Author: John Spears, Ph.D.

Implementation of Childcare Subsidy Programs: Who Owns the Policy?

At a recent meeting at the Child Care and Early Education Policy Research Consortium (an annual meeting run by the US Department of Health and Human Services), issues around the implementation of childcare subsidy programs occupied a group of social science researchers to good effect. It is certainly true that implementation issues are one of the least understood and the least studied aspects of human service policy. It has been getting some attention of late, as that discussion demonstrated, but it’s a thorny issue that deserves much more attention than it has received. It was Michael Lipsky of MIT...

Read More

Jumping Out of the System vs. Thinking Outside the Box

It has been fashionable for some time to challenge people to “think outside the box.” So much so that people recognize it as a cliché, a development certainly long overdue. I would like to suggest, in modest fashion, that another expression be substituted, an acronym (from Douglas Hofstadter originally but more recently repeated by Daniel Dennett) “Joots.” Joots stands for “Jumping Out Of The System,” and as a candidate for the management consultant’s favorite meme, it has a few marked advantages over “the box.” First of all, “the box,” while a convenient bogey man, is, in most cases, our...

Read More

Baltimore’s Working Class in Black and White

I worked in downtown Baltimore in the 1980’s, and I work there again now. In walking the streets, the difference is stark, and depressing. The old bustle of Charles Center is gone, and Harborplace is no longer what it was. But the major difference in downtown is the evident lack of prosperity and business occupancy. Even the old grand dame of office buildings, 10 Light Street, which was once the Maryland National Bank Building with exquisite first floor decorations and a huge, gleaming safe, is now condominiums, and the marble banking floor is covered with an artificial surface for...

Read More

On Black Swans in Forecasting in Public Policy

After reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan,  I was much impressed, as has been nearly everyone who has read it.  And I hastened to rethink my forecasting work in the light of the potential for the exceedingly rare, but vastly important events (“outliers” in more common parlance) that he named “black swans.” But in the end, I found little of relevance to the public policy arena. But let me explain. Among other duties, I forecast child care enrollments and costs for the State of Maryland’s State Department of Education, the lead agency for the Child Care Subsidy program...

Read More

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive blog post notifications and our monthly e-newsletter.