IRP Discussion Paper Abstracts - 2000

Notes: Abstracts are plain text. Downloadable papers are in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.
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Child Support and Welfare Caseloads
Chien-Chung Huang, Irwin Garfinkel, and Jane Waldfogel

Full Text: DP 1218-00

Although there is a large body of research devoted to the issue of the determinants of welfare caseloads, none of these studies has incorporated the effects of child support. Given that stronger child support enforcement is expected to reduce caseloads by deterring entrances and promoting exits from welfare and by deterring divorce and nonmarital births, this is a surprising and potentially serious omission. We employ annual state panel data from 1980 to 1996 first to replicate previous models and then to incorporate the effects of child support. We find support for the hypothesis that strong child support enforcement decreases welfare caseloads.

Do Children from Welfare Families Obtain Less Education?
Inhoe Ku and Robert D. Plotnick

Full Text: DP 1217-00

This study estimates the relationship between parental welfare receipt and children's adulthood educational attainment. Data come from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Cross-sectional regression results confirm findings from previous studies that greater parental welfare receipt is significantly associated with children's poorer educational attainment. Fixed-effect regressions indicate that the relationship between parental welfare receipt and children's educational outcomes becomes weaker after controlling for unobserved family characteristics, but they do not eliminate the negative relationship. The relationship between parental welfare receipt and children's educational attainment is not uniform across childhood stages. Additional analyses suggest that parental welfare receipt is not negatively related to educational attainment if combined with at least quarter-time work by the mother.

Inequality, Interactional Complexity, and Violent Delinquency: An Exploration of Structural, Family, and Individual Considerations
Marino A. Bruce

Full Text: DP 1216-00

Over three decades have passed since the defeat of Jim Crow, yet the United States continues to be a dangerous place to live for many poor and racial/ethnic minority citizens. Unlike the brutality witnessed and endured by subordinate racial groups during the majority of this country's existence, participants in violent encounters often come from the same age, gender, class, and race groupings. To make sense of these patterns, I do two things. First, I offer a critical examination of previous work and present a conceptual frame that is more specific with regard to racial stratification and its relationship with violent delinquency. Second, I analyze data drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to highlight the interactional complexity of the relationship between stratification and violence. The results from robust regression analysis show violence to be the product of a complex process whereby social-environment factors combine to influence individual behavior in race- and gender-specific ways. These findings raise questions about the theoretical underpinnings of research in his area, and encourage us to think differently about linkages between race and violence.

Welfare Reform and Food Stamp Caseload Dynamics
James P. Ziliak, Craig Gundersen, and David N. Figlio

Full Text: DP 1215-00

We use state-level panel data for federal fiscal years 1980-1998 to estimate the impacts of welfare reform and the business cycle on food stamp caseloads. The model we employ is a dynamic function of past caseloads, economic factors, AFDC and Food Stamp Program policies, political factors, AFDC caseload levels, and unobserved fixed and trending heterogeneity. Our results suggest that the robust economy has substantially influenced the recent decline in food stamp caseloads, but that the estimated aggregate effect of welfare reform is modest-we attribute around 45 percent of 1994-1998 decline to the macroeconomy and about 5 percent to welfare reform. We do find substantial heterogeneity in the impact of AFDC waiver policies. States with JOBS sanctions policies but not family cap or earnings disregard waivers can expect a larger long-run decline in caseloads than those states with all three policies. In addition, we do find some evidence, albeit weaker, that states with waivers for unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents can expect higher caseload levels than states without the waivers and that the Electronic Benefits Transfer program is leading to food stamp caseload declines. An important finding of this study is that modeling food stamp caseload dynamics has implications for the estimated effects of policy changes and economic factors-when dynamic models are employed, we observe substantially reduced welfare-reform effects but significantly increased effects of the macroeconomy on food stamp caseloads. These results are robust to models that permit the simultaneous determination of AFDC and food stamp caseloads.

Interpreting Minimum Wage Effects on Wage Distributions: A Cautionary Tale
Christopher J. Flinn

Full Text: DP 1214-00

It is tempting to try to infer the welfare effects of minimum wage changes from empirical observations on pre- and post change employment and unemployment levels and wage or earnings distributions. Using a simple model of search, matching, and bargaining, I characterize the relationship between minimum wage levels, labor market outcomes, and the welfare of labor market participants. Using observations on wage distributions before and after changes in the nominal minimum wage, I determine what can and cannot be learned about welfare impacts from changes in various features of these distributions. Results are illustrated using simulation exercises and a small empirical example. Using U.S. data for young labor market participants in March 1997 and March 1998, this study concludes that the increase in the minimum wage which occurred in September 1997 may have been welfare-enhancing, though various implications of the model are not consistent with the data. This analysis illustrates the fact that well-specified behavioral models are required to evaluate the impact of changes in institutional constraints on the welfare of labor market participants.

