Category Archives: Poverty

Trends in the Health Insurance Coverage Dip for Children Near the Poverty Line

Source: Martin Hugo Saavedra, Oberlin College – Department of Economics, July 8, 2014

From the abstract:
Historically, children near the Federal Poverty Line are less likely to be insured than children from both wealthier families (who obtain health insurance from the private market) and poorer families (who obtain government-funded health insurance). This paper proposes a way to systematically measure the size of the health insurance coverage dip near the poverty line. I then use data from the 1988-2012 Current Population Surveys to track how the size of the health insurance coverage dip has changed over time. This dip briefly increased following the expansion of Medicaid in the early 1990s. Thereafter, the coverage dip decreases and nearly disappears during the CHIP era before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Affordable Housing Linked to Children’s Intellectual Ability / Spend too much or too little on housing and a child’s cognitive performance suffers

Source: Johns Hopkins University, Press Release, June 9, 2014

It’s long been accepted – with little science to back it up – that people should spend roughly a third of their income on housing. It turns out, that’s about how much a low-income family should spend to optimize their children’s brainpower. Johns Hopkins University researchers explored the effects of affordable housing on the cognitive development, physical health, and emotional wellbeing of children living in poverty. Though how much a family spent on housing had no affect on a child’s physical or social health, when it came to cognitive ability, it was a game changer. When a family spent more than half of their income on housing, their children’s reading and math ability tended to suffer, found Sandra J. Newman, a Johns Hopkins professor of policy studies, working with researcher C. Scott Holupka. Children’s cognitive abilities also took a hit a hit when families spent less than 20 percent of their income on housing….

Housing affordability and investments in children
Source: Sandra J. Newman, C. Scott Holupka, Journal of Housing Economics, Volume 24, June 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper uses the 2004–2009 Consumer Expenditure Surveys to examine whether housing affordability affects expenditures on children in families with income at or below 200% of the poverty line. After accounting for selection using propensity score matching, estimating effects using nonlinear GLM, and performing sensitivity tests, we find that child enrichment expenditures have an inverted U-shaped relationship with housing cost burden, our measure of housing affordability. This result is similar to the concave pattern of the association between housing cost burden and measures of children’s cognitive achievement in reading and math. Thus, child expenditures, particularly for enrichment, may be one mechanism by which housing affordability affects children’s cognitive outcomes. The inflection point for enrichment spending occurs at roughly the 30% housing cost-to-income ratio, the longstanding rule-of-thumb for defining housing affordability.

Housing Affordability and Child Well-Being
Source: Sandra J. Newman & C. Scott Holupka, Housing Policy Debate, Published online: 29 May 2014

From the abstract:
We test three hypotheses about the role of housing affordability in child cognitive achievement, behavior, and health. Using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we apply both propensity-score matching and instrumental-variable modeling as identification strategies and test the sensitivity of results to omitted variable bias. The analysis reveals an inverted-U-shaped relation between the fraction of income devoted to housing and cognitive achievement. The inflection point at approximately 30% supports the long-standing rule-of-thumb definition of affordable housing. There is no evidence of affordability effects on behavior or health.

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….

Special Issue: Achieving Health Equity in the Workplace

Source: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 57 Issue 5, May 2014
(subscription required)

Articles include:
Introduction to a special issue: Eliminating health and safety inequities at work

Work organization, job insecurity, and occupational health disparities
Changes in employment conditions in the global economy over the past 30 years have led to increased job insecurity and other work organization hazards. These hazards may play a role in creating and sustaining occupational health disparities by socioeconomic position, gender, race, ethnicity, and immigration status. … There is consistent evidence that workers in lower socioeconomic or social class positions are exposed to greater job insecurity and other work organization hazards than workers in higher socioeconomic positions. Likewise, racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants are exposed to greater job insecurity. Limited research examining the effects of interventions targeting work organization hazards on disparities has been conducted; nonetheless, intervention strategies are available and evidence suggests they are effective. Job insecurity and work organization hazards play a role in creating and sustaining occupational health disparities. Employment and workplace policies and programs have the potential to reduce these hazards, and to reduce disparities. …

Characterizing the low wage immigrant workforce: A comparative analysis of the health disparities among selected occupations in Somerville, Massachusetts
This study estimates job-related risks among common low wage occupations (cleaning, construction, food service, cashier/baggers, and factory workers) held by predominantly Haitian, El Salvadorian, and Brazilian immigrants living or working in Somerville, Massachusetts…. Construction workers reported significantly higher health risks, and lower access to occupational health services than the other occupations. Compared to cashier/baggers, the reference population in this study, cleaners reported significantly lower access to health and safety and work training and no knowledge of workers’ compensation. Factory workers reported significantly lower work training compared to cashier/baggers. Food service workers reported the least access to doctors compared to the other occupations. We found significant variability in risks among different low wage immigrant occupations. The type of occupation independently contributed to varying levels of risks among these jobs. We believe our findings to be conservative and recommend additional inquiry aimed at assuring the representativeness of our findings….

