Category Archives: Human Services

The Federal Experiment with Evidence-Based Funding: Lessons from the Home Visiting Program

Source: Philip G. Peters Jr., University of Missouri at Columbia – School of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-22, July 31, 2014

From the abstract:
Congress spends billions of dollars each year on social programs that don’t work. To cure this, both Congress and the current Administration have turned to small competitive funding programs, like the Investing in Innovation program, to find and fund programs with the strongest evidence of impact. Yet, the largest federal programs are formula-based, not competitive. They distribute over $300 billion annually using formulas based on factors like population and poverty. This Article explores whether formula-based programs can also be designed to restrict funding to interventions that are genuinely evidence-based.

The challenge of directing money to proven service models is more daunting for formula funding than for competitive programs because the government must set minimum eligibility thresholds in advance of funding. It cannot wait to see which proposals are the strongest. Nuanced multi-factor evaluation at the end of the grant process must be replaced with clear, demanding, and yet realistic minimum standards at the front end.

To examine the feasibility of this project, this Article examines the first major evidence-based and formula-funded program enacted by Congress — the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. I conclude that Congress can indeed create a formula-based allocation process that restricts funding to genuinely proven programs, but that doing so will require more demanding proof standards than those imposed by the Home Visiting Program. I then offer a roadmap for revising the Program and for enacting a second generation of evidence-based programs that are much more likely to substantially improve the lives of America’s children and families.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Source: Council of State Governments, July 2014

Congress’ swift passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) demonstrates the importance of modernizing workforce and jobs training programs to help equip workers with the skills needed for 21st century jobs. Shrinking the skills gap and placing workers in good-paying jobs is the cornerstone of CSG’s 2014 “State Pathways to Prosperity” initiative, and this legislation is an important step. This memorandum will provide an overview of WIOA and the key changes for states.

Immigration, Search, and Redistribution: A Quantitative Assessment of Native Welfare

Source: Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr, Giovanni Peri, Panu Poutvaara, NBER Working Paper No. 20131, May 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We study the effects of immigration on native welfare in a general equilibrium model featuring two skill types, search frictions, wage bargaining, and a redistributive welfare state. Our quantitative analysis suggests that, in all 20 countries studied, immigration attenuates the effects of search frictions. These gains tend to outweigh the welfare costs of redistribution. Immigration has increased native welfare in almost all countries. Both high-skilled and low-skilled natives benefit in two thirds of countries, contrary to what models without search frictions predict. Median total gains from migration are 1.19% and 1.00% for high and low skilled natives, respectively.
Evidence that a stingy welfare state helps America absorb immigrants
Source: Economist, July 12, 2014
(subscription required)

Unlike in some European countries, it is extremely hard for an able-bodied immigrant to live off the state. A law passed in 1996 explicitly bars most immigrants, even those with legal status, from receiving almost any federal benefits. That is one reason why America absorbs immigrants better than many other rich countries, according to a new study by Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis, and Michele Battisti, Gabriel Felbermayr and Panu Poutvaara, all from Germany’s Ifo Institute. These economists sought to measure the effect of immigration on the native-born in 20 rich countries, taking into account differences in skills between immigrants and natives, imperfect labour markets and the size of the welfare state in each country. Their results offer ammunition for fans of more open borders. In 19 out of 20 countries, the authors calculated that shutting the doors entirely to foreign workers would make the native-born worse off. (Never mind what it would do to the immigrants themselves, who benefit far more than anyone else from being allowed to cross borders to find work.) The study also suggests that most countries could handle more immigration than they currently allow. In America, a one-percentage point increase in the proportion of immigrants in the population made the native-born 0.05% better off….

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.