the U.S. and in underserved regions around the world. These investments will protect global public health and help revive the global economy, and they must be made even where the users are low-income and require subsidies. Water for hand-washing is a public good, and public goods call for public investment.” Read the full post.

A post-coronavirus California will be dramatically different. Here’s what it could look like

How will schools have to be adapted to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission?  Janelle Scott, Professor at the University of California at Berkeley in the Graduate School of Education and African American Studies Department, was quoted in an L.A. Times article examining how life in California is likely to change following the COVID-19 pandemic. She commented on potential changes to K-12 education suggested by Governor Gavin Newsom, such as staggering students’ start times or reducing congregated meals. “It’s hard to make a campus virus-proof,” Scott said. “The ability of things to spread is just really not controllable…. You spend the first several years of school…sick all the time.”

UC Berkeley Group Builds Interactive COVID-19 Mapping Tool For Vulnerable Populations

A new online mapping tool from UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute is helping identify which California communities are most at risk from the novel coronavirus, reports CBS San Francisco. “The interactive tool features more than a dozen distinct data points — including COVID-19 infection and mortality rates — and overlays that information on a state map highlighting pollution levels by county or neighborhood…. This interplay between the virus, air pollution and chronic health conditions is expected to land more heavily on low-income populations and communities of color…. The map also allows users to look at specific counties or neighborhoods in order to track potential vulnerabilities, like what percentage of the population lives below the poverty line, has limited English skills, works in vulnerable jobs, is classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “socially vulnerable” and lives in overcrowded households, among other things.”

Webinar on Structural Competency in the Era of COVID-19

On April 15, a group of scholars focused on “structural competency” — identifying structural level determinants, biases, inequities, and blind spots that can shape definitions of health and illness among doctors and patients — will be holding an webinar for healthcare workers, activists, and scholars to discuss structural competency innovations and opportunities in the era of COVID-19. UC Berkeley’s Seth Holmes is one of the leaders of this initiative. The first session will focus on “Basic Needs and First Response.” RSVP here.

Generation C Has Nowhere to Turn

In an article entitled “Generation C has Nowhere to Turn,” Amanda Mull, a staff writer for The Atlantic, interviewed UC Berkeley’s Elena Conis, a historian of medicine and public health, about the economic impacts of past epidemics. Once people are let out into the world to rejoin their lives, the pandemic will continue to harm them for years to come. ‘Epidemics are really bad for economies,’ says Elena Conis, a historian of medicine and public health at UC Berkeley…. ‘We’re going to see a whole bunch of college graduates and people finishing graduate programs this summer who are going to really struggle to find work…. There are aspects of history that repeat themselves, but what’s more true is that every epidemic takes place in its own context. This is a unique viral agent and a unique social and cultural context, and economic context, too.'”

Labor Markets During the COVID-19 Crisis: A Preliminary View

UC Berkeley economics professor Yuriy Gorodnichenko has co-authored a working paper with Olivier Coibion (University of Texas at Austin) and Michael Weber (University of Chicago) detailing their research findings based on an analysis of survey data from the Nielsen Homescan panel to characterize how labor markets are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “First, job loss has been significantly larger than implied by new unemployment claims: we estimate 20 million lost jobs by April 8th, far more than jobs lost over the entire Great Recession,” the researchers wrote. “Second, many of those losing jobs are not actively looking to find new ones. As a result, we estimate the rise in the unemployment rate over the corresponding period to be surprisingly small, only about 2 percentage points. Third, participation in the labor force has declined by 7 percentage points, an unparalleled fall that dwarfs the three percentage point cumulative decline that occurred from 2008 to 2016. Early retirement almost fully explains the drop in labor force participation both for those survey participants previously employed and those previously looking for work.”

US food workers are in danger. That threatens all of us.

In an opinion column in The Guardian, Seth Holmes, Associate Professor and Chair of Society and Environment and Medical Anthropology at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, together with Vera L. Chang, a PhD student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, argue that the U.S. government must do more to protect our nation’s food and farm workers. “Though [food and farm workers’] designation as essential workers is apt, relief measures recognizing their importance haven’t been offered,” Holmes wrote. “Congress’s $2-trillion pandemic stimulus package specifically excludes food workers, leaving them without basic safety equipment like masks and hand sanitizer, benefits like healthcare and childcare, protections like physical distancing, and hazard pay. Food workers have also been left out of state aid…. As much of the country shelters in place to slow the spread of the virus, we put our lowest-paid workers at the frontlines of battle with no support. But the nation’s 2.4 million farmworkers, 148,000 processing workers and other food chain workers are imperative to our economy, collective health and basic survival. They support the national interest. Danger to food workers is a danger for us all. And some of them are starting to die while working to feed us…. We have a responsibility to act decisively. Time is running out.” (Image: Heather Dill via Unsplash.)

A Billion People Live in Slums. Can They Survive the Virus?

A team of epidemiologists from UC Berkeley and UCSF wrote an op-ed published in the New York Times arguing that governments need to do more to protect the roughly billion people around the world who live in slums. The authors — Lee W. Riley, Professor at the School of Public Health, Robert Snyder, manager of the Center for Global Public Health’s Research and Education Program, and Eva Raphael, a clinical research fellow at UCSF — wrote that high levels of crowding, inadequate sanitation, and lack of medical services make the residents of slums particularly vulnerable. “The most important factor in enabling the spread of pandemics in slums is the neglect of these marginalized populations by governing elites,” they wrote. “There is little previous effort to prevent the spread of diseases. Access to tests for the coronavirus, for example, is extremely limited…. The world’s public health systems and governments must make sure that people who live in slums, homeless encampments and refugee camps are not forgotten. We must prepare to deal with the consequences of the pandemic — for all populations.” (Image: The Mathare Valley slum by Claudio Allia)

Berkeley Conversation: Economists and Public Policy Experts Weigh In

On April 10, a panel of prominent UC Berkeley economists and public policy experts discussed the economic consequences of sheltering-in-place, evaluated the Congressional response, and discussed strategies that could help to stabilize the economy, safeguard jobs, and protect society’s most vulnerable people. The discussion was presented as part of a new live, online video series, Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19, featuring Berkeley scholars from a range of disciplines. The panel included Henry Brady, Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy and Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor of Political Science and Public Policy; Ellora Derenoncourt, Incoming Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy, whose research focuses on labor market institutions, economic history, and inequality; Hilary Hoynes, Professor of Public Policy and Economics; Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities; and Co-Director of the Berkeley Opportunity Lab; Jesse Rothstein, Professor of Public Policy and Economics and Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment; and Gabriel Zucman, Associate Professor of Economics and Director of the Stone Center on Wealth and Income Inequality. The panel was moderated by veteran journalist Dan Mogulof, who now serves as UC Berkeley’s assistant vice chancellor for executive communications. .

Racist harassment of Asian health care workers won’t cure coronavirus

In the wake of a surge in violent hate crimes against Asian Americans — including Asian physicans and nurses — due to xenophobic perceptions about COVID-19, UC Berkeley News interviewed Catherine Ceniza Choy, Professor of Ethnic Studies and author of Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History. In the interview, by Ivan Natividad, Ceniza Choy spoke about the history of such racism and the reasons xenophobia can halt attempts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “This is a really important moment for all of us to learn more about Asian American history and ethnic studies, and how immigrants throughout the world have made such important contributions to our overall collective and global public health,” Ceniza Choy said. “The contributions of ethnic studies and Asian American studies also help to debunk these stereotypes associated with Asian bodies as disease carriers. These anti-Asian hate crimes related to the coronavirus don’t just hurt Asian Americans, they really hurt all Americans. So, in addition to washing our hands properly and practicing physical distancing, we can use this time to understand the reasons why racism is also a virus, and why we all have a stake in stopping that racism that leads to xenophobia and hate crimes.”

