Category Archives: Poverty

Do Public Tuition Subsidies Promote College Enrollment? Evidence from Community College Taxing Districts in Texas

Source: Paco Martorell, Brian P. McCall, Isaac McFarlin, US Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies Paper No. CES-WP- 14-32, September 1, 2014

From the abstract:
This paper estimates the effect of tuition rates on college enrollment using data for Texas from the 1990 and 2000 Censuses and the 2004-2010 American Community Surveys and geographical data on Community College Taxing Districts. The effect of tuition on enrollment is identified by the facts that tuition rates for those living within a taxing district are lower than those living outside the taxing district and in Texas not all geographic locations are in a taxing district. While the estimated effect of tuition on enrollment depends on the sample used, it is negative and mostly statistically significant in the samples of adults 18 and older and negative and sometimes statistically significant in the samples of traditional age students 18 to 24. The estimated effect of tuition on enrollment, however, is found to vary considerably by poverty level status with an increase in tuition rates having a statistically significant negative effect on college enrollment for those with household incomes that are at least 200% of the poverty level both for traditional aged students 18 to 24 years old and all adults 18 and older.

Welfare, Work, and Poverty Status of Female-Headed Families with Children: 1987-2013

Source: Thomas Gabe, Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRS Report, R41917, November 21, 2014

Eighteen years have passed since repeal of what was the nation’s major cash welfare program assisting low-income families with children, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, and its replacement with a block grant of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This report focuses on trends in the economic well-being of female-headed families with children, the principal group affected by the replacement of AFDC with TANF. Female-headed families and their children are especially at risk of poverty, and children in such families account for well over half of all poor children in the United States. For these reasons, single female-headed families continue to be of particular concern to policymakers. The report details trends in income and poverty status of these families, prior and subsequent to enactment of the 1996 welfare reform law and other policy changes. The report focuses especially on welfare dependency and work engagement among single mothers, a major dynamic that welfare reform and accompanying policy changes have attempted to affect. It also examines the role of programs other than TANF in providing support to single female-headed families with children.

CRS analysis of 27 years of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that there has been a dramatic transformation with regard to welfare, work, and poverty status of single mothers. The period has seen a marked structural change in the provision of benefits under a number of programs that contribute to the fabric of the nation’s “income safety net.” In turn, single mothers’ behavior has changed markedly over the period; more mothers are working and fewer are relying on cash welfare to support themselves and their children.

In the years immediately preceding 1996 welfare reform, and in the years since, the nation’s income safety net has been transformed into one supporting work. Cash-welfare work requirements, the end of cash welfare as an open-ended entitlement by limiting the duration that individuals may receive federally funded benefits, and expanded earnings and family income supplements administered through the federal income tax system have helped to change the dynamics between work and welfare. The transformed system has helped to both reduce single mothers’ reliance on traditional cash welfare and reduce poverty among their children. Poverty under the official U.S. poverty measure, which is based on pre-tax cash income, shows that since 2000, which marked a historical low, the poverty rate among single mothers increased in step with two recessions. By 2010, the official poverty rate for single mothers had reached a post-2000 high, and remained at that level through 2012, before falling somewhat in 2013. In
2013, the official poverty level was still below pre-1996 welfare reform levels, despite two recessions since 1996.

Using a more comprehensive income definition than that used by the official poverty measure indicates that the increase in poverty among single mothers and their children over the past 13 years has been substantially mitigated by Food Stamp/SNAP benefits and work-related refundable tax credits—benefits not captured by the “official” poverty measure. Use of an expanded income poverty measure that includes these benefits highlights effects of congressional action that helped reduce child poverty amidst, and subsequent to, the most severe recession since the Great Depression.

The role of work-conditioned benefits, and the provision of traditional cash welfare, will likely continue to garner attention, in part contingent on the nature and pace of economic recovery, and federal and state budget pressures.

