Category Archives: Human Services

An anti-poverty effort created jobs but didn’t fix inequality

Source: Alex Shashkevich, Futurity, November 2, 2017

New research examines former President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty initiative in the 1960s and its legacy in American cities.

In an article in the Journal of Urban History, historian Claire Dunning argues that New Careers, one of Johnson’s lesser-known anti-poverty programs, and the theory behind it contributed to the growth of the nonprofit sector across the United States, but also perpetuated inequality in urban areas. It’s a lesson, Dunning says, that should not be forgotten…..

…..New Careers, which existed between the mid-1960s and early 1970s, awarded grants to a large swath of nonprofit sector organizations, which included large hospitals and schools, as well as small community daycares and health clinics, to create new human services positions for local workers who lacked professional training.

Dunning’s research shows that while New Careers created between 250,000 and 400,000 nonprofessional jobs, according to some estimates, it also inspired a wider approach to creating entry-level jobs in the human services fields. Those jobs—predominantly taken by African-African and Latina women who were typically excluded from contemporary job programs designed for men, like manufacturing—were low wage and without the promised career advancement that eager officials advertised, Dunning says…..

Related:

New Careers for the Poor: Human Services and the Post-Industrial City
Source: Claire Dunning, Journal of Urban History, First Published August 26, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In the 1960s, a new and popular theory of “new careers” proposed to address urban poverty and deindustrialization by growing the human services sector and hiring so-called nonprofessional workers to aid the delivery of those services. This strategy gained traction in social scientific, philanthropic, and bureaucratic circles and shaped Great Society legislation, which allocated federal grants to create entry-level jobs and professionalizing career ladders in the fields of health, education, and welfare. The implementation of this strategy had consequences for the human service organizations that received federal funds, as well as for the people hired into the new positions. Instead of building ladders to professional employment, efforts produced dead-end positions that left the predominantly African American women hired as aides in poverty. Even as the new careers experiment helped usher in a post-industrial economy, it reinforced the stratification of the labor market along lines of race, gender, and credentials.

Persistent Gaps: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2017

Source: Karen Schulman and Helen Blank, National Women’s Law Center, October 2017

From the summary:
Child care is crucial for the well-being of parents, children, and our nation. It makes it possible for parents to work and support their families. It gives children a safe, nurturing environment to learn and develop skills they need to succeed in school and in life. And, by strengthening the current and future workforce, it bolsters our nation’s economy. Yet many families, particularly low-income families, struggle with the high cost of child care. These costs can strain families’ budgets, force parents to use lower-cost care even if they would prefer other options for their children, or prevent parents from working because they cannot afford care. Child care assistance can enable families to overcome these challenges by helping families pay for child care.

Given the importance of child care assistance to families, it is essential for states to have strong child care assistance policies. Under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the major federal child care assistance program, states have flexibility to set policies within federal parameters. This report examines states’ policies in five key areas—income eligibility limits to qualify for child care assistance, waiting lists for child care assistance, copayments required of parents receiving child care assistance, payment rates for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance, and eligibility for child care assistance for parents searching for a job. These policies are fundamental to determining families’ ability to obtain child care assistance and the extent of help that assistance provides.

– Families in 41 states were better off—having greater access to assistance and/or receiving greater benefits from assistance—in February 2017 than in February 2016 under one or more child care assistance policies covered in this report.
– Families in 14 states were worse off under one or more of these policies in February 2017 than in February 2016.

Although there were more improvements than cutbacks between 2016 and 2017, the improvements states made were generally modest and too small to close persistent, substantial gaps in families’ access to assistance and the level of assistance available.

Welfare Benefits and Unemployment in Affluent Democracies: The Moderating Role of the Institutional Insider/Outsider Divide

Source: Thomas Biegert, American Sociological Review, First Published August 29, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The effect of generous welfare benefits on unemployment is highly contested. The dominant perspective contends that benefits provide disincentive to work, whereas others portray benefits as job-search subsidies that facilitate better job matches. Despite many studies of welfare benefits and unemployment, the literature has neglected how this relationship might vary across institutional contexts. This article investigates how unemployment benefits and minimum income benefits affect unemployment across levels of the institutional insider/outsider divide. I analyze the moderating role of the disparity in employment protection for holders of permanent and temporary contracts and of the configuration of wage bargaining. The analysis combines data from 20 European countries and the United States using the European Union Labour Force Survey and the Current Population Survey 1992–2009. I use a pseudo-panel approach, including fixed effects for sociodemographic groups within countries and interactions between benefits and institutions. The results indicate that unemployment benefits and minimum income benefits successfully subsidize job search and reduce unemployment in labor markets with a moderate institutional insider/outsider divide. However, when there is greater disparity in employment protection and when bargaining either combines low unionization with high centralization or high unionization with low centralization, generous benefits create a disincentive to work, plausibly because attractive job opportunities are scarce.

