Clair Brown, Professor

Closed (1) Creating a Modern, Sustainable, Caring Economy (3-4 new openings, plus 2 returning students) Open.

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

This URAP team focuses on the Sustainable, Shared-Prosperity Policy Index (SSPI) that pulls together the data for over 50 policies that structure how markets operate, creates government programs (such as health care, education, housing) and protects human rights, and supports healthy ecosystems and protects the environment. This year the SSPI team will expand the sample to more counties, and analyze how policies vary across regions and across countries at different stages of development, and explore the relationship between specific SSPI policy indicators and performance outcomes.

To read the working paper on the SSSPI, Aug 2021, to see if this topic interests you. Here is the Dropbox folder with the paper, the tables, the data, the regressions. Explore this and include in your application to join the team.

This project is based on Prof. Brown’s book, Buddhist Economics, which presents an economic system that supports a comfortable, meaningful life in a sustainable world. Different aspects of this framework are being investigated with additional data collection and analysis. Blogs or op-ed are written, and the student can be a co-author if appropriate. Some of the questions we ask are:
How will specific policies, such as more progressive taxes or shorter work weeks or universal health care and higher education, affect economic performance, including environmental impact, distribution of income, and quality of life?
How do Greenhouse Gas Emissions change in a SSPI system compared to today’s mainstream economic system?


The overall learning outcomes: improved critical thinking skills; learning how to collect and evaluate data; and learning how to find, evaluate, and summarize articles on specific topics; learning how to analyze the relationship between critical processes and key variables.

The specific tasks include [Students will receive guidance on best practice for each specific task]:
- Students are expected to read background literature, in order to understand the basic economic framework and issues for the research.
- Students will learn about the conceptual framework of sustainability, welfare measurement, inequality metrics, statistical measurement of relationships.
- Students will be undertaking independent, guided research, seeking the most up-to-date findings relevant for application and incorporation into the research question. Data includes both qualitative and quantitative information. For quantitative data, students will be undertaking data collection and organization, seeking the best available data for specific variables.
- The student will learn how to find multiple kinds of data and to navigate the practical limits of data availability, incorporating methods such as proxy measures, indexing, and data filling. They will also gain experience in assessing the reliability of data sources, and they will search a wide range of publicly available data.


Qualifications: Qualifications: The URAP teams will have required weekly meetings with Professor Brown, to go over what is being done and plan what to do next. Students should be able to work independently, with critical thinking and initiative, and be good time managers. Students should work well on a team. The students must be conscientious and able to organize and document their work. Also students are required to be able to navigate websites with the focus on obtaining data. Some basic Excel is used. Database, data scraping, website or coding are useful. Students with background and interest in economics, political science, and sociology will benefit from these projects. Interest in social well-being and sustainability is required. Students who have taken Econ 84. Buddhist Economics are invited to apply! Weekly Hours: 6-8 (2 units) or 9-11 hrs (3 units)

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: Off-Campus Research Site: Weekly meetings are on Professor's zoom until campus reopens. Then some meetings will be in person, and some on zoom.

Related website: https://irle.berkeley.edu/center-for-work-technology-and-society/creating-a-sustainable-shared-prosperity-policy-index-sspi/
Related website: http://buddhisteconomics.net/

Closed (2) The Economic Argument for Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry (5 new openings)

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

This URAP research projects studies the economic and financial arguments for and against divestment of public portfolios of fossil fuel assets in order to support the transition from fossil fuel-based economy to a clean energy, modern economy. We address the question: Can divestment of public portfolios help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
The divestment policies of large pension funds such as CalPERS and CalSTRS are based on certain ideas and assumptions that are generally considered incorrect by the divestment movement and some financial analysts. This URAP project involves research into these assumptions, which form the anti-divestment model. Students will gather and analyze data to test the hypothesis that the anti-divestment argument is based on faulty premises
An IEEFA Report from 2018, The Financial Case for Divestment, (pp. 26-37 and the FAQs), provides a useful starting point. The Report outlines the primary arguments investors make against divestment and rebuts them. The URAP Divestment Project will evaluate the arguments made for and against divestment in the Report, update the research where necessary, and look for more historical and/or contemporary examples other than South Africa, where divestment was successful and ultimately shielded investors and other stakeholders from financial losses.
The IEEFA report makes the point that the academic research on divestment is negative--why divestment is a financially bad strategy. An important reason for CalPERS' anti-divestment policy reflects their reliance on the academic literature. Look over the report to decide if this research project is interesting to you, both from an economic and political viewpoint.

Look under news See https://fossilfreeca.org/?s=stranded+assets and other blogs by UCB students.


The overall learning outcomes: improved critical thinking skills; learning how to collect and evaluate data; and learning how to find, evaluate, and summarize articles on specific topics; learning how to analyze the relationship between critical processes and key variables.

The specific tasks include [Students will receive guidance on best practice for each specific task]:
- Students are expected to read background literature, in order to understand the basic economic framework and issues for the research.
- Students will learn about the conceptual framework of sustainability, welfare measurement, inequality metrics, statistical measurement of relationships.
- Students will be undertaking independent, guided research, seeking the most up-to-date findings relevant for application and incorporation into the research question. Data includes both qualitative and quantitative information. For quantitative data, students will be undertaking data collection and organization, seeking the best available data for specific variables.
- The student will learn how to find multiple kinds of data and to navigate the practical limits of data availability, incorporating methods such as proxy measures, indexing, and data filling. They will also gain experience in assessing the reliability of data sources, and they will search a wide range of publicly available data.


Qualifications: Qualifications: The URAP teams will have required weekly meetings with Professor Brown plus an expert from Fossil Free California to go over what is being done and plan what to do next. Students should be able to work independently, with critical thinking and initiative, and be good time managers. Students should work well on a team. The students must be conscientious and able to organize and document their work. Students are expected to use Excel, and general computer and internet browsing skills are necessary. Database, data scraping, website or coding might be useful. Students with background and interest in economics, political science, and sociology, and who are interested in mitigating the climate emergency and care about economic well-being are a good fit. Weekly Hours: 6-8 (2 units) or 9-11 hrs (3 units)

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: Off-Campus Research Site: Weekly meetings are on Professor's zoom until campus reopens. Then some meetings will be in person, and some on zoom.

Look under News at the website below:

Related website: https://fossilfreeca.org/
Related website: https://irle.berkeley.edu/center-for-work-technology-and-society/divestment-from-fossil-fuels/