Video Interviews with Shachar Kariv, Sonia Bishop

Christian Gordon, Assistant Dean of Development in the UC Berkeley College of Letters & Science, has launched a series of video interviews with UC Berkeley social scientists about topics related to the Covid-19 pandemic. He interviewed Shachar Kariv, Benjamin N. Ward Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, about his research on the social preferences of medical professionals, why they are well-suited to respond to crisis, and what to expect regarding long term economic impacts. For the second video, Gordon interviewed Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience Sonia Bishop joins Assistant Dean of Development Christian Gordon to discuss the role anxiety plays, how to understand it in the age of COVID-19, and how we may manage it in an environment of prolonged stress.

Labor Market Impacts of COVID-19 on Hourly Workers in Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses: Four Facts from Homebase Data

Professor Jesse Rothstein was one of a group of co-authors — along with Alexander W. Bartik, Marianne Bertrand, Feng Lin, and Matt Unrath — who used data from Homebase, a widely used provider of scheduling and time clock software for small businesses, to assess the labor impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Published on the blog of the Chicago Booth Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, their research provides a glimpse into economic phenomena not yet visible through traditional measures. “COVID-19, and the policies enacted in response to the disease, have resulted in dramatic changes in many aspects of American society,” the researchers explained. “These changes have been particularly large in the labor market. It has been challenging to understand the magnitude of these changes because standard data sources become available only with a lag of several weeks – we will not receive data on employment and unemployment after shelter-in-place orders took effect until the first week of May…. We take advantage of granular data on exact hours worked among employees of firms that use the Homebase scheduling software to provide an up-to-date picture of the labor market impact of COVID-19. We measure how the impact varies across geography and industry, how it evolves in response to state and local social distancing guidelines and orders, and how concentrated it is among particular sets of workers.” This research was cited in a New York Times article on the federal response to the pandemic.

Pay now, Verify Later to Loosen the Unemployment Insurance Bottleneck

Together with Arindrajit Dube, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Jesse Rothstein, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at UC Berkeley, wrote a policy brief for Economics for Inclusive Prosperity proposing that unemployment offices loosen eligibility requirements to ensure all applicants receive benefits in a timely manner. “The coronavirus [unemployment] claims will create a backlog that could take weeks or even months to work through, at a time when we desperately need the benefits to go out quickly to sustain families,” they wrote. “Moreover, the relief bills currently under consideration in the House of Representatives and the Senate will deliver a large part of the aid through expansions of unemployment benefits, making it all the more important that the system handle claims quickly. The unemployment insurance processing system is not prepared for this hundred-year flood…. Desperate times call for desperate measures. There is a way to handle the spike in claims, get benefits out quickly, and ensure that public dollars are not wasted on invalid and inappropriate claims. Unemployment offices should presume that all applicants are eligible and prioritize paying claims without careful review. Then, when the initial wave is past and there is more breathing room, they should go back and review the claims, and, if necessary, collect overpayments.”

‘Social Distancing’ is more than standing 6 feet away

Kamala Russell, a PhD Candidate in the UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology published an article for Medical Anthropology Quarterly arguing that “social distancing” — the suggestion that people maintain six feet of space between themselves and other people — is not as easy at it seems. “As a linguistic anthropologist who works on the ethical, affective, and communicative dynamics of intercorporeal space (the space between bodies) outside of disease contexts, I immediately thought of just how complicated this seemingly simple guideline is,” Russell wrote. “First, intercorporeal space is a highly complex and affectively laden site of social practice. Secondly, maneuvering in space depends on a moving body’s attunement to other moving bodies and surfaces in the environment: not static measurements.  These meanings and attunements are typically employed in managing social interactions: making, breaking, or modulating a communicative channel with someone. Social distancing then, requires more than just measuring six feet of distance, it requires actively ‘making space’ in ways that come into conflict with ingrained conventions regarding speaking to others.”

Close to the edge: Service workers and their children at the front lines of a crisis

Daniel Schneider, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, together with Kristen Harknett, Associate Professor in the UCSF School of Nursing, Social & Behavioral Sciences, wrote an article for the William T. Grant Foundation drawing upon their past research through the Shift Project, which has collected survey data on scheduling practices and wellbeing from thousands of retail workers employed at large firms. “As the shock of the current health and economic crisis takes a heavy toll on millions of Americans employed in the service sector, we must remember that millions of children are also vulnerable to dire consequences,” they wrote. “Public policies and company actions that ameliorate the health and economic impact for these workers will also offer some protection to the 1 and 10 American children with a parent in the service sector. Social scientists have a vital role to play in charting the consequences of the pandemic for these children and illuminating policy potential levers to lessen their burden and ultimately improve their outcomes.”

Managing Stress and Finding Connection while Social Distancing

UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has launched a video series to share science-based strategies to help people cope with the stress and uncertainty of COVID-19. “In touching every aspect of our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly disrupted our sense of well-being and produced uncertainty and anxiety,” announced a UC Berkeley press release. “How do we find resilience while remaining productive and caring family members, friends, professionals and citizens in these unprecedented times?” In the videos, Keltner, “who has studied stress, relationships and well-being for 25 years and is co-founder of the campus’s Greater Good Science Center, will share ideas and practices for cultivating resilience and connection as we face the challenges of the coming months. Drawing on insights from the center’s Science of Happiness online coursepodcast series and magazine, Keltner shares tips on how to manage stress and find meaningful connections while social distancing, completing each video with simple, science-tested practices useful for this moment in time.”

The ‘certified recovered’ from Covid-19 could lead the economic recovery

People who have developed immunity to the Covid-19 coronavirus could play a key role in jumpstarting the economy, argue Aaron Edlin, professor of economics and law at UC Berkeley (and currently a visiting scholar at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics) and Bryce Nesbitt, a co-founder of NextBus, a public transit information company, in an op-ed in STAT. “Someday soon there will be millions of people in the U.S. who have recovered from Covid-19,” they write. “The best evidence suggests that they can’t get infected again soon and won’t infect others by shedding the virus. That suggests a path to run essential services more safely and to reopen sectors of the economy faster than would otherwise be possible. New York, Washington, California, and other states with high caseloads should rush to set up credible, verifiable, and voluntary programs to identify individuals as “certified recovered” from Covid-19…. Creating a path for the certified recovered from Covid-19 reduces the tension between jump-starting the economy and letting the virus run rampant…. Now that fast antibody and viral tests have FDA approval, new testing will pick up speed. If certification piggybacks on such tests, the U.S. could create a substantial and vital new specialized labor force of the certified recovered in the short term.”

The Dangers of Moving All of Democracy Online

Marion FourcadeIn an op-ed in Wired, Marion Fourcade, Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley and a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study’s School of Social Science (and incoming Director of Social Science Matrix), together with Henry Farrell, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, argue that the coronavirus represents a threat to democracy, as it could pave the way for insufficiently secure online voting systems and new forms of surveillance. “Democratic politics is a mixture of mass involvement and endless meetings,” they wrote. “All this is hard when people can be infected with a potentially deadly virus if someone simply coughs nearby. The obvious answer might seem to be to move democracy to the internet, but some parts of democracy translate badly to an online world, while others are already being undermined by emergency powers (for example, Hungary’s parliament just passed a law that allows the prime minister to rule by decree) and by the rise of digital surveillance…. As we try to protect democracy from coronavirus, we must see technology as a scalpel, not a sledgehammer…Until we can secure digital voting systems, we shouldn’t use them…. And you shouldn’t just worry about the surveillance state. A fearful public might get all too accustomed to mobile tools to surveil themselves and each other. We have some idea how to protect democracy against a data-hungry state. If the risk comes from data-hungry citizens, we may not know where to start.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times, UC Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, authors of The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, argue that Congress should respond more forcefully to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus, including by imposing an “excess profits tax” to ensure companies do not benefit outrageously from the government support they receive. “The coronavirus pandemic is laying bare structural deficiencies in America’s social programs. The relief package passed by Congress last week provides emergency fixes for some of these issues, but it also leaves critical problems untouched. To avoid a Great Depression, Congress must quickly design a more forceful response to the crisis…. The government should impose excess profits taxes, as it has done several times in the past during periods of crisis…. These taxes all had one goal — making sure that no one could benefit outrageously from a situation in which the masses suffered. To help make this happen, the next bill needs an excess profits tax. If Congress fails to act, the pandemic could well reinforce two of the defining trends of the pre-coronavirus American economy: the rise of business concentration and the upsurge of inequality. Some will say that the solutions we’ve outlined show excessive faith in government. They will correctly point out that some of these policies are undesirable in normal times. But these are not normal times. The big battles — be they wars or pandemics — are fought and won collectively. In this period of national crisis, hatred of the government is the surest path to self-destruction.”

