Means test

Kevin Lewis

May 05, 2014

Welfare Reform and Children's Early Cognitive Development

Hau Chyi, Orgul Demet Ozturk & Weilong Zhang
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

In this paper, we use a dynamic structural model to measure the effects of (1) single mothers' work and welfare use decisions and (2) welfare reform initiatives on the early cognitive development of the children of the NLSY79 mothers. We use PIAT-Math scores as a measure of attainment and show that both the mothers' work and welfare use benefit children on average. Our simulation of a policy that combines a time limit with work requirement reduces the use of welfare and increases employment significantly. These changes in turn significantly increase children's cognitive attainment. This implies that the welfare reform was not only successful in achieving its stated goals, but was also beneficial to welfare children's outcomes. In another policy simulation, we show that increasing work incentives for welfare population by exempting labor income from welfare tax can be a very successful policy with some additional benefits for children's outcomes. Finally, a counterfactual with an extended maternal leave policy significantly reduces employment and has negative, though economically insignificant, impact on cognitive outcomes.


Associations of Housing Mobility Interventions for Children in High-Poverty Neighborhoods With Subsequent Mental Disorders During Adolescence

Ronald Kessler et al.
Journal of the American Medical Association, 5 March 2014, Pages 937-948

Objective: To perform an exploratory analysis of associations between housing mobility interventions for children in high-poverty neighborhoods and subsequent mental disorders during adolescence.

Design, Setting, and Participants: The Moving to Opportunity Demonstration from 1994 to 1998 randomized 4604 volunteer public housing families with 3689 children in high-poverty neighborhoods into 1 of 2 housing mobility intervention groups (a low-poverty voucher group vs a traditional voucher group) or a control group. The low-poverty voucher group (n=1430) received vouchers to move to low-poverty neighborhoods with enhanced mobility counseling. The traditional voucher group (n=1081) received geographically unrestricted vouchers. Controls (n=1178) received no intervention. Follow-up evaluation was performed 10 to 15 years later (June 2008-April 2010) with participants aged 13 to 19 years (0-8 years at randomization). Response rates were 86.9% to 92.9%.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Presence of mental disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) within the past 12 months, including major depressive disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), oppositional-defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and conduct disorder, as assessed post hoc with a validated diagnostic interview.

Results: Of the 3689 adolescents randomized, 2872 were interviewed (1407 boys and 1465 girls). Compared with the control group, boys in the low-poverty voucher group had significantly increased rates of major depression (7.1% vs 3.5%; odds ratio (OR), 2.2 [95% CI, 1.2-3.9]), PTSD (6.2% vs 1.9%; OR, 3.4 [95% CI, 1.6-7.4]), and conduct disorder (6.4% vs 2.1%; OR, 3.1 [95% CI, 1.7-5.8]). Boys in the traditional voucher group had increased rates of PTSD compared with the control group (4.9% vs 1.9%, OR, 2.7 [95% CI, 1.2-5.8]). However, compared with the control group, girls in the traditional voucher group had decreased rates of major depression (6.5% vs 10.9%; OR, 0.6 [95% CI, 0.3-0.9]) and conduct disorder (0.3% vs 2.9%; OR, 0.1 [95% CI, 0.0-0.4]).

Conclusions and Relevance: Interventions to encourage moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods were associated with increased rates of depression, PTSD, and conduct disorder among boys and reduced rates of depression and conduct disorder among girls. Better understanding of interactions among individual, family, and neighborhood risk factors is needed to guide future public housing policy changes.


Social disadvantage, genetic sensitivity, and children's telomere length

Colter Mitchell et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 22 April 2014, Pages 5944-5949

Disadvantaged social environments are associated with adverse health outcomes. This has been attributed, in part, to chronic stress. Telomere length (TL) has been used as a biomarker of chronic stress: TL is shorter in adults in a variety of contexts, including disadvantaged social standing and depression. We use data from 40, 9-y-old boys participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to extend this observation to African American children. We report that exposure to disadvantaged environments is associated with reduced TL by age 9 y. We document significant associations between low income, low maternal education, unstable family structure, and harsh parenting and TL. These effects were moderated by genetic variants in serotonergic and dopaminergic pathways. Consistent with the differential susceptibility hypothesis, subjects with the highest genetic sensitivity scores had the shortest TL when exposed to disadvantaged social environments and the longest TL when exposed to advantaged environments.


