Category Archives: Poverty

The Decline of Cash Assistance and the Well-Being of Poor Households with Children

Source: H Luke Shaefer, Kathryn Edin Vincent, Fusaro Pinghui Wu, Social Forces, Advance Articles, March 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Since the early 1990s, the social safety net for families with children in the United States has undergone an epochal transformation. Aid to poor working families has become more generous. In contrast, assistance to the deeply poor has become less generous, and what remains more often takes the form of in-kind aid. A historical view finds that this dramatic change parallels others. For centuries, the nature and form of poor relief has been driven in part by shifting cultural notions of which social groups are “deserving” and “undeserving.” This line was firmly redrawn in the 1990s. Did the re-institutionalization of these categorizations in policy have material consequences? This study examines the relationship between the decline of traditional cash welfare between 2001 and 2015 and two direct measures of wellbeing among households with children: household food insecurity and public school child homelessness. Using models that control for state and year trends, along with other factors, we find that the decline of cash assistance was associated with increases in both forms of hardship.

Pervasive Penality: How the Criminalization of Poverty Perpetuates Homelessness

Source: Chris Herring, Dilara Yarbrough, Lisa Marie Alatorre, Social Problems, Advance Article, March 29, 2019(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A growing literature examines the extent to which the criminal justice system perpetuates poverty and inequality. This research examines how anti-homeless laws produce various forms of police interactions that fall short of arrest, yet have wide-ranging impacts on the urban poor. Our analysis draws on a citywide survey of currently and recently homeless people, along with 43 in-depth interviews, to examine and reveal the mechanisms through which consistent punitive interactions, including move-along orders, citations, and destruction of property, systematically limit homeless people’s access to services, housing, and jobs, while damaging their health, safety, and well-being. Our findings also suggest that anti-homeless laws and enforcement fail to reduce urban disorder, but create instead a spatial churn in which homeless people circulate between neighborhoods and police jurisdictions rather than leaving public space. We argue that these laws and their enforcement, which affected the majority of study participants, constitute a larger process of pervasive penality—consistent punitive interactions with state officials that rarely result in arrest, but that do material and psychological harm. This process not only reproduces homelessness, but also deepens racial, gender, and health inequalities among the urban poor.

Water and sewer affordability in the United States

Source: Manuel P. Teodoro, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 2, March/April 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The ability of low‐income families to pay for basic water and sewer services is a subject of increasing concern. Large‐scale assessments of affordability across large numbers of American utilities are rare, however, and are limited by poor measurement and biased samples. The present study uses improved metrics and data from an original, representative sample of water and sewer utilities in the United States to calculate the affordability of basic single‐family residential water and sewer service for low‐income households. Results indicate that low‐income households must spend an average of 9.7% of their disposable income and/or work 9.5 h at minimum wage to pay for basic monthly water and sewer service but also that these values vary considerably across the country. Community‐level demographic and economic data are used to identify some correlates of affordability. Region, utility size, and local income inequality emerge as strong correlates of affordability.

The 2019 government shutdown is just the latest reason why poor people can’t bank on the safety net

Source: Jamila Michener, The Conversation, January 14, 2019

….People living in poverty are now bracing for that kind of chopping as a result of the partial government shutdown that began in December. By the three-week mark, most safety-net benefits were still being funded. But should the impasse drag on, that could change.

In my view, the added economic hardship brought on would highlight an enduring aspect of American public policy: Government benefits can be unreliable. They can be cut or eliminated arbitrarily….

Access to Food Stamps Improves Children’s Health and Reduces Medical Spending

Source: Chloe N. East, Center for Poverty Research – University of California, Policy Brief, Vol. 7 no. 4, November 2018

The Food Stamp Program (FSP, known since 2008 as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) is one of the largest safety-net programs in the United States. It is especially important for families with children. However, the FSP eligibility of documented immigrants has shifted on multiple occasions in recent decades. When I studied the health outcomes of children in documented immigrant families affected by such shifts between 1996 and 2003, I found that just one extra year of parental eligibility before age 5 improves health outcomes at ages 6-16. This suggests that expanding food-stamp access for such families has lasting long-run benefits for their children and may help to reduce public medical expenditures in the medium term.