In a defunded health system, doctors and nurses suffer near-impossible conditions

Seth HolmesIn a March 29 piece in Salon, Professor Seth Holmes, together with Liz Buchbinder, an internist with UCLA Health, wrote about the daunting challenges healthcare providers are facing in treating COVID-19 patients — and their frustration about the lack of equipment intensified by the de-funding of the health system by the Trump administration. “We are acutely aware of how contagious and deadly the virus is — especially for elderly and chronically ill people. Yet, we and our patients are put at unnecessary risk due to shortages of basic protective health equipment and testing kits. These shortages were avoidable and they never should have happened. The Trump administration’s active de-funding of our health system is leading to additional exposures, infections and deaths. We have trained over many years to calmly soldier on in the face of the turmoil, suffering and pain that plays out every day in health care. But the avoidable shortages of basic equipment in this pandemic add layers of uncertainty and strain that are pushing providers and our health system toward the breaking point.”

Coronavirus crisis is an opportunity to overcome oligarchy

In a post on his blog that also ran on,  Robert Reich, Professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, highlights how the coronavirus has exposed the economic inequality of Americans — and the need for better solutions. “The coronavirus has starkly revealed what most of us already knew: The concentration of wealth in America has created a a health care system in which the wealthy can buy care others can’t,” Reich wrote. “It’s also created an education system in which the super-rich can buy admission to college for their children, a political system in which they can buy Congress and the presidency,  and a justice system in which they can buy their way out of jail. Almost everyone else has been hurled into a dystopia of bureaucratic arbitrariness, corporate indifference, and the legal and financial sinkholes that have become hallmarks of modern American life. The system is rigged. But we can fix it. Today, the great divide in American politics isn’t between right and left. The underlying contest is between a small minority who have gained power over the system, and the vast majority who have little or none. Forget politics as you’ve come to see it – as contests between Democrats and Republicans. The real divide is between democracy and oligarchy.”

Coronavirus skeptics, deniers: Why some of us stick to deadly beliefs

Celeste KiddIn recent weeks, conservative media personalities, political and business leaders, and other influencers have publicly shrugged off warnings about the dangers of the novel coronavirus. What causes certain people to stick to their beliefs and act with skepticism despite overwhelming contradictory evidence? For answers, Berkeley News’ reporter Yasmin Anwar interviewed Celeste Kidd, a UC Berkeley computational cognitive scientist who studies false beliefs, curiosity, and learning. “Most of us like to think of ourselves as rational agents who can make decisions and form beliefs that make sense,” Kidd explained. “But the world is far too big and complex for us to have the time or attentional bandwidth to know about everything, so we have to pick and choose. The scientific name for this is “sampling,” and it works well in a dynamic world where the approximate truth is usually good enough to make everyday decisions. We’re also built to favor investigating the things we feel uncertain about. This tendency pushes us to expand and update our knowledge base. Once we feel like we know everything, we disengage and move on to the next thing. This prevents us from wasting time on what we already know so we can learn something new. The problem arises when we believe that we know everything there is to know, but we are wrong. When this happens, we are less open to changing our minds based on new information because we don’t seek out new information, and we are more inclined to ignore it when we do encounter it.”

What use is worry? Psychologist explains anxiety’s pros and cons

Excessive worry about COVID-19 is becoming a mental health pandemic unto itself. But when is anxiety useful, and when is it destructive? Berkeley News’ Yasmin Anwar interviewed Sonia Bishop, an associate professor of psychology and cognitive neuroscience who studies anxiety and how it affects decision-making. “If I told you the person next to you at a bar had a 1 in 10,000 chance of having Covid-19, you might respond very differently than if I said the risk was 1 in 1,000, 1 in 100 or even 1 in 10. At the moment, we don’t know how to respond, because the probability of exposure to the virus is rapidly changing,” Bishop said. “In times of uncertainty, our personality traits have a big influence on how we react based on our assumptions about the world and our level of ‘optimism bias.’ Research by psychologists Ronnie Janoff-Bulman and Neil Weinstein shows that, to get through life, many of us use subconscious, self-protective assumptions — for example, that the world is a good, safe place and that bad things happen to other people, not to me. When the probabilities of danger are very low, for example, such as dying in a plane crash, these assumptions protect us from worry. However, with this pandemic, optimism bias can lead us to ignore guidance on social distancing and possibly get ill or pass on the virus to a loved one and unknowingly add to the spread of the virus and, sadly, deaths. This is a particular risk for young people who might have few, if any, symptoms and are especially likely to feel invulnerable. Meanwhile, people who have experienced and adapted to bad things happening may adopt the subconscious assumption that taking certain actions can prevent bad things from happening. This may explain the panic buying and even an uptick in gun purchases. People are trying to gain a sense of control over the situation that will make them feel safe. Hopefully, if people realize this, they may be able to stop and ask themselves, ‘Do I really need a gun?’ or, more mundanely, ‘Can I leave that extra package of toilet paper for someone else?'”

Ice agents are still performing raids – and using precious N95 masks to do so

In an essay in The Guardian, Miriam Magaña Lopez, a public health researcher and practitioner in the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley, together with Seth Holmes, Associate Professor and Chair of Society and Environment and Medical Anthropology at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, called out the Immigration and Customs Enforecement (ICE) for conducting raids on immigrant communities during the first day of California’s “shelter-in-place” lockdown—and using N95 medical masks that are desperately needed by healthcare workers forking on the front lines of the COVID crisis. “In a time with severe shortages and orders to ‘shelter in place,’ the federal government chose to prioritize masks for Ice agents instead of necessary health personnel and, ultimately, chose raids over the health of our country,” they wrote. “The ICE raids conducted by the federal government are putting our country at risk, worsening a critical shortage of medical supplies and leading to overcrowding and movement that facilitate the spread of Covid-19. At this historic moment, we must set our priorities straight. If we want to survive, we must stop ICE raids, detention and deportation. We must provide protective equipment to frontline workers in our health system. Our lives and the future of our society depend on it.”

Ten takes on COVID-19 from a resource economist and citizen

In a March 28 article written for the Berkeley Blog, David Zilberman, Professor in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, drew upon his 40-year career studying the evolution and control of diseases in “plants, animals, ecosystems, and humans” to examine the implications of 10 key factors influencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Zilberman delineates factors such as technology (including the development of vaccines); heterogeneity, defined as “differences among individuals, locations, and social responses to this contagion”; the role of government; and economic impact. He also notes that “crisis triggers change” because “in a period of crisis, the political and economic resistance to experimenting with political and technological solutions can decline sharply.” Zilberman says that strong political leadership will be essential for managing the pandemic. “I hope that the current crisis will lead to the emergence of leadership that will pursue global cooperation rather than mutual isolation,” he said. “Despite self-imposed handicaps, and being very concerned about the COVID-19 and its impacts, I know we will survive it, it will lead to changes for the better, but tragically at a high cost.”

