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Home » Discover Rackham » Student Spotlight: Andrew Goodman-Bacon

There will be two openings in The Solonators, a band comprised largely of U-M grad students and faculty, when Andrew Goodman-Bacon and his wife, Ph.D. candidate in Public Health, Sayeh Nikpay, move to Berkeley soon for postdoctoral fellowships. “The band has been really great. I sing and play guitar. My wife started as an accordion player but took up the bass after running out of songs with accordion parts. We mostly play in basements, but we’ve played a few weddings and at the Wolverine Brewing Company.”

When asked what his favorite memory of U-M is, though, the band isn’t the answer. He responds quickly, “The library system. It has been essential to my work. I have a deep love for the librarians here. It’s funny that sometimes they don’t care what you’re looking for, they just care about the search process.” Despite the prevalence of online sources, he often needs to find the original source material. “I find that it is already here, in the U-M library system.”

His dissertation required an extensive use of the library system as he searched for original sources of data, creating a body of historical data to research the effects of the establishment of Medicaid in the 1960s on child mortality. More specifically, Andrew’s dissertation combines data on mortality rates and health expenditures since the 1960s with newly-compiled historical data to quantify the health policy reforms of the 1960s and estimate the effects of the implementation of public health programs for poor families on health and health care spending. “There were waves of social policy that took place in the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s that are full of big program initiatives – Medicaid, Americorps, welfare reform. These are understudied eras but researchers are now beginning to make up for it.”

There was little data on Medicaid at its inception to begin this research, so his faculty advisor, Professor Martha Bailey, taught him how to find and create it. He says, “She laid the groundwork for this kind of research. She’s been an amazing advisor, paying close attention to her students and the job market and connections they need to move forward.”

He is grateful for Rackham funding to support his research and compiling original sources of data into a useable format.

After meeting as undergrads at Macalester and starting as doctoral students together here at U-M, Andrew reflects, “It hasn’t necessarily been easy to coordinate, but our path is laid out.” After Berkeley, both he and Sayeh have faculty positions at Vanderbilt awaiting them. “The music scene there is strong,” he says. “We’ll find new bandmates there for sure.” Rock on, Andrew!