Job Displacement among Single Mothers: Effects on Children's Outcomes in Young Adulthood

Jennie Brand & Juli Simon Thomas
American Journal of Sociology, January 2014, Pages 955-1001

Given the recent era of economic upheaval, studying the effects of job displacement has seldom been so timely and consequential. Despite a large literature associating displacement with worker well-being, relatively few studies focus on the effects of parental displacement on child well-being, and fewer still focus on implications for children of single-parent households. Moreover, notwithstanding a large literature on the relationship between single motherhood and children's outcomes, research on intergenerational effects of involuntary employment separations among single mothers is limited. Using 30 years of nationally representative panel data and propensity score matching methods, the authors find significant negative effects of job displacement among single mothers on children's educational attainment and social-psychological well-being in young adulthood. Effects are concentrated among older children and children whose mothers had a low likelihood of displacement, suggesting an important role for social stigma and relative deprivation in the effects of socioeconomic shocks on child well-being.


Impact of Welfare Reform on Mortality: An Evaluation of the Connecticut Jobs First Program, A Randomized Controlled Trial

Elizabeth Wilde et al.
American Journal of Public Health, March 2014, Pages 534-538

Objectives: We examined whether Jobs First, a multicenter randomized trial of a welfare reform program conducted in Connecticut, demonstrated increases in employment, income, and health insurance relative to traditional welfare (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). We also investigated if higher earnings and employment improved mortality of the participants.

Methods: We revisited the Jobs First randomized trial, successfully linking 4612 participant identifiers to 15 years of prospective mortality follow-up data through 2010, producing 240 deaths. The analysis was powered to detect a 20% change in mortality hazards.

Results: Significant employment and income benefits were realized among Jobs First recipients relative to traditional welfare recipients, particularly for the most disadvantaged groups. However, although none of these reached statistical significance, all participants in Jobs First (overall, across centers, and all subgroups) experienced higher mortality hazards than traditional welfare recipients.

Conclusions: Increases in income and employment produced by Jobs First relative to traditional welfare improved socioeconomic status but did not improve survival.


How Johnson Fought the War on Poverty: The Economics and Politics of Funding at the Office of Economic Opportunity

Martha Bailey & Nicolas Duquette
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

This paper presents a quantitative analysis of the geographic distribution of spending through the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act (EOA). Using newly assembled state and county-level data, the results show that the Johnson administration systematically directed funding toward poorer and more nonwhite areas. In contrast to the distribution of New Deal spending, short-term political considerations appear to have played a minor role in distributing EOA funds. Choosing to fight poverty and discrimination rather than playing politics may help explain some of the immediate backlash against the War on Poverty programs. It also suggests that the implementation of the War on Poverty may play an important role in explaining why it is remembered as a failure.


Jezebel at the Welfare Office: How Racialized Stereotypes of Poor Women's Reproductive Decisions and Relationships Shape Policy Implementation

Tatiana Masters, Taryn Lindhorst & Marcia Meyers
Journal of Poverty, Spring 2014, Pages 109-129

Current welfare scholarship lacks an analysis of how caseworkers discuss sexuality-related issues with clients. Seventy-two of 232 transcribed welfare interviews in three states included discussion of reproductive decisions and relationships. Overall, caseworkers' language reflected negative myths regarding African American women's sexuality and motherhood. By virtue of their status as welfare recipients, regardless of their individual races, clients were placed into racialized myths through workers' talk. This analysis demonstrates that though not present in every welfare interview and often veiled in bureaucratic language, negative ideas about poor women's sexuality persist in welfare policy and are deeply embedded in its day-to-day implementation.


Deserving Poor and the Desirability of Minimum Wage Rules

Tomer Blumkin & Leif Danziger
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Working Paper, March 2014

In this paper we provide a novel justification for the use of minimum wage rules to supplement the optimal tax-and-transfer system. We demonstrate that if labor supply decisions are concentrated along the intensive margin and employment is efficiently rationed, a minimum wage rule can be socially beneficial by serving as a tagging device that targets benefits to the deserving poor, defined as low-skilled workers exhibiting a weak taste for leisure.


