Category Archives: Human Services

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.

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.