Examining occupational health and safety disparities using national data: A cause for continuing concern
Occupational status, a core component of socioeconomic status, plays a critical role in the well-being of U.S. workers. Identifying work-related disparities can help target prevention efforts. … Employment in high-injury/illness occupations was independently associated with being male, Black, ≤high school degree, foreign-birth, and low-wages. Adjusted fatal occupational injury rate ratios for 2005–2009 were elevated for males, older workers, and several industries and occupations. Agriculture/forestry/fishing and mining industries and transportation and materials moving occupations had the highest rate ratios. Homicide rate ratios were elevated for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native/Asian/Pacific Islanders, and foreign-born workers. These findings highlight the importance of understanding patterns of disparities of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Results can improve intervention efforts by developing programs that better meet the needs of the increasingly diverse U.S. workforce. …

Promoting integrated approaches to reducing health inequities among low-income workers: Applying a social ecological framework
Nearly one of every three workers in the United States is low-income. Low-income populations have a lower life expectancy and greater rates of chronic diseases compared to those with higher incomes. Low- income workers face hazards in their workplaces as well as in their communities. Developing integrated public health programs that address these combined health hazards, especially the interaction of occupational and non-occupational risk factors, can promote greater health equity. Examples of successful approaches to developing integrated programs are presented in each of these settings. These examples illustrate several complementary venues for public health programs that consider the complex interplay between work-related and non work-related factors, that integrate health protection with health promotion and that are delivered at multiple levels to improve health for low-income workers. Whether at the workplace or in the community, employers, workers, labor and community advocates, in partnership with public health practitioners, can deliver comprehensive and integrated health protection and health promotion programs. Recommendations for improved research, training, and coordination among health departments, health practitioners, worksites and community organizations are proposed…..

Effects of social, economic, and labor policies on occupational health disparities
This article introduces some key labor, economic, and social policies that historically and currently impact occupational health disparities in the United States. … Many populations such as tipped workers, public employees, immigrant workers, and misclassified workers are not protected by current laws and policies, including worker’s compensation or Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement of standards. Local and state initiatives, such as living wage laws and community benefit agreements, as well as multiagency law enforcement contribute to reducing occupational health disparities. There is a need to build coalitions and collaborations to command the resources necessary to identify, and then reduce and eliminate occupational disparities by establishing healthy, safe, and just work for all….

Discrimination, harassment, abuse, and bullying in the workplace: Contribution of workplace injustice to occupational health disparities
This paper synthesizes research on the contribution of workplace injustices to occupational health disparities. … Members of demographic minority groups are more likely to be victims of workplace injustice and suffer more adverse outcomes when exposed to workplace injustice compared to demographic majority groups. A growing body of research links workplace injustice to poor psychological and physical health, and a smaller body of evidence links workplace injustice to unhealthy behaviors. Although not as well studied, studies show that workplace injustice can influence workers’ health through effects on workers’ family life and job-related outcomes. Injustice is a key contributor to occupational health injustice and prospective studies with oversample of disadvantaged workers and refinement of methods for characterizing workplace injustices are needed….

Race-based job discrimination, disparities in job control, and their joint effects on health
To examine disparities between job control scores in Black and White subjects and attempt to discern whether self-rated low job control in Blacks may arise from structural segregation into different jobs, or represents individual responses to race-based discrimination in hiring or promotion. … Black subjects exhibited lower mean job control scores compared to Whites adjusted for age, sex, education, and income. This difference narrowed to 1.86 when adjusted for clustering by occupation, and was greatly reduced by conditioning on race-based discrimination. Path analyses showed greater reported discrimination in Blacks with increasing education, and a stronger effect of job control on health in Black subjects. Individual racially-based discrimination appears a stronger determinant than structural segregation in reduced job control in Black workers, and may contribute to health disparities consequent on work. …

Occupational health disparities: A state public health-based approach
This report used employment and public health surveillance data in Michigan to characterize work-related race/ethnic health disparities. … Blacks and Hispanics were over-represented in lower wage–higher manual–labor occupations and in highest risk occupations. Blacks were at greater risk of silicosis, work-related asthma, and work-related burns than whites, and Hispanics had higher rates of work-related acute fatal injuries and pesticide injury than non-Hispanics. Michigan employment data indicated that blacks and Hispanics were overly represented in lower paid and more hazardous jobs. Occupational health surveillance data confirmed disparate risks for some illnesses and injuries. This approach can be used in other states to bring awareness to policy makers and direct interventions….

