biliyana lily, dave baiochhi, hillary smith, karen lee, lindsey polley

Pardee RAND Dissertations

A dissertation workshop

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Pardee RAND dissertations provide students with an opportunity to tackle some of the most pressing and difficult policy problems of the day. Collectively, the dissertations produced by our students have spanned the full gamut of substantive public policy areas and analytic methods.

All students enroll in a small-group dissertation workshop, led by select faculty members, to understand the elements of the process and begin developing their dissertation. Given the varying requirements among the streams, the dissertation may have a different scope and set of parameters depending on the individual’s program path.

Dissertation research takes place in a unique environment — a graduate school embedded in the world's largest independent public policy research organization. At any given time at RAND, there are more than 1,000 research projects under way. Many students link their dissertations to these projects, carving out an area for their individual contribution to knowledge. This is an opportunity Pardee RAND students value, an opportunity RAND values — and an opportunity that produces dissertations that probably could not be produced anywhere else.

List of Dissertations Dissertation Funding Awards

Developing New Analytical Approaches

Many dissertations develop new analytical approaches or use existing methods in novel ways. Melody Harvey used a difference-in-differences approach to exploit cross-state and consumer-age variation in financial education mandates to detect causal effects for adverse behaviors such as payday borrowing. David Manheim applied computational methods for Value of Information methods in complex systems for policy analysis and showed how Bayesian methods can be used to evaluate VoI, including a novel formulation for considering additional information sources in the systems. Abdul Ahad Tariq realized that large discrepancies between different panel datasets of cross-country estimates of gross domestic product and developed a general statistical framework to determine which was most accurate.

Other dissertations look ahead to new kinds of problems that may emerge — and what might be done about them. Bonnie Triezenberg used a game theoretic model of space war to examine how sentiments in multiple dimensions impact state decisions regarding whether to expand a ground war into the space domain. Tobi Oluwatola explored the development of a solar industry in India and used a mixed-methods approach to determine what specific policies need to be implemented to enable the transition to local manufacturing. And in 2016, Jodi Liu modeled two sets of national scenarios to understand single-payer proposals and to estimate health care spending under single-payer alternatives in the United States. She also developed an interactive, web-based cost tool that allows users to adjust the savings and cost assumptions.

Wide Range of Topics

The range of topics covered by our students in their dissertations is truly vast. Recently, Jakub Hlavka analyzed alternative payment models for high-value, high-cost medical treatments. Tim Smith considered whether the U.S. is prepared to comply with the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement it signed in 2011. Anne Boustead examined how law enforcement officers use electronic surveillance and attempts to update electronic surveillance laws. Crystal Huang assessed the impact of policies designed to address the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases. And Gabriel Weinberger explored the effects of major changes to California's criminal justice system with regard to marijuana and other drugs.

Many of our students' dissertations focus on problems found abroad. For example, Adeyemi Okunogbe explored health financing in sub-Saharan Africa, Prodyumna Goutam examined economic growth and human welfare in Bangladesh, and Mahlet Woldetsadik conducted in-depth interviews in northern Uganda to understand the long-term effects of wartime sexual violence on women and families. And Olena Bogdan looked at the economies of Italy, China, and the United States to understand regional economic growth in Ukraine.

Finally, it is interesting to note that many of the topics covered by our students in their dissertations cross the normal boundaries of public, private, and non-profit. For example, Maya Buenaventura explored how government entities and non-profit social service organizations work together through the Santa Monica Homeless Community Court. And Ervant Maksabedian Hernandez looked at the role of Congress and commercial insurers in expanding coverage for and payment of addiction services.

The above-mentioned dissertations represent just a small sample of the more than 400 dissertations that have been completed by our students (as of May 2019). We believe that many of these dissertations have had a significant impact on public policy decisions and that many others will in the years to come.