Africa faces grave risks as COVID-19 emerges

In an interview with UC Berkeley News reporter Edward Lempinen, Edward Miguel, Oxfam Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics and faculty director of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), discussed the potential threats of the COVID-19 virus in Africa, which first arrived in Africa in late February. Miguel noted that while Africa has some strengths over the countries affected so far — including a relatively young population, less density, and regional experience in dealing with other diseases, such as Ebola and HIV/AIDS – the continent remains highly vulnerable, as African nations lack the health care infrastructure required to treat large numbers of patients. “If there’s a significant outbreak, even if there aren’t as many vulnerable elderly people, millions of people still could be affected,” Miguel says. “Very few will have the care they need with ventilators and other advanced treatment…. I’m very concerned that people who are desperate will rise up against incompetent governments because they want to save their lives. They might want to put a competent government in its place…. COVID-19 pandemic demands a global, collective response. It is in the self-interest of the United States to deal with the epidemic globally to make sure it doesn’t break out again.” The piece was cited in a column by Charles Blow in the New York Times, “The Racial Time Bomb in the Covid-19 Crisis.”

What History’s Economy-Disrupting Outbreaks Can Teach Us About Coronavirus Panic

Writing for Time Magazine, Elena Conis, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Journalism affiliated with the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society, wrote about past epidemics—including the cholera epidemic of 1832 and the deadly flu outreak of 1918 — as lenses on current the COVID pandemic. A historian of U.S. public health and medicine, Conis is also affiliated with the Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and author of Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization. “Total economic losses due to the 1918 epidemic are difficult to estimate, but one thing was clear: after it ended, society recovered,” Conis wrote. “As the study’s author concluded, the flu changed individual lives forever, but the economy bounced back. Historians, as Robert Peckham notes, tend to believe that ‘analogies create blind spots.’ Each epidemic takes place in its own context. The state of trade in New York in 1832—as well as the city’s infrastructure, wealth, poverty, graft and relationship to the rest of the world—played a role in cholera’s spread. The economy recovered then, and has many times since. At the same time, a number of historians credit medieval plague with a role in the collapse of feudalism and the rise of capitalism, so it is hard to generalize about the relationship between epidemics and economies. The national and global financial systems will still exist on the other side of a disease. But no amount of looking backward can tell us what they will look like then—or what COVID-19 might be capable of changing.”

This crisis calls for massive government intervention: here’s how to do it

In a March 17 essay in The Guardian, UC Berkeley economists Emmanual Saez and Gabriel Zucman argued that the world’s governments need to enact strong measures to support workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Sending checks to families in the U.S. “help to alleviate temporary economic hardship but are poorly targeted,” they argued, as “it’s too little for those who lose their jobs, and it is not needed by those who don’t.” Instead , they argue, governments “should step in as payers of last resort, which means they would cover wage and maintenance costs for businesses facing shutdown. In the context of this pandemic, we need a new form of social insurance, one that directly helps both workers and businesses…. A payer-of-last-resort programme would alleviate the hardship on workers and businesses. It would maintain the cash flow for families and businesses so the coronavirus shock has no secondary impacts on demand – such as laid-off workers cutting down on consumption – and a quick rebound can take place once demand comes back. Business activity is on hold today, but with an intravenous cash flow it can be kept alive until the health crisis is over.”

A fast, simple way to get support to workers without paid leave

On March 10, The Washington Post published a “Perspective” by Jesse Rothstein, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics at UC Berkeley, and Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, arguing that firms should continue to pay workers directly during shutdowns. “In most cases, employers will want the workers back once the threat of the virus recedes, and continuation of wage and salary payments will help meet these workers’ and their households’ needs while supporting consumer spending in the broader economy,” they wrote. “To help them through what we believe will be an extremely challenging period, we propose the creation of a temporary, national paid-leave program, funded by the federal government, for workers idled due to the coronavirus…. Employers would continue to pay workers who are prevented from working by the virus, through direct deposits or paychecks in the mail. They would report this to their state[unemployment insurance] system, which would reimburse them through tax credits or direct payments and would in turn be reimbursed by the federal government…. The idea would be to reimburse employers for paying their workers through their coronavirus-caused leave, with as little disruption as possible…. Millions of households who are on the precipice of economic despair depend on policymakers getting this right.”

What we social scientists can do for vulnerable workers

In a 3/14 piece on Berkeley Blog, Jesse Rothstein, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics, highlighted how UC Berkeley social scientists have played an influential role throughout the COVID-19 crisis. “As a labor economist, I’m greatly worried about the economic damage that quarantines, social distancing efforts, and the like will cause,” he wrote. “It will be essential that we respond quickly and effectively to limit the damage. Toward that end, I’m especially proud that the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, which I direct, has been able to have a quick impact on the national conversation and the policy response.” Rothstein called out a variety of initiatives, including The Shift Project, headed by Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Schneider, which has measured the prevalence of unstable, unpredictable work among large low-wage employers like Walmart and McDonalds, and which was called out in a New York Times editorial arguing that “employers have a duty to give their workers paid leave, not just during the crisis, but permanently.” Rothstein noted that the bill passed by the House of Representatives includes “a set of provisions that closely resemble our proposal.” Noting that “the bill is not perfect” (in part because it excludes employers with more than 500 workers and is temporary), the bill provides two weeks of paid leave for people who are sick, quarantined due to symptoms, caring for a sick relative, or caring for kids whose schools are closed, paid at two-thirds of 100 percent of regular pay, depending on the reason; after that runs out, three months of paid family or medical leave; reimbursement to employers for both of the above through credits against payroll taxes, refundable if the credit exceeds the firm’s liability; and general fund transfers to hold the Social Security trust fund harmless. “We social scientists will all have roles to play, and the work that researchers at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and elsewhere at Berkeley do will be more important than ever.”

The Sudden Stop

What are the impacts of the economy grinding to a sudden halt, and what can be done about it? Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, S.K. and Angela Chan Professor of Global Management in the UC Berkeley Department of Economics and Haas School of Business and Director of the Clausen Center for International Business and Policy, discussed this subject with Cardiff Garcia and Stacey Vanek Smith for a March 16 segment of “The Indicator,” a segment on NPR’s Planet Money. “In 2008, the U.S. economy contracted by 4.5% So we’re looking at something that, on the baseline, relatively optimistic scenario, is going to dwarf this,” Gourinchas said. “The risk is also that these connections holding the economy together will fall apart. And if that happens, those relationships will be hard to rebuild, and that will delay the economy’s ability to recover. Businesses… might have problems refinancing a credit line with their bank. The bank might just say, no. We’re not renewing that because we’re not seeing you selling anything, so we’re cutting down your credit line. So now you have to repay. So you can’t do that, so now the business is going bankrupt. Now the bank may in turn have non-performing loans, and they’ll be piling up, so the bank may be in trouble. So now you have a financial crisis on top of everything else. These are the kinds of amplification and feedback loops that we can try to avoid…. If you know the crisis is going to be very short-lived, you don’t want to destroy all this network of relations. You want to preserve it so that it can restart again. If the crisis were going to be a permanent crisis, a very long-lasting crisis, there would be much less of a need to do that because you couldn’t just preserve these relationships.”

An Economic-History Lesson for Dealing with the Coronavirus

Matrix News

Call for Proposals: Pop-Up Writing Workshops

Social Science Matrix invites proposals from faculty, graduate students, and UC Berkeley-affiliated researchers for single-session writing workshops for the 2019-2020 academic year. As UC Berkeley’s cross-disciplinary social science incubator, Matrix seeks to both support scholarly generation and promote interdisciplinary conversations. Pop-up Writing Workshops may be formed around any topic or theme.


Social Science Matrix invites proposals from faculty, graduate students, and UC Berkeley-affiliated researchers for single-session writing workshops for the 2019-2020 academic year. As UC Berkeley’s cross-disciplinary social science incubator, Matrix seeks to both support scholarly generation and promote interdisciplinary conversations.

Pop-up Writing Workshops may be formed around any topic or theme. Workshops should focus on one or more in-progress, article-length publications. The work should represent either a new avenue of inquiry for the author(s) or a methodological experiment that could benefit from cross-disciplinary input and collegial criticism. Applicants will be asked to provide a title and abstract for the article, essay, or chapter they want to workshop along with a brief justification that explains why the work would both appeal to and profit from the feedback of a cross-disciplinary readership.

