New Faculty: Yusun Kim

Yusun Kim headshot

Photo courtesy of Yusun Kim.

Yusun Kim

Associate Professor of Public Policy

Yusun Kim joins UConn as an assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy. Her primary research fields are public financial management and health policy. More specifically, her research focuses on cost efficiency and equity in property tax administration as well as the effects of various state interventions related to Medicaid on residential tax burden and health outcomes. She received her Ph.D. in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2019. Prior to starting her doctoral degree, she worked as a research assistant at The National Assembly Budget Office in Seoul, South Korea.

Q&A with Yusun Kim

What are your research interests?

My research interests lie in the nexus between state and local public finance and health policy. My research centers around three themes:

  1. The broader theme is to understand the effect of various state-level interventions on fiscal institutions, and the effects of mandates and aid on local fiscal outcomes and individual health outcomes.
  2. My second research agenda is understanding how changes in the way different levels of governments co-finance and administer large social insurance programs (particularly Medicaid) can affect various social outcomes at the individual level (tax burden and health outcomes).
  3. Finally, in the area of local property tax, I study cost efficiency and equity in property tax administration, hoping to better understand ways to improve property tax assessment.

I primarily employ quasi-experimental research methods in most of my projects, with the aim to find a causal explanation of various state and local governments’ interventions on local fiscal outcomes and individual-level social outcomes.

How did you become interested in this type of work?

My interests in public budgeting and finance developed through my observations as a research assistant at the Korean National Assembly Budget Office. I watched the introduction of various fiscal control measures to the legislature only four days after the Korean government had to backpedal on a tax code revision because of a massive backlash from the middle class. At the budget office, I was also engaged in analyzing annual budget plans and evaluating major public programs. During this time, I naturally developed an interest in various issues of congressional budgeting and fiscal rules, many of which originate from the federal government of the United States.

My academic interests in public finance culminated during my doctoral studies at the Maxwell School, where I worked with amazing scholars in both fields of public finance and social policy. After participating in multiple research projects related to Medicaid, I decided to delve into the interplay between social policy and public finance by studying how expensive social insurance programs such as Medicaid are financed by different level of governments.

I also became interested in studying the property tax, which is deemed to be the most hated tax. At the Korean budget office, I observed how legislators struggled with making the slightest change to the property tax code, and particularly how the tax base is calculated. In my third year at Maxwell, I was able to meet various local assessors as well as state and local officials from the tax offices in New York that helped me understand the assessment of property tax. A group of faculty members and graduate students at Maxwell were also involved in a project that consulted a county government regarding consolidating municipalities, where I was assigned to focus on property tax administration. These experiences led me to write two of my dissertation chapters on the administration of property tax.

I also became determined to remain in academia as I slowly realized the beauty of rigorous studies using reliable analytical tools. I still remember how I was particularly fascinated after learning how geographic data can be used for various program evaluation as a first-year doctoral student.

What courses will you be teaching this year?

I will teach Economic Analysis for Public Policy and Management this fall and Policy Analysis next spring.

What drew you to UConn?

UConn’s Department of Public Policy has a strong research program with a wonderful line of dedicated faculty. UConn DPP also has placed emphasis on training in the field of public financial management, which I am interested in. Many MPA and MPP alumni have found successful careers both in academia and in practice, some of whom I met while I was a graduate student, and they really impressed me. UConn DPP seemed like a coherent and ideal academic community that encourages its members, and I am honored to be part of it.

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