Sex and the City: Female Leaders and Spending on Social Welfare Programs in U.S. Municipalities

Mirya Holman
Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Scholars of urban politics often argue that cities will shy away from extensive funding of social welfare programs, as fiscal realities make developmental policies far more attractive. Despite these arguments, cities continue to fund social welfare programs. One possible explanation is that some local officials prefer funding welfare programs. This research demonstrates that the presence of a female mayor has a large, positive influence on the likelihood a city participates in funding social welfare programs and the amount of monetary resources a city dedicates to these programs. High levels of female representation on city councils and a mayor-council form of government both interact with the presence of a female mayor to increase the provision and size of social welfare programs in cities.


Scraping by: Income and Program Participation after the Loss of Extended Unemployment Benefits

Jesse Rothstein & Robert Valletta
University of California Working Paper, February 2014

Despite unprecedented extensions of available unemployment insurance (UI) benefits during the "Great Recession" of 2007-09 and its aftermath, large numbers of recipients exhausted their maximum available UI benefits prior to finding new jobs. Using SIPP panel data and an event-study regression framework, we examine the household income patterns of individuals whose jobless spells outlast their UI benefits, comparing the periods following the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions. Job loss reduces household income roughly by half on average, and for UI recipients benefits replace just under half of this loss. Accordingly, when benefits end the household loses UI income equal to roughly one-quarter of total pre-separation household income (and about one-third of pre-exhaustion household income). Only a small portion of this loss is offset by increased income from food stamps and other safety net programs. The share of families with income below the poverty line nearly doubles. These patterns were generally similar following the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions and do not vary dramatically by household age or income prior to job loss.


How Income Changes During Unemployment: Evidence from Tax Return Data

Laura Kawano & Sara LaLumia
U.S. Department of the Treasury Working Paper, April 2014

We use a panel of tax returns spanning 1999 to 2010 to provide new evidence on household experiences during unemployment. Unemployment is associated with a 27% reduction in household wage earnings. Unemployment insurance compensates for one-third of these wage losses. Households also partially compensate using a variety of income sources: capital gains, self-employment, and distributions from retirement savings accounts. More generous UI benefits crowd out household wage income and are also associated with increased distributions from retirement accounts. This combination of responses is consistent with UI benefits lengthening unemployment spells, leading to an increased reliance on retirement savings.


What does SNAP benefit usage tell us about food access in low-income neighborhoods?

Jerry Shannon
Social Science & Medicine, April 2014, Pages 89-99

Current GIS based research on food access has focused primarily on the proximity of food sources to places of residence in low-income communities, with relatively little attention given to actual practices of food procurement. This project addresses this issue by using dasymetric mapping techniques to develop fine scale estimates of benefit usage for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, drawing from existing zip code level data on benefit distribution and redemptions. Based on this data, this research shows that while supermarkets receive almost all SNAP benefits in suburban areas, these stores have a smaller share of all SNAP redemptions in low-income core neighborhoods. In these latter areas, both convenience stores and mid-sized grocers (e.g., discount grocers, food cooperatives, ethnic markets) play a much larger role in residents' food shopping, even when supermarkets are also present. In addition, these core neighborhoods have a net "outflow" of SNAP dollars, meaning that residents of these areas receive more in benefits than is spent at neighborhood food retailers. This finding confirms existing research showing that low-income residents often travel outside their neighborhoods to get food, regardless of the presence or absence of supermarkets. Rather than simply increasing the number of large food outlets in low-access areas, this research suggests that efforts to improve food access and community health must take into account the geographically complex ways residents interact with the food system.


