Category Archives: Human Services

A Path Out Of Poverty: Career Training + Quality Pre K

Source: Eric Westervelt, NPR, April 28, 2017

What makes a high-quality learning program effective not just for the child but the whole family? What else, besides a well-run pre-K, is essential to help families break out of intergenerational poverty? These are some of the key questions that an approach called “two-generation” programs are working to answer. There are many of these “two-gen” programs across the U.S. And while they differ in emphasis and detail, at their core they intentionally focus on ways to help both the child and parent. Usually this happens through targeted education and career training and other vital support such as health services, mentoring, and transportation. NPR Ed has been keeping an eye on one innovative two-gen program in Oklahoma. It’s called Career Advance and is run by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County (CAP Tulsa). I’ve reported on it here and here. It gives low-income mothers access to high-quality Head Start for their children, alongside free career training in nursing and other in-demand health care fields as well as life coaching and support.

Do state spending differences create an unequal playing field for children?

Source: Julia B. Isaacs, Urban Institute, April 25, 2017

Some states spend less on their children than others, including public education, health, and social services costs. Arizona, for example, spent less than $4,900 per child in 2013, whereas New York spent slightly more than $12,200 per child (after adjusting for cost of living).

These wide disparities in public investment raise concerns about whether children nationwide are on equal footing when pursuing the American Dream. Though children’s outcomes are affected by many factors, health and education outcomes tend to be better in states that spend more on children.

Differences in K–12 education funding cause most of these differences. New York also spends more per capita than Arizona on Medicaid services for children, cash assistance, child welfare services, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, child care assistance, and child support enforcement. In addition, New York has a state earned income tax credit, but Arizona does not…..
Unequal Playing Field? State Differences in Spending on Children in 2013
Source: Julia B. Isaacs, Sara Edelstein, Urban Institute, Research Report, April 25, 2017

From the abstract:
For children to thrive and reach their full potential, they need adequate food and shelter, high-quality health care and education, safe environments, and supportive parents and families. Though families play a key role in meeting children’s needs, society also provides resources and services to support children’s healthy development.

Through their funding of public schools, health systems, and social services, state and local governments provide resources and services to support children’s healthy development. Although not all investments translate directly into better child outcomes, a wide disparity in public investments raises concerns about whether children from low-spending states are on equal footing when pursuing the American Dream….

Are Parental Welfare Work Requirements Good for Disadvantaged Children? Evidence From Age-of-Youngest-Child Exemptions

Source: Chris M. Herbst, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 36, Issue 2, Spring 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper assesses the impact of welfare reform’s parental work requirements on low-income children’s cognitive and social-emotional development. The identification strategy exploits an important feature of the work requirement rules—namely, age-of-youngest-child exemptions—as a source of quasi-experimental variation in first-year maternal employment. The 1996 welfare reform law empowered states to exempt adult recipients from the work requirements until the youngest child reaches a certain age. This led to substantial variation in the amount of time that mothers can remain home with a newborn child. I use this variation to estimate the impact of work-requirement-induced increases in maternal employment. Using a sample of infants from the Birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, the reduced form and instrumental variables estimates reveal sizable negative effects of maternal employment. An auxiliary analysis of mechanisms finds that working mothers experience an increase in depressive symptoms, and are less likely to breastfeed and read to their children. In addition, such children are exposed to nonparental child care arrangements at a younger age, and they spend more time in these settings throughout the first year of life.

How Are SNAP Benefits Spent? Evidence from a Retail Panel

Source: Justine S. Hastings, Jesse M. Shapiro, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 23112, January 2017
(subscription required)

We use a novel retail panel with more than six years of detailed transaction records to study the effect of participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on household spending. We frame our approach using novel administrative data from the state of Rhode Island. The marginal propensity to consume SNAP-eligible food (MPCF) out of SNAP benefits is 0.5 to 0.6. The MPCF out of cash is much smaller. These patterns obtain even for households for whom SNAP benefits are economically equivalent to cash in the sense that benefits do not cover all food spending. We reject the hypothesis that households respect the fungibility of money in a semiparametric setup. A post-hoc model of mental accounting rationalizes these facts and others.

States Perform

Source: Council of State Governments, 2017

States Perform provides users with access to interactive, customizable and up-to-date comparative performance measurement data for 50 states in six key areas: fiscal and economic, public safety and justice, energy and environment, transportation, health and human services, and education. Compare performance across a few or all states, profile one state, view trends over time, and customize your results with graphs and maps.

“You are in a better position to protect people when you feel like you’re protected yourself” : to what extent does union membership and ethical clinical social work practice align? : an exploratory study

Source: Robyn K. Douglass, Smith College School for Social Work, Masters Thesis, 1705, Publication Date 2016

From the abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the question: “to what extent does union membership and ethical clinical social work practice align?” by interviewing Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) working within unionized environments. The study focused on the experience of these clinicians within their current working environment and how being a union member allowed them to be able to provide ethical clinical social work practice to their clients/patients. The most compelling findings from this research were that the clinicians felt that union membership did align with providing ethical clinical social work practice to their populations within their agencies or organizations. There were limitations and concerns when it came to union participation in the form of a strike. Participants had mixed responses regarding the ethical considerations that come about as a result of a strike and how it could potentially impact their clients/patients negatively. Implications for social practice and policy highlight the need for further research in how the values of both labor unions and the field of clinical social work are closely aligned and in turn how can that help clinicians provide the most ethical care possible.

