Category Archives: Human Services

The Effect of Rising Income Inequality on Taxation and Public Expenditures: Evidence From U.S. Municipalities and School Districts, 1970–2000

Source: Leah Boustan, Fernando Ferreira, Hernan Winkler, and Eric M. Zolt, Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 95, No. 4, October 2013

From the abstract:
The income distribution in many developed countries widened dramatically from 1970 to 2000. Some scholars argue that income inequality contributes to a host of social ills by undermining voters’ willingness to support public expenditures. In contrast, we find that growing income inequality is associated with an expansion in government revenues and expenditures on a wide range of services in U.S. municipalities and school districts. Results are robust to a number of model specifications, including instrumental variables that address the endogeneity of the local income distribution. Our results are inconsistent with models predicting that heterogeneous societies provide lower levels of public goods….

The Welfare Costs of Skill-Mismatch Employment

Source: David M. Arseneau and Brendan Epstein, Federal Reserve Board, 2014-42, This Draft: June 2, 2014

Skill-mismatch employment occurs when high-skilled individuals accept employment in jobs for which they are over-qualified. These employment relationships can be beneficial because they allow high-skilled individuals to more rapidly transition out of unemployment. They come at the cost, however, in the form of lower wage compensation. Moreover, an externality arises as high-skilled individuals do not take into account the affect that their search activity in the market for low-tech jobs has on low-skilled individuals. This paper presents a tractable general equilibrium model featuring mismatch employment and on-the-job search to articulate these tradeoffs. We derive a set of efficiency conditions that describe the labor market distortions associated with these two model features and illustrate how they alter the standard notion of the labor wedges inherent in general equilibrium search models. Finally, we calibrate the model to U.S. data and show that the distortions associated with mismatch employment are largely distributional and can be quantitatively large.

Why Do SSI and SNAP Enrollments Rise in Good Economic Times and Bad?

Source: Matthew S. Rutledge and April Yanyuan Wu, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Working Paper, WP#2014-10, June 2014

From the abstract:
The number of participants in the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) skyrocketed during the Great Recession. But more surprising is that caseloads for both programs increased during the preceding expansion and during the nascent recovery period after the Great Recession. Using both administrative program data and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), this project investigates the persistent growth in SSI and SNAP since 2000. Whereas the existing literature on program caseloads in the post-welfare reform era generally excludes the elderly from the analysis, this project is the first to investigate differences in elderly and non-elderly caseloads, allowing for differential responsiveness over time. Preliminary estimates suggest that the correlation between SSI and SNAP caseloads and economic well-being, and, separately, caseloads and health, grew stronger over this time. Coupled with a poverty rate that did not fall along with the unemployment rate, and with an increase in the share of the population reporting poor or fair health, these correlations helped lead to caseloads that remained roughly constant (SSI) or even increased (SNAP) during the most recent expansion, rather than falling as expected. The increases in caseloads stem both from increases in the entry rates among the newly eligible – particularly those in poor health – and from decreases in exit rates among low-income beneficiaries.

Responding to the Affordable Care Act: A Leadership Opportunity for Social Workers in Employee Assistance Programs

Source: Susan Frauenholtz, Health & Social Work, Advance Access, First published online: June 25, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Until recently, estimates indicated that more than half of Americans obtain health insurance through their employers. Yet the employer-based system leaves many vulnerable populations, such as low-wage and part-time workers, without coverage. The changes authorized by the Affordable Care Act (2010), and in particular the Health Insurance Marketplace (also known as health insurance exchanges), which became operational in 2014, are projected to have a substantial impact on the provision of employer-based health care coverage. Because health insurance is so intricately woven with employment, social workers in employee assistance programs (EAPs) are positioned to assume an active leadership role in guiding and developing the needed changes to employer-based health care that will occur as the result of health care reform. This article describes the key features and functions of the Health Insurance Marketplace and proposes an innovative role for EAP social workers in implementing the exchanges within their respective workplaces and communities. How EAP social workers can act as educators, advocates, and brokers of the exchanges, and the challenges they may face in their new roles, are discussed, and the next steps EAP social workers can take to prepare for health reform–related workplace changes are delineated.

A State Policy Framework for Integrating Health and Social Services

Source: Tricia McGinnis, Maia Crawford, and Stephen A. Somers, Commonwealth Fund, Issue Brief, Commonwealth Fund pub. 1757 Vol. 14, July 2014

From the summary:
A State Policy Framework for Integrating Health and Social ServicesThere is growing recognition that social factors — such as individual behavior, socioeconomic status, and the physical environment — have a greater impact on health outcomes than medical care. More and more states are seeking to rethink traditional health care delivery and, in doing so, integrate health care, public health, and social services to help achieve improved population health, better care, and reduced cost of care. This brief from The Commonwealth Fund, authored by the Center for Health Care Strategies, describes three essential components for integrating health — encompassing physical and behavioral health services and public health – and social services. These components are: (1) a coordinating mechanism; (2) quality measurement and data-sharing tools; and (3) aligned financing and payment. The authors present a five-step policy framework to help states move beyond isolated pilot efforts and establish the infrastructure necessary to support ongoing integration of health and social services, particularly for Medicaid beneficiaries. The brief draws from conversations with state officials and health policy experts across the country.

States Respond to Wealth Gap

Source: Jake Grovum,, June 12, 2014

…Polls show inequality to be a growing public concern. A Pew Research Center survey this year found 65 percent of all Americans believed inequality was growing, and Gallup found similar results. Partisan differences abound: 90 percent of Democrats in the Pew poll thought there was “a lot” or “some” actions government could take about inequality. Half of Republicans said there was “not much” or “nothing” government could do.

