Category Archives: Volume 1, Issue 1

Book Review: The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise

by Nina Hachigian and Mona Sutphen

Reviewed by Meaghan Monfort

Nina Hachigian and Mona Sutphen met while colleagues at the National Security Council under the Clinton Administration. Hachigian is currently a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress specializing in U.S. foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and international institutions. She received her B.S. from Yale University and her J.D. from Stanford University. Sutphen, a former U.S. diplomat, is now serving in the Obama Administration as Deputy Chief of Staff. She earned a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and her M.Sc. from the London School of Economics. With such diverse experience in and exposure to foreign affairs, these authors are especially qualified to recommend policies for the U.S. to thrive in the 21st century.

Hachigian and Sutphen wrote The Next American Century from 2006-2007 during the final years of the Bush Administration. The 2010 paperback edition includes a preface by Hachigian, in light of the election of President Obama in 2008. Eight chapters guide the reader through the challenges facing the U.S. in an age of rising powers.

Hachigian and Sutphen challenge a growing tendency in U.S. foreign policy discourse to view the rise of other global powers as a threat to American power and interests. Of specific interest are China, Russia, India, Japan, and Europe, which the authors refer to as “the pivotal powers” [10]. These pivotal powers “have the resources to support or thwart U.S. aims, to build the world order or disrupt it” [10]. South Africa, Brazil, and Iran do not make the list because, the authors argue, they do not meet this definition. South Africa’s military is modest and its influence lies mainly on the African continent, Brazil’s aims are not yet global despite its impressive resources, and Iran’s economy is too small. These states, however, could make the list in the future.

While all five pivotal powers are attended to in the text, the authors discuss at great length concerns over the growing influence of pivotal power number one—China. Hachigian and Sutphen also distinguish among the five powers in terms of their mentalities. China, Russia, and India “believe in their historical destiny as great powers, yet are simultaneously preoccupied with a raft of daunting internal challenges” [132]. On the other hand, Japan and Europe are set apart because they are already major global powers cooperating with the U.S., and “both are also less enamored with the trappings of traditional demonstrations of power, which sets them apart from the other three” [133].

Given the timing of the book and the authors’ political affiliations, one might have expected a more scathing denouncement of the Bush Administration’s foreign policies. Instead, their work is refreshingly prescriptive and future-oriented. The authors outline how the U.S. can grow its innovative economy, maintain its role as a global leader, protect American lives, and advance the liberal world order. They direct our attention away from nebulous and indirect dangers and toward a focus on the threat of international terrorism. In a persuasive table, the authors compare the threats presented by China and radical Islamic terrorists as evidenced by:  (1) number of Americans they have killed on U.S. soil; (2) belief in free trade and capitalism; (3) level of ideological expansionism; and (4) announced policy toward liberal world order, among others. They conclude that “China is a much more ambiguous potential foe than are terrorists, the true threat of today” [17]. The U.S. should, as a result, focus on improving capabilities to target international terrorism instead of building up weapons systems and capabilities for highly unlikely, large-scale ground wars of the past.

The Next American Century successfully tackles the most common arguments for why the U.S. should feel threatened by the rise of pivotal powers. In its full form, the book is an encyclopedia of talking points on why global power is not a zero-sum game:  international trade is good and should be encouraged; China is at least 40 years away from being a real military threat; dependency on foreign oil is not exceedingly dangerous; and it does not matter if foreign firms own American ones. The U.S., they argue, cannot insist on keeping other powers poor and weak in the name of self-preservation. Hachigian and Sutphen now have a likeminded leader in Washington, evidencing a trend toward agreement with the ideas and aims of this book. They aptly quote President Obama’s inaugural address when he proclaimed, “Our power alone cannot protect us” (xiii).

Perhaps the biggest criticism of this work is that it appears a bit unrealistic at times and too quickly dismisses the challenges of ideological differences. Illiberal politics in Russia and China are real roadblocks for the United States. Market transactions, which will no doubt drive our collaboration with the pivotal powers, are not immune to ideological battles. And cooperation in the market cannot be a cure-all for U.S. foreign policy. Google’s difficulties with Chinese internet censorship laws are a case in point. Additionally, while most agree on the need to keep and create jobs in the U.S. and attract investment from abroad, doing so is all the more challenging when other states cannot or do not regulate wages or adequately enforce tax laws.

Hachigian and Sutphen have created an impressive manual of policy prescriptions for the U.S., both domestically and internationally. Their policy recommendations—manage the national debt; construct collaborative relationships with the pivotal powers; revamp the education system to maintain leadership in innovation; put additional protections in place for workers; foil terrorist plots with smart technology and international cooperation; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and promote liberal norms and democracy abroad—will not be easy to accomplish. But Hachigian and Sutphen are optimistic, and they have outlined a coherent and sensible strategy for moving forward.

Meaghan Monfort is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Religion from Syracuse University in 2008. As a Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, Monfort has worked at the Department of State in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and in the Political Section of U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia.

Responding to Teacher Attrition

An Analysis of Risk Factors in the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program

Alesha Daughtrey

This study is a first attempt to quantify attrition rates for participants of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program and to identify risk factors for attrition. This study finds that Fellows are more likely than other teacher candidates to enter and remain in the classroom. Access to a professional mentor is associated with large and significant reductions in attrition risk for Fellows. Factors such as teaching in a high needs school and teaching in districts geographically proximate to Fellows’ home districts were also associated with a smaller, but significant, decrease in attrition risk. These results suggest mentoring and other instructional supports, as well as attention to placement in first teaching positions, are critical to improving retention of Fellows—particularly in high-needs schools.

Public schools in every state, including North Carolina, struggle with problems of inadequate teacher supply. North Carolina needs more than 10,000 new teachers each year due to enrollment growth, class size reduction initiatives, retirements, and high teacher attrition rates.[1] Attrition is a particular problem for novice teachers. Sixty percent of all teacher candidates choose not to enter the classroom at all after completing their professional training.[2] By the fifth year of teaching, about half of novice teachers have left the profession.[3] Shortages of well-qualified teachers could put school quality at risk and push schools afoul of federal and state requirements to place properly credentialed and effective teachers in every classroom. If most “leavers” depart from high-needs schools with large concentrations of economically disadvantaged or minority students, attrition might also contribute to educational inequities within districts. This study is a first attempt to quantify attrition rates for participants in the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program and to identify risk factors for attrition.

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program (NCTFP) was established by the state’s General Assembly in 1986 to recruit talented high school students into the teaching profession and provide them with intensive preparation for school-based leadership and success in the classroom. In exchange, Fellows must repay their scholarships with four years of full-time teaching service in the North Carolina public schools. This arrangement is designed to provide the state with a more stable and well-prepared supply of public school teachers. The NCTFP, then, could be an effective response to teacher supply challenges—if Fellows are more resistant to attrition risks than other novice teachers.

The problem of teacher attrition and turnover
Schools’ struggles to find well-qualified teachers have popularly been described as a “teacher shortage,” but this phrase reflects an inaccurate depiction of the staffing problems experienced by public schools. In fact, preparation programs nationwide train more than enough teachers annually to fill current positions. Through the 1980s and 1990s, traditional certification programs multiplied, with an accompanying jump of about 50 percent in the number of teachers trained.[4] As of 2000, there were six million trained teachers in the United States—about double the number needed to fill positions nationwide.[5] The teacher shortage problem, then, is based not just on the low numbers of teachers prepared to enter classrooms, but in large part on the high number of teachers leaving them. North Carolina’s teacher attrition rate has averaged 12.8 percent over recent years.[6] Although this rate is well below the national rate of 16.8 percent,[7] it is still problematic for a state in one of the fastest-growing parts of the country.

Highest attrition rates in early and late career teachers
Changes in teacher labor markets have contributed to the teacher shortage. Well-educated women and minorities once had few employment opportunities aside from teaching. However, as more prestigious and high-paying careers have opened to these groups, many of these teachers have opted away from the profession.[8]

Typically, teacher attrition patterns follow a U-shaped distribution, with most departures coming either early or late in teachers’ careers.[9] Almost a quarter of North Carolina’s public school teachers have 20 or more years of experience, presaging a “teacher bust” as these individuals reach eligibility for retirement.[10] Yet retirements are still outpaced by all other reasons for leaving the profession by five to one.11 Indeed, attrition is most common for early career teachers.[12], [13], [14] Finding ways to retain the best-prepared and most effective novices could be a critical component of solving the challenges of teacher supply, especially in high-needs schools and districts or hard-to-staff positions.

Causes of attrition among novice teachers
Reducing high novice attrition rates may be one means of assuring a greater supply of well-prepared teachers in high-needs schools, but doing so requires an understanding of why novices leave. Several studies in other states have indicated that in general, teachers prefer to teach in schools with fewer high-needs students (i.e., students who are low-performing, have special needs, or are low-income or minority).[15], [16] North Carolina does not gather data from exiting teachers about whether issues related to school composition or other school-based factors impacted their career decisions. However, novices may have to wait several years before becoming eligible for a preferred school or position; or may even be displaced to a less-desirable school by more senior teachers because transfers among schools and teaching assignments within schools are commonly granted on the basis of seniority. Some novices, then, might choose to leave teaching altogether rather than remaining in an especially difficult position.

Teacher labor markets also tend to be highly localized, with most teachers preferring to teach in schools and districts close to where they grew up.[17] Even when teachers choose to locate farther from home geographically, the pull of home manifests itself in other ways; they predominantly choose areas that are similar to the areas in which they grew up.[18]

School-level supports may be among the most important factors in retaining novice teachers. Novices often feel overwhelmed by and underprepared for the demands of real classrooms, especially in high-needs schools.[19] Prior research suggests that high-needs schools exhibit higher transiency and attrition rates for teachers of all experience levels.[20], [21] Where novices are provided with access to induction programs or mentors to ease their transition into the profession, they are far more likely to remain beyond their first year[22] and to generate achievement gains among their students.[23] North Carolina novices are supposed to receive an Initial Licensure Program (ILP) mentor to guide them through their first three years in the classroom,[24] but since each district oversees its own ILP, quality and availability of mentors may vary widely. National surveys of teachers also show that poor leadership and insufficient support from school administrators are central reasons why many teachers leave their schools.[25], [26], [27]

Low teacher salaries are often cited as the cause for departure from the profession. However, poor school conditions and insufficient teacher support seem more important in teachers’ decisions to leave high-needs schools than their compensation.[28] Even so, teacher pay in North Carolina remains about four percent under the national average and well below that of state employees in other fields with equivalent experience and education levels, despite recent modest increases in teacher salary schedules.[29], [30]

Financial and educational costs of teacher attrition
Attrition is a particular problem for high-needs schools. These schools often have difficulty attracting qualified candidates to begin with, since they are perceived as having the least support and the most problems with student behavior and violence.[31] Once hired, teachers are twice as likely to leave high-poverty schools as compared to low-poverty schools and equally likely to leave schools with relatively high proportions of minority students.[32], [33] The less-experienced teachers, which these schools are typically forced to hire as replacements, generate lower value-added gains for their students.[34], [35] Thus, teacher attrition can undercut educational quality, particularly in schools that most need well-qualified, effective teachers.

Beyond the intangible costs in educational quality and equity, attrition is also a costly problem from a financial perspective. Hiring and retraining expenses are estimated at a national total of between $2.6 billion[36] and $7.3 billion[37] annually. Since high-needs schools have more severe attrition problems, these costs fall disproportionately on the districts that can least afford them. Given the scope of the problems triggered by attrition in the profession, minimizing teacher attrition could be a cost-effective way for public schools to resolve both a human resources and an educational quality challenge.

The role of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program
The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program was primarily designed to increase the number of well-trained teachers entering the classroom, but elements of the program also correspond with research-based best practices for reducing attrition. State-allocated resources provide Fellows with more intensive clinical preparation for the real world of teaching than their peers in the state’s traditional or alternate-route certification programs. Fellows also receive additional support, mentoring, and professional development through all four years of undergraduate study.[38] The intensity of Fellows’ preparation and the program’s emphasis on classroom experience should theoretically render participants more immune than their peers to the real-world stresses of novice teaching.

Fellows are not guaranteed specific teaching placements or assignments that might further cushion any “entry shocks” to the demands of the profession. However, because of the NCTFP’s rigorous academic requirements and selection process, it is considered a prestigious program and its graduates are highly sought-after by districts statewide. Thus, NCTFP’s alumni are likely to be a special group of novices, with a greater deal of control over where and what they teach than most early-career teachers.

Finally, Fellows have a strong financial disincentive to leave prior to completing a fourth year of teaching, since they must otherwise pay back their scholarship loan. This factor should provide additional motivation to remain in the teaching profession, at least for as long as their service payback period lasts.

Data and methods
Data sources and key variables
The primary data source used was the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program master file, which provides information on Fellows’ demographic and personal characteristics, as well as data about their academic preparedness and participation in professional development opportunities. Information about the schools and districts in which particular Fellows taught during their service payback period comes from a second NCTFP data file on Fellows’ teaching career records. All NCTFP data are based on self-reports given as part of the students’ applications to the program, or on written responses to annual audit surveys of Fellows’ academic status (during college) and teaching status (during their payback periods). Data on the test scores and demographic composition of schools where Fellows either taught or attended, as well as current statistics on statewide teacher attrition, were publicly available from various reports produced annually by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Non-licensure rates for each cohort (1987-2004) were calculated and compared to test for variation over time in the NCTFP’s success in fully preparing Fellows to enter the classroom. In order to focus attrition analyses on only those Fellows who completed their professional preparation for teaching, attrition was defined as having occurred only among Fellows who successfully completed their undergraduate education, received teaching licensure, and went on to complete—fully or partially—a teaching service or monetary payback to the NCTFP. Thus, Fellows who failed to complete all program or degree requirements while in college, who were deceased before completing their payback periods, or for whom full personal, high school or college data were not available were not included in the analyses. The study also excluded cohorts graduating after 2000 because they did not have time to complete their service payback by 2004 (the last year of available data). To avoid any distortions in the program data due to NCTFP start-up issues, the first three cohorts were also dropped. This yielded a smaller sample of 3,440 Fellows, or about 51 percent of the full sample.

Constructing a life table for a pooled group of all ten cohorts provides a general picture of the timing of attrition problems within the NCTFP and controls for any distorting variations in attrition rates among the cohorts. Life tables are assembled for each cohort separately to indicate any changes or trends in the timing of attrition that have occurred across cohorts.

To test whether particular personal and school characteristics may be correlated with attrition, the Cox proportional hazards regression model was used,

Hj(t) = h0(t) exp (xjβ)

where Hj(t) is the likelihood that a given Fellow j will terminate her service payback (Hj) at time t. This probability is based on the fact that she has not failed (that is, continued active participation in service payback) up to that point (h0(t)), and on a vector of independent variables xj that are likely to affect the Fellow’s decision to leave. These variables include the proportion of low-income students in the school in which she teaches; the proportion of minority students in the school; the school’s test scores; her own test scores; her GPAs in both high school and college; her college or university; her ethnicity; the socioeconomic status of her own family of origin; and the presence of a mentor during her initial years in the classroom.
To discover the extent to which known risk factors for novice attrition were associated with actual attrition among Fellows, a series of dummy variables indicating presence of these factors were added to the dataset. These included variables for high concentrations of students who exhibited low performance on state standardized tests, who received free or reduced lunch (used as a proxy for socioeconomic status), or who were non-white minorities. A dummy variable for proximity to home indicated whether students taught in their home county or adjoining ones. Finally, to test whether Fellows’ decisions to leave the classroom might operate differently over time, a logistic regression function using the same variables as in the Cox model was also estimated.

Limitations of the data
The lack of school-level and classroom-level information about Fellows’ teaching experiences does not allow for controls for variation in teaching experiences within individual schools. The omission of controls for classroom-level effects may bias estimates, although the direction of this potential bias is unclear. Data about the quality of ILP mentors assigned is also not available.

Importantly, because of omitted variables, none of the results of the models can demonstrate a causal relationship between Fellows’ attrition and the characteristics of Fellows or the schools in which they teach and learn. Fellows’ career decisions, like those of other novice teachers, are influenced by a number of other variables omitted in this data (e.g., fluctuations in the overall economy, perceived career opportunities in other fields, withdrawals from the labor force, childbearing, or other changes to family structure). However, associative links between attrition and specific characteristics of Fellows or their schools can still be useful to the NCTFP and other teacher preparation programs, in terms of identifying the best leverage points for reducing attrition among graduates.