Employer Demand for Welfare Recipients by Race
Harry J. Holzer and Michael A. Stoll

Full Text: DP 1213-00

This paper uses new survey data on employers in four large metropolitan areas to examine the determinants of employer demand for welfare recipients. The results suggest a high level of demand for welfare recipients, though such demand appears fairly sensitive to business cycle conditions. A broad range of factors, including skill needs and industry, affect the prospective demand for welfare recipients among employers, while other characteristics that affect the relative supply of welfare recipients to these employers (such as location and employer use of local agencies or welfare-to-work programs) influence the extent to which such demand is realized in actual hiring. Moreover, the conditional demand for black (and to a lesser extent Hispanic) welfare recipients lags behind their representation in the welfare population and seems to be more heavily affected by employers' location and indicators of preferences than by their skill needs or overall hiring activity. Thus, a variety of factors on the demand side of the labor market continue to limit the employment options of welfare recipients, especially those who are minorities.

Welfare's Children
Michael Wiseman

Full Text: DP 1212-00

States with family cap public assistance policies deny or reduce additional welfare benefits to mothers who conceive and give birth to additional children while they are receiving aid. By 1999, 22 states had family cap policies in place. Little is known about the incidence of conceptions leading to births among women on welfare or the effect of family cap policies on the likelihood of such events. This paper reports estimates of the number and cost implications of infants conceived by mothers receiving assistance in California over the period 1988-1995. The estimates are constructed using a longitudinal analytic database derived from administrative records. The results indicate that such births are common, but their incidence is declining. In 1988 about 5.2 percent of the AFDC-FG (mostly single-parent) California cases experienced a birth of a child conceived while the case was open; by 1995 this had declined to 4.8 percent. Over the same interval this aggregate rate fell from 8.0 to 6.7 percent for (two-parent) families in AFDC-UP. Although the one-year number of such births (62,000 in 1995) is small in comparison with total numbers of children in AFDC families, such children accumulate over time. Thirty percent of children under age 9 in California families receiving AFDC benefits in February 1996 were conceived while their cases were open; benefits paid on their behalf amounted to roughly 7 percent of total state outlays. The incidence of such births varies by race, but the downward trend is common. California actually implemented a family cap in 1997, but the state's plan is unusual in that adults can escape the consequences by leaving welfare for two months following the onset of pregnancy. Because administration of TANF in California has been radically decentralized, it is not clear whether counties are in fact applying the cap or, if so, whether parents are taking advantage of the two-month exemption.

The Evolution, Cost, and Operation of the Private Food Assistance Network
Beth Osborne Daponte and Shannon Lee Bade

Full Text: DP 1211-00

Delivery of assistance to the poor has changed drastically in the past 20 years. While the availability of cash assistance has decreased, the availability of food assistance has widened. The most substantial change in assistance available to the poor may have been the emergence of food pantries as a source of free food to prepare at home. Large numbers of Americans rely on food pantries, but many policymakers, academics, and participants in the private food assistance network have limited understanding of the network. This paper aims to fill that gap by examining how the network evolved, how much it costs, and how it operates. We provide a detailed review of domestic food policy since the 1930s, show how agricultural and welfare policies contributed to developing a supply of free food available to the needy, and explain how private efforts, such as the creation of Second Harvest, resulted in a rise in food pantries. Our research also highlights policy changes in the Food Stamp program that may have contributed to the tremendous demand for free food in the 1980s. Using secondary data, we estimate that the private food assistance network costs about $2.3 billion annually, making it about one-twelfth the size of the Food Stamp program. We show that the benefits available to the needy from the network differ among geographic areas. We highlight the heterogeneity of organizations in the network by examining two food banks, the Connecticut Food Bank and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. We conclude that the private food assistance network provides the needy with valuable resources and offer recommendations for making the public food safety net more effective.

