Kevin Lewis

July 11, 2021

Determinants of homelessness in the U.S.: New hypotheses and evidence
Richard Cebula & James William Saunoris
Applied Economics, forthcoming


This study seeks to provide new insights into factors that influence homelessness in the U.S. by empirically investigating two heretofore effectively unexplored hypotheses as they relate to homelessness. The first hypothesis is that the greater the overall degree of entrepreneurial activity in a given environment, the lower the degree of homelessness. The second hypothesis is that homelessness is a decreasing function of the overall degree of labour market freedom. Panel VAR, Granger causality, and Cholesky forecast-error variance decomposition analyses are undertaken. Overall, strong, empirical support for both hypotheses is obtained. Accordingly, the homelessness rate is found to be a decreasing function of both the overall degree of entrepreneurial activity in a given state and the overall degree of labour market freedom in that state. Hence, it is argued that policies promoting entrepreneurial activity and labour freedom potentially can be useful tools in helping to diminish the degree of homelessness in the U.S.

Believing in the American Dream Sustains Negative Attitudes toward Those in Poverty
Crystal Hoyt et al.
Social Psychology Quarterly, forthcoming


A critical lever in the fight against poverty is to improve attitudes toward those living in poverty. Attempting to understand the factors that impact these attitudes, we ask: Does believing that meritocracy exists (descriptive meritocracy) sustain negative attitudes? Using cross-sectional (N = 301) and experimental (N = 439) methods, we found that belief in the United States as a meritocracy is associated with blaming people living in poverty and predicts negative attitudes toward them. Replicating and extending these findings, we experimentally manipulated beliefs in meritocracy and blame. Weakening American Dream beliefs predicted improved attitudes toward those in poverty. Understanding the nuanced role of belief systems in attitudes toward those in poverty provides strategies for promoting more positive thoughts and feelings.

Employed in a SNAP? The Impact of Work Requirements on Program Participation and Labor Supply
Colin Gray et al.
NBER Working Paper, June 2021


Work requirements are common in U.S. safety net programs. Evidence remains limited, however, on the extent to which work requirements increase economic self-sufficiency or screen out vulnerable individuals. Using linked administrative data on food stamps (SNAP) and earnings with a regression discontinuity design, we find robust evidence that work requirements increase program exits by 23 percentage points (64 percent) among incumbent participants after 18 months. There is a 53 percent overall reduction in program participation among adults who are subject to work requirements. Homeless adults are disproportionately screened out. We find no effects on employment, and suggestive evidence of increased earnings in some specifications. Our findings indicate that, per dollar of public expenditure, eliminating work requirements would likely transfer more resources to low-income adults than other programs targeting the same population.

Effect of Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to Americans without Dependent Children on Psychological Distress (Paycheck Plus): A Randomized Controlled Trial
Emilie Courtin et al.
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming


Anti-poverty policies have the potential to improve mental health. We conducted a randomized trial to investigate whether a fourfold increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income Americans without dependent children would reduce psychological distress relative to the current federal credit (Paycheck Plus, New York City site). Between 2013 and 2014, 5,968 participants were recruited; 2,997 were randomly assigned to the treatment group and 2,971 were assigned to the control group. Survey data were collected 32 months post-randomization (N=4,749). Eligibility for the program increased employment by 1.9 percentage points and after-bonus earnings by 6% ($635 per year) on average over the three years. Treatment was associated with a marginally statistically-significant decline in psychological distress relative to the control group (-0.30 points; 95% CI, -0.63 to 0.03; p=0.076). Women in the treated group experienced a half-a-point reduction in psychological distress (-0.55; 95% CI, -0.97 to -0.13; p=0.032) and noncustodial parents reported a 1.36 point reduction (95% CI, -2.24 to -0.49; p = 0.011) in psychological distress. An expansion of a large anti-poverty program to individuals without dependent children reduced psychological distress for women and noncustodial parents - the groups who benefitted the most in terms of increased after-bonus earnings.

Gender and race differences in pathways out of in-work poverty in the US
Emanuela Struffolino & Zachary Van Winkle
Social Science Research, forthcoming


Research on in-work poverty has focused on the probability of being employed while living in an impoverished household, but no studies have investigated pathways of labor market attachment and economic vulnerability following in-work poverty. We use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to establish a typology of employment pathways out of in-work poverty and to estimate differences by gender and race. By using the Sequence Analysis Multistate Model procedure, we identify five distinct pathways characterized by varying degrees of labor market attachment, economic vulnerability, and volatility. White men are most likely to exit in-work poverty into stable employment outside of poverty, while Black men and women often experience recurrent spells of in-work poverty. Gender and race differences persist even after controlling for labor market and family demographic characteristics. Our results indicate that work-related anti-poverty strategies must be coupled with adequately high wages and employment protection legislation to effectively raise working households out of poverty.

Early life stress is associated with earlier emergence of permanent molars
Cassidy McDermott et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 15 June 2021


Exposure to adversity can accelerate biological aging. However, existing biomarkers of early aging are either costly and difficult to collect, like epigenetic signatures, or cannot be detected until late childhood, like pubertal onset. We evaluated the hypothesis that early adversity is associated with earlier molar eruption, an easily assessed measure that has been used to track the length of childhood across primates. In a preregistered analysis (n = 117, ages 4 to 7 y), we demonstrate that lower family income and exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are significantly associated with earlier eruption of the first permanent molars, as rated in T2-weighted magnetic resonance images (MRI). We replicate relationships between income and molar eruption in a population-representative dataset (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; n = 1,973). These findings suggest that the impact of stress on the pace of biological development is evident in early childhood, and detectable in the timing of molar eruption.

Shifting neighborhoods, shifting health: A longitudinal analysis of gentrification and health in Los Angeles County
Chinyere Agbai
Social Science Research, forthcoming


Gentrification is characterized by an influx of capital, built environment upgrades, and physical and social displacement of residents and institutions. The numerous, relatively rapid transitions that occur during gentrification make accounting for duration of exposure to gentrification particularly important when exploring its relationship to health. Though a large literature explores how timing and duration of exposure to relatively stable neighborhood conditions are linked to health, little is known about how exposure to gentrification is linked to the health of longtime residents. Using restricted, longitudinal data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey, I ask (1) how is duration of exposure to gentrification linked to the self-reported health of those who remain in the neighborhood? (2) How does this relationship vary for members of different racial and ethnic groups? Results indicate that the longer an individual lives in a gentrifying neighborhood, the better their self-reported health. The results do not vary by race or ethnicity. The results of this study are not an endorsement of the use of gentrification as a public health intervention, as previous work finds that gentrification can also be associated with social, physical, and institutional displacement. Instead, findings reiterate the importance of neighborhood investments for the health and well-being of their residents over time.


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