Housing costs and child functioning: Processes through investments and financial strains

Melissa Kull & Rebekah Levine Coley
Children and Youth Services Review, April 2014, Pages 25-38

This study used family investment and family stress theories to illuminate mechanisms through which housing costs may affect low-income children's psychosocial and cognitive functioning. Using longitudinal data from the Three City Study (N = 1,898), path analyses found support for the investment perspective, with housing and neighborhood contexts mediating associations between higher housing costs and greater behavioral functioning and academic skills. These benefits of higher housing costs were somewhat offset by negative direct associations with children's functioning, although these were not explained by financial strain. Results revealed that receipt of government housing assistance disrupted these pathways. Few differences in patterns emerged between young children and adolescents. Policy implications and future research directions are discussed.


The Impact of Rehabilitation and Counseling Services on the Labor Market Activity of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Beneficiaries

Robert Weathers & Michelle Stegman Bailey
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

We use data from a social experiment to estimate the impact of a rehabilitation and counseling program on the labor market activity of newly entitled Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. Our results indicate that the program led to a 4.6 percentage point increase in the receipt of employment services within the first year following random assignment and a 5.1 percentage point increase in participation in the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work program within the first three years following random assignment. The program led to a 5.3 percentage point increase, or almost 50 percent increase, in employment, and an $831 increase in annual earnings in the second calendar year after the calendar year of random assignment. The employment and earnings impacts are smaller and not statistically significant in the third calendar year following random assignment, and we describe SSDI rules that are consistent with this finding. Our findings indicate that disability reform proposals focusing on restoring the work capacity of people with disabilities can increase the disability employment rate.


Educational Sorting and Residential Aspirations Among Rural High School Students: What Are the Contributions of Schools and Educators to Rural Brain Drain?

Robert Petrin, Kai Schafft & Judith Meece
American Educational Research Journal, April 2014, Pages 294-326

An extended body of research has documented the outmigration of the "best and brightest" youth from rural areas. Some of this scholarship has suggested that rural schools and educators may be complicit in this process as they devote extra attention and resources to the highest achieving students - those most likely to leave their rural communities after high school. Using data from a national multimethod study, we find mixed support for this hypothesis. To the contrary, our data suggest that the highest-achieving rural students are among those with the greatest community attachment, and that student perceptions of local economic conditions are far more influential in shaping postsecondary residential aspirations than the advice of educators, or the poverty level of the school.


Treat or Eat: Food insecurity, cost-related medication underuse and unmet needs

Seth Berkowitz, Hilary Seligman & Niteesh Choudhry
American Journal of Medicine, April 2014, Pages 303-310

Background: Adults with chronic disease are often unable to meet medication and/or food needs, but no study has examined the relationship between cost-related medication underuse and food insecurity in a nationally representative sample. We examined which groups most commonly face unmet food and medication needs.

Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of data from chronically ill participants (self report of arthritis, diabetes mellitus, cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, hypertension, coronary heart disease, or presence of a "psychiatric problem"), age ?20 years, of the 2011 National Health Interview Survey. We fit logistic regression models to identify factors associated with food insecurity, cost-related medication underuse, or both.

Results: 9,696 adult NHIS participants reported chronic illness; 23.4% reported cost-related medication underuse; 18.8% reported food insecurity; and 11% reported both. Adults who reported food insecurity were significantly more likely to report cost-related medication underuse (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 4.03). Participants with both cost-related medication underuse and food insecurity were more likely to be Hispanic (aOR 1.58) non-Hispanic Black (aOR 1.58), and have more chronic conditions (aOR per additional chronic condition 1.56) than patients reporting neither. They were also less likely to have Public, non-Medicare insurance (aOR 0.70) and report to WIC participation (aOR 0.39).

Conclusions: Approximately 1 in 3 chronically-ill NHIS participants are unable to afford food, medications, or both. WIC and public health insurance participation are associated with less food insecurity and cost-related medication underuse.


The Impact of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Participation on Household Energy Insecurity

Anthony Murray & Bradford Mills
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

The impact of the low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP), the single largest energy assistance program available to poor households in the United States has received little rigorous attention. If LIHEAP participation significantly improves low-income household energy security, funding cuts or eliminating the program could negatively impact the poor. This article empirically estimates the impact of LIHEAP on household energy security. The results indicate participation in LIHEAP significantly increases energy security in low-income households. Simulations suggest that elimination of the current household energy-assistance safety net will decrease the number of low-income energy secure households by over 17%.


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