Category Archives: Human Services

How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?

Source: Elaine Waxman, Craig Gundersen, Megan Thompson, Urban Institute, February 22, 2018

From the abstract:
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aims to reduce hunger and food insecurity by supplementing the purchasing power of low-income families. This analysis explores the adequacy of SNAP benefits by comparing the maximum SNAP benefit per meal with the average cost of a low-cost meal in the U.S., adjusting for geographic variations in food prices across counties in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, DC. We find that average cost of a low-income meal is $2.36, 27 percent higher than the SNAP maximum benefit per meal of $1.86, which takes into account the maximum benefit available to households of varying sizes. The SNAP per meal benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal in 99 percent of US continental counties and the District of Columbia.

Related:
Interactive map showing this data at the county level

State of the Union

Source: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, Pathways, Special Issue, 2018

From the summary:
The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality is pleased to present its fifth annual report examining the state of the union. In this year’s report, we provide a comprehensive assessment of gender inequality in eleven domains ranging from education to health, employment, earnings, poverty, sexual harassment, networks, and more. The report concludes with a discussion of the most promising sciencebased policies for reducing gender inequality at home and in the labor market.

Articles include:
Gender Identification
Aliya Saperstein
The traditional gender binary just doesn’t work. When respondents of a national survey were asked about their femininity and masculinity, 7 percent considered themselves equally feminine and masculine, and another 4 percent responded in ways that did not “match” their sex at birth (i.e., females who saw themselves as more masculine than feminine, or males who saw themselves as more feminine than masculine).

Education
Erin M. Fahle and Sean F. Reardon
Despite common beliefs to the contrary, male students do not consistently outperform female students in mathematics. It’s only in high school that the male advantage in mathematics surfaces. What’s going on?

Health
Mark Duggan and Valerie Scimeca
For women and men alike, life expectancy has stagnated for the last several years, primarily due to increases in drug poisoning deaths and in the suicide rate. The male-female life expectancy gap, which favors females, fell from 7.6 years in 1970 to 4.8 years in 2010, a reduction of more than one-third.

Employment
Melissa S. Kearney and Katharine G. Abraham
After rising steadily for many decades, the overall female employment rate has been falling since 2000. Why has it fallen? Are there straightforward policy fixes that could increase women’s employment?

Earnings
Emmanuel Saez
When gender differences in labor force participation, fringe benefits, and self-employment income are taken into account, women earn only 57 cents for each dollar earned by men.

Poverty
H. Luke Shaefer, Marybeth Mattingly, and Kathryn Edin
Are women more likely than men to be in deep poverty, official poverty, and near poverty? Yes, yes, and yes.

Safety Net
Linda M. Burton, Marybeth Mattingly, Juan Pedroza, and Whitney Welsh
Why do women use safety net programs more than men? A hint: It’s not just because they’re more likely to be eligible for them.

Occupational Segregation
Kim A. Weeden, Mary Newhart, and Dafna Gelbgiser
Nearly half of the women in the labor force would have to move to a different occupation to eliminate all occupational segregation by gender. This is a classic case of stalled change: If recent rates of change are extrapolated, it would take 330 years to reach full integration.

Discrimination
David S. Pedulla
A new science of gender discrimination is being built with audit studies and other experiments. A key result: Gender discrimination is more likely to emerge when the applicant’s commitment to work can be called into question or when an applicant is behaving in a gender-nonconforming way.

Workplace Sexual Harassment
Amy Blackstone, Heather McLaughlin, and Christopher Uggen
The workplace is rife with sexual harassment. By age 25 to 26, one in three women and one in seven men experience behavior at work that they define as sexual harassment.

Social Networks
Adina D. Sterling
Although men used to have more social ties than men, now the gender gap has reversed and women have the larger networks. But women still have fewer coworker ties than men … and coworker ties matter a lot.

Policy
Marianne Cooper and Shelley J. Correll
What are the most promising science-based policies for reducing gender inequality at home and in the labor market?

