The George M. Phillips Public Service Initiative was established in 1998 by George M. Phillips to support students in BSOS whose training and research interests address major social problems and issues of important public concern.
Austin’s PhD research is part of the project on Modeling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition (MERIAM), which is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The aim of MERIAM is to identify, test, and scale up cost-effective means to improve the prediction and monitoring of malnourished children in difficult contexts; in such a way, it enables an effective response to manage and mitigate nutritional risk. Austin’s research on the project centers on modeling the causes of malnutrition and predicting the prevalence of undernourished children. Identifying causal pathways is empirically challenging because determinants may be endogenous and latent. Austin confronts this challenge by controlling for spatial and temporal variability, as well as demographic, social, economic, institutional, biologic, agronomic, and climactic factors. To address the immediate issue of prediction, Austin has developed hierarchical econometric models to explain the causes of malnutrition by finding leading indicators using inputs from household survey data, remote sensing data, conflict data, disaster data, and environmental data in a multilevel analytical framework. His first paper, entitled “Evaluating the latent determinants of childhood malnutrition in Kenya and Nigeria: a hierarchical analysis,” was presented at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Washington DC on April 3, 2019.