Preparing Fellows to enter the classroom: Non-certification trends
Comparison of non-certification rates for the entering Fellows cohorts of 1987 through 2004 show that among 6,704 graduated Fellows, 1,080 of them—or 16.1 percent—did not successfully complete their teaching licensure. However, about 10 percent of these “non-certified” Fellows (111 in total) did go on to complete at least one year of service payback to the NCTFP. This fact suggests that these Fellows may have entered the classroom without having completed all licensure requirements (such as passing Praxis certification exams) or with licensure applications still pending with the state, and did become licensed soon thereafter. The timing of licensure for some Fellows may therefore have biased these non-certification numbers upward.

Figure 1: NCTFP non-certification rates, by cohort (1987-2004)

Source: Author’s tabulation of NCTFP data

As shown in Figure 1, non-certification rates for Fellows have declined over time, from a high of nearly 23 percent to just over 13 percent for the most recently graduated cohort. Each of the past six cohorts has had a non-certification rate under the mean rate for the program. Since the very highest non-certification rates occurred in the early years of the program, it is possible that start-up issues for the program contributed substantially to non-certification rates, providing further justification for the exclusion of these cohorts from the models.

Attrition trends
Life table analysis (see Table 1) illustrates attrition patterns among Fellows over their four years of teaching experience. The point at which Fellows have graduated, been licensed, and are preparing to enter the classroom is considered Year 0 in this analysis. Approximately 73 percent of licensed Fellows complete four years of teaching service payback. While an overall attrition rate of 27 percent might seem high, it is important to note that the greatest attrition occurs in Year 0, before Fellows have even entered the classroom. National estimates of teacher attrition prior to entering the classroom are approximately 60 percent, with which the NCTFP Year 0 attrition rate of 11.5 percent compares very favorably.

Table 1: Life table analysis for overall attrition among Fellows (1990-2000 pooled cohorts)

Source: Author’s tabulation of NCTFP data

The average overall attrition rate across cohorts drops considerably, to 16.1 percent, if we consider only those Fellows who leave after having entered the classroom – i.e., only attrition in Years 1 through 3 – as the state of North Carolina does in calculating its attrition rates. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2: NCTFP attrition rates after entrance to the classroom, by cohort (1987-2000)

Source: Author’s tabulation of NCTFP data

Figure 2 also shows some variation in attrition rates across cohorts. A certain amount of variability can be expected purely as a matter of chance. It is also important to note that the data for more recent cohorts (1998 and later) are right-censored due to the structure of the program. Fellows have seven years after graduation to complete their four years of service payback, so these recent cohorts are still inside the seven-year window and may complete service paybacks at a later date. Attrition rates for these cohorts are thus likely to be biased upward.

Attrition rates among Fellows also vary by the year of teaching experience, as shown previously in Table 1 and again in Figure 3 below. As previously discussed, attrition is highest in Year 0, before Fellows’ entry into teaching, then drops during Years 1 and 2 before rising again in Year 3. This pattern of upticks in Year 3 departs from what the literature suggests should be a relatively steady decline in attrition across all years, as the novice Fellows acclimate to their careers in the classroom and near completion of service paybacks to discharge their debts to the state.

Figure 3: NCTFP attrition rates, by year in which departure occurred (1990-2000 cohorts)

Source: Author’s tabulation of NCTFP data

Factors associated with Fellows’ decisions to leave the classroom
A number of personal and school characteristics are demonstrated to impact attrition among novice teachers in general. The Cox proportional hazard regression model is used here to test whether and to what degree these factors may influence a Fellow’s decision to leave the profession. Table 2 shows results from the full model. These results are discussed in greater detail below.

Table 2: Change in the hazard ratio of attrition among Fellows

Hazard ratios on the far right of Table 2 indicate the extent to which each covariate in the model affects the risk of attrition. Ratios equal to one indicate a covariate that has no impact on the risk of attrition, ratios greater than one indicate increased risk, and ratios less than one indicate decreased attrition risk. For example, reading across the top row of Table 2, we find that Fellows who are female are 8.4% less likely than males to suffer attrition in any given year, a fairly modest and insignificant percentage. The hazard ratio indicates that female Fellows have 92% of the attrition risk of their male counterparts.

Presence of mentors
The variable exhibiting the highest correlation with Fellows’ attrition is whether they were mentored. Fellows who reported having an ILP mentor assigned to them had 97 percent less risk of attrition than Fellows who did not receive a mentor. Although substantial effects for mentoring might be expected in light of prior research on novices generally, this is still a large effect. The presence of a mentor also appears to be functioning independently of all other variables; estimates change in magnitude but not in sign or significance when the mentor variable is isolated.

Effects of high-needs schools
Contrary to what would be expected from prior research on teacher attrition, teaching in high-needs schools appears to be associated with decreased risk of attrition for Fellows. High concentrations of economically disadvantaged students did not significantly impact attrition risk. Teaching in low-performing schools is associated with a 17 percent decrease in attrition hazard and teaching in high-minority schools with a 27 percent decrease, both of which are significant at the p<.01 level.

Preferences for proximity to home or familiar environments
A possible explanation for Fellows’ resilience in high-needs environments is that they may have attended similar schools themselves as high school students. They may therefore have a preference to match characteristics of the schools in which they teach with those of their hometown schools. However, controlling for whether Fellows attended high-needs schools themselves did not significantly affect their rates of attrition.

While Fellows do not seem to have a specific preference for matching characteristics of their teaching environments with those they experienced as students, they do exhibit a preference for returning to their hometowns. Fellows who taught in the same county where they had attended high school, or in an adjoining county, showed a 22 percent decrease in attrition hazard. This finding was robust to controls for returning to the same high school they had attended as students, and for whether they taught in school environments similar to that of their own high schools. In this respect, Fellows’ preferences for home reflect the preferences of novice teachers overall.

Other factors related to attrition risk
In general, individual and family characteristics of Fellows were not associated with their attrition hazard. Interestingly, a Fellow’s own socioeconomic status and race showed no significant correlation with hazard of attrition when teaching in schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged and minority students. This finding reinforces the likelihood that Fellows are not matching their preferences for teaching environments with those of their home high schools, which are likely to serve students of similar backgrounds as the Fellows.

Prior research suggests that teachers’ own cognitive abilities or academic achievements do not correspond with their level of success in the classroom, except at the secondary level, but there is currently no information on how these factors might affect their persistence in the profession. Fellows’ academic profiles appear not to correlate significantly with any change in hazard of attrition, except for their cumulative college GPAs. Each .10 point increase in GPA was associated with a 18 percent decrease in attrition risk, when controlling for Fellows’ prior academic performance.

Changes in effects over time
Results of logistic models were roughly equivalent to those for the Cox model presented in Table 2. The few detectable differences in magnitude were extremely modest and not significant. Thus, the correlations between the above factors and Fellows’ attrition decisions appear not to differ in any meaningful way from year to year over the span of their service payback period.

No data are available to indicate definitively why so many Fellows would not have fulfilled the certification requirement of the NCTFP. The most likely explanation—apart from issues related to timing of licensure—is that some Fellows realized during their training that the teaching profession was not a good career fit for them. It is hard to argue that any teacher preparation program should seek to place unwilling or under-motivated teachers in classrooms. Thus, this could be viewed as “good attrition” that may in fact improve efforts to train and place committed, effective teachers in public school classrooms.

The patterns of rising and falling attrition rates across cohorts also suggest Fellows’ responsiveness to changing economic conditions. Recall that there is a four-year lag between a cohort’s entrance into the NCTFP and its entry into the workforce. Reduced attrition among Fellows appears to follow a slightly countercyclical pattern, with more Fellows opting to complete service payback when the economy is less robust and the security of a teaching position is attractive in comparison with other opportunities for recent graduates. Conversely, in good economic times, Fellows’ attrition might increase because they perceive more, and better paid, opportunities in other fields. This explanation would account for relatively lower attrition among Fellows in the 1990-1991 cohorts, who entered the workforce when the economy was still in recovery from the recession of the early 1990s, and the relatively higher attrition among cohorts a few years later, graduating in the midst of the technology boom. However, until the most recent cohorts have had time to complete their service requirements, it will be difficult to know whether this pattern is borne out by the data.

The fact that Fellows’ attrition risk does not decline in a linear fashion between Year 0 and Year 4 of service payback appears counterintuitive. One possible explanation is that the year-by-year accrual of service payback, coupled with the fact that initial teaching licenses must be renewed after the third year,[39] offers a perverse incentive. If Fellows can pay down the bulk of their debts through teaching during their initial licensure period, they could then opt to make a cash payoff of the much-reduced balance—without going to the additional trouble of renewing their teaching licenses and with the possibility of higher earnings in another field.

Another reasonable explanation is that starting salaries for first-year teachers—currently around $30,000—are similar to or higher than those of other first-year professionals. However, because teachers’ salaries rise more slowly in the first few years and do not peak until teachers are mid-career, the marginal financial benefit for remaining in the profession erodes fairly quickly. The fact that Fellows have higher than average achievement may make them attractive candidates for entry-level positions outside education, and therefore more susceptible than other novice teachers to leave the teaching profession for financial reasons.

It is likely that effects observed for presence of an ILP mentor in these models are not attributable to mentoring alone. Mentoring programs, though mandated by the state of North Carolina for novice teachers, are implemented at the local level. District administrators, and sometimes even school-level administrators, are responsible for identifying and training master teachers to become mentors, matching them with novice teachers and ensuring the success of those relationships. The quality and efficacy of mentoring programs and relationships is therefore highly dependent on a variety of district- and school-level factors. Districts and schools with strong leadership, an emphasis on cooperation and collaboration among staff, and experienced teachers who are eager to assist new colleagues (formally or informally) are more likely to be able to find appropriate mentor/mentee matches for Fellows and other novices.

Furthermore, the same qualities that foster strong mentoring programs may also be associated with working conditions that are conducive to retaining novice teachers, even in the absence of any mentoring programs. Thus, estimates of hazard reduction as a result of access to mentors are probably overstated. Data on school or district leadership styles, working conditions in the schools in which Fellows teach, and how well formal and informal professional supports function are not included in the currently available data, and thus cannot be controlled for here. Still, given the significance and magnitude of these effects, it is reasonable to conclude that mentoring relationships are a highly important factor in the retention of Fellows and other novice teachers. These results provide evidence in favor of providing all novice teachers with ready and regular access to mentors of consistent and high quality.

The reversal of usual attrition risk factors for novice Fellows teaching in high-needs schools is somewhat puzzling. It is possible that Fellows might have primarily low-needs students in their classrooms, even if they are teaching in schools with predominantly high-needs students. However, at least in the middle and upper grades, it is common practice to assign more advanced (and therefore often lower-needs) classes to the most senior teachers. Therefore Fellows, as novice teachers, are more likely to receive higher proportions of high-needs students than the average for their schools. This would tend, if anything, to bias hazard estimates negatively. Actual attrition risk based on these factors might thus be even lower than indicated here, if we were able to examine classroom rather than school composition.

It is also possible that Fellows differ from most other teachers and novices, either in their motivations as teachers or in their preparation for (and thus satisfaction with) more challenging teaching positions. Because the NCTFP requires a commitment to teaching in the public schools, Fellows are well aware that they are not likely to teach predominantly advantaged students. The NCTFP emphasizes in-school preparation for Fellows, starting with classroom observations and school visits in their first year of college, so they are likely to be better-acclimated than most other novice teachers for the realities of challenging public school environments. As a result, Fellows may have more pedagogical and classroom management tools that are appropriate to high-needs schools than other novice teachers.

Individuals drawn to the NCTFP may also have a preference for teaching in high-needs schools, hoping to make a difference in the educational outcomes of the least-advantaged students. Unfortunately, this hypothesis cannot be tested with available data. Nonetheless, these findings suggest that careful attention to motivations for entering teaching during recruitment of candidates, as well as thorough preparation for teaching in high-needs schools, may be likely to serve any teacher preparation program well in terms of reducing attrition among its graduates.

Implications for policy and practice
Strengthening support systems for novices: a key to teacher retention
This study finds that the primary factors associated with successfully retaining novice teachers are those related to positive and supportive working conditions within schools, including the presence of formal mentors. Fellows’ relatively low rates of attrition in comparison to other novice teachers also suggest that the level of additional preparation that Fellows receive—whether as part of experiences in schools during their four years of college or in extra professional development and enrichment programs—may render them more resilient as they face the pressures of full-time teaching and thereby could improve their retention. The results presented here are in line with those of previous studies examining novice teachers, suggesting that policies and practices that enhance school-level support systems for Fellows and other novices could substantially reduce attrition in the first few years of their careers.[40], [41]

Managing preferences to teach close to home
Like other novices, Fellows exhibit a significant preference for teaching close to home. Such preferences among teachers may pose challenges for placing novice teachers in districts with a particularly high demand for new teachers. Targeting Fellows’ teaching service placements for high-demand districts may therefore require unique strategies. In particular, program administrators should consider: 1) advocating for pay incentives to shift Fellows’ preferences towards teaching in high-demand districts; 2) intensifying recruitment for the Fellows program in the districts or geographic areas with the greatest projected demand for new teachers; or 3) ensuring, at a minimum, an even geographic distribution of students selected for the Fellows program.

Predicting retention for individual Fellows
This study finds that among the numerous characteristics of Fellows and their families of origin examined, only one is associated with significant changes in attrition hazard: cumulative college GPA. Based on prior research among novice teachers, it seems fair to surmise that GPA is functioning as an indicator of increased cognitive ability or preparedness in the subject area (especially at the secondary level), either of which might increase retention of Fellows. However, no other element of Fellows’ academic records, in high school or early in college, is similarly associated with attrition. This suggests that such characteristics might not prove useful for identifying and targeting those Fellows most likely to complete teaching service payback.

The above findings regarding the importance of mentoring and proximity to home for Fellows are very much in line with what is known about novice teacher retention generally; any teacher preparation program would be well served by attending to these concerns. More interesting and unusual is that Fellows seem to be significantly more resilient in high-needs, hard-to-staff schools than other teachers, particularly early-career teachers. In this regard, the implications for other preparation programs are less clear. However, research on urban teacher residency (UTR) programs in Boston, Chicago and elsewhere suggests that their graduates are also more immune to these risk factors for attrition than other novices.42, 43 These programs share NCTFP’s ties to a specific geographic region (in the case of UTRs, specific metropolitan areas) and an intensively clinical focus that is paired with one to two years of high-quality coursework on content, methods, and classroom management. It seems possible that these elements constitute best practices for preparing not only high-quality but “attrition-resistant” teachers. Additional study of these issues would be helpful to identify which program elements are most important to reduce attrition, but these preliminary findings provide a promising avenue for future policies and practices to combat novice attrition.

