Category Archives: Poverty

Does Administrative Burden Influence Public Support for Government Programs? Evidence from a Survey Experiment

Source: Lael R. Keiser, Susan M. Miller, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
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From the abstract:
Research indicates that administrative burden influences the behaviors and views of clients and potential clients of government programs. However, administrative burden may also shape mass attitudes toward government programs. Taking a behavioral public administration approach, the authors consider whether and how exposure to information about administrative burden embedded within eligibility‐based programs influences citizen favorability toward those programs. It is hypothesized that if information about the existing screening mechanisms is highlighted and made salient, this will lead to greater approval of eligibility‐based programs. This expectation is evaluated using a survey experiment that explores administrative burden in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The evidence shows that being exposed to information about administrative burden increases favorability toward TANF and its recipients, though these effects are conditional on party identification. The results provide insight into a potential consequence of administrative burden, showing the way in which information regarding burden can shape citizens’ support for eligibility‐based programs.

Evidence for Practice
– Public managers in social welfare programs face challenges in gaining public support because of the stigma associated with these programs.
– The evidence suggests that giving the public information about program screening improves views toward welfare programs.
– Increasing awareness about program screening processes may be beneficial. However, public officials should consider potential trade‐offs, such as discouraging applications.

Why is the American South Poorer?

Source: Regina S Baker, Social Forces, Advance Access, December 12 2019
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From the abstract:
While American poverty research has devoted greater attention to poverty in the Northeast and Midwest, poverty has been persistently higher in the U.S. South than in the other regions. Thus, this study investigates the enduring question of why poverty is higher in the South. Specifically, it demonstrates the role of power resources as an explanation for this regional disparity, yet also considers family demography, economic structure, and racial/ethnic heterogeneity. Using six waves (2000–2016) of U.S. Census Current Population Survey data from the Luxembourg Income Study (N = 1,157,914), this study employs a triangulation of analytic techniques: (1) tests of means and proportion differences, (2) multilevel linear probability models of poverty, and (3) binary decomposition of the South/non-South poverty gap. The comparison of means associated with the power resource hypothesis yields the largest substantive differences between the South and the non-South. In the multilevel models, adjusting for power resources yields the largest declines in the South coefficient. Binary decomposition results indicate power resources are the second most influential factor explaining the South/non-South poverty gap. Overall, power resources are an important source of the South/non-South poverty gap, though economic structure and other factors certainly also play a role. Results also suggest an important interplay between power resources and race. Altogether, these results underscore the importance of macrolevel characteristics of places, including political and economic contexts, in shaping individual poverty and overall patterns of inequality.

The Costs of Being Poor: Inflation Inequality Leads to Three Million More People in Poverty

Source: Christopher Wimer, Sophie Collyer, Xavier Jaravel, Columbia University, Center on Poverty and Social Policy and London School of Economics, November 2019

From the summary:
It is widely recognized that income inequality has skyrocketed in recent decades. Incomes at the top of the distribution have grown rapidly, far outpacing income growth at the bottom. Recent research also shows that prices have risen more quickly for people at the bottom of the income distribution than for those at the top —a phenomenon dubbed “inflation inequality.” An implication of this new finding is that we may be under-estimating income inequality and poverty rates in the United States—two national statistics that rely heavily on the annual inflation rate as part of their calculation. In this brief, we utilize an adjusted inflation index that accounts for inflation inequality across the income distribution and re-estimate recent trends in poverty and income inequality from 2004 to 2018. Our adjusted inflation index indicates that 3.2 million more people are classified as living in poverty in 2018, and that real household income for the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution actually declined by more than 7 percent since 2004. These results show that inflation inequality significantly accentuates both the incidence of poverty and income inequality.

