Category Archives: Human Services

Access to Food Stamps Improves Children’s Health and Reduces Medical Spending

Source: Chloe N. East, Center for Poverty Research – University of California, Policy Brief, Vol. 7 no. 4, November 2018

The Food Stamp Program (FSP, known since 2008 as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) is one of the largest safety-net programs in the United States. It is especially important for families with children. However, the FSP eligibility of documented immigrants has shifted on multiple occasions in recent decades. When I studied the health outcomes of children in documented immigrant families affected by such shifts between 1996 and 2003, I found that just one extra year of parental eligibility before age 5 improves health outcomes at ages 6-16. This suggests that expanding food-stamp access for such families has lasting long-run benefits for their children and may help to reduce public medical expenditures in the medium term.

Key Facts:
– Immigrants’ loss of eligibility reduced participation in the Food Stamp Program among U.S.-born children of immigrants by 50%, and reduced the average benefits they received by 36%.
– Loss of parental food-stamp eligibility before age five has clear negative effects on developmental health outcomes and on parental reports of the child’s health in the medium-run.
– An additional year of food-stamp access in early life reduces medical expenditures in the medium-run by roughly $140 per child.

New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off

Source: Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, July 6, 2018

…. Economists have put forward a variety of explanations for the aberrant absence of wage growth in the middle of a recovery: Automation is slowly (but irrevocably) reducing the market-value of most workers’ skills; a lack of innovation has slowed productivity growth to a crawl; well-paid baby-boomers are retiring, and being replaced with millennials who have enough experience to do the boomers’ jobs — but not enough to demand their salaries.

There’s likely some truth to these narratives.

But a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers a more straightforward — and political — explanation: American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.

The OECD doesn’t make this argument explicitly. But its report lays waste to the idea that the plight of the American worker can be chalked up to impersonal economic forces, instead of concrete political decisions. If the former were the case, then American laborers wouldn’t be getting a drastically worse deal than their peers in other developed nations. But we are. Here’s a quick rundown of the various ways that American workers are getting ripped off:

American workers are more likely to be poor (by the standards of their nation). ….
We also get fired more often — and with far less notice. ….
Our government does less for us when we’re out of work than just about anyone else’s. ….
Labor’s share of income has been falling faster in the U.S. than almost anywhere else. ….

New reports highlight different approaches to child welfare financing

Source: Child Trends, June 2018

Two new reports from Child Trends provide a comprehensive overview of how states use various funding sources to support child welfare agencies. The first report highlights state variation in per-child spending by child welfare agencies, finding that agencies spent $12.8 billion (approximately $172 per child) in federal funds and $16.3 billion (approximately $222 per child) in state funds in fiscal year 2014.

See:
Federal and State/Local Child Welfare Agency Spending per Child, 2004–2014
Source: Dana Connelly, Kristina Rosinsky, Child Trends, Research Brief, Publication #2018-12, June 2018

The second report highlights variation in how child welfare agencies use federal funding streams to finance their programs. This information can help policymakers, advocates, and other child welfare stakeholders review state approaches to child welfare financing and better understand how changes to funding streams will impact child welfare programs.

See:
State Variation in Child Welfare Agency Use of Federal Funding Sources
Source: Dana Connelly, Kristina Rosinsky, Child Trends, Research Brief, Publication #2018-13, June 2018

Related:
5 things to know about children and SNAP
Source: David Murphey, Child Trends, June 28, 2018
A new Child Trends 5 explains how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) impacts children’s well-being. SNAP serves a monthly average of more than 1 in 4 U.S. children. The single largest share of households with children receiving SNAP benefits are headed by a white, non-Hispanic adult.

Donald Trump Asked, “What Do You Have to Lose?” This Illinois Town Found Out.

Source: Tim Murphy, Mother Jones, July/August 2018

How a small town got caught up in Ben Carson’s crusade against fair housing.

Related:
In Small-Town America, the Public Housing Crisis Nobody’s Talking About
Source: Molly Parker, ProPublica and The Southern Illinoisan, April 6, 2018

The shuttering of public housing complexes in two small Midwestern towns raises big questions for residents, HUD and Congress.

Less Bang for Your Buck? How Social Capital Constrains the Effectiveness of Social Welfare Spending

Source: Mallory E. Compton, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Online First, First Published June 21, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Rising economic insecurity in recent decades has focused attention on the importance of social welfare programs in managing household financial stability. Some governments are more effective than others in managing this outcome, and informal social institutions help explain why. Social capital is expected to shape economic security through multiple mechanisms, but whether the effect is to magnify or mitigate volatility is an open question. Part of the answer has to do with how social capital interacts with policy implementation, and whether it conditions the effectiveness of government spending. Evidence from the U.S. states from 1986 to 2010 fails to support a benevolent social capital thesis—not only is social capital associated with greater economic insecurity, there is no evidence that it improves social welfare effectiveness. However, greater spending on some social programs can mitigate the adverse impact of social capital on economic security.