Those differences carried over to the states, where responses in blue versus red states seemed at times as vast as research has shown the wealth gap itself to be. This year, lawmakers sought to do something about inequality, from giving tax breaks to individuals and businesses to bolstering safety net programs and clamping down on corporate pay….

Some patterns emerge from the inequality data:
∙ Among the top 10 most unequal counties, six are in the South, including two in Georgia;
∙ Eighteen of the most unequal 25 counties are in the South;
∙ Three are in the area around New York City, while the city itself has the most billionaires in the world.

The Effect of Child Health Insurance Access on Schooling: Evidence from Public Insurance Expansions

Source: Sarah Cohodes, Samuel A. Kleiner, Michael Lovenheim, Dan Grossman, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w20178, May 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public health insurance programs comprise a large share of federal and state government expenditure, and these programs are due to be expanded as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Despite a large literature on the effects of these programs on health care utilization and health outcomes, little prior work has examined the long-term effects of these programs and resultant health improvements on important outcomes, such as educational attainment. We contribute to filling this gap in the literature by examining the effects of the public insurance expansions among children in the 1980s and 1990s on their future educational attainment. Our findings indicate that expanding health insurance coverage for low-income children has large effects on high school completion, college attendance and college completion. These estimates are robust to only using federal Medicaid expansions, and they are mostly due to expansions that occur when the children are older (i.e., not newborns). We present suggestive evidence that better health is one of the mechanisms driving our results by showing that Medicaid eligibility when young translated into better teen health. Overall, our results indicate that the long-run benefits of public health insurance are substantial.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Pilot Projects

Source: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), 2014

In February 2014, Congress reauthorized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the Farm Bill). This legislation included $200 million for the creation and evaluation of pilot projects to test innovative strategies designed to help SNAP participants gain skills, training, or experience that will improve their employment prospects and reduce their reliance on SNAP benefits. Ten states will be selected to receive funding under this opportunity.

These pilots, funded through the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program, represent an important opportunity to improve programs aimed at helping SNAP participants get jobs and increase their earnings. Beyond assisting pilot participants, lawmakers and advocates will look to the pilots to inform future policymaking about SNAP work requirements and services at both the federal and state levels. The pilots also provide an opportunity to develop innovative partnerships between SNAP and workforce programs, and for stakeholders to learn about effective strategies that help eligible SNAP participants get jobs and increase their earnings.

CLASP has recently released several background briefs to provide information on this new opportunity and to assist states seeking funding under this pilot opportunity:

SNAP E&T Overview describes the E&T program; the different types of funding it offers; the services it can support; and the ways it interacts with the SNAP work activity participation requirements and time limits on benefit receipt by childless adults who are not receiving disability benefits.

SNAP E&T Pilots highlights the significance of SNAP E&T programs for SNAP recipients who work; the statutory requirements for the pilots; and the opportunities they represent. It includes recommendations to FNS and states on ways to maximize the effectiveness of the pilots.

Washington BFET highlights the Washington Basic Food (SNAP) Employment and Training Program, one of the most robust SNAP E&T programs in the country. BFET is a public-private partnership wherein investments made by state and local government and philanthropy collaborate to leverage additional federal SNAP E&T funding to provide job search and training services to recipients of SNAP. This is the first in a series of briefs highlighting promising practices under SNAP E&T.

Human Capital Effects of Anti-Poverty Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Lottery

Source: Brian A. Jacob, Max Kapustin, Jens Ludwig, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w20164, May 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Whether government transfer programs increase the human capital of low-income children is a question of first-order policy importance. Such policies might help poor children if their parents are credit constrained, and so under-invest in their human capital. But it is also possible that whatever causes parents to have low incomes might also directly influence children’s development, in which case transfer programs need not improve poor children’s long-term life chances. While several recent influential studies suggest anti-poverty programs have larger human capital effects per dollar spent than do even the best educational interventions, identification is a challenge because most transfer programs are entitlements. We overcome that problem by studying the effects on children of a generous transfer program that is heavily rationed—means-tested housing assistance. We take advantage of a randomized housing voucher lottery in Chicago in 1997, for which 82,607 people applied, and use administrative data on schooling, arrests, and health to track children’s outcomes over 14 years. We focus on families living in unsubsidized private housing at baseline, for whom voucher receipt generates large changes in both housing and non-housing consumption. Estimated effects are mostly statistically insignificant and always much smaller than those from recent studies of cash transfers, and are smaller on a per dollar basis than the best educational interventions.

Hunger Doesn’t take a Vacation – Summer Nutrition Status Report 2014

Source: Kate Sims, Signe Anderson, Crystal FitzSimons, Michael Burke, and Hannah Kapp-Klote, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), June 2014

The summer of 2013 marked an important potential turning point for the Summer Nutrition Programs. The substantive increase in the number of children served demonstrates what is possible when USDA leads the charge, state child nutrition agencies rally in support of the programs, and national, state, and local organizations work together to expand the programs’ reach. USDA’s expansion campaign has created strong momentum to continue growing participation. A steady and strong focus on program expansion—including aggressive outreach and promotion of the programs; policy solutions to the administrative barriers that limit participation; and improvements to the nutrition quality and appeal of the meals served—is necessary to continue to increase access to the Summer Nutrition Programs. The programs need to reach more of the low-income children who rely on school lunch during the school year. Serving just one hungry child in seven is not enough. The 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization also provides an important opportunity to invest in the Summer Nutrition Programs so they are better able to serve low-income children and support summer programming and activities, ensuring that children return to school in the fall well-nourished and ready to learn.