Participants in the Pop-up Writing Workshops will be invited to schedule their meeting at Matrix and will receive administrative support in promoting the workshop to an interdisicplinary community and forming a session with another in-progress publication.

Applications accepted on a rolling basis. Please contact Jessica Stewart, Associate Director, at with any questions.

Submit Proposals Here




Grants and Opportunities

Erasmus+ Mobility Grants Awarded

EU-funded program will enable exchange between faculty, staff, and students from UC Berkeley and Freie Universität Berlin

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Social Science Matrix is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019-2020 Erasmus+ Mobility Grants, which provide funding for collaborative research and training between faculty members, graduate students, and staff members from the UC Berkeley College of Letters and Science and Freie Universität, Berlin (FUB), a leading research university in Berlin, Germany.

Erasmus+ grants are awarded by the European Union (EU); all mobility projects under Erasmus+ aim to help individual learners acquire skills to support their professional development and deepen their understanding of other cultures. Grants awarded to faculty and staff members enable funding for up to two weeks of exchange; grants awarded to graduate students provide up to six months of funding.

“This program is part of a growing connection between two of the world’s greatest public universities—UC Berkeley and Freie Universität Berlin,” says Maximillian Auffhammer, George Pardee Jr. Professor of International Sustainable Development at UC Berkeley, who helped initiate this new partnership. “The exchange of ideas is best achieved through the exchange of people.”

Following a cross-institutional review by a panel of faculty members and administrators, nine graduate students, faculty, and staff members were selected to receive Erasmus+ grants for 2019-2020. Grantees were selected based on a variety of factors, including academic merit and professional experience. Grants are also focused on supporting international experiences for people who have not spent significant time abroad previously.

Below are brief profiles of the successful grantees, who are listed in alphabetical order by their names, along with their home institutions and grant type (staff, faculty, or graduate research).

Oyuna Baldakova, FUB, Graduate Research

A third-year PhD candidate at the Graduate School of East Asian Studies at FUB, Oyuna Baldakova is writing a dissertation entitled, “Win-Win on the Local Level: Study of Host Countries Institutions and Linkage Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.” Her research examines China’s participation in international development via its overseas investments, namely the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and its potential consequences for the economic development in Central Asia. She will use an Erasmus+ grant to visit UC Berkeley during the Spring 2020 semester and “interact and collaborate with leading scholars from the variety of social sciences at UC Berkeley,” while also “learning more about the North American academic life,” she wrote in her proposal. She plans to collaborate with Professor You-tien Hsing, Chair of the Center for Chinese Studies at the Institute of East Asian Studies, as well as scholars from Berkeley’s Center for Silk Road Studies, the first university center for Silk Road study in North America. “During my stay at Berkeley, I hope to enhance and finalize my dissertation project by presenting the preliminary results of my study in formal and informal settings,” Baldakova wrote in an email interview. “I believe that my stay will promote even closer cooperation between the two universities in the fields of East Asian and Eurasian Studies and provide the possibility to work on joint projects.”

Barbara Burger, FUB, Staff

A staff member with Freie Universität, Berlin’s Office of International Affairs, Barbara Burger used an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to learn about student advising and student recruitment strategies within UC Berkeley’s Study Abroad Office. Through meeting with campus advisors in select UC Berkeley departments, as well as shadowing staff members in the Study Abroad office, she developed her understanding of how study abroad could be further integrated into the academic lives of students at both universities. “Through the training at UC Berkeley, I was able to achieve a better understanding of academic requirements at the UC for our students, which led to improvement of my skills in regard to students’ academic counseling,” Burger explained in an email interview. “During the meetings with the marketing department, it was also possible to exchange new ideas for student recruitment. For me, it was a wonderful experience and, apart from the professional outcomes, I gained insight into life on the UC Berkeley campus, from which we welcome a great number of students to our Berlin program every year.”

Julia Glathe, FUB, Faculty

Julia Glathe, a PhD Student in Sociology and a Research Fellow at the Institute for East European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, is writing a dissertation entitled “The Contradictory Nature of Russia’s Migration Regime: Dynamics of Conflict and Development in a Non-Western and Authoritarian Context.” Her work seeks “to understand how migration as a political object is dealt with in Russian society and, thus, in a non-Western and authoritarian political context,” Glathe wrote in her proposal. She received an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to visit UC Berkeley and work with John Lie, C.K. Cho Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. “In my dissertation, I examine the development and conflict dynamics of the Russian migration regime,” she wrote in an email interview. “Through my stay at UC Berkeley and the exchange with other migration researchers, I hope to be able to better classify the Russian case by comparing it with other immigration states: What distinguishes an authoritarian from a liberal migration regime? To what extent do conflict dynamics resemble and differ? I see the events of the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative (BIMI) as particularly profitable to advance my project.”

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, UC Berkeley, Faculty

As Associate Professor of History at UC Berkeley, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann’s research centers on an examination of global history through the concept of time. Drawing upon the work of German historian Reinhart Koselleck, Hoffmann is exploring the “synchronicity of the non-synchronous,” a term used to “explain the popular appeal of Nazism for those social classes in Weimar Germany considered to be ‘out of sync’ with the particular historical stage of late capitalism.” Hoffmann received an Erasmus+ Grant to collaborate with Sebastian Conrad at the Freie Universität Berlin’s Center for Global History, who is “one of the leading global historians in the world today,” according to Hoffmann. “I plan to share a first draft chapter with him and other colleagues at the FU’s Center for Global History. In addition, we intend to use my research stay at the FU to sketch out a possible collaborative project for a large UCB-FU research grant on ‘Global Temporalities,’ involving students and faculty at both institutions.”

Seth Holmes, UC Berkeley, Faculty

Seth M. Holmes, Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology and Public Health at UC Berkeley, will use an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to develop a working group of social scientists who work on mobility, migration, health, and inclusion/exclusion. Holmes will present his research on Indigenous Mexican immigrant youth in the United States at FUB’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, and organize a future workshop entitled “Migration, Health, Markets and Inclusion/Exclusion,” with an eye toward developing a special theme journal issue and grant application for ongoing work. “We will consider national and transnational markets, forced immigration and medical tourism, and finally citizenship and ethnicity segmented labor markets and their potential production of health, sickness, and disease,” Holmes explained in his proposal.

Jordan Jacobs, UC Berkeley, Staff

As Head of Cultural Policy and Repatriation for UC Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Museum, Jordan Jacobs is responsible for ensuring that the museum adheres to ethical standards and regulations related to the acquisition and management of cultural objects. Jacobs received an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to collaborate with representatives from Berlin’s new Humboldt Forum Museum and the Dahlem Museums, whose collections largely date to German’s colonial era. “The world’s museums have reached in an inflection point in the realm of cultural policy,” Jacobs wrote in an email interview. “Both UC Berkeley and the Freie Universität are now central to a revived, international conversation about collecting ethics and colonialism, which requires—but does not always inspire—nuance, negotiation, and good faith attempts to mitigate between multiple, often contradictory worldviews…. I am grateful for the opportunity to examine these issues with my colleagues in Berlin, with a goal of developing best practices.”

Yan Long, UC Berkeley, Faculty

Yan Long, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, researches the evolution of international institutions and how they shape conflict among local communities and states. Long received an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to collaborate with scholars at Freie Universität, Berlin’s Institute of Chinese Studies, as she is building a network of researchers around the world to conduct comparative cross-city research to shed light on the consequences of civic life for the vitality of urban areas. “The visit will help me to develop international collaborative working relationships with the vibrant scholarly community of civil society and state studies involving multiple disciplines at FUB,” she wrote.

