Ford School PhD candidate Alvin Christian is the 2023 winner of the Peter Eckstein Prize for Interdisciplinary Research, an award that celebrates the value of interdisciplinary research in public policy.
His research paper, “Restraining Orders, Domestic Violence, and Women’s Labor Market and Marriage Outcomes,” quantifies how the introduction of Personal Protection Orders (PPOs)—commonly known as restraining orders—affected intimate partner violence and women’s labor market and marriage outcomes.
Christian’s research is the first to show how the introduction of restraining order laws in the 1970s decreased domestic violence on a nationwide scale. His work points to potential policy implications by shedding light on which aspects of restraining orders are most effective at reducing homicides and by showing that offering women protection from violence can lead to meaningful life outcomes above and beyond reducing abuse.
“Alvin’s paper greatly impressed the Peter Eckstein Prize committee,” said Ford School writing instructor Alex Ralph, who chaired the selection committee. “He pulls off the nifty trick of applying rigorous interdisciplinary analysis to draw conclusions that he writes about in clear, persuasive prose. Moreover, Alvin’s work feels both novel and important.”
Christian’s work combines research theory and methodologies that span multiple disciplines: law, economics, public policy, criminology, and sociology. He collected and analyzed data on PPO legislation from a legal research database, and employed econometric techniques to identify their causal effects. Christian also developed and tested an economic model to describe how restraining order laws impact family violence, divorce/separation, and labor market decisions. He provides historical context for PPO legislation by gathering and summarizing literature from sociology and criminology to describe the prevalence and legal context of wife abuse in the 1970s, as well as on the effectiveness of restraining orders.
“PPOs are now ubiquitous,” Christian writes, “but their impact on violence is theoretically ambiguous.”
“Thanks to his award-winning research,” Ralph said, “this impact is now far more certain.”
About the Eckstein Prize
The Peter Eckstein Prize for Interdisciplinary Research and Policy Analysis is awarded to a Ford School student or group of students whose work exhibits the use of theories, concepts, frameworks, research methods, or other tools from two or more disciplines in researching, analyzing, or furthering understanding of a topic, issue or debate related to public policy, domestic or international. The prize was established in 2019 by a gift from Peter Eckstein (LSA ‘59), a student of both economics and social sciences. Throughout his career he saw the value in combining the two fields to explain economic phenomena.