Do Targeted Business Subsidies Improve Income and Reduce Poverty? A Synthetic Control Approach

Source: Jacob Bundrick, Weici Yuan, Economic Development Quarterly, OnlineFirst, September 20, 2019
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From the abstract:
Interstate competition for economic development has led many states to adopt targeted economic development incentive programs known as deal-closing funds. Deal-closing funds allow state officials to provide discretionary cash grants to select businesses to attract and retain economic development projects. However, whether these targeted business subsidies increase prosperity in the local economy remains unclear. The authors use evidence from Arkansas’s Quick Action Closing Fund to analyze how effective deal-closing funds are at increasing incomes and decreasing poverty. Specifically, the causal effects of the Quick Action Closing Fund on Arkansas’s county-level per capita personal income and poverty rates are estimated using a synthetic control approach. The results largely suggest that the business subsidy program fails to increase incomes and lower poverty rates over the long term, at least at the county level. These findings should serve as a caution to policy makers who wish to improve incomes and poverty rates with targeted business subsidies.

Household Debt and Children’s Risk of Food Insecurity

Source: Mackenzie Brewer, Social Problems, Advance Articles, August 8, 2019
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From the abstract:
In the United States, almost one in six households with children cannot access adequate food for a healthy and active lifestyle. Although food insecurity disproportionately affects lower-income households, it remains unclear why some lower-income families are more vulnerable to food insecurity than others. Household unsecured debt, such as debt incurred from credit cards and medical bills, may be an unexplored financial constraint associated with food insecurity. Using data from the 2014 Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), I assess whether unsecured debt, by amount and type of debt, is associated with food insecurity among lower-income households with children (N=1,319). Results indicate that medical debt increases odds of household food insecurity even after accounting for key sociodemographic and economic risk factors, while no relationship exists between other forms of unsecured debt and food insecurity. Moreover, although liquid assets decrease the risk of household food insecurity and attenuate the harmful effects associated with unpaid medical bills, few households have enough liquid assets to mitigate the risks associated with medical debt. Efforts to prevent medical debt may be essential for eliminating food insecurity among lower-income households with children.

2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2019

From the summary:
The 30th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Book begins by exploring how America’s child population — and the American childhood experience — has changed since 1990.

And there’s some good news to share: Of the 16 areas of child well-being tracked across four domains — health, education, family and community and economic well-being — 11 have improved since the Foundation published its first Data Book 30 editions ago.

The rest of the 2019 Data Book — including the latest national trends and state rankings — rely on a shorter review window: 2010 to 2017.

The data reveal, in the United States today, more parents are financially stable and living without burdensome housing costs. More teens are graduating from high school and delaying parenthood. And access to children’s health insurance has increased compared to just seven years ago.

But it is not all good news. The risk of babies being born at a low weight continues to rise, racial inequities remain systemic and stubbornly persistent and 12% of kids across the country are still growing up in areas of concentrated poverty.

Locally, New Hampshire has claimed the No. 1 spot in overall child well-being, followed by Massachusetts and Iowa. Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico sit at the other end of this list — and among familiar company. In fact, save for California and Alaska, the lowest 18 ranked states call Appalachia, the South or the Southwest home.

How to Adjust the Official Poverty Measure

Source: State Policy Reports, Vol. 37 no. 10, May 2019
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A recent request by a federal agency is purportedly intended to gather information to inform a future decision, but some observers see a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Related:
Trump May Redefine Poverty, Cutting Americans From Welfare Rolls
Source: Justin Sink, Bloomberg, May 6, 2019

• OMB says in regulatory filing it may recalculate poverty level
• Switch to so-called chained CPI would slow growth of poverty

FAQ: The Trump Administration’s Proposal to Lower the Federal Poverty Line
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 30, 2019

On May 6, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a notice requesting comments on changing the methodology for updating the federal poverty line for inflation. The notice floats the idea of updating the Census Bureau’s poverty thresholds using an alternative, lower measure of inflation than the traditional Consumer Price Index (known as the CPI-U) — either the “chained” CPI or the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index. This would result in lower poverty thresholds, with the gap between the current and proposed methodologies increasing each year….

State of the Union: Millennial Dilemma

Source: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, May 2019

The annual Poverty and Inequality Report provides a unified analysis that brings together evidence across such issues as poverty, employment, income inequality, health inequality, economic mobility, and educational access to allow for a comprehensive assessment of where the country stands. In this year’s issue, the country’s leading experts provide the latest evidence on how millennials are faring.