[1] North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, “DPI teacher employment,”
[2] American Council on Education (ACE), “To Touch the Future: Transforming the Way Teachers Are Taught,” (Washington, DC: ACE, 1999).
[3] Barnett Berry and Eric Hirsch, “Recruiting and Retaining Teachers for Hard-to-Staff Schools,” (Washington, DC: National Governors’ Association Center for Best Practices, 2005).
[4] C. Emily Feistritzer, “The Making of a Teacher,” National Center for Alternative Certification website,
[5] National Governors’ Association (NGA), “Teacher Supply and Demand: Is There a Shortage? Issue Brief,” (Washington, DC: NGA, 2000).
[6] North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), “Annual Report on the Reasons Teachers Leave the Profession, 2007-2008” (Raleigh, NC: NCDPI, 2008).
[7] The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), “Unraveling the ‘Teacher Shortage’ Problem: Teacher Retention Is the Key,” (Washington, DC: NCTAF, 2002).
[8] North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), “North Carolina Public Schools Statistical Profile 2007,” (Raleigh, NC: NCDPI, 2007).
[9] NCDPI, “Annual Report on the Reasons Teachers Leave the Profession, 2007-2008.”
[10] NCDPI, “North Carolina Public Schools Statistical Profile 2007.”
[11] NCDPI, “Annual Report on the Reasons Teachers Leave the Profession, 2007-2008.”
[12[ American Council on Education (ACE), “Tapping the Potential: Retaining and Developing Highly Qualified New Teachers,” (Washington, DC: ACE, 2004).
[13] NCDPI, “Annual Report on the Reasons Teachers Leave the Profession, 2007-2008.”
[14] Barnett Berry and Eric Hirsch. “Recruiting and Retaining Teachers for Hard-to-Staff Schools,”
[15] Benjamin Scafidi, David L. Sjoquist, and Todd R. Stinebrickner, “Race, Poverty, and Teacher Mobility,” Economics of Education Review, 26(2002): 145-159.
[16] Eric A. Hanushek, Joel F. Kain, and Steven G. Rivkin, “Why Public Schools Lose Teachers,” (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2003).
[17] Donald Boyd, et al, “The Draw of Home: How Teachers’ Preferences for Proximity Disadvantage Urban Schools,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24:1(2005): 113-132.
[18] Benjamin Scafidi, David L. Sjoquist, and Todd R. Stinebrickner, “Race, Poverty, and Teacher Mobility.”
[19] Linda Darling-Hammond, “The Challenge of Staffing Our Schools,” Educational Leadership, 58:8(May 2001): 12-17.
[20] Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb, and James Wyckoff, “Teacher Sorting and the Plight of Urban Schools: A Descriptive Analysis,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 24.1 (Spring 2002): 37-62.
[21] Wake Education Partnership, “Striking a Balance: In Support of Diversity in the Wake County Public School System,” (Raleigh, NC: Wake Education Partnership, 2008).
[22] Kathleen Fulton, Irene Yoon, and Christine Lee, “Induction into Learning Communities,” (Washington, DC: The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2005).
[23] The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “Unraveling the ‘Teacher Shortage’ Problem: Teacher Retention Is the Key.”
[24] North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), “Teacher recruitment,” .
[25] John Marvel, et al, “Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results of the Teacher Follow-Up Survey, 2004-2005,” (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).
[26] American Federation of Teachers (AFT), “Meeting the Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools,”
[27] Robert J. Quinn, and Byllie D’Amato Andrews, “The Struggles of First-Year Teachers: Investigating Support Mechanisms,” The Clearing House 77:4(Mar./Apr. 2004): 164-168.
[28] American Federation of Teachers, “Meeting the Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools.”
[29] NCDPI, “Salary guides,”
[30] North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). “2008 Legislative Session ‘Wins,’”
[31] American Federation of Teachers (AFT), “Meeting the Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools,”
[32] Richard M. Ingersoll, “Teacher Turnover and Teacher Shortages: An Organizational Analysis,” American Education Research Journal 38:3(2001): 499-534.
[33] John Marvel, et Al, “Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results of the Teacher Follow-Up Survey, 2004-2005,” (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2007).
[34] National Governors’ Association, “Teacher Supply and Demand: Is There a Shortage? Issue Brief.”
[35] Helen F. Ladd, Charles Clotfelter, and Jacob Vigdor, “So School Accountability Systems Make It More Difficult for Low Performing Schools to Attract and Retain High Quality Teachers?” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 23:2(2004): 251-271.
[36] Alliance for Excellent Education. “Tapping the Potential: Retaining and Developing High Quality New Teachers.” 2004:18.
[37] The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCATF), “The High Cost of Teacher Turnover,” (Washington, DC: NCATF, 2007).
[38] Gladys Graves, interview by author, 29 July 2008.
[39] North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), “Steps to a NC License,”
[40] Kathleen Fulton, Irene Yoon, and Christine Lee, “Induction into Learning Communities,” 2005.
[41] The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.
[42] Barnett Berry et al., “Creating and Sustaining Urban Teacher Residencies: A New Way to Recruit, Prepare and Retain Effective Teachers in High-needs Districts,” (Washington, DC: Aspen Institute, 2008).
[43] Linda Darling-Hammond, “A Future Worthy of Teaching for America,” Phi Delta Kappan, 89:10(2008): 730-733.

Alesha Daughtrey received her Master of Public Policy in 2009 from the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University and her Bachelor’s degree in English (with secondary teaching licensure) from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1997. Daughtrey currently leads research initiatives at the Center for Teaching Quality, a national nonprofit focused on policy, research, and teacher leadership to improve student learning and advance the teaching profession.


Alternative Responses to Climate Change: An Inquiry into Geoengineering

by Aaron Ray

References to geoengineering, loosely defined as the use of advanced technology to mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change, have recently emerged in the popular press and academic literature. Governments, international organizations, and the scientific community are beginning to regard geoengineering seriously as a tool against global climate change. This paper examines the ways in which geoengineering has been defined, evaluates a number of leading proposals, considers some scientific critiques of geoengineering, and highlights some of the ethical, philosophical, and political implications of these proposals.

Human alteration of the environment is not new. Although human transformation of the natural environment predates the Industrial Revolution, the potential of human behavior to alter the climate on a global scale has accelerated with the development of industrial civilization.[1] Within the debate about the veracity and implications of climate change and the costs and benefits of potential responses, a new line of argument has gained prominence. Journalist Graeme Wood articulated the potential of geoengineering: “What is new is the idea that we might want to deform the Earth intentionally, as a way to engineer the planet either back into its pre¬-industrial state, or into some improved third state.”[2] An examination of the implications of these proposals is necessary.

Defining geoengineering
Before evaluating various geoengineering proposals, it is essential to establish an understanding of what is meant by “geoengineering.” Writing more than a decade ago, Thomas Schelling observed that geoengineering was such a new concept that it was lacking a definition.[3] He defined geoengineering as having three characteristics: “global, intentional, and unnatural.”[4] This means that human activities such as building dams and clearing land for agricultural use, while having potentially profound local or regional impacts on humans and the environment, should not be considered geoengineering because they are not global in impact. The second requirement, intentionality, limits what is included as geoengineering by excluding the burning of fossil fuels and other activities whose effects are not intended to alter the natural global environment.[5] David Keith, director of the Energy and Environmental Systems group at the University of Calgary, agrees, that because it is not intentional, pollution itself does not constitute geoengineering.[6] The final requirement that an activity must meet to be labeled geoengineering is that it must be unnatural. For instance, adding metallic reflectors to the atmosphere, as some suggest, is an unnatural act and therefore a form of geoengineering.

For the purposes of this paper, I will use Schelling’s primary definition of geoengineering as something global, intentional, and unnatural.

Evaluating geoengineering proposals
Geoengineering proposals can be divided into two major classes: those that manipulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and those that manipulate insolation, the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth. Proposals in both classes merit evaluation under Schelling’s definition.

Manipulating carbon
Carbon capture and sequestration has become part of the mainstream conversation about mitigating climate change. This technique involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) at the point of combustion and preventing it from entering the atmosphere, possibly by injecting it into underground geologic formations. A related proposal is to directly remove CO2 from the air via carbon scrubbers. Such a proposal differs from traditional carbon capture and sequestration because it captures CO2 out of the ambient air, not at the point of combustion.[7] Schelling has expressed support for research into carbon capture and sequestration, finding that, despite its high costs, this technique could prove valuable to mitigating the negative effects of climate change. He further stated that carbon capture “probably has no adverse effects, [and] will probably not scare anybody or provoke religious objections. If it works it may be exceptionally valuable.”[8]

Physicist Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton has suggests that one way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is to plant fast growing trees on large amounts of marginal land. He qualifies his proposal as a temporary way to reduce CO2 levels, explaining that planting trees will simply buy time for scientists and policymakers to create a more permanent solution to shift from fossil to renewable fuels.[9]

Another method of manipulating CO2 levels is ocean fertilization, which involves the application of iron particles or other substances to the ocean’s surface to encourage phytoplankton growth. During their growth cycle, the phytoplankton capture atmospheric CO2. When they die, these phytoplankton then carry that CO2 to the ocean floor. This proposal could increase the absorption of carbon by the ocean.[10] Ocean fertilization is already being tested and commercialized. In addition to a research expedition Bruce Frost describes in Nature, Kirsten Jerch reports in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that two technology companies in California are planning to perform ocean iron fertilization to sell as carbon offsets.[11],[12] Alternately, an Australian company, Ocean Nourishment Corporation, is planning to use nitrogen rather than iron to increase phytoplankton photosynthesis.[13]

Manipulating insolation
The second class of proposals involves manipulating insolation, which is the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth. Schelling encourages us to consider that, if climate change “is defined as radiation balance, people may think the problem is not just too much CO2 but also too little sulfur aerosols, too little reflective cloud cover, too little albedo.”[14] Thus defined, climate change could be “fixed,” not only by reducing the amount of CO2 released into or present in the atmosphere, but also by reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching lower levels of the atmosphere.[15] Two potential methods for manipulating insolation include aerosol injection and the use of solar reflectors.[16]

The idea for manipulating insolation derives from natural environmental mechanisms. For example, the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines resulted in a reduction in global temperatures by half a degree Celsius in subsequent years.[17] In theory, it is possible to mimic this effect by releasing particles into the atmosphere that would reflect solar radiation back into space rather than allowing it to warm the planet. Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research claims that adding aerosols to the stratosphere, similar to the Mount Pinatubo eruption, will likely present only minimal climate risks.[18]

Aerosol injection is not the only strategy for reducing incoming solar radiation. An array of mirrors or solar shades could be placed into orbit around the earth to reflect solar radiation back into space. Edward Teller of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reviewed a variety of methods for reducing insolation, including sulfur molecules and metallic reflectors. He concluded that modulating insolation is technically feasible and cost effective.[19] Soviet planners have also considered this proposal and found it to have the advantage of being adjustable. If mirrors could be controlled, the amount of radiation could be adjusted over time and even directed toward specific regions.[20] This element of control might then be used to modulate the differential effects of reduced insolation on disparate regions.

Table 1 evaluates the preceding proposals using Schelling’s definition of geoengineering as global, intentional, and unnatural.

Table 1: Evaluating Geoengineering (GE) Proposals[21(a-f)]

Scientific critiques of geoengineering
Geoengineering’s skeptics warn of the dangers of these proposals. These skeptics have two main concerns. First, critics warn that we cannot foresee geoengineering’s consequences and therefore should not risk the unintended negative outcomes. Second, critics argue that there are known negative consequences of implementing geoengineering proposals.

Unintended consequences
A primary critique of geoengineering is that it carries the risk of serious unintended consequences. Jeff Kiehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, writes, “a basic assumption to this approach is that we, humans, understand the Earth system sufficiently to modify it and ‘know’ how the system will respond.”[22] The complex nature of the environmental systems being altered makes them difficult to effectively manage; even without considering possible human mistakes that could occur.[23] Robock goes on to question the ability of scientists to model and evaluate the potential impacts of geoengineering proposals. He warns that scientists cannot understand the complex interactions or predict the impacts of geoengineering proposals.[24] An editorial in Scientific American acknowledges that aerosol injection was “the best–studied proposal,” but also identified the significant expected dangers of this method. These included that: “sulfates would slow or reverse the recovery of the ozone layer; they might also reduce global rainfall, and the rain that did fall would be more acidic,” in addition to other potential unforeseeable risks.[25] Fears over unintended consequences of geoengineering are also being raised for proposals aimed at reducing incoming solar radiation.[26]

Despite these concerns, some scientists argue that the risk of unintended consequences must be evaluated relative to the risks of doing nothing. Michael MacCracken, chief scientist at the Climate Institute, insists that “geoengineering is far less risky than proceeding ahead to a 4-6 C global warming as we seem to be likely to experience if negotiations keep going as they are.”[27] In short, any consideration of geoengineering proposals must occur within a wider context that includes the potential costs and benefits of multiple alternatives.

Known risks
The known risks of geoengineering are numerous, according to its critics. For example, “the Pinatubo eruption played an important role in the record decline in land precipitation and discharge, and the associated drought conditions in 1992.”[28] Hydrological effects and reduced precipitation are not the only risks. According to Alan Robock, “aerosol particles in the stratosphere serve as surfaces for chemical reactions that destroy ozone;” and therefore, adding aerosol to the atmosphere could exacerbate the ozone depletion caused by the release of chlorofluorocarbons.[29] Concerns about the risks of geoengineering led the American Geophysical Union to release a position statement on geoengineering that recommends caution because any manipulation of the Earth’s environment could result in unpredictable and potentially damaging outcomes.[30]

Critics also worry that a single-minded focus on temperature obscures other negative environmental effects of fossil fuel combustion. Climate change is only one environmental consequence of current patterns of energy production and consumption. For example, the ocean is currently “30 percent more acidic than it was before the Industrial Revolution.” If this acidification continues, it will endanger the entire oceanic biological chain, from coral reefs to humans.[31] Supporters for emissions reductions instead of geoengineering conclude that changing production and consumption choices can address many environmental challenges, while geoengineering proposals are limited solely to manipulating temperature.

Ethical and philosophical dimensions of implementing geoengineering solutions
In addition to the scientific and political questions surrounding geoengineering, there are ethical and philosophical issues that require some contemplation to inform decisions about whether and how to utilize technology to alter the environment globally. In this section I explore concerns about distributive and procedural justice, human attitudes toward technology, and the relationship between humans and nature. Each of these issues has impacts on the implementation of geoengineering as policy.

Ethical considerations
One ethical dimension of this debate is the asymmetrical impact of climate change and geoengineering on nations and individuals. Martin Bunzl, a climate change policy expert at Rutgers University, notes that like climate change itself, geoengineering projects could cause shifts in climate that would be distributed unevenly across the globe. He warns “roughly 10% of the World’s population might be worse off even if the other 90% was better off.”[32] This asymmetry raises questions of both distributive and procedural justice. The distributive question concerns who should bear the costs and benefits of geoengineering. Addressing this question requires a procedural mechanism through which the nations of the world can decide how to apportion benefits and harms. However, at the moment, we lack a credible means of deciding global questions of distributive justice. Dean suggests that scientists and engineers may be able to predict some of the consequences of geoengineering proposals, but do not have the authority to decide whether those risks are acceptable.[33] Identifying who does have this authority is exceedingly difficult. Dean thus concludes that it would be better to preempt these problems by reducing emissions caused by heat-trapping gasses and thereby avoid having to utilize geoengineering techniques.[34] While that may indeed be the best approach, it has thus far proved to be all but politically infeasible at the pace and scale that may be necessary. The lack of a binding international agreement to reduce GHG emissions calls into question the willingness or ability of national governments to achieve the reductions Dean proposes.

Philosophical considerations
One of the philosophical elements of the debate over geoengineering is the way in which the debate reveals human attitudes toward technology. The editors of Scientific American frame the issue as one of a fundamental belief in the promise of technology: “If technology got us into this mess, maybe technology can get us out of it.”[35] This argument posits that GHG emissions are the consequence of a progression of technological developments involving the utilization of the energy stored in fossil fuels to drive economic development and improvements in standards of living. Surely, continued technological advancement can allow for continued economic development even while mitigating the negative consequences of growth. Keith suggests “geoengineering implies a countervailing measure or a ‘technical fix’; an expedient solution that uses additional technology to counteract unwanted effects without eliminating their root cause.”[36]

The view that continued technological advancement will allow for unchecked energy consumption is found not only among proponents of geoengineering, but also among those who favor the use of renewable energy technologies that permit continued energy consumption with fewer known environmental costs. The hope is that the right technology can enable us to continue to consume in our current fashion—or even increase aggregate energy consumption as developing nations modernize—without incurring the negative environmental consequences of the past. A similar argument was made at the dawn of the nuclear age. Looking back on his attitude toward nuclear energy, Alvin Weinberg, former head of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, recalled that “…you had uranium in the rocks, in principle, an inexhaustible source of energy—enough to keep you going for hundreds of millions of years. I got very, very excited about that, because here was an embodiment of a way to save mankind.”[37] Nuclear energy turned out to have monetary costs and concerns about safety and waste that have since tarnished its promise. That nuclear energy does not provide clean and free energy might be a warning to those who believe that any technological innovation can deliver humans from the fundamental economic condition of scarcity.

We often find hope in the promise of technological innovation to release us from the limits of scarcity or mitigate the effects of previous technological developments. Reliance on this transformational power of technology may have much in common with systems of religious belief. Writer David Noble argues that technological development is a religious endeavor involving the merging of technology and faith.[38] Noble summarizes the historical arc of faith in technology from steam power to geoengineering with this observation: “We demand deliverance. This is apparent in our virtual obsession with technological development, in our extravagant anticipations of every new technical advance – however much each fails to deliver on its promise.”[39] It may be that geoengineering represents only the latest technological development that we have adopted due to faith in its promise, without a guarantee to deliver.

A final philosophical implication of geoengineering relates to the relationship between humans and the planet we inhabit. Keith debates one of the fundamental questions of philosophy: should we maximize the benefits to mankind by exploiting all the tools at our disposal or should we preserve nature by minimizing our interference with it?[40] The first position is one of active management, the drive to extract the most utility from a set of finite resources. The second position is that of minimal impact, to use as few of those resources as necessary to satisfy our basic needs.

The promise of technological development is integral to the active management position, that we can use technological innovations to extract more utility from the finite resources available to us while minimizing the environmental costs. Geoengineering proposals clearly tend toward the active management position. We have tools to manipulate the environment so as to maintain or create the optimal conditions for human growth and development. Active management is a fundamentally human-centric proposition: the value of any natural resource stems from its capacity to provide for human welfare. Keith addresses this point by asking: “Is human welfare the sole consideration, or do we have a duty to protect natural systems independent of their utility to us?”[41] It is not at all clear whether in fact we have such a duty or, even from where such a duty might emanate.