Are Reemployment Services Effective? Experimental Evidence from the Great Recession

Source: Marios Michaelides, Peter Mueser, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 37, Issue 3, Summer 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We examine an experimental‐design reemployment program implemented in Nevada during the Great Recession that required Unemployment Insurance (UI) recipients to: (1) undergo an eligibility review to confirm they were qualified for benefits and actively searching for work and, if deemed eligible, (2) receive job‐counseling services. Our results show that the program expedited participant exit from UI, produced UI savings that exceeded program costs, and improved participant employment outcomes. Analyses of program effects on the UI exit likelihood show that the program’s effects are partly associated with increased participant exit up through the time when program activities were scheduled, reflecting voluntary exit of participants from UI to avoid program activities and disqualifications of participants who failed to meet eligibility requirements. In addition, the program induced substantial participant exit from UI in the period after participants fulfilled requirements and their interactions with the program had ended, suggesting that the job‐counseling services offered by the program may have helped participants to conduct more effective job searches. Our findings provide evidence that reemployment programs that combine an eligibility review with mandatory participation in job‐search services can be effective during recessions.

Exploring the Influence of Federal Welfare Expenditures on State-Level New Economy Development Performance: Drawing From the Diffusion of Innovation Theory

Source: Geiguen Shin, Jeremy L. Hall, Economic Development Quarterly, First Published June 6, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Functional theory suggests that each level of government expands in the arena in which it can best perform, reducing the price of federalism. Focusing on the functional pattern of American federalism, we suggest that increased federal welfare spending increases state government performance in the “new economy” development policy areas by helping states minimize welfare costs and divert more own-source resources into economic development. The central focus is on the direct and indirect empirical relationships between federal welfare spending and state new economy performance. The authors use an index of innovation capacity that reflects the cumulative performance of a myriad of overlapping and mutually dependent state policies intended to bring about new economy development; this index measures state new economy development performance by focusing on the observable outputs of such polices rather than the adoption, implementation, or substance of individual policy choices. Mediating variables, such as state fiscal comfort and administrative capacity, measure the indirect impact of federal welfare spending on state new economy performance. The authors find that federal welfare spending stimulates state new economy development directly, but also indirectly through its positive impact on both state fiscal comfort and administrative capacity. The findings suggest that federal intergovernmental transfers continue to be an important policy mechanism with spillover effects for state economies.

Privilege on the Precipice: Perceived Racial Status Threats Lead White Americans to Oppose Welfare Programs

Source: Rachel Wetts, Robb Willer, Social Forces, Advance Access, Published: May 31 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Here, we integrate prior work to develop and test a theory of how perceived macro-level trends in racial standing shape whites’ views of welfare policy. We argue that when whites perceive threats to their relative advantage in the racial status hierarchy, their resentment of minorities increases. This increased resentment in turn leads whites to withdraw support for welfare programs when they perceive these programs to primarily benefit minorities. Analysis of American National Election Studies data and two survey-embedded experiments support this reasoning. In Study 1, we find that whites’ racial resentment increased beginning in 2008, the year of Barack Obama’s successful presidential candidacy and a major economic downturn, the latter a factor previously shown to amplify racial threat effects. At the same time, whites’ opposition to welfare increased relative to minorities’. In Study 2, we sought to better establish the causal effect of racial status threats. We found that experimentally presenting information suggesting that the white majority is rapidly declining increased whites’ opposition to welfare, and this effect was mediated by heightened racial resentment. Finally, in Study 3 we found that threatening whites’ sense of their economic advantage over minorities led whites to report greater opposition to welfare programs, but only if these programs were portrayed as primarily benefiting minorities, not if they were portrayed as benefiting whites. These findings suggest that whites’ perceptions that minorities’ standing is rising can produce periods of “welfare backlash” in which adoption of policies restricting or curtailing welfare programs is more likely.

Poor People’s Campaign

Source: Economic Policy Institute, 2018

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized the Poor People’s Campaign to demand economic justice and human rights for all Americans. On the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign, EPI is producing a series of snapshots illuminating why poverty persists and how public policy has helped or fallen short in the goal of eradicating poverty.

Articles include:
50 years after the Poor People’s Campaign, poverty persists because of a stingy safety net and a dysfunctional labor market
Source: Elise Gould and Jessica Schieder, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, May 24, 2018

Poverty persists 50 years after the Poor People’s Campaign: Black poverty rates are more than twice as high as white poverty rates
Source: Elise Gould and Jessica Schieder, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, May 17, 2018

House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill Would Increase Food Insecurity and Hardship

Source: Ed Bolen, Lexin Cai, Stacy Dean, Brynne Keith-Jennings, Catlin Nchako, Dottie Rosenbaum, Elizabeth Wolkomir, May 10, 2018

From the summary:
The nutrition provisions of the farm bill[1] that the House Agriculture Committee (the Committee) passed on April 18, if enacted, would increase food insecurity and hardship. The proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would end or cut benefits for a substantial number of low-income people.

SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans afford a basic diet, with most SNAP participants being children, seniors, or people with disabilities. Despite providing modest benefits — averaging about $1.40 per person per meal — the program combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty, and has long-term positive impacts on health as well as on children’s educational attainment. The Committee’s proposal would reduce SNAP’s effectiveness and put large numbers of families and individuals at increased risk of hardship.