Franziska Neudeck, FUB, Staff

UC Berkeley and FUB are home to two of 352 global libraries that have been designated as “United Nations Depository Libraries,” which manage the distribution of United Nations documents and publications to users around the world. Franziska Neudeck, a staff member in the Acquisition Department & Subject Cataloguing Team at Freie Universität, Berlin’s University Library, used an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to collaborate with UC Berkeley staff and learn about the UC library system, including how it fulfills its role as a UN Depository Library. During her visit, she focused on comparing and contrasting the different work processes used in the libraries, and on collaborating with colleagues like Jim Church, UC Berkeley’s Librarian for Economics and International Government Information. “For me as a librarian from Germany, the Erasmus+ Mobility Grant was a great experience, and it gave me the chance of a lifetime to evolve personally and professionally at a unique campus of the UC,” Neudeck said in an email interview. “I learned a lot from the colleagues in Berkeley during my stay and they supported me in every way, first of all Jim Church. This opportunity for new insights will have a lasting effect on my future work.”

Mariel Supina, UC Berkeley, Graduate Research

A third-year doctoral student in mathematics at UC Berkeley, Mariel Supina studies algebraic combinatorics and discrete geometry. “Algebraic combinatorics is a field in which techniques from abstract algebra are used to enumerate objects of interest,” she explained in her proposal. “Discrete geometry involves the study of polytopes, or high-dimensional shapes with flat sides.” She will use an Erasmus+ Mobility Grant to work with the discrete geometry group at FU Berlin, which she explained in her proposal is “one of the world’s top locations” for her field of research. She is also interested in supporting efforts to promote equity and inclusion in faculty hiring, admissions, and the graduate program at FU Berlin. “I am very grateful for the Erasmus+ Mobility Grant for giving me the opportunity to get to know my colleagues in the Discrete Geometry group at FU Berlin,” Supina wrote in an email. “I am looking forward to beginning new mathematical collaborations with other graduate students.”

Visit this page to learn more about this year’s grant process, and subscribe to the Matrix newsletter for updates on future opportunities to participate.

Marion Fourcade, Michael Watts to Serve as Directors of Matrix

Following Bill Hanks' successful six-year tenure, Marion Fourcade, Professor in the Department of Sociology, will serve as Director of Social Science Matrix. Professor Michael Watts will serve as Interim Director until July 2020.


We are pleased to announce that Marion Fourcade, Professor in the Department of Sociology, has been appointed Director of Social Science Matrix. She will assume the role previously held by Professor Bill Hanks, who stepped down following a successful six-year term as the center’s founding director.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Fourcade will serve as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University, and so will begin her term at Matrix on July 1, 2020. In the interim, Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus of Geography, will serve as the Director of Matrix for the forthcoming academic year, effective July 1, 2019.

Bill HanksUnder Hanks’ leadership, Social Science Matrix has established itself as an important resource for the UC Berkeley social science community, hosting hundreds of conferences, workshops, symposia, book discussions, and distinguished lectures by prominent scholars, and convening more than 70 Matrix Research Teams, interdisciplinary groups of scholars who gathered to pursue early-stage research focused on emerging social science questions and tackling globally significant issues like climate change, immigration, and artificial intelligence.

Among its many activities, Matrix has also hosted three cohorts of Dissertations Fellows; established a network of 25 Affiliated Centers across campus; and forged important international partnerships, creating bilateral exchange programs with Sciences Po in Paris and Freie Universität, Berlin.

“Working with Carla Hesse, former Dean of the Social Sciences Division, Bill [Hanks] formed Matrix into a cutting-edge research institute that responded to the particular needs of Berkeley’s social science community,” said Kim Voss, Acting Dean of the Division of Social Sciences, in an announcement. “As an incubator and accelerator for early-stage research and a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration, Matrix has attained national distinction under Bill’s leadership and emerged as a singular entity on campus. A linguistic anthropologist with deep historical commitments, Bill’s ability to fruitfully complicate the intellectual contours that undergird disciplinary thought has indelibly shaped Matrix and its mission.”

Professor Fourcade is well poised to build on this foundation, as she brings an exceptionally strong understanding of Matrix’s role within the division and a clear vision of how to expand the impact of its programs and initiatives. Fourcade served as Interim Director of Matrix in 2018, when she launched initiatives such as the Solidarity Series, a series of talks and panels focused on exploring and critiquing the ethical foundations, concrete implementations, and prospective designs that have fostered (or may foster) connectedness, inclusiveness, tolerance, and equality. She founded the Center on Economy and Morality, a Matrix-affiliated center, and she has led and/or participated in diverse Matrix Research Teams, including Seeing Like a Valley: Locating the Moral Visions of Silicon Valley Culture; Political Economy and Society Curriculum; Examining the Global Reach of Algorithms; and Work and Politics in the Digital Era.

Fourcade is “an innovative scholar whose numerous publications have taken an expansive, historical, and comparative approach to the sociology of economic knowledge, political practices, and digital society,” Voss said. “Known as a willing and resourceful collaborator, she has contributed to the work of several research centers on campus and built coalitions with scholars nationally and internationally, most notably as co-director of the Max Planck-Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies. Marion is also an award-winning mentor with an established track record of championing the research of graduate students.” Fourcade’s book, Economists and Societies: Discipline and Profession in the United States, Britain, and France, 1890s to 1990s, won several awards, including the Ludwik Fleck Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science and the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Book Award.

“Matrix is a unique institution,” Fourcade says. “Its mission is to serve as a catalyst of innovation in the social sciences, to foster conversations across the disciplines, and to discover new territories for research. We are deeply indebted to Bill Hanks and Carla Hesse for turning this ambitious vision into a lively reality, complete with a gorgeous physical space, a well-functioning infrastructure, and a vital intellectual role on campus.”

Marion intends to build on Matrix’s track record in serving the broader social science community for the organization of special events, workshops, and lectures, as well as in supporting innovative interdisciplinary seminars and research projects. Her priorities include increasing outreach through the cultivation of relationships with departments in the division and with other research units on campus (a model pioneered by the D-Lab/Matrix series on “social science and data science”); working with graduate students to provide intellectual support and better exposure for their research; and fostering connections to non-academic publics. “Matrix is for everyone,” Fourcade says.

Matrix’s work will be closely articulated with several of the signature initiatives on campus. “We want to focus on present-day challenges facing human societies, be they political (rising illiberalism and authoritarianism), technological (artificial intelligence, genetic modification), or ecological (climate change). As social scientists, we want to understand how these challenges transform our physical environment, our social world, and our sense of who we are; how they recycle old forms of power and marginality, but also create new ones; and how they might foster new opportunities, ideals, and aspirations. These questions all demand interdisciplinary conversations. Matrix will be actively engaged in cultivating those cross-field synergies that are already well established, while helping initiate other, less familiar ones.”

In his role as Interim Director, Professor Michael Watts will similarly bring a wealth of leadership experience to Matrix, as he formerly served as Director of the Institute of International Studies and Chair of the Trustees of the Social Science Research Council. Watts’ pioneering scholarship on the political economy of development has integrated thinking in the fields of anthropology, ecology, and sociology. He has been recognized internationally for his leadership, exemplary scholarship, and mentorship of graduate students; most recently, he was honored by election as Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. His publications include Silent Violence: Food, Famine and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria (1983; 2013), which was a runner-up for the Herskovitz Prize, and The Curse of the Black Gold (2008). “Michael is uniquely capable of ensuring Matrix’s successful transition this year,” Voss said.

As Interim Director of Matrix, Watts says that he intends to continue to promote and fund research teams and lectures, while providing “new support for reading groups, book manuscript development for junior faculty, inter-disciplinary doctoral dissertation proposal workshops, and a venue for book launches and the chance for authors  to ‘meet their critics’ in wide ranging discussions.” He also plans to launch new event series that “speak to the current moment,” focusing on such topics as “the challenges of climate change and forms of life in the Anthropocene; the challenges associated with large-scale displacement and mobility of human populations, particularly in relation to civil conflict, war, and endemic violence (and of climate change); and, in view of the looming US elections in 2020, the broad theme of race, class, and authoritarian politics.” He also plans to “host discussions next spring, explicitly comparative in nature, drawing in our historical strength in area studies on the Berkeley campus, addressing the relations between neoliberalism, globalization, and authoritarian populisms of various stripe.”