Some of the opposition to both continued GHG emissions and geoengineering proposals is rooted in the minimal impact position. This view argues not for new technology that allows for continued energy consumption, but rather for changes in behavior to reduce consumption. Burning fossil fuels alters the natural state of the planet, as do aerosol injection and ocean fertilization. Schelling’s inclusion of the dimension of naturalness in his definition of geoengineering comes into play here. Opponents of geoengineering see active management as inherently unnatural. Lest the critics of geoengineering get too comfortable, Keith reminds us that “the Earth is already so transformed by human actions that it is, in effect, a human artifact.”[42] How can one distinguish now between what is natural and unnatural? This challenge rises often in relation to environmental issues, including questions of habitat management and invasive species. We are unlikely to come to a resolution regarding this issue, but being aware of the question serves to inform this and other debates involving human choices that impact the environment.

Political implications of geoengineering
There are important political questions that arise when considering whether and how geoengineering proposals should be implemented. First, from where does the authority to experiment with or implement geoengineering proposals emanate? Second, what is the relationship between geoengineering projects and emissions reduction efforts? Third, what are the costs of geoengineering proposals relative to emissions reduction? And fourth, how and by whom would the application of geoengineering technology be controlled? I will examine each of these questions in the hope of identifying the political implications of developing this capability.

Authority to experiment and/or implement
One of the questions raised by the prospect of geoengineering is that of authority: Who has the authority to manipulate the climate and from where is that authority derived? Current international negotiations leave control for regulating emissions with individual nations. As a result, no international body currently exists that has the authority to govern and control geoengineering.[43] However, since geoengineering is, by definition, global in impact, it does not fit in the present nation-centric framework. Schelling argues it is essential to identify or create an authority to approve the experimentation needed to explore the potential consequences of these proposals. He finds the creation of this body to be even more important than actually conducting geoengineering experiments, because having an international body is critical for establishing parameters by which any future geoengineering program be judged and implemented.[44] Whether or not one supports continued research into geoengineering projects, there is a clear need for some authorizing body to be responsible for regulating both experimentation and possible implementation. Keith concurs with the other experts in seeing the need for an international body to provide a forum for democratic debate on the potential global impacts of geoengineering projects.[45] Implicit in Keith’s analysis is the view that, for decisions that have global consequences, there should be a global, democratic process of adjudication.

Geoengineering and emissions reductions
The second political element at issue is the relationship between geoengineering projects and emissions reductions efforts. One of the primary arguments for geoengineering is its simplicity relative to the political complexity of negotiating and enforcing GHG emissions reductions. Schelling writes that pursuing geoengineering has the potential to transform GHG policy from its current complicated state, replete with regulations, to a simpler approach based on balancing costs among nations.[46] Because geoengineering schemes do not require nations to reduce emissions or economic output, they would allow the debate to focus only on how to pay for the technology. This process may be further simplified if the proposals turn out to be as cost effective as their proponents suggest.

Schelling argues that one of the virtues of geoengineering is its ability to mitigate climate change while “not depending on the behavior of populations, not requiring national regulations or incentives, [and] not [being] dependent on universal participation.”[47] This is in contrast to reducing CO2 emissions, which involves a decentralized regulatory approach that requires changing behavior in many realms, including personal energy consumption, transportation, and energy production. He also suggests that emissions reduction depends upon the implementation of policies that governments are incapable of due to a lack of expertise, resources, or political will.[48] Geoengineering would alleviate the need for national governments to undertake the interventions necessary to achieve emissions reductions.

Teller agrees that, despite concerns about finding an acceptable means of authorizing their use, geoengineering proposals present a much simpler solution to the threat of global warming than the current practice of developing international consensus on how to quickly and dramatically reduce usage of fossil fuels.[49] Given the lack of progress thus far toward a binding international agreement to cut emissions, and the difficulty of adopting national programs that change personal behavior, a simple solution is attractive.

However, the ease of implementation of geoengineering projects presents a concern with regard to the relationship between geoengineering and emissions reductions. Critics of geoengineering have argued that just having geoengineering as an option could weaken the commitment to limit emissions in time to avert the most serious warming. Kerr reminds us that, if “serious efforts to cut back greenhouse gas emissions were failing, a stopgap approach would become more attractive.”[50] If emissions reductions fail to materialize, the prospect of having an alternative method to prevent the worst effects of climate change seems prudent. Yet, geoengineering represents exactly the type of stopgap measure that would likely deflate political will to change international consumption patterns or make the energy infrastructure more sustainable.[51]

Schelling advocates for further research to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of geoengineering proposals. At the same time, he acknowledges the risk of undermining mitigation efforts when he warns that geoengineering proposals may be so attractive that they steal the focus away from emissions reductions, and that this change in focus could have serious negative repercussions.[52] It is this prospect that critics of geoengineering are concerned about when they warn of the harmful environmental consequences of continuing GHG emissions that could occur even if geoengineering projects control global temperature change. MacCracken also supports research into geoengineering proposals, but cautions scientists and policymakers to never view geoengineering as a replacement for actual efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, particularly because no nation has the appropriate information to change its entire focus to implementation of geoengineering proposals.[53]

Relative cost of geoengineering and emissions reduction
Schelling contends that one advantage of geoengineering projects is that unlike mitigation, they only require us to decide what to do and how to pay for it.[54] In fact, low cost is one positive aspect of geoengineering often cited by its proponents. Teller, in surveying solar reflection enhancement proposals, finds that the total cost would probably be no more than $1 billion per year—“an expenditure that is two orders of magnitude smaller in economic terms than those underlying currently proposed limitations on fossil-fired energy production.”[55] This can be compared to the Stern Review’s conservative approximation of the costs of mitigation, which was estimated at 1% of global GDP.[56] Skeptics, however, do not accept this analysis. Robock argues that the costs of geoengineering projects are much higher than what the international community currently spends on renewable energy.[57] Robock also criticizes the multibillion–dollar subsidies given by the U.S. government to the coal, oil, gas, and nuclear industries, while providing little support to alternative energy producers.[58] He implies that if funds planned for geoengineering were directed toward the development of renewable energy generation technology, we could reduce emissions and avoid global warming without the risks of geoengineering.

Schelling suggests that the low cost of geoengineering proposals means that we can dispense with national and international negotiations altogether because some geoengineering projects can be performed by “exo-national” programs—programs not confined to national borders.[59] The idea is that wealthy individuals, corporations, or foundations have the resources to implement geoengineering proposals without the need for national or international agreement. Wood is more skeptical of the desirability of exo-national implementation of geoengineering proposals. He suggests that “the scariest thing about geo–engineering, as it happens, is also the thing that makes it such a game changer in the global warming debate: it’s incredibly cheap.” He is concerned by the number of multibillionaires in the world who could potentially take immediate action to singlehandedly reverse climate change.[60] Geoengineering projects may in fact be easier and cheaper to implement than national and international emissions reductions. But the relative ease of implementation and the risk of adverse consequences of geoengineering lead to a greater concern for the need to regulate its use.

Regulating use of geoengineering technology
The development of geoengineering technology means that nations and international organizations must now consider whether and how to restrict individuals and nations from implementing unauthorized projects. MacCracken suggests that the international community needs to establish a consensus on policy. One where individual countries are not allowed to implement solar management programs without authorization from an international body.[61] Yet even an international agreement reached through democratic means is unlikely to produce unanimity. If a decision is made at the national or international level that geoengineering projects, particularly those with the greatest risk of adverse consequences, should not be implemented, how can rogue nations, corporations, or individuals be prevented from going ahead with programs on their own? One can imagine a low-lying nation facing inundation and frustrated with the lack of international progress on emissions reductions sponsoring a program of aerosol injection without international approval.

This scenario introduces the risk of global negative consequences that stem from the actions of a single individual, corporation, or nation. Wood argues that governments would need to step in to prevent a rogue entity from taking independent action, either by enforcing current regulations or developing new ones.[62] The challenge though, is how to regulate this technology that is, according to its proponents, so economically and technologically feasible. Wood foresees some international effort to “monopolize the technology and prevent others from deploying it, through diplomatic and military means… Such a system might resemble the way the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) now regulates nuclear technology.”[63]

The example of the IAEA may be an unfortunate one, at least from the perspective of those concerned about the misuse of geoengineering technology. International attempts by this agency to regulate the spread of nuclear weapons technology have failed. The nuclear club has grown since its birth at the end of World War II. International efforts at arms control have been unable to prevent India, Pakistan, or North Korea from developing nuclear weapons technology. Wood explains that the challenge faced when attempting to regulate geoengineering technology may be even more difficult than that faced when regulating nuclear technology because it is much easier and cheaper to implement many geoengineering proposals than it is to develop nuclear weapons.[64] Furthermore, one could argue that the global scale of geoengineering projects means that their potential adverse consequences are potentially greater than the threat of a single nuclear device.

As the debate over whether, how, and how much to reduce GHG emissions develops, geoengineering proposals are likely to draw increasing interest due to their technical, political, and economic feasibility. The consideration of these proposals is a necessary part of the scientific and political process regarding global warming. Experimentation into various mechanisms for manipulating climate may enrich our understanding of the complex interactions driving global climate change. Much more needs to be known about the potential adverse environmental consequences of these proposals before they are implemented. The political challenges presented by geoengineering may outweigh the environmental risks. Some legitimate international means of authorizing implementation, adjudicating costs and risks, and regulating and controlling the use of this technology would have to be developed. The most immediate political risk for those advocating for emissions reductions, is the possibility that the existence of geoengineering alternatives could reduce the willingness of nations to agree to binding emissions targets. Finally, exploring our attitudes toward geoengineering can help elucidate our complicated relationship with technology and the environment.

[1] David Keith, “Engineering the Planet. Forthcoming,” in Climate Change Science and Policy, ed. S. Schneider and M. Mastrandrea, (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2009).
[2] Graeme Wood, “Re-Engineering the Earth,” The Atlantic Online,
[3] Thomas Schelling, “The Economic Diplomacy of Geoengineering,” Climatic Change, 33(1996): 303.
[4] Ibid., 303.
[5] Ibid., 304.
[6] David Keith, 1.
[7] David Keith, Minh Ha-Duong, and Joshuah K. Stolaroff, “Climate Strategy with CO2 Capture from the Air,” Climatic Change, 74(2005): 17-45.
[8] Thomas Schelling, email message to author, November 12, 2009.
[9] Freeman J. Dyson, “Can We Control the Carbon Dioxide in the Atomsphere?,”
[10] Bruce W. Frost, “Phytoplankton Bloom on Iron Rations,” Nature, 383(1996): 475.
[11] Ibid., 475.
[12] Kirsten Jerch, “Capitalizing on Carbon,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 64(2008): 16.
[13] Ibid., 16.
[14] Thomas Schelling, “The Economic Diplomacy of Geogengineering,” 305.
[15] Ibid., 305.
[16] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 64(2008):14-18.
[17] Graeme Wood, “Re-Engineering the Earth,” 2.
[18] T.M.L. Wigley, “A Combined Mitigation/Geoengineering Approach to Climate Stabilization,” Science, 314(2006): 452.
[19] Edward Teller, Lowell Wood, and Roderick Hyde, “Global Warming and Ice Ages: I. Prospects for Physics-Based Modulation of Global Change,” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (presented at 22nd International Seminar on Planetary Emergencies, Erice, Italy), 16.
[20] Richard A. Kerr, “Pollute the Planet for Climate’s Sake?,” Science, 314(2006): 401-403.
(a) Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 64(2008):14-18;
(b) Graeme Wood, email message to author, November 6, 2009;
(c) Freeman J. Dyson, “Can We Control the Carbon Dioxide in the Atomsphere?,”;
(d) T.M.L. Wigley, “A Combined Mitigation/Geoengineering Approach to Climate Stabilization,” Science, 314(2006): 452-474;
(e) Bruce W. Frost, “Phytoplankton Bloom on Iron Rations,” Nature, 383(1996): 475;
(f) Edward Teller, Lowell Wood, and Roderick Hyde, “Global Warming and Ice Ages: I. Prospects for Physics-Based Modulation of Global Change.”
[22] Jeffrey T. Kiehl, “Geoengineering Climate Change: Treating the Symptom Over the Cause?,” Climatic Change, 77(2006): 227.
[23] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” 17.
[24] Ibid., 17.
[25] “Overshadowing Difficulties,” Scientific American, November 2008, 38.
[26] Richard A. Kerr, “Pollute the Planet for Climate’s Sake?,” 403.
[27] Michael C. MacCracken, email message to author, November 6, 2009.
[28] Keven E. Trenberth, and Aiguo Dai,“Effects of Mount Pinatubo Volcanic Eruption on the Hydrological Cycle as an Analog of Geoengineering,” Geophysical Research Letters, 34(2007): L15702, doi:10.1029/2007GL030524, 4.
[29] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” 15
[30] American Geophysical Union, “Position Statement on Geoengineering the Climate System,”
[31] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” 15.
[32] Martin Bunzl, comment on “Geoengineering and Equity,” Bunzl’s Blog, comment posted May 12, 2008,, comment posted May 12, 2008.
[33] Cornelia Dean, “Engineering a Climate Solution,” The New York Times, September 1, 2009, from
[34] Ibid.
[35] “Overshadowing Difficulties,” 38.
[36] David Keith, 1.
[37] Arjun Makhijani and Scott Saleska, “The Nuclear Power Deception,” Institute for Energy and Environmental Research,
[38] David F. Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention (New York: Penguin, 1999), 4.
[39] Ibid., 6.
[40] David Keith, Minh Ha-Duong, and Joshuah K. Stolaroff, “Climate Strategy with CO2 Capture from the Air,” 6.
[41] David Keith, 6.
[42] Ibid., 7.
[43] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” 17.
[44] Thomas Schelling, email message to author, November 12, 2009.
[45] David Keith, 8.
[46] Thomas Schelling, “The Economic Diplomacy of Geogengineering,” 303.
[47] Ibid., 303.
[48] Ibid., 306.
[49] Edward Teller, Lowell Wood, and Roderick Hyde, “Global Warming and Ice Ages: I. Prospects for Physics-Based Modulation of Global Change,” 17.
[50] Richard A. Kerr, “Pollute the Planet for Climate’s Sake?,” 403.
[51] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” 17.
[52] Thomas Schelling, email message to author, November 12, 2009.
[53] Michael C. MacCracken, email message to author, November 6, 2009.
[54] Thomas Schelling,“The Economic Diplomacy of Geogengineering,” 303.
[55] Edward Teller, Lowell Wood, and Roderick Hyde, “Global Warming and Ice Ages: I. Prospects for Physics-Based Modulation of Global Change,” 2-3.
[56] Nicholas Stern, “The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change,” Office of Climate Change., xvi
[57] Alan Robock, “20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” 17.
[58] Ibid., 18.
[59] Thomas Schelling, “The Economic Diplomacy of Geogengineering,” 303.
[60] Graeme Wood, “Re-Engineering the Earth,” 4.
[61] Michael C. MacCracken, email message to author, November 6, 2009.
[62] Graeme Wood, email message to author, November 6, 2009.
[63] Graeme Wood, “Re-Engineering the Earth,” 4-5.
[64]  Graeme Wood, email message to author, November 6, 2009.

Aaron Ray is studying Environmental and Regulatory Policy at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. He earned a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Political Science, and Religion from Linfield College. He taught Philosophy at Dine College, the tribally-controlled college of the Navajo Nation. He also taught history, government, and economics at Crownpoint High School in New Mexico and the César Chávez Schools for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. His interests include sustainable development, land and resource management, and the ethics and philosophy of public affairs.


Peril at the Polls: Lessons from Zimbabwe’s 2008 Elections

by Daniel B. Kobayashi

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) carried the 2008 election by using wireless telecommunications and an elaborate system of poll monitoring to establish an alternative political narrative. Zimbabwe’s ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, whose complacence allowed MDC to establish this narrative, responded by violently rigging the presidential runoff. While Zimbabweans had challenged ZANU-PF’s electoral authoritarian regime largely without external assistance, ZANU-PF’s monopoly on force and willingness to use violence against the population kept President Robert Mugabe in office. One year into a power sharing agreement that saw ZANU-PF retain control of state security organs, new elections are under discussion, and ZANU-PF will likely rig them violently. In order for Zimbabweans’ votes to have any chance to trump ZANU-PF’s guns, the international community—especially the African community—and regional civil society must back free elections through a combination of targeted sanctions, African-led condemnation, and perhaps international criminal charges against the regime.

Introduction: Votes and guns, the inseparable twins
“Our votes must go together with our guns. After all, any vote we shall have, shall have been the product of the gun. The gun which produces the vote should remain its security officer – its guarantor. The people’s votes and the people’s guns are always inseparable twins.”- Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 1976[1]

In March 2008, Zimbabwe held presidential and parliamentary elections that tested President Robert Mugabe’s hypothesis that votes are meaningless without guns.[2] The votes in 2008 belonged to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), while the guns belonged to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). An 11-month stalemate resulted. Today, more than a year after a power sharing cabinet took office, the results of the experiment are still inconclusive. On one hand, MDC’s votes changed the nation’s political narrative and gave MDC the political leverage to take the premiership, the Ministry of Finance, and a number of other government ministries; from this perch in the government, MDC ended Zimbabwe’s ruinous hyperinflation. On the other hand, ZANU-PF retains the presidency and a legal monopoly on the use of force, allowing them to maintain control of most of the nation’s wealth and potentially win future power struggles through force of arms.