Child Well-Being and the Intergenerational Effects of Undocumented Immigrant Status
Shawn Malia Kanaiaupuni

Full Text: DP 1210-00

Immigrant status carries considerable challenges to survival and mobility in U.S. society. As an emerging dimension of social stratification, legal status further complicates the situation, influencing not only immigrants but also their children. Using data collected in Houston and San Diego, this study examines the intergenerational health consequences of undocumented status for child well-being. The main findings support my argument that children with undocumented immigrant parents suffer higher risks of poverty and poor health than children in legal households, and that children in mixed-status households are equally disadvantaged despite having a legal adult at home. In contrast, children in legal households are wealthier and have more food, better living quarters, better health insurance status, and better health status. The drawbacks of being raised in families with one or more unauthorized residents offer further evidence of a growing policy dilemma about access to health care and the general well-being of this vulnerable population of children. Addressing these needs carries particular significance for the future of a growing Chicana/o population, among whom these findings document an observable health deficit. As such, this deficit, which may also exist among other Latino groups experiencing high rates of undocumented migration and uncertain legal status outcomes, contributes to existing health disparities and racial and ethnic inequality in the United States.

Incentives, Challenges, and Dilemmas of TANF
Barbara L. Wolfe

Full Text: DP 1209-00

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 changed the U.S. welfare system dramatically. Its primary goal was to reduce dependency by moving most of those receiving cash welfare into the work force. One tool to accomplish this objective was a change in the incentives facing actual and potential recipients. States were granted flexibility in how to accomplish this objective. This paper evaluates the program in four states in terms of efficiency and equity. It looks briefly at resulting labor force participation and incomes of those most directly affected by welfare reforms. The analysis highlights the difficulty of simultaneously providing incentives to work and incentives to increase individuals' labor market productivity while maintaining a minimal safety net and avoiding high marginal rates of taxation. None of the states studied is able to avoid a "poverty trap" in its program. The need to coordinate the benefit and withdrawal schedule of programs designed to help this population flows from the analysis.

The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study: Questions, Design, and a Few Preliminary Results
Sara McLanahan and Irwin Garfinkel

Full Text: DP 1208-00

Nonmarital childbearing is important because it is increasing and because there is concern (and some evidence) that it is damaging to children and perhaps parents as well. We refer to the unions of unwed parents as fragile families because they are similar to traditional families in many respects, but more vulnerable. Most people believe that children in fragile families would be better off if their parents lived together and their fathers were more involved in their upbringing. Indeed, public policy is now attempting to enlarge the role of unwed fathers both by cutting public cash support for single mothers and by strengthening paternity establishment and child support enforcement. Yet the scientific basis for these policies is weak. We know very little about the men who father children outside marriage, and we know even less about the nature of their relationships with their children and their children's mothers.

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFS) is designed to remedy this situation by following a new birth cohort of approximately 4,700 children, including 3,600 children born to unmarried parents. The new data will be representative of nonmarital births in each of 20 cities and in U.S. cities with populations over 200,000. Both mothers and fathers will be followed for at least 4 years, and in-home assessments of children's heath and development will be carried out when the child is 4 years old. The survey is designed to address the following questions: (1) What are the conditions and capabilities of new unwed parents, especially fathers? (2) What is the nature of the relationships in fragile families? (3) What factors push new unwed parents together and what factors pull them apart? In particular, how do labor markets, welfare, and child support public policies affect family formation? (4) How do children fare in fragile families and how is their well-being affected by parental capacities and relationships, and by public policies?

The paper discusses what we know about each of these questions and how the FFS addresses each of them. It also presents preliminary findings based on data from Austin, Texas, and Oakland, California.

Effects of Participation in the WIC Food Assistance Program on Children's Health and Development: Evidence from NLSY Children
Lori Kowaleski-Jones and Greg J. Duncan

Full Text: DP 1207-00

This study investigates the effects of maternal participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on birth weight, motor and social skills, and temperament for a national sample of children born between 1990 and 1996 to women participating in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Sibling fixed effect models are used to account for persistent differences in difficult to measure characteristics of mothers that affect participation in the program. Results indicate that prenatal WIC participation has positive effects on infant birth weight. Fixed effect, but not OLS, estimates suggest that prenatal WIC participation is associated with more positive child temperament.