“While the foundations for Matrix are now in place, I hope to continue and extend the yeoman work of Bill Hanks, who has developed connections, linkages, and networks among faculty and students across the social science division, while building new relations with the area studies programs, the many research centers on campus, and the professional schools, all of which have social scientists in their ranks,” Watts said. “I am delighted to be able to assist in this transitional period prior to Marion [Fourcade] taking up her appointment, and am looking forward to working with faculty and students across the campus. Matrix has served an exceptionally generative role in both promoting and advocating the exciting inter-disciplinary social scientific research being conducted on campus, while at the same time seeding and incubating early-stage research.”

Grants and Opportunities

2019-2020 Matrix Research Teams Announced

Eleven cross-disciplinary Matrix Research Teams will receive funding and administrative support to convene during the 2019-2020 academic year.

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How do politics and economics relate to the technical development of artificial intelligence? How does the concept of “resilience” serve as a practical framework for managing climate change? What are the roles of freshwater institutions in creating, dismantling, and/or transferring wealth and power?

These are among the questions that will be explored by Matrix Research Teams during the 2019-2020 academic year. Matrix Research Teams are groups of scholars who gather regularly to explore or develop a novel question of significance in the social sciences. Matrix teams typically integrate participants from several social-science disciplines and diverse ranks (i.e. faculty and graduate students), address a compelling research question with real-world significance, and deploy or develop appropriate methodologies in creative ways.

Matrix supports three different kinds of Research Teams: Project Teams receive funding in the amount of $5000. They run for two semesters, meeting at least once a month around a defined research problem. Project teams work toward producing a particular output, such as a proposal for external funding, a workshop or conference, or a joint publication. Prospecting Teams receive funding in the amount of $1500. They run for a single semester, typically meeting 5-6 times, and explore a new area or question of inquiry and assess whether it has potential for further investigation. Progress Teams, added this year, receive $1500 in funding to continue the progress they made during the prior academic year as a Prospecting Team.

In addition to funding, all Matrix Research Teams receive administrative support in coordinating, scheduling, and reserving space in our offices on the top floor of Barrows Hall. Matrix also provides communications support to help publicize each group’s work; the teams receive assistance administering funding, as well as identifying and applying for further funding.

This year’s teams were chosen following review by a cross-disciplinary panel of faculty members. Below are descriptions of the 2019-2020 Matrix Research Teams, based on abstracts written by the teams’ organizers.

Project Teams

Berkeley Infrastructure Initiative: Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Policy Research in the Public Interest

Team Leads: Karen Trapenberg-Frick, Professor, City & Regional Planning; Jeff Vincent, Researcher, Institute of Urban & Regional Development

Co-sponsored by Global Metropolitan Studies, this Matrix team aspires to lay the foundations for a “Berkeley Infrastructure Initiative,” (BI2), which will bring together faculty and students with a shared interest in the planning, governance, finance, design, development, economics, and environmental effects of infrastructure. Sub-sectors of interest include transportation, housing, water, sanitation, information and communication technology, energy, school and community facilities, and public parks. “New and expanded research is needed to guide public infrastructure policy, investment and delivery amidst changing domestic and international landscapes,” the organizers explained in their proposal. “But widespread social benefit will only be realized if infrastructure investments are planned in a manner prioritizing equitable access and reducing externalities that place disproportionate burdens on already disadvantaged groups. Thus, objective, empirically-guided knowledge is needed on how to equitably provide and effectively deliver infrastructure services. Our team will incorporate a strong equity lens into our empirical work. Through this proposal, the Research Team will develop a landscape framing paper outlining the state of the field and research needs, convene a conference with leading scholars, develop a strategic plan to seek extramural and campus funding support, and actively disseminate our research and findings. Through these efforts, UC Berkeley will be well-positioned to have significant impact in scholarship and practice.”

Climate Economics

Team Lead: David Anthoff, Assistant Professor, Energy & Resources Group

The field of economics plays a crucial role in the debate about appropriate policies intended to mitigate climate change. For example, the tools of economics can be used to measure and/or estimate impacts such as the costs of mitigation, the valuation of damages, the role of abatement in lowering damages, design of policy instruments (e.g. taxes vs. permit systems), international agreements on climate policy, risk assessment, questions of distributional ethics, and more. With financial support from SAGE, Matrix will continue to support a team dedicated to Climate Change Economics, which brings together some of the many faculty, post-docs, and Ph.D. students at Berkeley who are working on economic aspects of climate change. This group’s regular meetings serve as a convening ground for researchers from across the UC Berkeley campus, and provide a space for scholars to share early research drafts, discuss recent literature, consider special topics, and bring in external speakers. Matrix also previously hosted an Advanced Workshop on Climate Economics.

Native/Immigrant/Refugee: Movements Across Contested Grounds

Team Leads: Beth Piatote, Associate Professor, Native American Studies; Leti Volpp, Professor, School of Law

In the current moment of resurgent populist nationalism, understanding how rhetorical and legal claims are made about the “native,” “immigrant,” and “refugee” is an urgent project of critical social importance. Understanding the complex nature of these categories in relationship to each other—as by turns antonymous, overlapping, oppositional, and precarious—even as the laws and policies that define them shift, is the central concern of this research team. Each category is entangled with the others and operating in a state of flux, disrupting or securing the lives of millions. While many scholars focus their research on immigration, on refugees, or on indigenous issues, this work is conducted in silos with minimal conversation and collaborative research across these fields. This research team disrupts this silo effect by staging cross-disciplinary and cross-category conversations. The team is planning conference to be held in March 2020, to be followed by the production of a scholarly volume.

Queer Ecologies | Feminist Biologies

Team Lead: Ashton Wesner, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM)

How do scientists engage queer feminist methodologies to understand sex and gender in non-human animals? Animal research—including studies of sexual selection, mate choice, and social pairing—has long been used to make inferences about human biology, health, and sociality. Reciprocally, cultural norms infused with political, social, and economic assumptions also influence the ways in which scientists study animals. This team of biologists, social scientists, and humanities scholars investigates how heterosexist ideologies have shaped evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology, as well as how queer and feminist scientists today generate practical and theoretical interventions to unsettle normative canons. By using “queer nature” as an intellectual starting point, the team aims to re-organize the longstanding whiteness, gender dimorphism, and heteronormativity of Euro-American biological disciplines. They will develop pedagogical tools and interdisciplinary methodologies that address questions of teaching and understanding biology “queerly.” This work includes public-facing material like podcasts, course syllabi, academic programming, and co-authored publications.

Progress Teams

Interpreting Risk in the Age of Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Health Testing

Team Lead: Skyler Wang, PhD Student, Sociology

Following the success of genetic ancestry testing, direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic health tests are on a rapid rise. 23andMe, Veritas, and Genos are just three of many companies ushering consumers to a new age of neoliberal healthcare management. These at-home tests promise accurate predictions of health problems, ranging from ‘lifestyle’ concerns such as how much one should drink to predictions of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The rise of DTC tests brings about a new cultural phenomenon: the expansion of ‘at-risk’ populations. That is, we are constantly at risk of getting sick, and that the body needs to be carefully managed and monitored. The proliferation of DTC genetic health tests fuels this cultural anxiety by transferring a major part of that responsibility from the hands of traditional medical institutions into our own. Now more than ever, we are ‘in charge’ of our own health and all the risks that encompass. In light of this new zeitgeist, this research team seeks to understand the impact of DTC genetic health tests on consumer behaviors and consciousness. First and foremost, how are these consumers making sense of the genome-derived health data? During their prospecting stage, the team found that many testers use online forums to seek assistance in interpreting their health data. How are healthcare decisions, then, collectively constructed? The team’s members want to study both health test results and online forums to understand the processes that lead to the creation of a new type of patient status.