Inequality and Competition in State Redistributive Systems: Evidence From Welfare and Health

Source: NakHyeok Choi, Milena I. Neshkova, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published March 5, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
When determining their redistributive budgets, states must strike a subtle balance—to provide for their needy residents without becoming a “welfare magnet” and attracting poor individuals from neighboring states. We examine the competing incentives that state politicians face in federal systems and their effects on program accessibility and redistributive spending across U.S. states between 2005 and 2011. Comparing two redistributive programs under state control—Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—we find strong evidence of interstate competition in the case of cash assistance programs, but less evidence in the case of health care. Yet our data show that states do not alter their policies in response to rising inequality, that is, when the median voter becomes poorer than the average voter. Moreover, the Great Recession had a greater impact on TANF than Medicaid. We attribute these differential effects to different funding mechanisms used by the federal government to finance the two state-administered programs.

The Relationship between Union Membership and Net Fiscal Impact

Source: Aaron Sojourner, José Pacas, IZA – Institute of Labor Economics, IZA DP No. 11310, January 2018

This paper develops the first evidence on how individuals’ union membership status affects their net fiscal impact, the difference between taxes they pay and cost of public benefits they receive, enriching our understanding of how labor relations interacts with public economics. Current Population Survey data between 1994 and 2015 in pooled crosssections and individual first-difference models yield evidence that union membership has a positive net fiscal impact through the worker-level channels studied.

The High-Tech Poorhouse: An Interview with Virginia Eubanks

Source: Sam Adler-Bell, Jacobin, January 29, 2018

When algorithms are introduced into public assistance programs, the effects are rarely good for poor and working-class beneficiaries. ….

…. Virginia Eubanks, associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, SUNY, has spent the past several years exploring how automation has played out in the American welfare system. Her new book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, investigates three experiments in which algorithms are replacing or augmenting human decision-making in public assistance: Indiana’s automated Medicaid eligibility process; Los Angeles’s coordinated entry system for the homeless; and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania’s predictive algorithm for assessing childhood risk of abuse and neglect. …..

SNAP Is Linked with Improved Nutritional Outcomes and Lower Health Care Costs

Source: Steven Carlson and Brynne Keith-Jennings, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 17, 2018

From the summary:
New and emerging research links the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, with improved health outcomes and lower health care costs. This research adds to previous work showing SNAP’s powerful capacity to help families buy adequate food, reduce poverty, and help stabilize the economy during recessions…..

The Bureaucratic Nightmare of Incrementalism

Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, January 17, 2018

America’s patchwork system of social services makes it hard to care for ourselves. ….

….It’s actually less expensive to spend public money on shelter instead — and meanwhile, people who receive shelter see significantly better health outcomes, which can help them attain overall stability.

Some cities and states have recently acknowledged this calculus. Salt Lake City’s enormously successful Housing First initiative has reduced chronic homelessness in the city by 91 percent by providing housing to homeless people without requiring proof of employment, treatment, or counseling — the principle being that housing comes first, making other services easier to administer. Houston, too, has seen major improvement in both homeless people’s health outcomes and the city’s budget with its Integrated Care for the Chronically Homeless program, which uses Medicaid funding to provide permanent supportive housing units to homeless people who make at least three emergency room visits over two years.

These initiatives are a big step in the right direction, since they take into account the close relationship between health care and housing security — issues that are usually siloed to detrimental effect. But programs like these face serious obstacles. In particular, it’s extremely hard to coordinate among a kaleidoscope of separate federal, state, and local agencies, social program stipulations, and funding streams..;…

The Resurgence of Universal Basic Income

Source: Kody Carmody, Econ Focus, Third Quarter, 2017

Concerns about the effects of automation have brought an old policy proposal back into the limelight. …. Today, a new set of techno-optimists argue that coming advances in automation and artificial intelligence will finally fulfill Keynes’ prediction, replacing most human labor. Even if machines don’t cause widespread unemployment, they have caused and surely will continue to cause substantial labor market shocks in specific industries. These concerns have breathed new life into the discussion over a policy now called universal basic income, or UBI.

Many variations have been proposed, but UBI generally refers to regular cash payments that would go to individuals regardless of work status or income (that’s the “universal”) and would cover some minimum standard of living (that’s the “basic”). ….

At the same time, questions remain about how it could be done and its effects…..

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.