Kevin Lewis

May 19, 2024

Blood Money: Selling Plasma to Avoid High-Interest Loans
John Dooley & Emily Gallagher
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Little is known about the motivations and outcomes of sellers in remunerated markets for human materials. We exploit dramatic growth in the U.S. blood plasma industry to shed light on the sellers of plasma. Sellers tend to be young and liquidity-constrained with low incomes and limited access to traditional credit. Plasma centers absorb demand for nontraditional credit. After a plasma center opens nearby, demand for payday loans falls by over 13% among young borrowers. Meanwhile, foot traffic increases by over 4% at nearby stores, suggesting that constrained households use plasma markets to smooth consumption without appealing to high-cost debt.

Residential mobility and persistently depressed voting among disadvantaged adults in a large housing experiment
David Jonathan Knight & Baobao Zhang
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 May 2024

This study examines the impact of residential mobility on electoral participation among the poor by matching data from Moving to Opportunity, a US-based multicity housing-mobility experiment, with nationwide individual voter data. Nearly all participants in the experiment were Black and Hispanic families who originally lived in high-poverty public housing developments. Notably, the study finds that receiving a housing voucher to move to a low-poverty neighborhood decreased adult participants' voter participation for nearly two decades -- a negative impact equal to or outpacing that of the most effective get-out-the-vote campaigns in absolute magnitude. This finding has important implications for understanding residential mobility as a long-run depressant of voter turnout among extremely low-income adults.

Work Requirements with No Teeth Still Bite: Disenrollment and Labor Supply Effects of SNAP General Work Requirements
Jason Cook & Chloe East
NBER Working Paper, May 2024

We provide the first evidence on the disenrollment impacts of SNAP's General Work Requirements, which apply to 28% of SNAP households, including many with young children. We leverage a regression discontinuity design based on the age of the youngest child in the household relative to the date of eligibility recertification -- once the youngest child turns six, many heads of household become subject to General Work Requirements. We use novel administrative SNAP data, linked with state Unemployment Insurance earnings records, and find these requirements have important SNAP disenrollment effects, negative spillover effects to other members of the household, and no large impacts on labor supply. Additionally, the main mechanism through which these disenrollment effects occur is through referrals to the mandatory state Employment and Training program.

The Effects of U.S. Low-Income Housing Programs on Recipient Consumption and Wellbeing
Dirk Early & Edgar Olsen
University of Virginia Working Paper, January 2024

This paper is the first to provide evidence on several key aspects of the comparative performance of the major types of housing assistance in the U.S. -- HUD's public housing and housing voucher programs, its largest programs that subsidize the operation of privately owned housing projects, and a set of other programs dominated by low-income housing tax credits. The aspects studied are the effects of the programs on the overall desirability of the housing and neighborhoods occupied by their participants, their aggregate consumption of non-housing goods and services, their net benefit to the decisionmakers in these households, the taxpayer cost incurred to provide these benefits, and the difference in mean benefits across recipients and eligible households with different demographic characteristics. The primary data is from the 2013 American Housing Survey national sample that identifies the type of housing assistance received by most households based on HUD's administrative records. The results indicate that HUD's largest programs lead to a much greater percentage increase in recipient consumption of non-housing goods than in their consumption of housing services. For HUD's project-based assistance, the improvement in housing conditions is negligible. For the conglomerate of LIHTC and other programs, the percentage increase is greater for housing consumption than for other goods, but both percentages are quite small. Tenant benefit per dollar of taxpayer cost is much larger for the housing voucher program than for HUD's public housing program or its largest programs that subsidize the operation of privately owned projects. It is even smaller for the programs that subsidize the construction of tax credit projects.

Homelessness and the Persistence of Deprivation: Income, Employment, and Safety Net Participation
Bruce Meyer et al.
NBER Working Paper, April 2024

Homelessness is arguably the most extreme hardship associated with poverty in the United States, yet people experiencing homelessness are excluded from official poverty statistics and much of the extreme poverty literature. This paper provides the most detailed and accurate portrait to date of the level and persistence of material disadvantage faced by this population, including the first national estimates of income, employment, and safety net participation based on administrative data. Starting from the first large and nationally representative sample of adults recorded as sheltered and unsheltered homeless taken from the 2010 Census, we link restricted-use longitudinal tax records and administrative data on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare, Medicaid, Disability Insurance (DI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans' benefits, housing assistance, and mortality. Nearly half of these adults had formal employment in the year they were observed as homeless, and nearly all either worked or were reached by at least one safety net program. Nevertheless, their incomes remained low for the decade surrounding an observed period of homelessness, suggesting that homelessness tends to arise in the context of long-term, severe deprivation rather than large and sudden losses of income. People appear to experience homelessness because they are very poor despite being connected to the labor market and safety net, with low permanent incomes leaving them vulnerable to the loss of housing when met with even modest disruptions to life circumstances.

Social Media Outreach and SNAP Take-Up
Parker Rogers
Indiana University Working Paper, April 2024

In a California field experiment, I examined the impact of Facebook outreach that encouraged enrollment in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Over 16,000 eligible non-participants were randomly assigned to control and treatment groups, with the latter exposed to ads highlighting SNAP's benefits, a streamlined application process, or efforts to reduce stigma. Despite these efforts, the campaign did not measurably impact enrollment. Reflecting a scenario not uncommon in outreach efforts, the outreach sample inadvertently included some individuals already enrolled in SNAP, leading to temporary disenrollments within this subgroup.


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