In his 2003 book Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe, Martin Meredith identified strong evidence that guns have historically trumped votes in Zimbabwe.[3] This article will examine the tension between Mugabe’s “inseparable twins” in the 2008 election and the responses of the international community. This piece will then discuss recommendations for action for both Zimbabweans and the international community, as Mugabe calls for new elections in an effort to reassert his dominance.[4]

Dictatorship by another name
Unlike many African countries, Zimbabwe has never officially been a one-party state. Despite ZANU-PF’s dominance, the opposition has always held some seats in parliament, and until 2001, there was a largely independent judiciary.[5] Instead, Zimbabwe was an “electoral authoritarian regime,” wherein the ruling party desires “the veneer of political legitimacy provided by managed elections and the appearance of rule of law.”[6] In every election, there was technically a choice of parties, but the ruling party rigged elections through media manipulation, fraud, or even violence.

“Mugabe has made a specialty of sham legality, lots of useless laws, phony rules that mean nothing,” says Foster Dongozi, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. “He knows how far to push us. He knows how to distract us with a veneer of normalcy. He knows how to beat us way down, but not so far as to embarrass his African neighbors.”[7]

While opposition parties in electoral authoritarian regimes typically have little hope beyond gaining a few seats in parliament, occasionally a regime can grow overconfident and rig a vote incompetently. Under these circumstances, an election can become competitive. This situation arose in Zimbabwe in 2000, when a ZANU-PF referendum on a new constitution failed 55 percent to 45 percent.[8] The failed referendum indicated a sufficiently competitive electoral system in Zimbabwe for the Journal of Democracy to reclassify Zimbabwe as a “competitive authoritarian” state. Competitive authoritarianism differs from electoral authoritarianism in that there is meaningful parliamentary opposition, even though the ruling party would not allow a transfer of power.[9]

Following the 2000 referendum, ZANU-PF restored the electoral authoritarian model by force. First, they encouraged mobs of “war veterans” to seize white-owned farms and conducted Operation Murambatsvina, a slum-clearing campaign that punished urbanites, who were among the new Constitution’s strongest opponents.[10] Then, ZANU-PF rigged the presidential election in 2002 by arresting opposition figures, closing polling places in MDC strongholds, and detaining international election observers.[11] In 2005, they ended the era of competitive authoritarianism by denying as much as 30 percent of the electorate the right to vote in parliamentary elections.[12]

By 2008, however, Mugabe’s government again began to assume that victory was inevitable. Despite eight years of hyperinflation that had led to an annualized inflation rate of 355,000 percent, bare shop shelves, and looming hunger for many Zimbabweans, ZANU-PF leaders continued to believe in their party’s popularity and treated the upcoming election results as a foregone conclusion.[13]

“ZANU-PF began to be too relaxed about things,” said Ben Moyo, a long-time Mugabe supporter and former Member of Parliament. “We thought the people would vote for us, as they always do.”[14]

Many MDC supporters and outside observers shared this expectation. In December 2007, three months before the election, one Zimbabwean close to the MDC, whose name has been withheld to protect his safety, told me that his party was dead and that the opposition needed to be rebuilt completely from the grassroots. This general complacency, however, created a tiny opportunity.

How sham elections become real elections
An opposition party can turn a sham multi-party election of an electoral authoritarian state into a real vote if it can develop and disseminate an alternative political narrative—if it can prove that the will of the people is not what the ruling party claims. In order to create an alternative narrative, the opposition needs both facts that support its case and a means to communicate its narrative to the people and the outside world.

In the case of Zimbabwe, the facts emerged only because an overconfident ZANU-PF, after arresting and beating MDC presidential nominee Morgan Tsvangirai in March 2007, bowed to regional pressure and consented to talks on ensuring a fair election in 2008. While the talks eventually crumbled, ZANU-PF made one minor, seemingly symbolic concession: polling places would post a tally of local results at the close of the polls.[15]

With this small concession, ZANU-PF opened the door to a competing electoral narrative: that MDC had carried the vote. When polls for the March 29, 2008, preliminary election closed, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a consortium of Zimbabwean civil society organizations, launched an effort to duplicate an election-monitoring strategy called Sample Based Observation[16] that had been effective in the 2007 election in Sierra Leone.[17] A network of 8,900 trained poll watchers tracked the results posted at each of a stratified sample of 435 polling places and used cell phones, common even in rural Zimbabwe, to transmit the data to ZESN headquarters in Harare. With the raw data secured, ZESN discovered that MDC had won a majority of parliament seats and possibly the presidency itself.18 Extrapolating from its sample, ZESN projected 49.4 percent of the vote for Tsvangirai to 41.8 percent for Mugabe. The 95 percent confidence interval for Tsvangirai’s percentage of the vote was 47.0 percent to 51.8 percent. While ZANU-PF has never revealed a true tally, ZESN’s sampling model suggests that there is a credible chance that a full and proper count of the ballots might have given Tsvangirai the 50 percent majority required to claim victory.[19] Before ZANU-PF intimidation could begin, ZESN had already used cell phones to send its projection throughout Zimbabwe and around the world.[20]

This competing narrative stripped ZANU-PF of the ability to tidily rig the election. There are three options for rigging an election: controlling the names on the ballot, forbidding or dissuading citizens from voting, and manipulating the tally. ZANU-PF had already allowed MDC candidates on the ballot, and while it had intimidated voters, the large turnout for MDC suggests that it had not done nearly enough to frighten away the masses angered by Zimbabwe’s economic disaster. Thus, vote counting presented the only remaining opportunity to rig the election, and with ZESN’s projection, that corruption point quickly evaporated.

Faced with the worldwide wireless distribution of ZESN data showing that it did not have public support, and having also lost its best chances to cleanly rig the election, ZANU-PF retreated for just over one month, refusing to release official poll numbers. When the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC) finally released the results on May 1, they were almost certainly fraudulent, but were nevertheless extraordinary: MDC had won control of parliament. While ZEC did not award Morgan Tsvangirai the majority needed to claim the presidency, the ZESN analysis appears to have influenced the official tally. ZEC awarded Tsvangirai a plurality of 47.9 percent, a figure at the bottom end of ZESN’s 95 percent confidence interval, forcing a presidential runoff election for the first time in Zimbabwean history.[21] While MDC had not taken the presidency, and the true election tally remains unknown, ZESN’s efforts had forced ZANU-PF to make major concessions. Election monitoring had worked. The votes’ power reached its peak, and then the guns came into play.

How state power can thwart democracy
With a Presidential runoff looming and MDC supporters exuberant, Mugabe faced the prospect of losing power in an electoral revolution. However, ZANU-PF retained a critical weapon: control over the organs of state power and paramilitary organizations, and a willingness to use them to brutalize MDC supporters and influence the elections. State security forces and police repeatedly arrested and beat Tsvangirai and other top MDC officials. ZANU-PF, “war veterans,” and the police murdered 180 MDC supporters and tortured or beat 9,000 others. 28,000 people fled their homes.[22]

Five days before the runoff, ZANU-PF accomplished its objective: Morgan Tsvangirai, who had taken asylum in the Dutch Embassy, announced his withdrawal from the campaign, saying that he could no longer ask Zimbabweans to vote “when that vote could cost them their lives.”[23] Mugabe won the newly uncontested presidential election, yet still faced an MDC majority in parliament and the prospect of a Tsvangirai premiership.

A few African leaders, most notably Patrick Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia and Ian Khama of Botswana, joined Western leaders in condemning the violence, but far more African leaders declined to condemn Mugabe. South African President Thabo Mbeki, asked by the South African Development Community (SADC) to mediate, appeared particularly quiet, ostensibly in the service of diplomacy.

Whatever the moral dimension of his silence, as the SADC mediator and President of the region’s dominant power, Mbeki was critical to negotiating a power sharing agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Negotiators faced formidable questions. Who would wield executive power, the president or the prime minister? More specifically, who would control the state security apparatus? Would MDC get the guns to accompany its votes?

MDC correctly discerned that without possession of at least one of the ministries controlling the use of force, any power it gained would be ephemeral. With the once independent judiciary full of ZANU-PF partisans, and television and radio still under ZANU-PF control, only MDC control of the police or army could create the checks and balances needed for true power sharing.[24] Thus, control over at least some of the levers of force became MDC’s central demand.

Ultimately, Mbeki negotiated a deal, signed on September 15, 2008, that made Mugabe President and Tsvangirai Prime Minister. The deal also gave 15 ministries to ZANU-PF, 13 to Tsvangirai’s faction of MDC, called MDC-T, and three to the dissident MDC-M faction controlled by Arthur Mutambara. Most importantly, while ZANU-PF retained control of the military, MDC would control the Ministry of the Home Affairs, which includes the police.[25]

Despite signing the agreement, Mugabe refused to actually relinquish control of the police. For six months the agreement remained unimplemented, as ZANU-PF insisted that control of Home Affairs should be “shared” by ZANU-PF and MDC. MDC rejected this proposal and appealed to SADC for a resolution ordering the implementation of the signed agreement. Stunningly, SADC sided with ZANU-PF, ruling that there should be shared control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. This decision led MDC to call for the removal of Thabo Mbeki from his role as mediator. In a heavily publicized spat, Tsvangirai called SADC leaders “cowards,” and MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti sent a letter to Mbeki condemning the SADC ruling as a “nullity.” Mbeki responded with a letter to Tsvangirai scolding MDC for its “contempt for the decisions of its immediate African neighbors” and insisting that only shared control of the police could solve issues of violence and intimidation.[26] In February 2009, Tsvangirai swore in a new cabinet when MDC, under pressure from SADC, relented and allowed joint control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.[27]

What now? Advancing democracy after government violence
As of early 2010, the power sharing government remains tenuously in place. Votes have won MDC a seat at the table, but ZANU-PF’s guns have kept Robert Mugabe at its head. While the MDC ministers have enjoyed some major economic successes, most notably ending hyperinflation, MDC remains unlikely to displace Mugabe as long as ZANU-PF controls the state security organs. Even a new election may not improve MDC’s position as long as ZANU-PF retains the ability to undermine the vote with state violence. Indeed, Mugabe’s recent call for a new election suggests that ZANU-PF believes they would have the upper hand in a vote.[28] In an environment where organized violence will likely mar any election, a change of power at the ballot box is unlikely without support from outside actors. The question is whether these actors have the will and the tools to bolster Zimbabwean democracy.

Speaking out: International condemnation of the Mugabe regime
Western criticism can be counterproductive
For years, western governments have spoken out against the ZANU-PF regime. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair have been particularly emphatic in their condemnations, and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denounced the “sham election” and “sham power-sharing talks.”[29]

While condemnation appears tactically conservative, most Western criticism of ZANU-PF may be counterproductive. Mugabe uses his victory over colonialism to bolster his legitimacy. Therefore, when Western leaders snub Mugabe, they provide fodder for state propaganda portraying him as the scourge of the colonizers. For instance, one brochure from the runoff asked, “What do the Americans and British want from Zimbabwe? Our Minerals!”[30]

Inversely, MDC’s support from western governments makes it suspect in the eyes of some Zimbabweans. The more vocal Western governments’ support for MDC is, the more plausible appear Mugabe’s claims that MDC is a puppet of the Western world. Elias Mudzuri, MDC’s national organizing secretary, believes the good outweighs the harm. “We are isolated here, fighting for democracy, but we need the West to help us,” said Mudzuri. “I am not ashamed to say this. I am not a puppet of the West.”[31]

A few Western countries have stronger ground from which to criticize ZANU-PF. In particular, the Nordic countries enjoy credibility with Zimbabweans because of their financial support for ZANU-PF during the revolutionary era.[32] Thus, an EU strategy wherein Nordic countries take the lead in criticizing Mugabe might be more effective than a campaign led by Britain.

African criticism resonates with Zimbabweans
Criticism from African leaders holds greater credibility because Mugabe cannot dismiss it as neocolonial. After years of silence, a number of prominent African leaders spoke up when the election turned ugly and the economy deteriorated. Former South African President Nelson Mandela condemned Mugabe’s “tragic failure of leadership,”[33] and retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu accused Mugabe of “gross violations” of human rights and demanded that he step down.[34] Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga was even more forceful, comparing Mugabe to Idi Amin, former dictator of Uganda.[35] These condemnations, made by two Nobel-winning heroes of the struggle against Apartheid and one modernizing prime minister, suggest that African leaders are increasingly agitated with ZANU-PF.

Western criticism, while generally ineffective on its own, can be valuable when linked to these African voices. By joining with credible African partners, Western leaders can make their condemnations clear while limiting the taint of colonialism on their remarks. For example, in April 2008, Gordon Brown issued a joint statement with African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma denouncing Mugabe’s sham reelection.[36] Similarly, when MDC agreed to enter the unity government, the U.S. State Department linked its comments to African criticisms by saying:

“The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has agreed to join a unity government with Robert Mugabe under the conditions called for in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) January 27 Communiqué. The success or failure of such a government will depend on credible and inclusive power sharing by Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.”[37]

Human rights organizations call for condemnation and human rights monitors
Leading human rights organizations endorse speaking out, even by Western countries. In Amnesty International’s report “Time for Accountability,” the only recommendation to the international community is that all nations, and particularly those in Africa, should condemn ZANU-PF’s human rights violations.[38] Human Rights Watch (HRW) shares this perspective, but focuses its fire on SADC. HRW argues that SADC must speak out in order to avoid losing credibility on human rights, and should even dispatch human rights monitors to Zimbabwe.[39] Monitors might diminish abuses and would, at the very least, amplify international condemnations of ZANU-PF.

Refusing to admit monitors would provide further evidence to Zimbabweans and their neighbors that ZANU-PF has no intention of holding free elections. Along these lines, ZANU-PF has been pilloried throughout southern Africa for its refusal to admit a delegation of “elders” consisting of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Graça Machel, the widow of late Mozambique President Samora Machel and current wife of Nelson Mandela.

Sanctions: How to punish ZANU-PF without punishing Zimbabweans
Broad sanctions are politically impractical and morally dubious
While broad sanctions are another option, few Zimbabweans at home or abroad support them, as they would further strain the Zimbabwean people by cutting off vital economic supplies. Moreover, little chance remains of getting sanctions through the UN Security Council. China, Russia, and South Africa have repeatedly blocked Security Council efforts to impose sanctions.[40] In fact, Zimbabwe has viewed partnering with China and Russia as an alternative to cooperation with the West, going so far as to launch an initiative called “Look East.”[41]

Targeted sanctions punish ZANU-PF
Targeted sanctions aimed at ZANU-PF leadership are more promising. Individual Western countries have already frozen the assets of Mugabe and other top ZANU-PF leaders and banned the leaders from their territory. Former U.S. Ambassador James McGee expressed support for targeted sanctions, saying:

“Our sanctions really do work. I meet, with some regularity, with one of the top leaders here in Zimbabwe. And he has about $7 million of his funding that’s been frozen because of U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe. And he starts out each and every meeting with the same thing: Where is my money?”[42]

A 2008 expansion of targeted sanctions has increased the pressure on ZANU-PF. In early December 2008, the U.S. Treasury froze the assets of two white Zimbabwean businessmen, a Malaysian urologist, and a Thai businesswoman—all of whom played major roles in financing the Mugabe regime.[43] If businesspeople believe that working with the Mugabe regime may endanger their personal assets held in Western banks, Mugabe may soon find it more difficult to finance his regime.

