Gautam Nair

IN THE PAPER “Building Mass Support for Global Pandemic Recovery Efforts in the United States,” Assistant Professor of Public Policy Gautam Nair and his coauthor, Kyle Peyton, a research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, examine Americans’ support for international pandemic-recovery efforts. They find that Americans are willing to support the government’s playing a major role in those efforts, provided that international agreements have only moderate domestic costs, that the burden is shared with other countries, and that resources such as domestically manufactured vaccines and patent buyouts are prioritized. Overall, decision-makers will have more success if they reframe U.S. contributions to global pandemic-recovery efforts as serving U.S. economic interests as well as humanitarian ones.


In Government We Trust?

Pippa Norris

Pippa Norris, the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, investigates the environments that influence people’s trust in their public leaders in “Trust in Government Redux: The Role of Information Environments and Cognitive Skills.” She finds that “open” societies with a free press and a highly educated population are likely to judge their governing bodies as trustworthy if they can assess them as competent, impartial, and having integrity. In “closed” societies, such as authoritarian states, this connection between trust and quality of government is not apparent. Norris writes, “The results confirm the thesis that in authoritarian states lacking a free press and freedom to dissent, citizens are more likely to be misled when evaluating untrustworthy leaders, or else they are self-censoring in their public expressions of dissent.”

Improving Peacekeeping

Linda Bilmes

Linda Bilmes, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, and coauthors examine the operational effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping operations in a working paper, “Strengthening Management of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations: A Review of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations Audits.” The authors studied 288 audits of U.N. peacekeeping missions over a five-year period and identified changes that could improve those operations in a cost-effective manner. They write, “The absence of centralized and flexible funding for U.N. missions stymies their initial deployment, reduces operational effectiveness and increases costs. The result is a cycle of weak operational performance that continues to be repeated.” Five approaches emerged that the researchers believe could improve peacekeeping operations: more-efficient mobilization, more fungibility in resources, reprioritized resource investments, greater accountability, and decision-making based on timely operational data.

New Faculty

Harvard Kennedy School welcomes new faculty members:

Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Luis Armona

Professor of Public Policy
Eliana La Ferrara

Associate Professor of Public Policy
Matthew Lee

Emma Bloomberg Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management
Elizabeth Linos

Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Elizabeth McKenna

Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Charles Taylor

Partisanship and Housing Policy

Justin de Benedictis-Kessner

With housing costs rising rapidly in large U.S. cities, an understanding of the relationship between politics and housing policy could provide insight for policymakers and researchers. In their working paper, “How Partisanship in Cities Influences Housing Policy,” Assistant Professor of Public Policy Justin de Benedictis-Kessner and coauthors study the relationship between local politics and housing policy. Using survey data, housing policy data, and data from city council and mayoral elections in large U.S. cities, the authors examine partisan divides in housing policy. They focus on both the degree to which partisanship shapes people’s opinions on these policies and the degree to which politicians from different parties favor differing policies. For example, electing a Democrat as mayor can lead to an increase in the creation of multifamily housing in cities where councils have no power over zoning appeals.

An Epidemic of Hospital Closures

Soroush Saghafian

On average, 21 hospitals closed in the United States annually from 2010 to 2015, and 47 closed in 2019 alone. The number of closures skyrocketed amid COVID-19, creating concerns for many patients, providers, and communities. Associate Professor of Public Policy Soroush Saghafian and colleagues explore how policymakers can respond and make the health care sector more efficient. In their paper “Towards a More Efficient Healthcare System: Opportunities and Challenges Caused by Hospital Closures Amid the COVID‑19 Pandemic,” published in Health Care Management Science, the authors look at the effects of the increase in hospital closures—such as pressure felt by the remaining hospitals that may result in rushed services and reduced quality. The authors suggest that researchers study how incentives such as innovative payment models and other interventions might improve the performance of those hospitals that remain.

Ideas—As Well As Interests—in Political Appeals

Dani Rodrik

Dani Rodrik, the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, and colleagues build a framework for thinking about how ideas shape politics in their National Bureau of Economic Research working paper “Economic Interests, Worldviews, and Identities: Theory and Evidence on Ideational Politics.” They examine how political leaders not only appeal to potential voters’ material interests but also “often seek support by trying to persuade the public of a particular view of how the world works—a view that enhances the desirability of the candidates’ preferred policies.” Politicians also seek support by appealing to “voters’ identities, values, or some overarching normative principles (such as fairness or freedom).” Both these approaches, the researchers suggest, have to do with ideas, which are distinct from—but may complement—voters’ economic interests. They also find that economic shocks, such as the effect on U.S. labor markets of increased trade with China, can lead to growth in ideational politics, and they investigate how high levels of inequality affect identity and worldview politics.

Banner image by Indranil Mukherjee / AFP