Dignity and Dreams: What the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Means to Low-Income Families

Source: Jennifer Sykes, Katrin Križ, Kathryn Edin, Sarah Halpern-Meekin, American Sociological Review, Published online before print October 10, 2014
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From the abstract:
Money has meaning that shapes its uses and social significance, including the monies low-income families draw on for survival: wages, welfare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This study, based on in-depth interviews with 115 low-wage EITC recipients, reveals the EITC is an unusual type of government transfer. Recipients of the EITC say they value the debt relief this government benefit brings. However, they also perceive it as a just reward for work, which legitimizes a temporary increase in consumption. Furthermore, unlike other means-tested government transfers, the credit is seen as a springboard for upward mobility. Thus, by conferring dignity and spurring dreams, the EITC enhances feelings of citizenship and social inclusion.

The Return of the Welfare Queen

Source: Michele E. Gilman, American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2014

From the abstract:
After welfare reform was passed in 1996, there was every reason to hope that the welfare queen was dead. The “welfare queen” was shorthand for a lazy woman of color, with numerous children she cannot support, who is cheating taxpayers by abusing the system to collect government assistance. For years, this long-standing racist and gendered stereotype was used to attack the poor and the cash assistance programs that support them. In 1996, TANF capped welfare receipt to five years and required work as a condition of eligibility, thus stripping the welfare queen of her throne of dependency. Nevertheless, during the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney resurrected the welfare queen. In a barrage of television campaign ads, Romney inaccurately accused President Obama of gutting TANF work requirements, while President Obama responded by touting his own tough-on-welfare credentials. In the subsequent battle over which candidate was toughest on the poor, there was no mention that TANF is largely a failure. While TANF enrollment has plunged since 1996, it has not reduced poverty. Instead, it pushed many poor mothers into the low-wage workforce, where they struggle to survive on meager wages. In addition, many families have slipped out of the safety net altogether, sanctioned by TANF caseworkers or discouraged by TANF’s onerous application requirements, privacy-stripping processes, and stingy grants. As a result, only 4.5 million people receive cash assistance through TANF, amounting to 0.47% of the federal 2012 budget. In other words, the political salience of the welfare queen far outstrips her numbers. The good news is that Romney’s dependency rhetoric did not work and may have backfired. The bad news is that the welfare queen still lurks behind repeated calls to cut government benefits and to criminalize poverty. This article explores the legacy of the welfare queen, her return in the 2012 presidential campaign, and the current inadequacies of TANF. The article concludes with suggestions to reform TANF in the hopes of burying the welfare queen once and for all.

The economic safety net for low-income families with children

Source: Kristen S. Slacka, Bomi Kima, Mi-Youn Yangb, Lawrence M. Bergera, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 46, November 2014

• Low-income families with young children have varied economic safety nets.
• Safety net packages are related to work activity relative to welfare receipt.
• Economic resource and benefit packages change over time, as family situations change.

Following the passage of welfare reform in the mid-1990s and the end of entitlement benefits under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the U.S. economic safety net has become increasingly individualized. In fact, it is no longer clear whether low-income families tend to rely on particular types of public benefits, or whether there are characteristics that differentiate benefit “packaging”. This study examines the combinations of various income sources comprising economic safety nets for low-income families participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The income sources we explore include earnings, child support, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, childcare subsidies, unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), housing subsidies, and Medicaid. We use cluster analysis to determine the most common patterns of income and benefit sources, and identify four distinct clusters of income and benefits that are associated with different family demographic characteristics. The findings from this investigation may be useful to social service programs as they attempt to identify relevant safety net resources for economically struggling families, and to policymakers attempting to reconcile requirements associated with programs and benefits that are regularly combined by beneficiaries.