The Promise of the State-Federal Partnership on Workforce and Job Training

Source: National Governors Association and the National Associations of State Workforce Liaisons and State Workforce Board Chairs, 2017

Report from the National Governors Association and the National Associations of State Workforce Liaisons and State Workforce Board Chairs on the importance of strong partnership between states and the federal government on workforce development.

‘What can I do’? Child welfare workers’ perceptions of what they can do to address poverty

Source: Juliana Carlson, Journal of Children and Poverty, Latest Articles, Published online: 02 Aug 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Within the field of child welfare, critical questions have been posed about the intersecting issues of child maltreatment and poverty. The study of the quality and nature of this intersection has continued relevance in light of evidence showing the increased likelihood of maltreatment of children living in poverty. Although child welfare workers interact directly with families involved with the child welfare system, the study of workers’ perceptions of whether or not they address families’ poverty and, if so, how they go about it has not yet been conducted. The study presented begins to address this gap. Analysis from individual interviews with 30 child welfare workers revealed that they differed in their perception of whether or not poverty should be addressed by child welfare and how. Findings suggest workers do what they can despite various barriers, including families’ limitations and the fragile US social welfare safety net. Based on the findings, current practice models and policies that impact poverty and child maltreatment reduction are discussed.

CDBG Works

Source: David W. Burns, Report on City Projects, June 2017

From the summary:
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is the key tool cities use to revitalize low and moderate-income neighborhoods and serve the people who live in them. Administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, CDBG was launched in 1974 and has served thousands of communities across the nation. “Entitlement” communities receive funds directly from the federal government based on a highly targeted formula. The balance of funds go to States which administer CDBG resources to smaller towns and communities on a competitive basis. CDBG allows local governments the flexibility to design their own comprehensive revitalization plans in the context of targeted objectives to serve low and moderate income people. ….

…. CDGB is not just another federal program. It is a lifeline to poor neighborhoods that for too long have suffered disinvestment in both their physical infrastructure and their people. This publication, CDBG WORKS, is designed to illustrate the types of projects CDBG makes possible. CDBG funds housing rehab programs for in-home seniors and those with disabilities, making it possible for them to gain access and stay in their homes. It funds Boys and Girls Clubs to provide youth productive activities as an alternative to the streets. It supports community and social service organizations that provide counseling to victims of domestic violence and those who suffer from homelessness and mental health problems. The list goes on and on. ….

Four charts that show who loses out if the White House cuts food stamps

Source: Orgul Demet Ozturk, The Conversation, July 17, 2017

The White House has proposed cutting 25 percent of SNAP’s budget – about US$193 billion – over the next decade. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though it’s more widely known by its pre-2008 name, food stamps. This program helps about 44 million people per month buy food. Last year, the government spent $71 billion in total on the program. SNAP serves the most vulnerable in our society, for whom a little money means a lot. According to the Congressional Budget Office, cuts to SNAP will likely have a major impact on the individuals who were hurt most by the recent recession. As research from myself and many others shows, food assistance can have far-ranging impacts on a person’s health and well-being…..

State-by-State Child Support Data

Source: Meghan McCann, National Conference of State Legislatures, June 13, 2017

States collected $32.7 billion dollars on behalf of the 15.6 million children served by child support enforcement programs across the country during FY2016, according to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. While collections increased slightly, the child support caseload continues to decline, down by 1.5 percent over FY 2015. The cost effectiveness of the program reached a four-year high with $5.33 being collected for every $1 dollar spent on the program. Below is a 50-state breakdown of total distributed collections, total arrearages, amount of current support due, total caseload and total administrative expenditures over the past four years.

Why poverty is not a personal choice, but a reflection of society

Source: Shervin Assari, The Conversation, June 30, 2017

…. I believe one reason the United States is cutting spending on health insurance and safety nets that protect poor and marginalized people is because of American culture, which overemphasizes individual responsibility. Our culture does this to the point that it ignores the effect of root causes shaped by society and beyond the control of the individual. How laypeople define and attribute poverty may not be that much different from the way U.S. policymakers in the Senate see poverty.

As someone who studies poverty solutions and social and health inequalities, I am convinced by the academic literature that the biggest reason for poverty is how a society is structured. Without structural changes, it may be very difficult if not impossible to eliminate disparities and poverty. ….

The Trump team’s poor arguments for slashing SNAP

Source: Patricia Smith, The Conversation, June 25, 2017

The Trump administration aims to slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by US$193 billion over the next decade. The proposal would also overhaul how the nation’s main nutrition assistance program operates, potentially encouraging additional cuts by the states.

Curbing SNAP’s reach is only one way that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and other officials are trying to trim the safety net to save taxpayer dollars – while simultaneously boosting military spending.

As an economist who studies nutrition policy, I don’t understand what good the administration thinks it can do by overhauling and paring back an effective and efficient program. By many measures, SNAP successfully satisfies an essential human need and fulfills its mandate to promote the general welfare….