The Social Policy Analysis Working Group

The Social Policy Analysis Working Group (SPAWG) is located at the Boston University School of Social Work. SPAWG is co-directed by Daniel P. Miller, Yoonsook Ha, and Thomas Byrne, faculty at the School of Social Work.

SPAWG aims:

  1. To inform ongoing policy debates of relevance to social welfare via high-quality and rigorous empirical research.
  2. To provide ongoing opportunities for collaboration, discourse, and training for faculty and students at the BU School of Social Work and beyond who are interested in social policy analysis.
  3. To house and disseminate policy-relevant data from a range of sources to facilitate social welfare research and policymaking.

Current SPAWG Projects

Title: Examining Mortality and Receipt of Benefits Administered by the Social Security Administration As Reasons for Desistance from Homelessness 

Investigators: Thomas Byrne, Dennis P. Culhane, Matthew Rutledge (Co-PIs)

Abstract: The proposed study would link data from the emergency shelter systems in several large American cities with SSA data to investigate the pattern of desistance from homelessness among those in the age cohort who have been disproportionately impacted by homelessness for over 20 years and who are now approaching retirement age.

Funding Source: Social Security Administration via Boston College Center for Retirement Research

Dates: 1/2016-9/2016

Title: A Data-based Re-design of Health Care and Housing for People who Experience Chronic Homelessness 

Investigators: Thomas Byrne (PI), Daniel P. Miller

Abstract: The purpose of the proposed project is to inform a data-based redesign of health care and housing systems for Medicaid beneficiaries who are chronically homeless and aged 55 or above. The project will: (1) examine the health care utilization patterns and costs among Massachusetts residents aged 55 and above who experience chronic homelessness; (2) project the expected health care costs over the next decade for this population absent any effort to intervene to address their housing needs; and (3) estimate the potential reduction in health services use and return on investment associated with the large-scale implementation of a range of housing intervention models for this population

Funding Source: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation

Dates: 10/2015-9/2017

Title: Using Data to Inform Policy and Programmatic Responses to Unaccompanied Adult Homelessness

Investigators: Thomas Byrne (PI), Yoonsook Ha, Daniel P. Miller

Abstract: This project will conduct an analysis of data from the emergency shelter system in the City of Boston to address key gaps in existing knowledge about unaccompanied homeless adults who experience repeated episodes of shelter use over time.  In doing so, findings from this project will provide crucial information about this group that can help inform ongoing efforts to address homelessness both within Boston, and in American cities more generally.

Funding Source: Boston University Initiative on Cities

Dates: 7/2015-6/2016

Title: Identifying and Measuring Risk for Homelessness Among Veterans

Investigators: Ann Elizabeth Montgomery (PI), Thomas Byrne, Melissa Dichter, Jamison D. Fargo, Adi Gundlapalli, Gala True

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to evaluate VA’s efforts at identifying Veterans at risk of homelessness and linking them with services of their choosing that are both efficient and effective. The primary contribution of this study will be the examination and refinement of the current set of policies and practices to identify, refer, and intervene with Veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk.

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and Development

Dates: 7/2015-6/2018

Relevant publications:

Title: Evaluation of Child Care Voucher Eligibility Reassessment Policy Change in Massachusetts 

Investigators: Pam Joshi (PI), Yoonsook Ha (Co-PI), Erin Hardy (Co-PI)

Abstract: This mixed-methods study is a collaborative research partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education & Care and Brandeis University to evaluate recent policy and administrative changes to make the process of accessing and maintaining child care subsidies more family-friendly. The purpose of the study is to document policy implementation and fidelity to the new reassessment model and to examine effects on providers and families.

Funding Source: Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

Dates: 10/2013-9/2017

Title: Designing Data Driven Directions for School Success of Students Involved in Child Welfare Proceedings

Investigators: Yoonsook Ha, Thomas Byrne (Co-PIs)

Abstract: The purpose of this project is to evaluate a series of educational outcomes (educational achievement, school transfers, disciplinary sanctions) among students with a history of involvement in the child welfare system in Massachusetts. The primary contribution of the study will be policy proposals for improving the educational outcomes of these youth.

Funding Source: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Supreme Judicial Court, Court Improvement Program

Dates: 9/2015-6/2016

Title: Quality of Care for Hepatitis C in Veterans Who are Homeless or Marginally Housed

Investigators: Keith McInnes (PI), Thomas Byrne , Graeme Fincke, Allen Gifford, Amanda Midboe, Ann Elizabeth Montogmery, Thomas J. Taylor

Abstract: This mixed-methods study will evaluate the Veterans Health Administration’s system-wide care of homeless Veterans with HCV, and design an intervention to improve quality of care in this population.

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and  Development

Dates: 1/2016-12/2019

Title: Bridge QUERI

Investigators: Allen Gifford, Keith McInnes, David Smelson (Co-PIs); Thomas Byrne Mari-Lynn Drainoni, Marsha Ellison, Graeme Fincke, Megan Johnson, Bo Kim, Megan McCullough, Jeffrey Smith, Thomas J. Taylor, Christine Visher

Abstract: The Bridge QUERI is a series of four projects that focuses on interventions for vulnerable populations of Veterans, including those experiencing homelessness, those with HIV and Hepatitis C and those exiting incarceration.  The primary contribution of this project will be the refinement of service delivery models to address the health care and other service needs of these populations.

Funding Source: U.S. Departmen tof Veterans Affairs, Quality Enhancement and Research Initiative (QUERI) Program

Dates: 10/2015-9/2020

Title: Using Natural Experiments to Identify the Impacts of SNAP on Child and Adult Health. 

Investigators: Daniel P. Miller (PI), Taryn Morrissey (Co-PI)

Abstract: This project will use data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the natural experiments posed by the expansions (and clawback) in SNAP eligibility and benefits created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  and state-level variation in SNAP policies to estimate the impacts of SNAP participation on child and adult health.

Funding Source: University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (via subcontract from the USDA).

Dates: 7/2015-12/2016

Title: Community Eligibility and Child Well-Being.

Investigators: Colleen Heflin (PI), Daniel P. Miller (Co-PI)

Abstract: The USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows schools with sufficient numbers of eligible students to make free meals available to all children. The CEP was implemented in a set of pilot states between 2011-2013 and nationwide beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. This project aims to investigate whether the CEP affects students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes.

Funding Source: RIDGE Center for Targeted Studies @ Purdue University and Mississippi State University (via subcontract from the USDA).

Dates: 9/2015-12/2016