Key Facts:
– Immigrants’ loss of eligibility reduced participation in the Food Stamp Program among U.S.-born children of immigrants by 50%, and reduced the average benefits they received by 36%.
– Loss of parental food-stamp eligibility before age five has clear negative effects on developmental health outcomes and on parental reports of the child’s health in the medium-run.
– An additional year of food-stamp access in early life reduces medical expenditures in the medium-run by roughly $140 per child.

Five-Year Trends Available for Median Household Income, Poverty Rates and Computer and Internet Use

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press Release, Release Number CB18-187, December 6, 2018

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the release of the 2013-2017 American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates, which features more than 40 social, economic, housing and demographic topics, including homeownership rates and costs, health insurance, and educational attainment. The ACS five-year data release produces statistics for all of the nation’s 3,142 counties. It is the only full data set available for the 2,316 counties with populations too small to produce a complete set of single-year ACS estimates. ….

Some highlights from the report include that, when comparing the 2013-2017 period to the 2008-2012 period, median household income increased in 16.6 percent of all counties (521 counties) between the 2008-2012 period and the 2013-2017 period while poverty declined in 14 percent of all counties 441 counties). Alternatively, when comparing the same time periods, median household income declined in 222 counties (7.1 percent) and poverty rates increased in 264 counties (8.4 percent)…..

The Interaction Between the Minimum Wage and the Federal EITC

Source: Andrew P. Schaefer, Jessica A. Carson, Marybeth J. Mattingly, Andrew Wink, University of New Hampshire, Carsey School of Public Policy, November 13, 2018

Increases in the minimum wage are widely assumed to be beneficial for low-income workers, but it is important to consider the effect an increase might have on eligibility for other benefits, particularly the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This fact sheet examines the interaction between the minimum wage and the EITC to determine whether a minimum wage increase would produce gains in the sum of earnings plus EITC dollars for low-income workers

Key Findings:

For workers earning the minimum wage, an increase would result in higher income; none would experience a lower net income due to changes in the federal EITC credit (though this may be offset by loss of other safety net program benefits).

For some family types, increased income would come primarily from a higher minimum wage; for others, gains would also come from the higher-value federal EITC triggered by their higher earnings.

EITC Continues to Reach Families in Poor Places

Source: Andrew Schaefer, Beth Mattingly, Kennedy Nickerson, Jessica Carson, Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, Data Snapshot, October 9, 2018

From the summary:
Recent proposals in the House and Senate (for example, the Grow American Incomes Now Act) focus on amplifying the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—a refundable tax credit for low-income workers—to compensate for growing wage inequity. We find that the share of EITC filers who are families with children is especially high in the poorest counties (those counties outlined in black on Map 1), including many places throughout the South.

Key Findings:
The Earned Income Tax Credit provides tax relief to working people with low to moderate income, with much larger credits for tax filers with children. The credit is refundable, meaning that the EITC reduces the amount of tax owed, and any amount above that may be issued as a refund.

Declines in Child Poverty Continue in 2017; Overall Rate Still Above Pre-Recession Level

Source: Jessica Carson, Andrew Schaefer, Beth Mattingly, Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, Data Snapshot, September 13, 2018

From the summary:
The official poverty measure indicates that child poverty declined by 1.1 percentage points between 2016 and 2017, according to analyses of the latest American Community Survey data released today. By 2017, child poverty across the nation was still 0.4 percentage point higher than before the Great Recession. Child poverty remained higher in cities and rural places than in the suburbs. For the first time, rates in cities dipped below the pre-recession level, although poverty is still slightly higher in rural and suburban places than in 2007.

Key Findings:
For the first time, rates in cities dipped below the pre-recession level, although poverty is still slightly higher in rural and suburban places than in 2007.

Income data from the Census may not tell full story on middle-class trends

Source: Gary Burtless and Christopher Pulliam, Brookings Institution, Up Front, September 17, 2018

…. The resulting news stories deserve our attention, but it is important to keep a vital question in mind: Does the CPS give us an accurate picture of household incomes?

In many recent years, the answer has been “No.” Compared to the national income and product accounts (NIPA) produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the CPS often gives us a strikingly different picture of the recent trend in household income. ….