Drug Testing Unemployment Insurance Applicants: An Unconstitutional Solution in Search of a Problem

Source: Rontel Batie, George Wentworth, National Employment Law Project (NELP), Policy Brief, February 2017

From the summary:
Historically, states have never drug tested applicants for unemployment insurance (UI), primarily because the Social Security Act prohibits states from adding qualifying requirements that do not relate to the “fact or cause” of a worker’s unemployment. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, however, some states, in a misguided effort to try to contain the high costs of their UI programs due to high unemployment rates, began clamoring to drug test UI applicants. Their hypothesis (without any facts or data to back it up) was that claims would somehow substantially decrease, either as workers tested positive for drugs or declined to apply because of their drug use.

Mindful of the goal of drug-free workplaces but also of the lack of any data that drug use was an issue among the unemployed, in 2012, Congress reached a narrow compromise on drug testing UI claimants, one that took into account the serious constitutional issues with suspicionless drug testing. Congress agreed to allow, not require, states to test UI claimants in two specific, narrow circumstances: (1) workers who had been discharged from their last job because of unlawful drug use, and (2) workers looking for jobs in occupations where applicants and employees are subject to regular drug testing. Consistent with the new federal law, the U.S. Department of Labor issued regulations that closely tracked the legislation, defining occupations subject to regular testing to mean occupations where testing is legally required (either now or in the future), and not merely permitted.

Congressional Republicans, unhappy with the compromise they agreed to in 2012, have criticized the Labor Department regulations since they were proposed, claiming they were too narrowly drawn even though they closely tracked the legislation. The House of Representatives is now planning to invoke the Congressional Review Act to invalidate these regulations; and presumably, proponents of drug testing are counting on passage of a bill introduced in the 114th Congress by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) that would effectively allow states to drug test all jobless workers filing for unemployment insurance. This bill, which we expect will be reintroduced shortly, would allow states to define occupations that “regularly” drug test to include all occupations where testing (including pre-employment testing) is permitted. If passed, this bill would open the floodgates for states to arbitrarily and unconstitutionally drug test its citizens solely because they are applying for UI benefits.

No one should be so confident that this bill could pass the Senate. Proponents have been trying to build support for drug testing UI claimants for years; but for the very narrow compromise reached in 2012, there has been no wider bipartisan support for the policy. Indeed, that is because such drug testing is simply another humiliation piled onto unemployed workers—a hurdle designed to be so stigmatizing that it discourages people from even applying for a benefit that they have earned in the first place….

Report to the New Leadership and the American People on Social Insurance and Inequality

Source: Benjamin W. Veghte, Elliot Schreur, and Alexandra L. Bradley (eds.), National Academy of Social Insurance, January 2017

From the abstract:
Our nation’s social insurance infrastructure forms the foundation of economic and health security for American workers and their families. Like all infrastructure, it must be periodically strengthened and modernized if it is to continue to meet the needs of a changing economy and society. This Report presents the new Administration and Congress with a range of evidence-based policy options, developed by the nation’s top social insurance experts, for doing so.

The first part of the Report takes stock of the policy challenges facing existing social insurance programs: Social Security, the major health insurance programs, and Unemployment Insurance. The second part discusses potential new directions for social insurance in coping with emerging needs in the areas of long-term services and supports, caregiving supports, and nonstandard work.

Children’s health insurance, family income, and welfare enrollment

Source: Martin Saavedra, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 73, February 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Children from wealthier families are more likely to have health insurance than children from poorer families on average. However, the relationship between family income and health insurance is non-linear, as children near the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) are less likely to be insured than children from both wealthier families (who obtain health insurance from the private market) and poorer families (who obtain government-funded health insurance). This health insurance dip has persisted even as Medicaid has been expanded to cover those above the FPL. One explanation for this is that families who are far below the poverty line are better connected to the welfare system, and consequently, are more likely to enroll in Medicaid. This study uses data from the 2001–2013 Current Population Surveys and finds that (1) controlling for many of the determinants of eligibility, those on other forms of government assistance are more likely to have health insurance, and (2) the relationship between family income and children’s health insurance status is strictly increasing after controlling for enrollment in other welfare programs


• Children near the poverty line are some of the least likely to have health insurance.
• Children on public assistance are more likely to have insurance.
• The insurance-income relationship is increasing after controlling for welfare enrollment.

What everyone should know about their state’s budget

Source: Urban Institute, 2017
[tool was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation]

State and local governments educate schoolchildren, train the future workforce, care for the sick and elderly, build roads, patrol neighborhoods, extinguish fires, and maintain parks. In short, they’re pretty important. But few Americans understand where their state and local tax dollars go and to what effect. It’s not just the amount of money spent that matters, it’s why that money is spent the way it is.

Through this web tool, we aim to fill that knowledge gap. The tool allows users to get under the hood of their government and understand not only how much a state spends but also what drives that spending.

To do this, we apply a basic framework to all major areas of government spending. The framework says that state spending per capita is both a function of how many people receive a service and how much that service costs the state for each recipient. ….

…In this tool, you’ll see the spending per capita breakdown for all states and the District of Columbia across all major functional categories. It allows you to see how each state ranks, and you can sort by any factor you choose. (One frequent outlier is DC; though included in the rankings, it often functions more like a city than a state) We’ve included some annotations to guide you along the way. By exploring the tool, you’ll gain a sense of how much each state spends on any given area and why states spend what they do. ….