USC Price School of Public Policy

International Policy

Critical Research Questions and Findings

Globalization and technology continue to bring our world more closely together, presenting new concerns and opportunities in every area from economics to the environment to security. From Asia to Europe, from the Americas to Africa, and from the Middle East to Oceania, Price faculty conduct research that not only advances academic inquiry but also provides policy solutions — often at the request of government leaders from cities, states, and nations.

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Can the timing of subsidy payments improve health and reduce poverty and hunger?

Many subsidy programs in developing countries disburse on a two-month schedule. Assistant Professor Emma Aguila tested the effects on the wellbeing of elderly Mexicans of a monthly versus a two-month disbursement schedule and found significant differences in health, poverty, and hunger. She found that providing subsidies more frequently, without increasing the total amount disbursed, improved health and reduced poverty and hunger.

Why are infant mortality rates higher in the U.S. than in Europe?

Assistant Professor Alice Chen’s research, using newly available microdata in Europe, found that U.S. infant mortality rates are lower, compared with Europe, from birth to one week, but get progressively worse between six months and one year. For the top quartile of socioeconomic status in both U.S. and Europe, the rates are essentially the same, leading Chen to the conclusion that socioeconomic status is a major factor.

How can retirement savings be increased in Mexico?

Assistant Professor Emma Aguila found that pension fund managers were charging an increased management fee that had a significant impact on pension savings. Her research prompted major media coverage that led the Mexican congress and social security administration to reform the system and reduce the fees pension managers could charge. She is continuing her research to determine if additional new policies are needed to increase the amount of retirement savings.

What major factors affect the ability of NGOs in China to keep pace with the country’s environmental needs?

One challenge discovered in the research of Professor Shui Yan Tang is that nongovernmental organizations in China remain dependent on the personal commitment and charisma of their founders, making it difficult to transition from one generation to the next.

What actions can China take to develop a national environmental administrative system?

Professor Daniel A. Mazmanian, academic director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, is one of the international members invited by the government of China to serve on a task force to advise on governance policies needed to guide the country’s green transformation. He is also serving on an Asian Development Bank project advising the Chinese government on enhancing the capacity of its environmental administrative system, drawing on approaches from the U.S., Germany, United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

How do nations share the burden of climate change and energy consumption fairly?

One of the most cited investigators in this arena, Research Professor Adam Rose has studied this topic since the early 1990s, beginning with his work for the United Nations on the first system of globally tradable greenhouse gas emission permits. With no international environmental protection agency to force the issue, countries must participate on a voluntary basis and will only do so if they think they’re being treated fairly, his research illustrates.

What can the U.S. learn from China’s ascendency and how can both nations best cooperate?

Professor Eric Heikkila’s forthcoming book, China from a U.S. Policy Perspective, details China’s economic, political, and military rise from the viewpoint of our nation’s federal policymaking. Heikkila examines the reactions and actions of such U.S. departments as Treasury, Labor, Energy, Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency to elucidate China’s importance in key areas from climate change to commerce — and the need to promote better understanding between the world’s two greatest superpowers.

How pervasive is rental discrimination in France?

Professors Gary Painter and Raphael Bostic were part of a team that conducted an audit test in which French landlords were approached online about the availability of rental units posted with the requests using names popularly associated with North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Portugal, and Eastern Europe. They found names that sounded Muslim or Sub-Saharan African were up to 20 percent less likely to garner a response than names that sounded of a French background. Although the heaviest discrimination came from the wealthy suburbs of Paris, the levels were relatively consistent across geographic regions.

Why are many people in China choosing bomb shelters for housing?

Nearly a million people call the subterranean bomb shelters and basements of Beijing home. Associate Professor Annette Kim found that this surprising choice was made because they provide low-paid migrant workers with affordable housing conveniently located near their jobs. Through interviews, Kim and her team learned that living conditions underground varied widely from dangerous and unsanitary to relatively good and safe.