Toward a Political Economy of Computer Science: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Team Lead: Thomas Gilbert, PhD Student, Machine Ethics, Interdisciplinary Field Studies

This progress team examines the politics implicit in the technical development of artificial intelligence. In particular, they will work toward a one-day workshop in spring 2020 that will include student presentations and faculty panels on the “political economy of AI development,” outlining how the technical decisions made by system designers and AI theorists when endorsing specific approaches (reinforcement learning, natural language processing, computational game theory) have direct and substantive implications for economic management and social well-being. Without necessarily endorsing a particular strategy, the organizers anticipate this workshop could form the basis of an edited volume whose contributions draw analytical conclusions about the implications for AI development on a functional social order, and also form the basis for course syllabi in the School of Information and social science departments.

Prospecting Teams: Fall 2019

Assembling Resilience: Expert Systems and Knowledge Infrastructures in Climate Change Governance

Team Lead: Stephen Collier, Professor, City and Regional Planning

Resilience has become a central topic in discussions about how to respond to global climate change. This project examines the politics of resilience as an emerging terrain of government. Up to this point, social science discussions have been speculative, based largely on theoretical definitions of resilience. But with the recent implementation of a growing number of resilience initiatives around the world—from flood barriers and green infrastructure to community development programs—the social sciences are now challenged to track how this concept is being turned into a practical framework for planning and governing in an epoch of climate change. To understand the emerging politics of resilience, we need tools to analyze underlying expert systems, techniques of valuation and knowledge production, and financial infrastructures. The team will build on its members’ specialization in the anthropology of expertise, the sociology of valuation, science and technology studies, and city planning.

Pragmatics in Clinical Communication

Team Lead: Bonnie Wong, PhD candidate, UC Berkeley/ UCSF program in Medical Anthropology; MD candidate, Stanford School of Medicine

In all language, there may be a gap between what is said and what is understood. In medical communication, these often-unnoticed misunderstandings have serious consequence for ethics or practice of clinical care. This team aims to create a multi- institutional collaboration specifically analyzing the multi-faceted use of the word “treatable” around oncology patients in intensive care units (where care is often shared between a critical care doctor and an oncologist – either surgical, medical, and/or radiation). By conducting this interdisciplinary and collaborative research, they hope to establish a rigorous methodology for researching the pragmatics of clinical communication: how context impacts the action of words. By combining anthropological methods, linguistic analysis, and a bioethics lens, they are hopeful that their interdisciplinary collaboration will establish a new research field on clinical communication that is generative of practical and actionable recommendations and applicable to research regarding communication between niche-language-users in fields outside of medicine.

Prospecting Teams: Spring 2020

Science Denial: Media, Public Policy, Power, and Scientific Truth

Team Lead: Elena Conis, Professor, School of Journalism

Who has the power to speak publicly for science, set scientific agendas, and give shape to science policy? Why do some reject their positions? How does news coverage of science perpetuate the trend? This Matrix prospecting team will convene scholars from across the UC campus to critically examine the process of scientific consensus and contestation, with a specific focus on the category of “science denial.” The group will explore how the “denialism” label encourages specific forms of discourse and shuts down others in public debates about vaccination, climate change, GMOs, and other topics. We will draw on the historical, anthropological, communications, and STS literature that has illuminated the long history of public misunderstanding of science and contextualized and problematized the idea of a science-ignorant public, in order to explore questions about the social construction of scientific truth that are pertinent to the present historical moment.

Topology as Method: Surfaces for Social Science

Team Lead: Kamala Russell, PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Topology, often opposed to rigid geometry, is the study of the properties of spaces that are invariant under certain deformations. Space, as domain of social inquiry, knots together issues of human perception, affect and body, event, structure and agency, movement and circulation, and individuation and differentiation, and as such, necessitates interdisciplinary work. Rather than beginning with meanings, values, identities, or roles, topology helps examine the ways social life is distributed across spaces. Our team is led by scholars working collaboratively on methodologies for ‘topological’ analysis of spatial organization, orientation, configuration, and transformation in social processes, technologies, practices, and cultural production. This seminar will gather social scientists working on the spatial aspects of social and aesthetic practice for regular discussion, and invited lectures with mathematicians, artists, engineers, and data scientists who make pure or applied use of topological concepts and formalisms.

Water, Wealth, and Power in the U.S.

Team Lead: Jenny Rempel, PhD Student, Energy & Resources Group

Water is being financed, priced, marketized, and governed under novel ownership regimes. These interventions have the potential to disrupt or entrench convergences between water, wealth, and power. While income is widely recognized as a determinant of water access, recent research also posits an inverse relationship between water, wealth and power: for instance, disproportionately high costs of water and wastewater services in communities of color, intergenerational impacts of polluted water on residential property values and individuals’ lifetime earnings, and the extent to which targeted divestments in water infrastructure can determine community ‘viability.’ These disparities in access fall along, and exacerbate, existing racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities, creating interlocking inequities. This team will focus on two questions: What are the roles of freshwater institutions in creating, dismantling, and/or transferring wealth and power? And, what are the roles of power and wealth in creating, dismantling, and/or transferring access to safe and affordable drinking water?

Stay tuned to the Matrix website, subscribe to our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter for more about these teams’ work—and for information on applying Matrix Research Team for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Matrix News

New Opportunities at Social Science Matrix

Please help us spread the word about these exciting new opportunities at Social Science Matrix.

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Positions Available: Graduate Student Research Associates

Deadline for Applications: August 30, 2019
Social Science Matrix invites applications for Graduate Student Research Associates to serve limited-term appointments during the 2019-2020 academic year. Working in consultation with faculty and Matrix leadership, Matrix Research Associates will have the opportunity to identify and study an emerging, transdisciplinary field and produce a body of work related to this research. Each Research Associate is responsible for producing a portfolio, consisting of 1) a blog entry or short article (between 1500 and 2500 words) that describes a cross-disciplinary research field and provides an overview of the main issues driving scholarship in that area; 2) an annotated bibliography that critically summarizes key works; and 3) a directory of scholars whose work pertains to this field locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Each Research Associate will receive compensation in the form of a $700 stipend. LEARN MORE.

Applications Sought for Matrix Working Groups

Deadline for Applications: August 30, 2019
Social Science Matrix invites proposals from UC Berkeley faculty, graduate students, and affiliated researchers to form interdisciplinary working groups for the 2019-2020 academic year. Matrix Working Groups may be formed around any topic or theme. Matrix also encourages the inclusion of scholars from disciplines in the humanities and sciences, providing there is a clear link in some way (through participants, readings, or theoretical approach) to the social sciences, broadly construed. Matrix Working Groups will be invited to schedule their monthly meetings at Matrix and will receive administrative support in reserving space in our offices. Matrix will also produce profiles on the reading groups and will provide a platform for each group to create a blog, which will be hosted on our website.  APPLY HERE.

Dissertation Workshop with Prof. Michael Watts

September 18, 2-4:30pm
Doctoral students in the early stages of their dissertation research are invited to participate in a “Dissertation Proposal Development Workshop,” to be led by Matrix Interim Director Michael Watts, Emeritus “Class of 1963” Professor of Geography and Development Studies at UC Berkeley. The workshop will be held on September 18, 2018 from 2-4:30pm. This interdisciplinary workshop aims to help graduate students from departments within the social science division to formulate realistic and rigorous dissertation proposals that are mindful of how their work pertains to a broader interdisciplinary field. During the workshop, students will be introduced to funding opportunities, as well as how to conceptualize a dissertation topic and frame it to be competitive for both inter- and extramural fellowship support. We will workshop one or more proposals, depending on time, as a way of highlighting what makes for a robust and compelling application for research funding. The workshop is open only to post-MA students who are ideally in the process of working on a dissertation proposal or who are intending to meet Fall 2019 funding deadlines (from the Social Science Research Council, the NSF, and other research foundations and organizations). Participation is limited; applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. First Review of Applications: Friday, August 21, 2019. LEARN MORE.