Student Research

Every spring in their second year of their program, Harvard Kennedy School masters students must complete a capstone project. Masters in Public Policy (MPP) students write a Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE), which serves as an analytic professional product that examines and develops solutions for a public or nonprofit sector policy or management issue presented by a client organization. Masters in Public Administration and International Development (MPA/ID) students write a Second Year Policy Analysis (SYPA), where students pose a relevant policy question and draw on the tools of economics, management, and institutional analysis to develop convincing recommendations. They provide specific policy recommendations in the context of a concrete development problem.


Expanding Employment for India's Rural Women
Cole, Kym, and Jennifer Liebschutz. “Expanding Employment for India's Rural Women”. 2016: n. pag. Print.Abstract

Rural India has limited employment opportunities beyond seasonal subsistence agriculture. Women face additional challenges to securing sustained employment due to the cultural barriers and household responsibilities that they bear. Kym and Jennifer worked with Evidence for Policy Design and The Indian Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) to assess current government programming and to analyze employment alternatives. They recommend that the Ministry support rural women through evidence-based entrepreneurship programs and independent contracting opportunities. They use the lens of strategic macroeconomic interventions to ensure that any intervention supports long-term economic growth in the region.

Gender Equality in the Mexican Foreign Service
Rio, Tania Del. “Gender Equality in the Mexican Foreign Service”. 2016: n. pag. Print.Abstract

The recommendations in this policy analysis exercise stem from a careful analysis of the available human resources data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico (SRE, Spanish acronym). They were consolidated for this project from information scattered in different locations of the Foreign Service and Human Resources Department (DGSERH) of the Ministry. This exercise revealed that despite the SRE’s effort to promote fairness and equality, there is evidence that women are disadvantaged in certain parts of the Foreign Service entrance and promotion processes.

In the entrance examination, I found a substantial gender gap in success rates in advancing from the first stage to the second stage of the exam, mostly due to score differences in the General Culture and English multiple-choice examinations. In the promotion process, I found a 0.19-point difference in scores for post level of responsibility favoring men. This is approximately equal to the average score difference between the lowest scoring promoted official and the runner-up. I also found a significant gender gap in assignment to hardship posts, which award a bonus point in the promotion exam to those who hold them, and seem to be more accessible to men. The causes for this phenomenon and attitudes towards it merit further research.

This policy analysis exercise recommends that the Ministry implement several measures to investigate the causes of differential performance by men and women in its entrance examination, rectify identified biases, provide better preparation opportunities for test takers, recruit more women to hardship posts, and launch a long-term sponsorship program for female diplomats. De-biasing measures might include a temporary gender quota, removing the guessing penalty and eliminating biased questions from the multiple-choice portions of the exams, relaxing time constraints, con- ducting interviews with one interviewer at a time instead of in panel format, and taking advantage of support from the Office of Gender Equality throughout the process. The sponsorship program would aim to prepare women to navigate the organizational system throughout their careers. These policies are designed to help the Ministry achieve a target of 50% women in the two highest ranks of the Foreign Service (Ambassador and Minister) and promote an institutional culture that under- stands and values gender equality.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can implement these policies immediately and expect support from key stakeholders within and beyond the organization. At the same time, it should carefully consider the sequence in which different policies will be implemented as well as which aspects to emphasize when communicating about them in order to gain the support of actors that may present resistance. The selected policy options are not overly aggressive, to avoid causing excessive controversy; they are designed to bring the organization to confront the fact that more reforms are necessary for its inward policies to live up to the gender equality standards that Mexico promotes in international fora.

Understanding Female Labor Force Participation in Afghanistan, Government of Afghanistan
Desai, Ishani, and Lily Li. “Understanding Female Labor Force Participation in Afghanistan, Government of Afghanistan”. 2016: n. pag. Print.Abstract

Afghanistan’s female labor force participation (FLFP) rate is roughly 16% - one of the lowest in the world. This has serious implications for the country – for socioeconomic inclusivity, poverty reduction, and for overall growth and productivity. While low FLFP is a problem in itself, it also implies that there are other underlying factors that prevent women from working such as limited mobility, security, low bargaining power, etc.  In this paper, we find that security and cultural norms are the underlying barriers that prevent women from entering the labor force. We also identify the importance of information and how women receive information.  Given the increase in television viewership over time, we recommend the Government to use television programs to provide exposure to the outside world and address a key underlying barrier, norms.

Women and Cybersecurity, New America Foundation
D’Hondt, Katharine. “Women and Cybersecurity, New America Foundation”. 2016: n. pag. Print.Abstract

Why is 51% of the population routinely excluded or implicitly discouraged from the cybersecurity field? Socialization factors, the perceived ‘brogrammer’ culture, a lack of effective role model and mentorship could contribute. Further down the talent pipeline, concerns about the retention of women in the field are acute, with limited latitude for maternity leave or stifled career advancement for women with families. Though cybersecurity is a relatively new field, efforts to correct the challenges cited above have been marginal and the representation of women in this field as a whole has remained static. To address this problem, Katharine is creating recommendations for how the New America Foundation can and should inform public and private sector organizations to increase the representation of women in cybersecurity. She is researching interventions that companies, universities, and non-profit groups have implemented to increase women’s representation in the cybersecurity field; developing case studies of industries in which women or other minorities have been underrepresented; and planning an event with the New America Foundation convening in November on women and cybersecurity.

Partnerships in Investigating Sex Trafficking: Bridging Gaps to Support Survivors, Polaris
Ryan, Caitlin, and Deena Zeplowitz. “Partnerships in Investigating Sex Trafficking: Bridging Gaps to Support Survivors, Polaris”. 2016: n. pag. Print.Abstract

Since passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, communities across the United States have grappled with how to respond to the crime of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking spans all sectors of our communities. Legitimate businesses and institutions are often used to facilitate the criminal activity, and in some jurisdictions are used to help detect and disrupt the crime. People who experience sex trafficking often undergo immense physical, mental, and emotional trauma – both as part of the trafficking situation and leading up to it – and require a myriad of services in order to reintegrate into society. These crimes require complex, intensive, and long-term responses. Law enforcement cannot address these cases alone. With that in mind, Caitlin and Deena sought to address the following question: How can local law enforcement and non-law enforcement agencies effectively partner to respond to sex trafficking cases involving foreign born women and mitigate harm to victims? Through interviews with service providers and law enforcement officials in Boston, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco, their research identified challenges in partnership development and sought to provide guidance to jurisdictions in effective response to sex trafficking cases.