While one should not overstate the impact of targeted sanctions, the attention ZANU-PF has paid to getting them lifted indicates the sanctions have had an impact. Additionally, sanctions have given MDC leverage. In recent negotiations concerning new elections and the future of the power sharing agreement, ZANU-PF negotiators’ demands have centered on getting MDC to persuade the European Union to lift sanctions on ZANU-PF officials. While it is not clear that MDC has such influence, the sanctions afford Western powers, and perhaps MDC, something tangible they can give ZANU-PF in return for major concessions.[44]

Encirclement: An African solution to ZANU-PF intransigence
A blockade may be effective but illegal
Zimbabwe is landlocked, so economically isolating it would require neither Security Council approval of sanctions nor a SADC endorsement, though both are desirable. Instead, an agreement among the four countries that border Zimbabwe—Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, and Mozambique—could strangle the Mugabe regime. While closing borders to all trade might exert a greater impact on the hungry Zimbabwean population than the elites, closing borders to traffic in arms, luxury items, and non-essential goods could pressure ZANU-PF without further devastating the population. Also, an alliance of the four bordering countries could effectively forbid ZANU-PF officials from leaving the country, forcing them to live to a greater extent with the economic consequences of their policies. Archbishop Tutu has endorsed elements of this plan by urging the four neighbors to impose a flight ban.[45]

This approach faces two obstacles. First, a blockade of this sort may violate the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which guarantees landlocked countries access to the sea and to which all four bordering countries have agreed.[46] Second, at least one of Zimbabwe’s neighbors may refuse to close the borders. While Botswana, whom Zimbabwe has accused of harboring MDC military training camps,[47] and Zambia may support a blockade, South Africa and Mozambique likely will hesitate. Any effective action must have South African support because 65 percent of Zimbabwe’s imports flow through the Beitbridge crossing with South Africa.[48] New South African President Jacob Zuma is far less sympathetic to Mugabe than Thabo Mbeki, saying, “We cannot agree with ZANU-PF. We cannot agree with them on values.”[49] However, Zuma is still unlikely to support a blockade, having recently urged Tsvangirai to make concessions in power sharing while relaxing pressure on Mugabe.[50]

South African labor can close the border
The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which supports fellow trade unionist Tsvangirai, has contemplated forcibly closing the Beitbridge border for some time.[51] While COSATU could not implement a flight ban and probably could not enforce a blockade that allows food but blocks nonessential items, it could close the border without approval from the South African government. It is unclear, however, whether COSATU would be willing to alienate Zuma, a trade unionist and long-time ally, or inflict the pain of a blockade on average Zimbabweans.

Mozambique’s porous border remains a challenge
Mozambique provides the greatest obstacle to an effective encirclement policy. Zimbabwe’s 1,231 kilometer border with Mozambique is its longest, and Mozambique’s governing Frelimo party is a longtime ZANU-PF ally. However, Mozambique has taken modest measures against Zimbabwe in the past. In July 2008, Mozambique put strict controls on exports of foodstuffs and goods to Zimbabwe;[52] and as choleric refugees flooded over the border following the runoff election, Mozambique placed all border stations on maximum alert.[53] While Mozambique would not consider a blockade now that the cholera epidemic has ended and political violence in Zimbabwe has eased, its actions in 2008 suggest that, in the event of a renewed crisis, a blockade is a possibility. However, regardless of will, Mozambique’s capacity to seal its vast border with Zimbabwe is unclear.

Trade union solidarity: Laboring for MDC
In addition to the threatened blockade of Beitbridge, the African labor movement led the regional civil society response to the Zimbabwean crisis. During the runoff, longshoremen in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, and Angola refused to offload weapons from a Chinese ship destined for Zimbabwe. While some African leaders may have hesitated to challenge a fellow head of state and hero of the fight against colonialism, however tarnished, African workers appear to have no such qualms. The efforts of trade unionists in the SADC region have emboldened Zimbabwe’s own labor movement. Even as Tsvangirai, the former labor leader, struggled to get the regime to make concessions, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) won the first major civil society concession from the government. On November 27, 2008, ZCTU called for mass action in protest of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s limit on cash withdrawals to Z$500,000 (about one-half the cost of a loaf of bread). In an unprecedented move, bank Governor Gideon Gono bowed to pressure and raised the caps.[54]

Trade unions from across Africa have held meetings to address the Zimbabwean crisis and coordinate strategy. Because labor has had the greatest success in organizing against ZANU-PF both inside and outside of Zimbabwe, President Obama should consider showing support by sending a U.S. delegation that includes prominent American labor officials to the next African meeting on the subject. One possible member of such a delegation would be AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who has already sent a letter to Mugabe protesting his abuse of labor.[55]

War crimes indictments: Criminalizing oppression
Another tactic suggested by Archbishop Tutu is threatening Mugabe and other ZANU-PF officials with war crimes indictments if they refuse to step aside. An indictment could further restrict Mugabe’s movement and might lead other African leaders to distance themselves from him. Recent experience provides mixed evidence on this approach. When the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, the African Union condemned the move and refused to extradite al-Bashir or restrict his movement. However, some African countries have broken with this policy and vowed to arrest al-Bashir if given the chance. For example, al-Bashir cancelled a planned trip to Uganda after Uganda Internal Affairs Minister Henry Oryem Okello stated that he would “ensure that he [Bashir] is arrested.”[56]

While indicting Mugabe is tempting, it is also risky. The threat of an indictment may be useful, but an actual indictment might increase the resolve of Mugabe and his allies to cling to power. Although ZANU-PF could conceivably win amnesty from an MDC government as part of a deal to concede power, they could never win amnesty from the International Criminal Court. Moreover, little precedent exists for a sitting president to surrender willingly to an international tribunal. While Charles Taylor of Liberia left power upon indictment for war crimes, he only fled once his position became militarily untenable. Al-Bashir, who faces no imminent military threat, remains securely in power. Perhaps the only example of a head of state or government willingly turning himself over to an international tribunal is former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj; he voluntarily left his post to face war crimes charges, of which he was later acquitted.[57] However, Haradinaj is an unusual case, because his territory was under UN Administration when he surrendered.

Conclusion: Without guns, votes need external backing
Today, the Zimbabwean crisis has waned and settled onto an uneasy plateau: hyperinflation has ended and political violence has slowed. However, another crisis appears inevitable, though not imminent: the 86-year-old Mugabe will eventually bow to time, if he does not first fall to votes or guns. The events of 2008 offer valuable lessons as to how Zimbabweans, as well as the Southern African and international communities, can increase the likelihood that the next crisis is less traumatic and the outcomes more promising.

First, while democratic movements cannot peacefully overthrow a regime committed to retaining power, willing to use force, and indifferent to the fate of the people, they can force a regime to a decision point by creating and disseminating an alternative political narrative. By gathering and communicating real election numbers, ZESN revealed the will of the people and forced ZANU-PF leaders to decide whether they were willing to use large-scale force against their own people to retain power. Even when ZANU-PF used massive violence, it could not eliminate the alternative political narrative. Thanks to ZESN and its text messages and phone calls, Zimbabweans know how they voted. Despite maintaining control of the police and military, ZANU-PF suffered from a crisis of legitimacy that forced it to make concessions to MDC. When the next election comes, perhaps the 86-year-old Mugabe will have died, and the will of the people as revealed by a vote could bring an even marginally more empathetic regime to heel. Either way, polling station monitoring is essential for establishing an alternative narrative.

Second, when vetoes hamper the Security Council, regional organizations and individual nations can take actions to shape political outcomes in neighboring countries. A unified effort by SADC, or even just the four nations that border Zimbabwe, would pressure the Mugabe regime and potentially force ZANU-PF officials to live with the consequences of their policies. ZANU-PF officials may be more willing to allow truly free and fair elections and accept their outcomes if faced with a choice between being trapped in a country-sized prison or yielding power.

Third, governments and NGOs are not the only actors in international affairs; regional civil society organizations, and even domestic organizations in neighboring countries, can influence a country’s internal affairs. COSATU has the ability, independent of the government of South Africa, to blockade the Beitbridge crossing and inflict a severe economic wound on the Mugabe regime.

Finally, while the West cannot always wield much direct influence on events in distant parts of the world, it can support regional efforts to solve crises by lending technical advice or support to civil society organizations, coordinating statements with regional leaders, and carefully selecting its spokesmen.

As both the Zimbabwean opposition and the international community prepare for the as yet unscheduled upcoming election, they would do well to listen to the words of Robert Mugabe himself. Reaffirming his 1976 comments following the first round of the 2008 elections, Mugabe said, “We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?”[58] Perhaps the pen alone is not mightier than the sword. But when informed Zimbabwean voters wield that pen with the support of southern African civil society, targeted international sanctions, an observant international criminal court, and compassionate neighboring nations, the battle between votes and guns may at least become a fair fight.

[1] Martin Meredith, Our Votes, our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe. (New York: Public Affairs, 2008).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] “Mugabe says Zimbabwe Power sharing has ‘short life;” signals new elections,” CNN News, December 12, 2009. (accessed February 18, 2010).
[5] Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure, “Zimbabwe’s Long Agony,” Journal of Democracy 19:4 (2008): 41-55.
[6] Ibid., 52.
[7] Paul Salopek, “Absence of Street Fury in Zimbabwe Puzzles Analysts,” Chicago Tribune, May 1, 2008.
[8] “Mugabe loses Zimbabwe referendum,” CBC News, November 11, 2000, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[9] Larry Diamond. “Thinking about Hybrid Regimes.” Journal of Democracy 13:2 (2002): 32.
[10] Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure, “Popular Reactions to State Repression: Operation Murabatsvina in Zimbabwe,” Afrobarometer Working Paper no. 59, April 2006, (accessed March 21, 2010).
[11] “Election halted in Zimbabwe,” BBC News, March 11, 2002, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[12] “Straw condemns Zimbabwe elections,” BBC News, April 5, 2005, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[13] “Inflation hits 355,000 percent,” Zimbabwe Independent, May 15, 2008, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[14] Jon Lee Anderson, “The Destroyer,” New Yorker, October 27, 2008.
[15] Sarah Childress, “People Power: In Africa, Democracy Gains Amid Turmoil,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2008.
[16] Zimbabwe Election Support Network, “ZESN poll projections on March 29 presidential elections,” March 31, 2008, 080331zesn.asp?sector=CACT&year=0&range_start=181 (accessed December 8, 2008).
[17] Sarah Childress, “People Power.”
[18] Zimbabwe Election Support Network, “ZESN poll projections on March 29 presidential elections.”
[19] Zimbabwe Election Support Network, “ZESN poll projections on March 29 presidential elections.”
[20] Sarah Childress, “People Power.”
[21] Sarah Childress, “People Power.”
[22] Amnesty International, International Secretariat. Zimbabwe: Time for Accountability, (2008).
[23] “An Election with Only One Candidate; Zimbabwe,” The Economist, June 28, 2008.
[24] Human Rights Watch, “A Call to Action: The Crisis in Zimbabwe,” 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[25] “Zimbabwe Deal: Key points,” BBC News, September 15, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[26] “Mbeki and MDC’s Explosive Exchange,” The Star, November 2, 2008,
9532 (accessed December 8, 2008).
[27] “Zimbabwe cabinet sworn in,” Al-Jazeera, February 13, 2008, http://english.aljazeera. net/news/africa/2009/02/2009213151548944420.html (accessed February 18, 2010).
[28] “Mugabe says Zimbabwe Power sharing has ‘short life’.” CNN News
[29] Sonja Pace, “US says well past time for Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to step down,” Voice of America News, December 6, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[30] ZANU-PF Campaign Pamphlet, “100 Reasons to Vote for Cme. Robert Mugabe,” (2008).
[31] Jon Lee Anderson, “The Destroyer.”
[32] International Crisis Group, “Negotiating Zimbabwe’s Transition, Africa Briefing No. 51,” May 21, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[33] “Mandela condemns Mugabe ‘failure,’” BBC News, June 25, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[34] “Go Mugabe or face arrest – Tutu,” BBC News, December 5, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[35] Foster Dongozi, “Kenyan Premier Pessimistic about Outcome of Zimbabwe’s Power-Sharing Talks,” The Standard, November 30, 2008.
[36] “Brown, Zuma unite on Zimbabwe,” The Age, April 24, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[37] Robert Wood, “Statement on the Zimbabwe unity government,” February 3, 2009, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[38] Amnesty International, International Secretariat.
[39] Human Rights Watch Press Release, “SADC: Take Action to End Zimbabwe Rights Crisis,” August 13, 2007, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[40] Paul Salopek, “Absence of Street Fury in Zimbabwe Puzzles Analysts.”
[41] Bayano Valy, “Zimbabwe: ‘Look East’ Policy Pays Dividends – President,” The Herald, March 27, 2008, (accessed November 2, 2008).
[42] James D. McGee, Special Briefing on Zimbabwe’s Current State, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[43] “US Treasury Freezes Assets of Four Mugabe Insiders,” Associated Press, November 25, 2008, (accessed March 20, 2010).
[44] “Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai’s MDC says unity talks deadlocked, looks to region,” VOA News, January 22, 2010,
[45] “World has Right to Intervene in Zimbabwe – Tutu,” Reuters, November 27, 2008.
[46] United Nations, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Montego Bay, Jamaica, 1982.
[47] Godfrey Ganetsang, “Botswana-Zimbabwe relations worsen,” Sunday Standard, February 15, 2010, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[48] Margaret Coker, “Powerful South African Labor Group Ponders how Hard to Press Mugabe,” The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2008.
[49] Miles Larmer, “The Zimbabwe Arms Shipment Campaign,” Review of African Political Economy 35:177 (2008): 491.
[50] “Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai’s MDC says unity talks deadlocked,” VOA News.
[51] “Cosatu threatens Zimbabwe border blockade,” New Zimbabwe, December 12, 2009. (accessed March 20, 2010).
[52] “Mozambique tightens screws on Zimbabwe,” The Zimbabwe Times, July 23, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[53] “Zimbabwe: U.S. says ‘well past time for Mugabe to leave,’” Die Welt Online, December 5, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[54] “Breakthrough as ZCTU, RBZ agree,” Zim Diaspora, 2008, http://www.zimdiaspora. com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=350:breakthrough-as-zctu-rbz-agree&catid=67:art&Itemid=289 (accessed December 8, 2008).
[55] James Parks, “Zimbabwe Continues Arrests, Assaults Against Union Members,” AFL-CIO Now Blog, December 5, 2008, (accessed December 8, 2008).
[56] Godfrey Olukya, “Uganda willing to arrest al-Bashir for war crimes.” Associated Press, July 13, 2009, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[57] David Charter, “Kosovo guerrilla leader Ramush Haradinaj is set free,” The Times Online, April 4, 2008, (accessed February 18, 2010).
[58] “Mugabe ‘I Will Not Give Up Power,’” The Herald, June 16, 2008.

Daniel B. Kobayashi is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Policy from Boston University in 1998. Kobayashi has also served as Director of the Workforce Solutions Group, an economic development non-profit. He currently serves as a consultant on economic development in Africa.


From Welfare-to-Work to Child Well Being

by Kristy Marynak

This article examines child-only cases within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which currently comprise 47 percent of the overall TANF caseload. Child-only cases exclude adults from the benefit calculation, providing aid only to children, and exempt adults from work requirements and time limits. This article reviews the narrow literature on child-only TANF populations, distinguishing between “non-parental” cases involving relative caregivers and “parental” cases involving parents who are ineligible for benefits because of sanctions, alien status, or SSI receipt. The article then discusses the inadequate communication and collaboration between TANF agencies and the child welfare system; describes unproven, though innovative, state efforts to assist child-only populations; and concludes with the recommendation that Congress should expand the 2011 President’s Budget request to include competitive grants for programs that address the child-only population’s needs and sponsor third-party studies to test the programs’ impacts on child outcomes.

The years of debate that preceded the 1996 welfare reforms hinged on a concern for poor children. The ironic result of those child-centered debates, however, was a welfare-to-work program focused on adult outcomes such as employment and welfare dependency.[1] Fourteen years after Congress created Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), we still know little about how the program impacts child wellbeing. Considering that child-only cases—wherein only children receive a TANF cash benefit and adults are excluded from the calculation—now constitute almost half of the overall TANF caseload, it is time to find out how these children are doing and how best we can address their needs.

This article begins with an overview of the politics and empirical research behind welfare reform. It then explains the various origins of child-only cases, summarizes what researchers know about child wellbeing in these cases, and outlines the relationship between TANF and the child welfare system. The article concludes with a discussion of low-cost, politically feasible policy options to build a knowledge base about evidence-based intervention models that could be expanded when the economy improves.

Welfare Reform: Introducing the debate
The contentious welfare reform debates of the mid-1990s led Congress to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with TANF. The old AFDC program became unsustainable for a number of political and evidence-based reasons. First, influential liberal researchers, such as David Ellwood, found that welfare reduced work incentives, that welfare dependency was rising, and that AFDC recipients were able to work or worked covertly.[2] Second, conservatives successfully swayed public opinion so that the majority of Americans believed welfare was a source of, not a solution to, poverty. Two of the most influential conservative arguments held that welfare was an affront to human dignity and contributed to the rise in single-female headed households.[3],[4] Third, a series of federally funded, independently conducted studies demonstrated that an education-first approach to encouraging work among the poor was more expensive, but less effective, than programs requiring immediate job search.[5] Finally, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, states experimented with AFDC waiver programs which imposed a number of conditions of welfare receipt, including work requirements and time limits. These waiver programs increased states’ demand for autonomy in welfare program development and administration. Waivers also demonstrated the political feasibility of reform. For example, Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson boosted his popularity by piloting the time-limited, work-based Wisconsin Works program in 1987, which demonstrated success increasing work and reducing welfare receipt.[6] Responding to these factors, President Clinton—and a Republican-dominated Congress—pledged to “end welfare as we know it.”