2013 Poverty Scorecard

Source: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, 2014

From the press release:
A deeply divided Congress made little progress on legislation that would help the 46.5 million people living in poverty in the United States in 2013, according to a report released today. At the same time, many bills and amendments that would have had a very negative effect on people living in poverty were ultimately defeated.

The 2013 Poverty Scorecard, published by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, is a comprehensive analysis of the voting records of every U.S. Senator and Representative on poverty-related issues. The votes used to evaluate the members cover a wide range of subject areas including budget and tax, food and nutrition, health care, immigrants, cash assistance, domestic violence, legal services, workforce, education, voting rights, and employment rights….

….The voting records reported in the Poverty Scorecard evidence a deep divide on poverty issues. The overwhelming majority of Senators (97%) and Representatives (95%) were graded at one extreme (A+, A) or the other (D, F, F-). As in past years, Congressional delegations from states with high poverty rates were more likely to have a poor score on poverty-related legislation than delegations from states with low poverty rates….

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.

Heal the Suffering Children: Fifty Years after the Declaration of War on Poverty

Source: Francine J. Lipman, Dawn Davis, University of Nevada Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper, May 3, 2014

From the abstract:
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty. Since then, the federal tax code has been a fundamental tool in providing financial assistance to poor working families. Even today, however, thirty-two million children live in families that cannot support basic living expenses, and sixteen million of those live in extreme poverty. This Article navigates the confusing requirements of an array of child-related tax benefits including the dependency exemption deduction, head of household filing status, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit. Specifically, this Article explores how altering the definition of a “qualifying child” across these tax benefits might provide financial relief for working families. The Article concludes that the elimination of outdated citizenship or residency requirements would reduce taxpayer confusion and result in more effective tax benefits to help lift working families out of poverty.

Changes in Areas With Concentrated Poverty: 2000 to 2010

Source: Alemayehu Bishaw, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-2, June 2014

From the press release:
One in four U.S. residents live in “poverty areas,” according to American Community Survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau from 2008 to 2012, up from less than one in five in 2000. These areas of concentrated poverty refer to any census tract with a poverty rate of 20 percent of more. The number of people living in poverty areas increased from 49.5 million (18.0 percent) in 2000 to 77.4 million (25.7 percent) in 2008-2012. The 2012 American Community Survey five-year estimates show a U.S. poverty rate of 14.9 percent.

While for most areas the percent of people living in poverty areas increased, some parts of the country moved in the opposite direction of the nation’s 7.6 percentage points increase. In Louisiana (-3.6 percentage points), West Virginia (-2.3), Alaska (-0.4), Hawaii (-1.0) and the District of Columbia (-6.7), the proportion of people living in poverty areas declined over the period. On the other hand, Arkansas (15.7 percentage points), North Carolina (17.9), Oregon (16.0) and Tennessee (16.0) had among the largest percentage point increases in the proportion of people living in poverty areas.

By state, according to the 2008-2012 figures, the percentage of people living in a poverty area ranged from 6.8 percent in New Hampshire to 48.5 percent in Mississippi….

Map- Living in Poverty Areas: Percent state population living in neighborhoods where 20% or more of people have incomes below the poverty level

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.

Working Poor in America

Source: Oxfam America, 2014

From the summary:
Low-wage workers are everywhere in the US. It’s time for Congress to come together and ensure people earn a decent wage.

Millions of Americans do arduous work in jobs that pay too little and offer too few benefits. They serve food, clean offices, care for the young and elderly, stock shelves, and deliver pizza. They work these jobs year after year, while caring for their children and parents, trying to save for college, and paying their bills. And yet despite their best efforts, these low-wage workers fall further and further behind….
Download Working Poor in America Rankings of State Congressional District
Download Methodology for Minimum wage worker map