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Christopher Spera, Ph.D.

Division Vice President, Health & Environment

Christopher Spera, Ph.D. Christopher Spera, Ph.D.

Christopher Spera, an experienced senior executive, applied social science researcher, policy analyst and program evaluator, oversees Abt's Behavioral Health, Health Policy, and Public Health and Epidemiology practices.

Spera oversees a staff of 140 people and a portfolio of over 90 active projects in the areas of applied research, evaluation, survey research, health communications and technical assistance. He is also leading work on pay for success (PFS), which is also sometimes referred to as social impact bonds, a primary form of PFS that recently has received significant attention in the social and philanthropic sectors as an innovative public-private financing approach to “scale up” promising interventions that have the potential for broad-reaching impacts in social, economic and health policy. Spera also continues to serve as Professor of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy, where he teaches program evaluation.

Prior to joining Abt, Spera led groundbreaking studies of signature programs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a $1 billion federal agency where he served as Director of Research and Evaluation. In that position, Spera was a primary liaison to the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Also in that role, he was recognized as an innovative leader in public policy for his ability to strengthen an evidence base for a federal agency.

From 1999 to 2012, Spera served as a Vice President at ICF International, leading a program evaluation and survey research practice. During his career at ICF, Spera led numerous studies, including more than a decade of research on behavioral health and quality of life for the Air Force, numerous program evaluations for the Department of Veterans Affairs, a randomized control trial of the Healthy Families New York Program and a five-year evaluation of underage drinking initiatives for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In 2010, OJJDP presented him with an award in recognition of this work.

Spera has more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and technical published reports. He holds a Ph.D. in Human Development and Quantitative Methodology from the University of Maryland.

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Expertise/Skills

  • Applied Social Science Research;
  • Program Evaluation
  • Survey Research
  • Evaluation Capacity Building
  • Military and Veteran Health; Military Families
  • Substance Abuse; Underage Drinking
  • National Service; AmeriCorps
  • Mental Health
  • Adolescent Health; Risk Behaviors; Educational Outcomes
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)




Key Projects

  • Pay For Success Technical Assistance (Corporation for National & Community Service, via Third Sector Capital)
  • Evaluation of the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Program (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
  • DoD Health Related Behaviors Survey (Department of Defense, TRICARE)
  • Air Force Community Assessment Survey (Department of Air Force)




Honors/Awards

  • Invited awardee, National Advisory Council of NIAAA on alcohol use in the military, 2010.
  • Impact Award from OJJDP on work evaluating underage drinking prevention program, 2010.




Selected Publications

  • Spera, C.; Ghertner, R., Nerino, A., DiTommaso, A. (2013). Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment: Does Volunteering Increase Odds of Finding a Job for the Out of Work? Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Evaluation: Washington, DC, 2013.  Found at http://cncs.gov/sites/default/files/upload/employment_research_report.pdf
  • Spera. C., Barlas, F., Szoc, R., Prabhakaran, J., & Cambridge, M. (2011). Examining the influence of the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) program on alcohol-related outcomes in five communities surrounding Air Force bases. Addictive Behaviors, 37, 613-616.
  • Spera, C., Barlas, F., Thomas, R., Szoc, R., & Cambridge, M. (2011). Relationship of military deployment recency, frequency, duration, and combat exposure to alcohol use in the Air Force. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 5-14.
  • Spera, C., Franklin, K., Eukawa, K., Kunz, J., Szoc, R., Thomas, R., & Cambridge, M. (2010). Reducing drinking among junior enlisted Air Force members in five communities: Early findings of the EUDL program’s influence on self-reported drinking behaviors. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71 (3), 373-383.
  • Spera, C. (2009).  Air Force Members’ Perceptions of their spouses’ ability to cope with deployment and adjust to the demands of being an Air Force gamily: Identification of risk and protective factors. Armed Forces and Society, 35, 286-306.
  • Matto, H. C. & Spera, C. (2009). Estimating person-environment transactions on intention to change drug using behaviors. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 15 (3), 182-190.
  • Matto, H. C., Miller, K. A., & Spera, C.  (2007). Examining the Relative Importance of Social Context Referents in Predicting Intention to Change Substance Abuse Behavior Using the EASE. Addictive Behaviors, 32(9), 1826-1834.
  • Spera, C. (2005).  A Review of the relation among parenting practices, parenting styles, and adolescent school achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 17, 125-146.