As the 1996 welfare law’s name suggests, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) ushered in a work-oriented approach to public assistance. Individuals were no longer automatically entitled to cash aid; instead, states received broad powers to create their own welfare programs. States have the authority to set eligibility requirements and benefit levels, but all TANF programs must impose work requirements and a 60-month lifetime limit on cash assistance.

Although participants in the welfare reform debates predicted mild reductions in caseloads, no one anticipated that the caseloads would drop so sharply.[7] Between 1996 and 2000, caseloads reduced by half, shrinking from 4.6 million families in 1996 to 2.1 million families in 2002.[8]

The composition of the caseload also changed radically; whereas in 1994, more than 80 percent of families on welfare included at least one parent recipient, by 2008 nearly half of all TANF cases were “child-only.”[9] (See Figure 1.) In child-only cases, adults are excluded from the benefit calculation and only children receive aid, which is not subject to work requirements or time limits. While child-only cases are not growing in absolute numbers, they merit heightened attention from researchers and policymakers because they continue to grow as a proportion of all TANF cases.[10] Indeed, an enduring irony of welfare reform is that the primary beneficiaries of a program focused on personal responsibility and work opportunity are no longer parents caring for children, but children themselves.

Variations between states complicate task of describing child-only caseloads
Although both federal and state policy makers are aware of the relative increase in child-only cases, they lack definitive information about child-only cases at the national level because state TANF rules, services, and benefits vary widely.[11] Indeed, the differences between states in terms of demographics and welfare policies necessitate state-level data collection and analysis. Variations in child-only caseloads as a proportion of total TANF caseloads illustrate this point. In 2001, child-only cases constituted at least 45 percent of the TANF caseload in 15 states.[12] In four states, however, fewer than 20 percent of TANF cases were child-only.[13]

Parental child-only cases involve disabled, immigrant, or sanctioned parents
There are two types of child-only TANF cases, “parental” and “non-parental.” Parental child-only cases involve children whose parents are ineligible for TANF for three primary reasons. First, the parent may receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).[14] SSI provides cash assistance to disabled, blind, or elderly individuals who earn little or no income, without imposing work requirements or time limits.[15] Second, the parent may be an illegal immigrant or legal alien with a native-born child. Third, the state may sanction a parent for failure to comply with TANF program rules such as work requirements, or discontinue the benefits for parents who reach the 60-month lifetime limit on assistance. It is important to note that not all states permit children whose parents are sanctioned or reach time limits to continue receiving benefits. As of 2002, 36 states employed full-family sanctions.[16]

In 2006, half of all child-only cases were parental. Of those, 41 percent had a parent receiving SSI, 38 percent had a parent with unknown citizenship status, and 11 percent had a sanctioned parent.[17] Again, however, significant variation exists between states. For example, 69 percent of California’s child-only cases are parental, the majority of which involve immigrant parents.[18] New York and Texas also have substantial immigration-related child-only cases. In contrast, over 98 percent of Mississippi’s parental child-only caseload in 2000-2001—a total of 5,117 families—involved parents who received SSI. Parental cases involving SSI parents are similarly predominant in Kentucky (91.5 percent), Massachusetts (82.3 percent), Virginia (86.5 percent), and Wisconsin (93.7 percent).[19]

Non-parental child-only cases involve relative caregivers
Non-parental child-only cases involve children who reside with a relative or other adult with legal guardianship or custody.[20] Approximately half of the nation’s child-only caseload falls into the non-parental category, but state variation remains considerable.[21] These non-parent caregivers either choose not to receive TANF assistance, or their income or assets exceed eligibility requirements.[22] Importantly, some kinship caregivers are included in the benefit calculation, but their cases do not fall into the child-only category.[23]

The Department of Health and Human Services does not publish national data about the origins of, nor the outcomes generated by, non-parental caregiver arrangements. However, a limited amount of state-level data provides clues. Edelhoch, Liu, and Martin survey relative caretakers in South Carolina child-only cases, and Wood and Strong investigate child-only TANF cases in New Jersey.[24],[25]

In South Carolina, non-parental cases compose 34 percent of the child-only caseload. Edelhoch et al. find that 80 percent of these caretakers are African American, and 62 percent are over the age of 50.[26] When asked to disclose the primary reason for non-relative placement, caregivers cite parental substance abuse (28 percent), parental desertion (20 percent), child maltreatment (16 percent), and parental incarceration (13 percent). Less common reasons include parent death, institutionalization, military service, minor status, and schooling. South Carolina administrative records reveal that some causes of relative placement overlap. For example, the authors find that at least 35 percent of relatives care for children who were previously involved with child protective services, such as foster care.

Reasons for relative caregiver placement in New Jersey resemble those in South Carolina. Parental substance abuse accounts for the formation of approximately 60 percent of non-parental child-only cases.[27] Other causes include parental incarceration, child abuse or neglect, and mental health problems.

Parental child-only children face fewer emotional needs, but greater material needs, than non-parental counterparts
From the limited research available on child wellbeing in child-only TANF cases, we can infer that children in parental child-only cases experience greater poverty, but have fewer behavioral and emotional needs, than children in non-parental cases.[28]

The New Jersey study provides useful insight with respect to SSI and immigrant child-only households. SSI recipients who head child-only TANF households have poor health and/or disabilities.[29] These households also have higher rates of food insecurity than “regular” TANF families, perhaps because parents with disabilities have difficulty shopping for and preparing food.[30] Immigrant parents who head child-only TANF households have low educational attainment and little recent work history.[31] Half of immigrant child-only families in New Jersey live in deep poverty, meaning that annual income for a family of four is below $10,000.[32]

Although we know little about children’s wellbeing in TANF families who are sanctioned or reach time limits, the news about their parents’ wellbeing is not encouraging. Sanctioned TANF families experience serious barriers to employment, including substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, health difficulties, limited cognitive ability, and difficulty finding child care.[33] A U.S. Government Accountability Office study also found that sanctioned parents may have more difficulty understanding program rules and sanction policies.[34] Sanctioned families also experience greater involvement with the child welfare system, with higher rates of child placement in state custody.[35] Families who reach TANF time limits tend to experience difficulties similar to those facing sanctioned parents; 92 percent of families who reach or are likely to reach time limits have one or more “substantial barriers,” including child welfare system involvement, a disability or poor health, and criminal justice system involvement.[36]

Unanswered questions about parental child-only families persist. First, how do children who continue to receive TANF payments after parents are sanctioned or reach time limits fare relative to children in states that employ full-family sanctions and time limits? Second, how are child-only TANF payments used to meet children’s needs? For example, do families share child-only payments among all household members, regardless of whether members are included in the benefit calculation? Particularly in parental child-only cases, where poverty appears to be deeper and material needs greater, a reasonable assumption is that heads of household, not children, decide how to use TANF cash assistance.

Non-parental child-only households generally receive more income and deal with fewer material hardships than other TANF households.[37],[38] This may be because TANF agencies often disregard caregiver income in child-only cases when calculating benefits. Unfortunately, trauma often precedes a child’s placement with relatives, which creates additional service needs for both children and caregivers.[39] Gibbs et al. find that TANF does not provide for these additional service needs, which include assessment, case management, and collaboration between TANF caseworkers and child welfare agencies.[40] Despite these unmet needs, Gibbs et al. assert that relative care is usually a more desirable option for these children than staying with parents or being placed in non-relative foster care.[41]

The South Carolina study also provides useful insight about what kinds of services non-parental TANF households demand—a subject which should interest policymakers. In a series of interviews, Edelhoch et al. ask relative caregivers in South Carolina which services they would like to receive.[42] Respondents consistently request higher TANF and food stamp benefits; Medicaid coverage for adults in the household; mental health services for children in their care; child care, including after-school and respite care; and financial help with school expenses.[43]

Child welfare and TANF systems inadequately communicate and collaborate
Given that children in non-parental child-only cases have greater service needs, we should ask what kinds of services are currently available to these children. In order to answer this question, we first must understand the variety of non-relative caregiver arrangements that exist. Relative caregiver arrangements vary along a spectrum.[44] “Private kinship care” is generally an informal or temporary arrangement; the relative caregiver may contact the TANF agency but has no contact with child welfare services.[45] When parents independently place their children with a relative, but the family receives some child welfare services, the arrangement is called “voluntary kinship care.”[46] In “kinship foster care” (also called “formal kinship care”), the state maintains custody of the child, and relatives receive TANF child-only assistance or formal foster care payments.

Ehrle, Geen, and Clark estimate that 72 percent of all children in relative care (1.3 million children) receive private kinship care; 17 percent (300,000 children) receive voluntary kinship care; and 11 percent (200,000 children) receive kinship foster care.[47] Thus, the vast majority of relative caregiver arrangements avert child welfare involvement altogether. As a result, children and relative caregivers do not receive needed—and available—services. Gibbs et al. observe that for a variety of reasons, including the stigma of child welfare involvement and a lack of knowledge about available services, relative caregivers “forfeit access to a range of resources, including additional financial support, child-focused assessments and services, case management, and permanency planning.”[48] Instead, caregivers seek assistance from TANF agencies, which are not oriented towards child wellbeing and instead focus on adult employment and economic self-sufficiency.[49] TANF workers typically do not offer assessments for children, and their high caseloads and lack of training in children’s issues generate missed opportunities for service provision.

A lack of communication and collaboration between child welfare and TANF agencies further complicates the situation for children, families, and caseworkers. Respondents in studies of non-parental child-only case management in Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Maryland reported little collaboration between child welfare and TANF agencies.[50] In interviews with Administration for Children and Families (ACF) regional administrators, Gibbs et al. found that only eight state TANF agencies formally collaborate with the child welfare system, 36 informally collaborate, and seven collaborate neither formally nor informally.[51] The report does not define informal or formal collaboration.

Rob Geen finds that, compared to traditional non-relative foster parents, kinship foster parents tend to receive less information, training, and contact from child welfare workers.[52] Indeed, says Geen, “kinship caregivers are often required to provide the same nurturance and support for children in their care that non-kin foster parents provide, with fewer resources, greater stressors, and limited preparation.”[53]

State programs assist relative caregivers, but efforts are unproven and may neglect children in parental child-only cases
Some states are addressing the needs of non-parental child-only households through case management, increased financial support, and referrals and support programs. Gibbs et al. find that state programs generally focus on the needs of relative caregivers rather than children.[54] However, several child welfare agencies view children in non-parental child-only TANF cases as at-risk and offer case management and services designed to keep them from needing to be placed in the state’s custody.[55]

Innovative, though unproven, initiatives to better serve non-parental child-only households exist across the U.S. Efforts generally focus on three areas: (1) enhancing collaboration between TANF and child welfare agencies; (2) providing financial support to relative caregivers; and (3) providing information and case management to relative caregivers.

Several localities support collaboration between child welfare and TANF agencies.
• In most Wisconsin counties, the child welfare agency manages non-parental child-only TANF cases.[56]
Oklahoma’s child welfare and TANF programs share a common director. For child-only cases in formal kinship care, Oklahoma child welfare workers oversee child safety and services, while TANF caseworkers are responsible for financial and medical assistance.[57]
El Paso County, Colorado, created the Family Support Team (FST), a special unit within its TANF agency to serve child-only cases. The FST includes professional social workers, TANF case managers, and a supervisor.[58]

At least ten states or localities provide additional financial support for relative caregivers.
California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Denver, Colorado, provide monthly financial support to relative caregivers in non-parental child-only cases.[59] The states provide cash assistance similar to, but generally less than, the payments that traditional foster parents would receive. Most states use TANF funds for these payments, and some states (Kentucky and Nevada) make payments regardless of caregiver income.
Alabama’s Kinship Care (KC) program targets non-parental child-only cases experiencing difficulties that put them at risk for non-relative foster care placement.[60] KC provides tailored services, including counseling; respite care; financial assistance for court costs and emergency expenses; and a “basic needs payment” for educational supplies, children’s clothing, and furniture.
• To those deemed income-eligible, New Jersey offers a child care subsidy and up to $1,000 to purchase school supplies or baby furniture.[61]

Several states or localities provide information, referrals, and support groups for relative caregivers.
New Jersey created a Kinship Navigator Program to help caregivers obtain services including TANF, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, and child care.[62] The state also maintains a toll-free phone service staffed by social workers who provide as much case management as possible by telephone.[63]
Ohio’s Statewide Kinship Caregiver Services Program offers subsidized child care, respite care, legal assistance, parenting classes, and a toll-free phone service offering referrals and information to relative caregivers.[64]
El Paso County, Colorado, provides support groups and “grandparent advocates” to assist caregivers as they navigate bureaucratic agencies.[65]

Although individual state efforts are encouraging, no states have rigorously evaluated the effects of these interventions on child outcomes.[66] However, it is possible to comment on the implementation issues facing these programs’ administrators. Charlesworth et al. list the challenges that states and localities face when trying to develop strategies to assist their child-only caseload.[67] First, states struggle to afford additional financial support for relative caregivers. Second, states face difficulties developing culturally appropriate policies and supportive services for parental child-only cases, especially alien and SSI cases. Third, they struggle to bridge communication and logistical gaps between relevant agencies and partner organizations.

Policy recommendations
Congress must reauthorize TANF by September 30, 2010. Considering that the primary beneficiaries of TANF are now children, it is time to focus federal resources on evaluating child outcomes and identifying effective strategies to serve poor children in both parental and non-parental child-only cases. The current recession and deficit-averse political environment necessitates budget-neutral or low-cost policies. As such, the following strategies are low-cost and politically feasible. Properly implemented, these strategies will establish a firm foundation of knowledge about “what works” to inform Congress when the economy improves and TANF is again reauthorized.

Recommendation 1: Expand the 2011 President’s Budget request to include competitive grants for programs that address children’s needs in parental and non-parental child-only cases
The President’s FY2011 budget requests that Congress eliminate the $500 million Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grants and instead direct the money to state-initiated Responsible Fatherhood and Family Self-sufficiency Demonstrations. The President requests $475.74 million for the grants and $20 million to evaluate grantees. The idea behind the grant programs is to “build a stronger evidence base about what service intervention models work … that could be replicated within the TANF, Child Support Enforcement (CSE), and other state and community-based programs.”[68]

While the idea behind the fatherhood and self-sufficiency demonstrations may be sound, the President’s budget request fails to mention child-only TANF populations, which now constitute almost half of the total TANF caseload. During budget appropriations, Congress should expand demonstrations to support and evaluate the following initiatives: (1) child welfare and TANF agency collaboration; (2) enhanced financial assistance for relative caregivers; (3) case management and referral services for children and relatives in non-parental cases; and (4) assessments, case management, and other services for children in parental cases.

Congress should fully fund the President’s $500 million demonstration request, but also add $250 million to support child-only service model demonstrations, $20 million of which should fund rigorous evaluations of programs. See Recommendation 2 for a discussion of the evaluations.

Bipartisan political support exists for investment in child-only TANF cases. During the July 2009 confirmation hearing for ACF Assistant Secretary for Family Support Carmen Nazario, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) voiced his concern about the rise in child-only TANF cases. Specifically, Grassley asked whether children’s interests would be better served by a formal arrangement with the child welfare system.[69] As such, grants that support child welfare and TANF agency collaboration and case management for children could enjoy political support during budget appropriations. Leading up to the budget appropriations process, advocacy groups should target Senator Grassley and House Appropriations committee chair David Obey (D-WI) to request a $250 million expansion of the President’s request.

Recommendation 2: Conduct a series of third-party studies to test impacts of interventions on child outcomes
To address acute information gaps, Congress should fund third-party evaluations of interventions to serve parental and non-parental child-only populations. The studies should focus on dependent variables germane to quantitative evaluations of program impacts on child wellbeing, including “academic progress, cognitive development, behavioral and emotional adjustment, and health and safety.”[70] The studies should not only test child-only intervention models, but also investigate the effectiveness of traditional child-only TANF cash assistance.

Parental child-only study
One study should examine the wellbeing of children whose parents are ineligible for TANF because of sanctions, time limits, alien status, or SSI enrollment. The study should observe two treatment groups: one that receives child-only payments with no enhanced services such as case management, and a second that receives child-only payments with case management. The control group would receive no TANF assistance. Both studies should seek to understand how TANF cash assistance is spent and shared between household members, how that cash assistance impacts child wellbeing, and whether enhanced services improve outcomes. In order to avoid ethical questions that would arise when assigning children to different levels of service, this study could take advantage of the existing variation between states. Controlling for differences between groups and employing state fixed effects will account for any variation in outcomes due to geographic differences.