Contents include:

Executive Summary
David B. Grusky, Marybeth Mattingly, Charles Varner, and Stephanie Garlow
With each new generation, there’s inevitably much angst and hand-wringing, but never have we worried as much as we worry about millennials. We review the evidence on whether all that worrying is warranted.

Racial and Gender Identities
Sasha Shen Johfre and Aliya Saperstein
The usual stereotypes have it that millennials are embracing a more diverse and unconventional set of racial and gender identities. Are those stereotypes on the mark?

Student Debt
Susan Dynarski
Often tagged the “student debt generation,” millennials took out more student loans, took out larger student loans, and defaulted more frequently. Here’s a step-by-step accounting of how we let this happen.

Employment
Harry J. Holzer
Labor force activity has declined especially rapidly among young workers. The good news: We know how to take on this problem.

Criminal Justice
Bruce Western and Jessica Simes
The imprisonment rate has fallen especially rapidly among black men. Does this much-vaunted trend conceal as much as it reveals?

Education
Florencia Torche and Amy L. Johnson
The payoff to a college degree is as high for millennials as it’s ever been. But it’s partly because millennials who don’t go to college are getting hammered in the labor market.

Income and Earnings
Christine Percheski
When millennials entered the labor market during the Great Recession and its aftermath, there were uniformly gloomy predictions about their fate. Does the evidence bear out such gloomy predictions?

Social Mobility
Michael Hout
Millennials have a mobility problem. And it’s partly because the economy is no longer delivering a steady increase in high-status jobs.

Occupational Segregation
Kim A. Weeden
Are millennial women and men working side by side in the new economy? Or are their occupations just as gender-segregated as ever?

Poverty and the Safety Net
Marybeth Mattingly, Christopher Wimer, Sophie Collyer and Luke Aylward
Millennial poverty rates at age 30 are no higher than those of Gen Xers at the same age. But this stability hides a problem: Millennials are replacing a falloff in earnings with large increases in government assistance programs.

Housing
Darrick Hamilton and Christopher Famighetti
Housing reforms during the civil rights era helped to narrow the white-black homeownership gap. But those gains have now been completely lost … and the racial gap in young-adult homeownership is larger for millennials than for any generation in the past century.

Social Networks
Mario L. Small and Maleah Fekete
Millennials are not replacing face-to-face networks with online ones. Rather, they’re a generation that’s found a way to do it all, forging new online ties while also maintaining the usual face-to-face ones.

Health
Mark Duggan and Jackie Li
It might be thought that, for all their labor market woes, at least millennials now have health care and better health. How does this story fall short?

Policy
Sheldon Danziger
A comprehensive policy agenda that could help millennials … and other generations too.

What it Costs to Die

Source: Liz Farmer, Mattie Quinn, Governing, June 2019

Funerals have become a luxury that many Americans can’t afford. Cities and counties are paying the price….

…..What’s happening in Henry County is playing out in places across the country. Rising funeral costs and a lagging economy have made it increasingly hard for many low-income Americans to pay the necessary expenses to dispose of a body. The average cost of a funeral today is $7,400, a price tag that’s risen nearly twice as fast as inflation since the 1980s. (That cost doesn’t include flowers, obituaries and gravesite fees that can tack on another couple thousand dollars.) At a time when 40 percent of Americans can’t even afford an unexpected expense of just $400, according to the Federal Reserve, the notion of a proper funeral and burial has become, for many people, an unattainable luxury.

When family members can’t afford to claim a body, the burden falls on local governments to handle the remains. There’s no comprehensive data on the number of unclaimed bodies in morgues across the country, but everyone agrees it’s a problem that’s getting worse. The St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office had to add mobile refrigerated trailers in 2017 to hold all its bodies. The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner briefly lost accreditation in 2017 because it ran out of storage space. In Mobile County, Ala., annual spending on indigent burials has increased 300 percent over the last decade. In Kentucky, Pollard estimates that indigent burials have jumped 50 percent in just the past 18 months…..