Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes: Learning from Passage and Failure in California Cities
by Chainani, Anjali A., Ph.D., University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, 2019, 267; 13859719
Abstract (Summary)

Since 2014, voters in four California cities approved ballot measures seeking to levy a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Prior to these instances of success, over 128 local and state SSB tax proposals in the U.S. failed passage since 2009. The recent success of SSB tax passage in California presented an opportunity to explore factors associated with SSB tax passage, and to explore if John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Approach (MSA) applied in cases where the tax passed. The study also identified how Kingdon’s theory may be modified in cases involving local governments.

I conducted a retrospective qualitative analysis using primary and secondary data collection to compare the outcome of SSB tax proposals across California cities. I interviewed 22 individuals using semi-structured telephone interviews to learn about each city’s SSB tax proposal and process. Successful and unsuccessful SSB tax proposals were compared to learn from both passage and failure.

Five key themes or patterns were associated with cases of success including: (1) advanced planning, (2) building support, (3) voter engagement, (4) messaging, and (5) media. Cities that failed to pass the tax did not achieve consensus about the problem, or the proposed solution. A policy that is perceived as technically unfeasible has reduced chances of survival. The MSA provided a useful framework for analyzing factors associated with SSB tax success, however it remains unclear how much independence there is between the three streams at the local policymaking level. Based on the results from this study, I proposed a modification to the problem stream by adding a typology of events to further analyze factors associated with why a policy alternative may rise or fall on an agenda.

The results from this project have the potential to broaden the application of the MSA theory. The findings from this study will be useful to policymakers and advocates in cities that utilize direct or representative democracy, and may lead to other local level SSB tax adoption in the future. Policy entrepreneurs play an important role in shaping the course of how a problem is perceived. Problems and solutions that resonate with voters are more likely to rise on an agenda. This project also demonstrates the value of learning from policy failures. In some cases, iterating a strategy after a failure may be the only way to innovate towards a successful outcome over time.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Klaiman, Tamar
Commitee: Janke, Amy, Linos, Natalia, McLaughlin, Joseph
School: University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Department: Health Policy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 80/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Law, Public health, Public policy
Keywords: Ballot initiative, Obesity, Public health policy, Soda tax, Sugar-sweetened beverages, Sugary drinks
Publication Number: 13859719
ISBN: 9781392064948
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