Concurrent Validity of the Face Valid Food Security Measure
Joda P. Derrickson, Jennifer E. L. Anderson, and Anne G. Fisher

Full Text: DP 1206-00

Our objective was to assess the concurrent validity of the face valid food security categorical algorithm with Hawaii residents. We also hypothesized that there would be differences in food security status between ethnic groups. We used the 18 question indicators of the Core Food Security Module (CFSM) to develop the face valid food security measure. The "face valid" measure was created previously by this research team as a more valid food security measure in Hawaii. Findings compared the face valid categorical measure and the CFSM scale measure with various demographic, economic, dietary variables, and use of assistance programs. The sample included 1,603 Hawaii residents drawn from a statewide telephone survey and a survey of charitable food recipients. Statistical analysis included ANOVA, chi-square, and regression analysis of food security measures with related variables. In general, progressively deteriorating food security status resulted in concurrent decreases in vegetable intake, increased reliance on a cheap, high-fat, high-sodium noodle product, and increased reliance on resource augmentation behaviors. Factors such as a greater number of children, limited savings, and recent loss of a job were found to compromise food security status. WIC benefits, frequent use of a food pantry, and the presence of a senior adult in the household appeared protective. In this sample Asians, except for Filipinos, were more food secure; Hawaiians and Part-Hawaiians, and Samoans, were more likely to experience hunger. Findings were consistent with previous work and suggest that the face valid food security measure does exhibit concurrent validity.

High School Inputs and Labor Market Outcomes for Male Workers in Their Mid-Thirties: New Data and New Estimates from Wisconsin
Craig A. Olson and Deena Ackerman

Full Text: DP 1205-00

This study presents new evidence on the relationship between high school inputs measured at the time male respondents attended high school and the earnings of these same individuals when they were in their mid-thirties. To accomplish this task, we matched newly coded data on the characteristics of Wisconsin high schools in 1954-57 to the Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey. Our estimates show a significant relationship between the characteristics of teachers and the earnings of their students 17 years after graduation. Specifically, a 1 percent increase in the average teacher salary in a district increases the earnings of students by 0.33 percent. The magnitude of this effect is larger than estimates reported in previous research and many times larger than the impact of increasing parents' income by a comparable amount.

Metropolitan Labor Markets and Ethnic Niching: Introduction to a Research Project
Franklin D. Wilson

Full Text: DP 1204-00

This paper reports the findings of a study of labor market niching involving 102 ethnic groups living in 216 metropolitan areas in 1990. Approximately 12 percent of the labor force of the 216 metropolitan areas studied was employed in ethnic niches. The percentage in niches was substantially higher for indigenous minority groups (American Indians, African Americans, Hawaiians, and Puerto Ricans) and for non-European groups, including those from Latin American, the Caribbean, and Asia. Also, 59 percent of employment sectors, formed by cross-classifying 47 major industries and 19 major occupations, had at least 1 percent of their workforces employed in niches, with the percentage so concentrated being higher for construction, manufacturing, and selected consumer market andprofessional service sectors, and selected managerial/professional, service, and blue-collar occupations. The study found that ethnic groups differ considerably with respect to the types of sectors in which they have niches. Niches in service and blue-collar occupations associated with construction, manufacturing, and consumer market industries are primarily occupied by indigenous minority and non-European groups. Niches in professional/managerial and technical occupations are dominated by European, Middle Eastern, and selected Asian groups. Although niching appears to be pervasive among some ethnic groups, for individual groups there is considerable discontinuity in the sectors in which niching occurs across metropolitan areas; few groups have multiple occupational niches within a given industry in one or more metropolitan area. Finally, workers employed in workplace jobs in which the workforce is majority co-ethnic are also likely to work in ethnic niches. It is suggested that ethnic niching emerges from economic competition resulting from changes in the relative number and sizes of ethnic populations in conjunction with the expansion/contraction of employment opportunities in local labor markets.

How Long Do African Americans Stay in High-Poverty Neighborhoods? An Analysis of Spells
Lincoln Quillian

Full Text: DP 1203-00

Discussions of high-poverty neighborhoods often assume that their residents are a distinct population trapped in poor neighborhoods for long durations. This paper examines this claim by calculating the first estimates of duration of residence in high-poverty neighborhoods for the African-American population. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics matched to census tract data and a model of movement among neighborhood types adopted from Bane and Ellwood (1983, 1986) and McGinnis (1968), I derive measures of the duration of stays in high-poverty neighborhoods. A large share of the black population will experience a short spell of residence in an extremely poor neighborhood at some time over a 10-year period. Many of the residents of nonpoor and poor neighborhoods at a point in time, however, will be there for long spells. Among poor African Americans, reentry to high-poverty neighborhoods following an exit is common. Patterns of stays in high-poverty neighborhoods are more complex and heterogeneous than usually supposed.