The Data for Equitable Justice Lab

The Data for Equitable Justice Lab is a new venture from Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice that gives our master’s students an opportunity to analyze some of today’s most important social issues through data and, with faculty support, create a product for audiences well beyond our classrooms and campus.

With guidance from the lab faculty, students develop a project – either individually or as part of a team – to examine a contemporary social policy or political issue through or on data or digital technology. Through these projects students will produce an op-ed, blog post, podcast, academic article, short film, or other product of your choosing that creates or contributes to contemporary discourse. We have a group of eager and brilliant students in our current cohort, and are excited to expand the Lab into the SP2 curriculum.



Ezekiel Dixon-Román, PhD

Ezekiel Dixon-Román speaks at book talk

Dan Treglia, PhD, MPP

Dan Treglia


The Data for Equitable Justice Lab offers students the opportunity to develop a project that connects their own interests to their classroom learning to impact public policy and the conversations that surround them. With guidance from lab faculty, students work toward an op-ed, blogpost, podcast, or a Zine that brings their analyses into the mainstream. The group of students from across SP2 and beyond shared their novel projects and consequential findings in our DEJL Research Day symposium on May 2nd; summaries and the slides from those presentations are available below.

Examining Colorism Among Female African American Exotic Dancers in Philadelphia and Neighboring Counties

Rose Brown

In this novel study, SP2 MS in Nonprofit Leadership student Rose Brown sought to understand colorism – the impact of skin tone on how someone is treated – among a highly vulnerable population. She visited exotic dance clubs in and around Philadelphia, speaking to 50 dancers who shared their experiences with discrimination by customers, management, and fellow dancers.

India’s #MeToo

Shweta Chopra & Sanjana Dalmiya

While US media coverage of the #MeToo movement has been focused on sexual assault and harassment in the United States, the underlying problems know no boundaries. Shweta Chopra and Sanjana Dalmiya conducted a thorough examination of the #MeToo movement in India, poring through hundreds of news articles to understand similarities and differences between these critical movements in the US and India.

The Legacy Project: Celebrating the Pan-Asian Professionals in the Social Work Field

Julia Hah

Noting the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in the social work field, Julia Hah undertook a qualitative study to understand their unique challenges to a social work career. In interviewing three social workers, she discovered a mix of familial and societal pressures that disproportionately push Asian-Americans toward higher paying, higher prestige careers which she masterfully documented in this presentation.

The Effect of Medicaid Expansion on Health Service Accessibility

Xiaorui (Mia) Hou & Xiaoxuan He

Medicaid expansion is among the most significant and controversial efforts contained in the Affordable Care Act to improve access to quality healthcare among vulnerable populations. In this study, Mia and Xiaoxuan take advantage of the natural experiment embedded in Medicaid expansion’s roll-out to assess its impact on the percent of people who did not see a doctor because they could not afford care.

Implicit Bias Research in Police Training

Michelle Johnson

“Implicit bias” has become ubiquitous as a term to describe part of the problem underlying strained relationships between law enforcement and racial minority communities, particularly the black community, but its use and source of a solution has gone largely unscrutinized. SP2 Master of Social Work student Michelle Johnson dove into the research and found that current approaches to reducing implicit bias are unlikely to have any impact on excessive force by law enforcement or relationships between police departments and minority communities more generally.

Quantifying the Unknown: Data Limitations for Youth with Experience in Foster Care Attending Post-Secondary Education

Kathryn Kirkman

The Pennsylvania state legislature is once again considering funding the college educations of youth with experience in foster care but understanding the potential scope and cost of this effort is a hefty challenge. Luckily, it’s one that Kathryn Kirkman is eager to take on. Using the limited data available on the topic, she created robust estimates of the potential cost of this legislation and, in doing so, created a guide for others looking to create similar projections in other states and in the future.

What’s In a Degree? How Graduate Programs Shape Career Decision Making for the Public Sector

Madeleine O’Brien

Many students seek public service degrees only to change their minds partway through their program. Madeleine O’Brien surveyed and interviewed nearly 200 students and alumni to understand what motivations brought them into the program and how those ambitions and priorities change during their academic careers, with lessons for programs that seek to increase their policymaking footprint.

Ten Years of Affirmative Action in Ecuador: a failure or success for post-neoliberal policies?

Hannah Watson

Ecuador has moved sharply away from neoliberal economic policies over the last ten years, with particular effort toward ensuring greater opportunities for indigenous groups through affirmative action policies. Hannah traveled to Ecuador to meet with representatives of two indigenous groups to examine the effects of those affirmative action policies and to explore next steps toward increased opportunity toward those groups.

(Un)Civil Education for Civic Engagement: The Case of Florida

Christine Pappas

In November, 2018 Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 4, which returned voting rights to the state’s 1.4 million individuals released from prison after felony convictions. This is a huge leap forward, but state legislators are already trying to undermine it. Christine Pappas walked us through the historic referendum in the context of a history of racially motivated disenfranchisement and offered a guide for how every Floridian can help ensure universal voting rights.

The Post-Incarceration Cycle of Poverty

Anna Worrell & Andreana Barefield

It is no secret that incarceration impacts an individual’s life long after a sentence has officially ended. Anna and Andreana examined how the criminal justice system perpetuates poverty and, in doing so, increases the probability of re-incarceration. They delved into the excessive fees paid by those on probation and parole, including “supervision fees” paid by anyone who sees a probation and parole officer, and the punitive and life-destroying fines should someone fall behind. Stay tuned for the upcoming podcast devoted to this topic!

Guest speakers

Guest Speakers

Stephanie Hoopes: Understanding Income Insufficiency Beyond Poverty

Headshot of Stephanie Hoopes

Stephanie is the National Director of the ALICE Project, which quantifies the barriers to self-sufficiency and stability, beyond the poverty measure. This is the first event in a collaborative effort between ALICE and the School of Social Policy & Practice.

Kevin Ferris: Publishing Your Op-Ed

Headshot of Kevin Ferris

Stewart Varner: Analyzing Text

Headshot of Stewart Varner


Tyra Moore

Who, What, Why: Tyra Moore on her commitment to mental health care for Black Americans

The doctoral student in the School of Social Policy & Practice received the Joy Award from the Boris L. Henson Foundation and is writing a dissertation on teen parenting within […]


Jacqueline Corcoran

SP2 Professor Dr. Jacqueline Corcoran Speaks on Evidence-Based Application

Recently, SP2 Professor Jacqueline Corcoran, PhD, had a conversation with SP2 Board Member Elisabeth Joy Lamotte, LICSW, about the importance and methods for evidence-based application published in the NASW Private Practice edition. […]


Ioana Marinescu

Ioana Marinescu to Join Department of Justice as Principal Economist

Dear SP2 Community, I am pleased to announce that Associate Professor Ioana Marinescu, PhD, will be taking a one-year leave from SP2 to join the antitrust division of the Department […]