What lessons do the U.S. interstate highways hold for national and international transit planning?

In research applicable to developing countries, Professor Marlon Boarnet found that national transportation planning is best conceived as two systems — inter-metropolitan and intra-metropolitan — and that the institutions, goals, methods, and financing instruments for those two systems should differ. The U.S. institutions and policies were well suited to building a national, inter-metropolitan ground transport system, but ill suited to the era of maintenance, externality management, and urban transportation that followed the initial construction.

How are cities’ similarities important for formulating national urbanization strategies?

Using China as an example, Professor Eric Heikkila finds that differences among cities are reflected in the responses undertaken by each municipality in addressing the challenges posed by urbanization. From a national perspective, however, similarities are essential for formulating broad urbanization strategies. His research addresses this dilemma through a cluster analysis based on key word coding of principal tasks outlined in the 11th Five-Year Plans of 286 major Chinese cities.

Are people more productive because they live in big cities?

By studying matched employer/employee data in Spain, Assistant Professor Jorge De la Roca and his Spanish research partner found a “dynamic earnings premium” for workers who move to big cities — not only do they get an initial boost in earnings, but they also benefit more over the long term, accumulating more valuable experience, compared to those of similar background and skill who remain in smaller cities. Workers also carry this premium with them when they relocate to smaller cities, consistent with a learning mechanism behind the accumulation of the premium.

How has Beijing been shaped by homeowners’ participation in neighborhood affairs?

Professor Terry Cooper and colleagues studied civic engagement and citizenship development in Beijing, interviewing homeowner leaders, property managers and government officials. They found that homeowners had begun to take their rights seriously and actively participate in grassroots elections. The resultant interaction between ethical and legal citizenship may have important implications for China’s future political development.

How successful has Thailand been with its universal health insurance program, which was implemented in 2001?

Professor Glenn Melnick and a colleague assessed Thailand’s universal health insurance program, which in 2001 limited patients’ out-of-pocket costs to 30 baht per visit and in 2006 eliminated out-of-pocket costs entirely. They found that 10 years after the program’s implementation, it had achieved near-universal health coverage and substantial financial protection, with most Thais paying very little out of pocket to receive medical services. They identified as a major challenge going forward the ability of the government to provide sustained funding for the program to continue to successfully meet its goals.


Emma Aguila

“USC is a global university, with offices all over the world. USC Price faculty also consult with governments and organizations around the world. For instance, I’ve worked with the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, and advised the governments in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Mexico. Many of my colleagues here are similarly engaged internationally.”

Emma Aguila
Assistant Professor

Price School Impact

From studying the role of environmental NGOs in China to understanding the differing rates of infant mortality in the United States and Europe, and from reforming Mexican pension systems to collaborating with the Rio de Janeiro government on making housing stock more resistant to extreme climate episodes, our faculty explore a broad range of topics with global relevance. Meanwhile, our Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) supports projects with partners in Australia, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

The Price School has formalized a number of long-term relationships with institutions across the globe. We also collaborate with international experts, scholars, and leaders on multidisciplinary projects to better understand and grapple with the changes affecting our world. Together, we solve real-world problems in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The results of these projects are shared through scholarly publications, books, research reports, and academic and professional forums.

International Research Collaborations

Bocconi University, Italy
Brazilian School of Public Administration and Management
China Academy for Urban Planning and Design
Emergent Institute, India
Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Brazil
Fuzhou University School of Economics and Management, China
German University of Administrative Sciences, Speyer, Germany
Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University
Korea Transport Institute
Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, Israel
Ministry of Public Administration and Security, Korea
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
National Council of Science and Technology, Mexico
The Peace Corps
Peking University School of Government, China
School of Public Policy and Management, Korea Development Institute
Shanghai Center for Sustainability, China
State of Gujarat, India
State of São Paulo, Brazil
Tsinghua University, China
Universidad de los Andes Alberto Lleras Camargo School of Government, Colombia
The World Bank
Yonsei University Department of Public Administration, Korea