Non-parental child-only study
Another study should focus on children in relative care, using multiple treatment groups to test the impacts of the various strategies that states currently use to serve children and caregivers in non-parental cases. These treatment groups should include: (1) a group that receives basic child-only cash assistance; (2) a group that receives enhanced payments with no case management; (3) a group that receives a combination of payments and case management by a child welfare agency; and (4) a group that receives a combination of payments and case management by the TANF agency. The control group should include children in relative care who receive no TANF cash assistance or other services.

The studies should each be implemented over multiple years, beginning with baseline data collection and two follow-up assessments. Third-party researchers should be required to report on findings at baseline and at each follow-up and write a final report to ACF and Congress before TANF is reauthorized, presumably by 2015.

Social policy experts and advocates would greet these evaluations with enthusiasm. Influential advocates at the Brookings Institution, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Center for Law and Social Policy regularly request that TANF focus more on child outcomes. Gibbs et al. also favor this type of research and assert that findings could help agencies identify and prioritize services for the most at-risk children.[71]

Alternative strategy
Even if Congress does not fund a child-only demonstration project, it should still support modest investment in evaluating child-only interventions. Rigorous analysis could be valuable in the absence of a new discretionary grant program because some infrastructure to support non-parental child-only households already exists in states. Should Congress fail to take action, philanthropic groups interested in child outcomes could fill the void by providing full or matching funding for state-level research.

Given that child-only cases now constitute nearly half of the total TANF caseload, our nation’s cash-assistance program must expand its work-oriented focus to include child wellbeing. Unless social service providers close communication gaps between child welfare and family assistance sectors, these children’s unmet material and service needs will persist. Congress should address these needs by funding demonstration projects to implement and test initiatives to serve child-only populations. Building knowledge about what works today will facilitate cost-effective, thoughtful program expansions when the economy improves.

[1] Martha J. Zaslow, Kristin A. Moore, Jennifer L. Brooks, Pamela A. Morris, Kathryn Tout, Zakia A. Redd, and Carol A. Emig, “Experimental Studies of Welfare Reform and Children.” The Future of Children, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2002.
[2] David T. Ellwood, Poor Support. (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1988).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Lawrence Mead, Beyond Entitlement. (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1986).
[5] Gayle Hamilton, “Moving People from Welfare to Work: Findings from the National Evaluation of Welfare to Work Strategies.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Manpower Development Research Corporation. July 2002. (accessed February 15, 2010).
[6] Steven M. Teles, Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1998).
[7] David Ellwood and Rebecca Blank, The Clinton Legacy for America’s Poor. (NBER Working Paper 8437, Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2001).
[8] The Urban Institute, “A Decade of Welfare Reform: Facts and Figures.” June 2006. (accessed February 15, 2010).
[9] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Eighth Annual Report to Congress,” 2009. (accessed October 19, 2009).
[10] Deborah Gibbs, Jennifer Kasten, Anupa Bir, Sonja Hoover, Dean Duncan and Janet Mitchell, “Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers.” Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. June 2004. (accessed February 19, 2010).
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF child-only cases trends and issues.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assitance, Welfare Peer Technical Assistance Network. 2009. (accessed October 12, 2009).
[15] Social Security Administration, “What is Supplemental Security Income?” (accessed February 15, 2010).
[16] Rutledge Q. Hutson, “Child Welfare and TANF Reauthorization.” Center for Law and Social Policy. February 2002. (accessed February 19, 2010).
[17] Deborah Gibbs, Jennifer Kasten, Anupa Bir, Dean Duncan, and Sonja Hoover, “Between two systems: Children in TANF child-only cases with relative caregivers.” Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 28, Is. 4, (2006).
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF Child-Only Cases Trends and Issues.”
[21] Robert G. Strong and Debra A. Wood, “The Status of Families on Child-Only TANF Cases.” Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. 2002.
[22] Mary Farrell, Michael Fishman, Stephanie Laud, and Vincena Allen, “Understanding the AFDC/TANF Child-Only Caseload: Policies, Composition, and Characteristics in Three States.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 1, 2000. (accessed February 15, 2010).
[23] Rutledge Q. Hutson, “Child Welfare and TANF Reauthorization.”
[24] Marilyn Edelhoch, Qiduan Liu, and Linda S. Martin, “Unsung Heroes: Relative Caretakers in Child-only Cases.” Policy & Practice of Public Human Services, 2002.
[25] Robert G.Strong and Debra A. Wood, “The Status of Families on Child-Only TANF Cases.”
[26] Marilyn Edelhoch, Qiduan Liu, and Linda S. Martin, “Unsung Heroes: Relative Caretakers in Child-only Cases.”
[27] Robert G. Strong and Debra A. Wood, “The Status of Families on Child-Only TANF Cases.”
[28] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-only Cases With Relative Caregivers.”
[29] Robert G. Strong and Debra A. Wood, “The Status of Families on Child-Only TANF Cases.”
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Jan Kaplan, “Sanction Policies and Practices – An Update.” Welfare Information Network, 2004.
[34] General Accounting Office, “Welfare Reform – States are Restructuring Programs to Reduce Welfare Dependence.” Washington, DC, (1998).
[35] Jan Kaplan, “Sanction Policies and Practices – An Update.”
[36] General Accounting Office. “Welfare Reform – States are Restructuring Programs to Reduce Welfare Dependence.”
[37] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[38] Robert G. Strong and Debra A. Wood. “The Status of Families on Child-Only TANF Cases.”
[39] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases With Relative Caregivers.”
[40] Ibid.
[41] Ibid.
[42] Marilyn Edelhoch, Qiduan Liu, and Linda S. Martin, “Unsung Heroes: Relative Caretakers in Child-only Cases.”
[43] Ibid.
[44] Shelley Waters Boots and Rob Geen, “Family Care or Foster Care? How State Policies Affect Kinship Caregivers.” The Urban Institute. 1999. (accessed February 20, 2010).
[45] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[46] Robert Geen, “The Evolution of Kinship Care Policy and Practice.” The Future of Children Vol. 14, No. 1, (2004).
[47] Jennifer Ehrle Macomber, Rob Geen, and Rebecca L. Clark, “Children Cared for by Relatives: Who are They and How are They Faring?” The Urban Institute, Assessing the New Federalism, Report No. 6. (2001). (Accessed February 20, 2010).
[48] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers.” 5-4.
[49] Ibid.
[50] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[51] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[52] Robert Geen, “The Evolution of Kinship Care Policy and Practice.”
[53] Ibid., 137.
[54] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Child-only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[55] Ibid.
[56] Ibid.
[57] Ibid.
[58] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF Child-Only Cases Trends and Issues.”
[59] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[60] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF Child-Only Cases Trends and Issues.”
[61] Ibid.
[62] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[63] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF Child-Only Cases Trends and Issues.”
[64] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[65] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF Child-Only Cases Trends and Issues.”
[66] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”
[67] Leanne Charlesworth, Jenneate Mercick, and Courtney Kakuska, “TANF Child-Only Cases Trends and Issues.”
[68] Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. “Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.” (Washington, DC, 2010). 304.
[69] Child Welfare League of America. “Carmen Nazario Moves Closer to Final Approval for HHS Post.” Children’s Monitor Online. June 2009. (accessed October 1, 2009).
[70] Martha J. Zaslow et al., “Experimental Studies of Welfare Reform and Children.” 81.
[71] Deborah Gibbs et al., “Between Two Systems: Children in TANF Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers.”

Kristy Marynak is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Davidson College. Marynak’s experiences with public agencies at the federal, state, and local levels contribute to her understanding of TANF and child welfare policy.

Copyright © 2010 · All Rights Reserved

An Interview with Bernice Friedlander: 50 Years in Government

Interviewed by Gwen M. Tobert

Bernice Friedlander is currently the President of Chapter 282 of the National Treasury Employees Union, representing employees at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She began her career in Washington on Capitol Hill in 1965, and over the next seventeen years held a variety of positions including Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, and Press Secretary. In between her stints on the Hill, Ms. Friedlander worked as a lobbyist for Action on Smoking and Health, advocating for the 1970 Cigarette Labeling Act, and for the Autism Society of America, conducting autism education and research. In 1974, she ran for Congress in the New Jersey Democratic Primary, but lost. She went on to join the Executive Branch of the federal government, becoming  Director of Public Affairs for the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor from 1987-1994. She then became acting Director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs and was appointed by President Clinton as the U.S. Delegate to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Commissions on Consumer Issues and Credit Issues. In 1998, she joined the President’s Food Safety Initiative at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a policy analyst, promoting the “Farm to Table” program. Ms. Friedlander holds an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

* * * * *

I recently spoke to Ms. Friedlander about her extensive experience in public affairs and public policy. The following excerpts regard pressing policy issues that she has seen evolve from her unique perspective, including those related to modern media and government communication, health reform, and consumer regulation.

—Media and Government Communication—

GT: How does the existence of bloggers and other decentralized, ‘amateur’ journalists who form a 24/7 media presence impact your ability to get out the government’s message?

BF: The government has a much greater potential to reach consumers.… There are a lot of consumer organizations that have blogs and I think that can be helpful, but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there. The government has to be careful when it posts items on blogs or puts out information.… In the old days, you put a press release out and a reporter called you to clarify… but now it goes directly to consumers, so you really have to make sure you get it right the first time.… I think the government hasn’t permeated all of the new channels yet… and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. In areas such as health and safety, and education, these new tools… are so powerful and can be so beneficial to people. But only if we develop them right.

—Health Reform—

GT: What strategies did you use to successfully counter such a powerful and wealthy opposition lobby during the passage of the 1970 Cigarette Labeling Act?

BF: There was so much tension about the tobacco issue, it’s hard to explain it in today’s environment.… It’s a major industry in a number of states… and congressmen and senators wanted to defend their turf, jobs, and funds they received from tobacco and broadcasting interests. Some of the nation’s most prestigious health organizations received money from the Tobacco Institute, so they weren’t in a hurry to sign onto a bill that would in any way limit smoking, even though they were using the Tobacco Institute funding to do research on the health effects of tobacco.

… In all negotiations and all lobbying, you have to use leverage. We had some of the most outstanding medical people in the United States… who were willing to lend their names and their influence to getting this legislation looked at and adopted.… The coalition of anti-smoking organizations—including educational, religious, consumer, and health professionals—relied on local grassroots organizational tactics. For example, we had a couple of busloads of young people—they were high school age—and they went on the Hill and presented at each congressional and Senate office what we called the “Lung Ashtray” [which turned black as people smoked around it]…. When a tobacco state Congressman tried to have the youngsters arrested, it made the front page of the Washington Evening Star.… We had a great ally in [small media companies and churches]. When you leveraged everybody’s little bit of power and added all the little bits up, it certainly helped.

The whole process of getting that legislation enacted really took a push from people—from consumers, from parents, from educators, and especially from medical professionals.

GT: In the health reform debates today, there are obviously some very powerful lobbies who have vested interests in continuing the status quo. Do you think any of the strategies that worked for you back in 1970 with the Cigarette Labeling Act could be leveraged today?

BF: Lobbying for issues, especially the things that are health, safety, and education related, just takes a lot of effort.… Democracy is from the bottom-up, and governance is usually from the top-down… and somewhere in the middle the people have to hear each other. And I think that that’s not been clear enough. There are a lot of people, for example, who want health reform, but it means something different to each person. A clearly understood reform package… well, that’s what we need. One of the strategies seems to be, “Let’s not be too specific and then we can pull people in and get enough votes for passage.” I think it wasn’t the best strategy because it seems today that no two people think the same way about what they believe is contained in that healthcare bill. It’s a huge bill with all kinds of implications. People are fed up… because they’re not sure what specifically it’s going to do for them, except they know it’s going to make government bigger and, many believe, more intrusive.

GT: So you think the problem is really less about the lobbying parties and more about how the legislation is presented? That it’s just too confusing, the way the Clinton package was?

BF: Yes. Government is big, but Medicare is big! Government can handle large programs and handle them well. What I am saying is if you presented one or two or several alternatives for how you’re going to pay for this new program, then you can discuss A versus B… and everybody will know what we’re talking about. Instead we have a lot of contradictions, numbers being thrown around, and one wonders if anyone really knows what is contained in this huge piece of legislation, which is an attempt to pull as many interests together in order to reach 60 votes in the Senate.

GT: So do you think we need to be more incremental?

BF: Two things:  the legislation has to be understandable and it needs to be affordable.… If you can’t summarize it in a page and a half—the benefits as well as the funding mechanisms—then it’s not going to go anyplace.… People are not going to swallow something they don’t understand…. And it’s very easy to scare people about the unknown. Disinformation and scare tactics have been used throughout history to try to beat back progressive legislation. It was tried during the fight for the Voting Rights Act. There were so-called intelligent people serving in the Congress saying this was the end of America if “Negroes” received their just right to vote… if the States weren’t allowed to discriminate through poll taxes, [etc.]…. And in the end all we did was make America better. There are always some people who will propagandize to try to win you over by making you fearful.

GT: Do you think it would be more acceptable to people if it were the States who were reforming healthcare?

BF: I really think it’s a federal issue. Right now,… just too many people fall between the cracks. In a federal bill, you might leave parts of it open to the individual states… what additional options can be offered, if they want to offer more than another state… you can build that into the legislation. But the basic framework of a truly national health insurance reform has to come from the federal government, be universally available and guaranteed.

GT: Do you think Obamacare will pass?**

BF: Well, I don’t know if it will be Obamacare, but I do believe there will be reform. When it will pass, I don’t know. It will probably be some scaled down version of pending legislation. But that’s okay. Perhaps we’ve bitten off a little more than we can chew right now due to current economic times. We have to put a stop to the escalating costs of healthcare before it devastates us; plus, we have to make healthcare a reality for millions of Americans so they can go forward and pursue the American dream. It is an important step we, America, need to take if we are going to thrive in the 21st Century.

—Consumer Regulation—

GT: Could you tell me a little bit about the FDA “Farm to Table” program and where we’re going now in terms of consumer regulation?

BF: In the late 1990s, President Clinton wanted to see stronger and more consistent regulation of imported and domestic produce. The nation was having problems due to the presence of pathogens such as e. coli and salmonella popping up in the food supply and making people sick. Both the President and Congress, together with a vigilant and assertive consumer voice, sought to clean up the marketplace. The makeup of produce in the American marketplace was changing. For example, in 1998, 40 percent of the produce for purchase in your neighborhood grocery store came from outside the United States. Now that number is 60 percent. The President’s Food Safety Initiative and the President’s Produce Initiative sought to create a culture of safety from farm to table… that is to say,… from the time produce is planted and harvested, transported, processed, and packaged, until you open it up to have dinner tonight, America’s policy was to have a safer, better process… Agriculture, food processors, food importers, and food stores were invited to work with the government in order to promote a cleaner, healthier, and more efficient marketplace for all. The Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the State Department, and other agencies also worked with other countries to ensure that foreign exports would be safe and meet America’s standards.

… After President Bush came to office, the program continued.… I believe the program was funded for another year or two. But then, basically, it was gutted. In the next four or five years, United States producers suffered because of an increase in food recalls… [and] a reduction in Congressional appropriations for enforcement.… We simply didn’t have the resources to enforce the laws. In 2007, Congress changed, and so did the attitude about funding food inspectors here and in foreign venues.  In the last two years of President Bush’s administration, for the first time in history, the FDA established three offices in China, an office in India, and one in the Middle East to work with those countries to ensure that products coming into American markets are safe.  Unfortunately, more problems arose mostly due to the lack of sufficient numbers of trained inspectors to enforce the laws.

By the time President Obama came to office, he was greeted by a near crisis in this area. He doubled the FDA budget… it went from approximately $600 million to $1 billion. We have more inspectors now, more consumer safety officers, more people in the labs, and are working with the states and other countries. They are able to intervene early if there’s a problem with imports at the source. FDA is today able to deploy cadres of investigators and train others around the country to help both industry and consumers build and sustain confidence in our food safety processes and products.… I just hope they keep the funding.

—A Piece of Advice—

GT: What advice do you have for the next generation of policymakers?

BF: I think it’s important to know what’s real.… Before you look at the black marks on white paper… it’s important to… involve yourself in the community… in the subject that you’re working with. Be sure you really know what’s going on, and that it isn’t just an intellectual exercise. Policy is as much about everyday, “How do we live? How do we survive? How do we do it with grace and integrity?”… You need to question. You need to never be afraid to question the efficacy of something.… You have to think things out, talk to people, and not be afraid to be criticized.… The policy that you’re working on is going to affect millions of people. So it’s important to check your ego at the door…. And never be afraid to say the other guy’s got a good idea or even a better idea, if that is the case. The role of integrity and ethics and truth in policymaking can’t be overstated.

**  This interview was conducted in February 2010.

Gwen M. Tobert is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. Tobert has also been a long-time friend of Ms. Friedlander and is proud to have such an accomplished mentor.