Degradation Ceremonies and the Criminalization of Low-Income Women

Source: Kaaryn Gustafson, University of California – Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-42, Date posted: April 20, 2013, Last revised: September 16, 2014

From the abstract:
This article, a call for both empirical social scientists and critical race theorists to engage with each other in careful interpretive analysis, applies sociologist Harold Garfinkel’s concept of ceremonial degradation to policies, practices, and proposals targeting low-income women of color in the United States. This article offers several examples of degradation ceremonies, including: excessive penalties and extrajudicial public shaming for women convicted of welfare fraud; mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients; high-publicity criminal prosecutions of mothers who violate school district residency requirements to enroll their children in more affluent schools; and tough criminal penalties for those who possess stolen infant formula or other necessities low-income Americans have difficulty obtaining. This article also describes some of the functions served by degradation ceremonies, including: the legitimation of material inequality, the perpetuation of social and economic myths, the policing of status quo distributions of property, and the satisfaction of the public’s emotional desire for sadomasochistic ritual. The article’s final section calls upon policy makers and scholars to acknowledge the degradation of low-income women that now occurs through policy and practice and offers broader suggestions for subverting the ceremonial degradation of the poor.

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013 Release

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press Release, CB14-169, September 16, 2014

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2013, the poverty rate declined from the previous year for the first time since 2006, while there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income. In addition, the poverty rate for children under 18 declined from the previous year for the first time since 2000. The following results for the nation were compiled from information collected in the 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2013 was 14.5 percent, down from 15.0 percent in 2012. The 45.3 million people living at or below the poverty line in 2013, for the third consecutive year, did not represent a statistically significant change from the previous year’s estimate.

Median household income in the United States in 2013 was $51,939; the change in real terms from the 2012 median of $51,759 was not statistically significant. This is the second consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive annual declines.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2013 calendar year was 13.4 percent; this amounted to 42.0 million people.

These findings are contained in two reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013 and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement was conducted between February and April 2014 and collected information about income and health insurance coverage during the 2013 calendar year. The Current Population Survey, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is conducted every month and is the primary source of labor force statistics for the U.S. population; it is used to calculate the monthly unemployment rate estimates. Supplements are added in most months; the Annual Social and Economic Supplement questionnaire is designed to give annual, calendar-year, national estimates of income, poverty and health insurance numbers and rates….
Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013
Source: Carmen DeNavas-Walt and Bernadette D. Proctor, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-249, September 2014

Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013
Source: Jessica C. Smith and Carla Medalia, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-250, September 2014

The Top 3 Things You Need to Know About the 2013 Poverty and Income Data
Source: Melissa Boteach and Shawn Fremstad, Center for American Progress, September 16, 2014

By the Numbers: Income and Poverty, 2013
Source: David Cooper, Economic Policy Institute, Working Economics blog, September 16, 2014

Key numbers from today’s new Census report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. All dollar values are adjusted for inflation (2013 dollars).

New Census Data Tell Us That Poverty Fell in 2013: Children and Young Adults Still Face the Greatest Risks
Source: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), September 16, 2014

From the summary:
For the first time since 2000, the overall child poverty rate fell, according to U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS) data released today on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the year 2013. This is good news. The numbers indicate a return from the extraordinarily high child poverty rates experienced during the depths of the recession. But these decreases don’t diminish the unacceptably high number of children still living in poor families, particularly our youngest children and Black and Hispanic children….

Household Food Security in the United States in 2013

Source: Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Economic Research Report No. (ERR-173), September 2014

From the abstract:
An estimated 14.3 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2013, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The change from 14.5 percent in 2012 was not statistically significant.The prevalence of very low food security was essentially unchanged at 5.6 percent.
Download zip file for ERR173
Statistical Supplement to Household Food Security in the United States in 2013
• See media resources
• Some key statistics and graphs

Facts vs. the GOP: Why America is living through a new era of segregation

Source: Sean McElwee, Salon, September 14, 2014

Republicans like to blame poverty on the breakdown of the “traditional” family. The numbers tell a different story. … Conservatives like to tout the research of Raj Chetty and others who find that, “The fraction of children living in single-parent households is the single strongest correlate of upward income mobility among all the variables we explored.” But this observation comes with a caveat — children in two-parent households fare worse in areas with large numbers of single parents. There is reason to believe the causation is reversed. Rather than single-parent households causing low upward mobility, low upward mobility and rampant poverty lead to single-parenthood. ….