IRP Discussion Paper Abstracts - 2004

Notes: Abstracts are plain text. Downloadable papers are in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.
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Sibling Similarity and Difference in Socioeconomic Status
Dalton Conley, Rebecca Glauber, and Sheera Olasky

Full Text: DP 1291-04

Previous researchers have examined the effect of unmeasured family background on a variety of socioeconomic outcomes, such as educational attainment, welfare usage, and earnings among men. That research has used a variety of data sources and measurement techniques to arrive at estimates of the similarity between siblings in these outcomes. The current paper reviews this work and extends this line of inquiry by considering sisters in addition to brothers, by considering wealth in addition to income, by examining differences in sibling correlations across population subgroups, and by examining age-cohort differences in correlations across these population subgroups. Given the important role that women now occupy in the labor market and the overall system of economic stratification, it is important to document sister associations on a full range of outcome measures. Likewise, wealth is now taken to be a key component of socioeconomic status, so documenting sibling correlations in net worth is important in describing the degree of economic mobility in U.S. society. Finally, differences in sibling correlations in SES by demographic subgroups imply--but do not necessarily confirm--potentially different processes by which advantaged and disadvantaged families interact with the social structure of opportunity in the wider society. Results show that the sibling correlation among sisters is higher across the board than among brothers. Sibling correlations for wealth are similar to those for income. Finally, a mixed pattern regarding the relationship between level of disadvantage--measured through race, family size, and mother's education--and sibling resemblance emerges from comparisons without regard to cohort effects. However, analyses of only the most recent cohort of Americans show a clearer pattern, relating a disadvantaged background to greater sibling discordance. Net worth consistently demonstrates greater sibling resemblance among more disadvantaged families, perhaps reflecting a floor effect. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for stratification research and estimation of family background effects.

Food Hardships and Child Behavior Problems among Low-Income Children
Kristen Shook Slack and Joan Yoo

Full Text: DP 1290-04

Using data from two waves of a panel study of families who currently or recently received cash welfare benefits, we test hypotheses about the relationship between food hardships and behavior problems among two different age groups (458 children ages 3-5-and 747 children ages 6-12). Results show that food hardships are positively associated with externalizing behavior problems for older children, even after controlling for potential mediators such as parental stress, warmth, and depression. Food hardships are positively associated with internalizing behavior problems for older children, and with both externalizing and internalizing behavior problems for younger children, but these effects are mediated by parental characteristics. The implications of these findings for child and family interventions and food assistance programs are discussed.

Extending Health Care Coverage to the Low-Income Population: The Influence of the Wisconsin BadgerCare Program on Insurance Coverage
Barbara Wolfe, Thomas Kaplan, Robert Haveman, and Yoon Young Cho

Full Text: DP 1289-04

The Wisconsin BadgerCare program, which became operational in July 1997, expanded public health insurance eligibility to families with incomes below 185 percent of the U.S poverty line (200 percent for those already enrolled). This eligibility expansion was part of a federal initiative known as the State Children's Health Initiative Program (SCHIP). In this paper, we attempt to answer the following question: "To what extent does a public program with the characteristics of Wisconsin's BadgerCare program reduce the proportion of the low-income population without health care coverage?"

Using a coordinated set of administrative databases, we track three cohorts of mother-only families: those who were receiving cash assistance under the Wisconsin AFDC and TANF programs in September 1995, 1997, and 1999, and who subsequently left welfare. We follow these "welfare leaver" families on a quarterly basis from two years before they left welfare through the end of 2001, making it possible to use the labor market information and welfare history of the women in analyzing outcomes. Hence, these 19,201 families, together with their public and private health insurance coverage experience, are tracked for up to 25 quarters after leaving welfare.

We apply multiple methods to address the policy evaluation question, including pooled probit, random effects, and difference-in-difference strategies, and compare the results across methods. All of our estimates indicate that BadgerCare substantially increased public health care coverage for mother-only families leaving welfare. Our best estimate is that BadgerCare increased the public health care coverage of all leavers by about 17 percentage points and that BadgerCare increased the probability of these women having any health insurance coverage, public or private, by about 15 percentage points.

Geographic Skills Mismatch, Job Search, and Race
Michael A. Stoll

Full Text: DP 1288-04

This paper examines whether a geographic skills mismatch exists between the location of less-educated minorities, in particular African Americans, and high-skill job concentrations, and if so, whether it contributes to the relatively poor employment outcomes of this group. It explores these questions by examining data on the recent geographic search patterns of less-educated workers in Los Angeles and Atlanta from the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality. These data are combined with employer data from the concurrent Multi-City Employer Survey to characterize the geographic areas searched by respondents with respect to high-skill job requirements. The results indicate that in relation to less-educated whites, comparable blacks and Latinos search in areas with higher levels of job skill requirements. Moreover, racial residential segregation as well as blacks' lower car-access rates accounts for most of blacks' (but not Latinos') relatively greater mismatch. Evidence is also found that such a geographic skills mismatch is negatively related to employment and accounts for a significant share of the racial differences in employment.

An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship between Wealth and Health Using the Survey of Consumer Finances
Audra T. Wenzlow, John Mullahy, Stephanie A. Robert, and Barbara L. Wolfe

Full Text: DP 1287-04

Building on the sizable literature that demonstrates important relationships between health and income, we address the role of financial wealth and its associations with the health status of individuals aged 25 to 54. We describe the shape of the health gradients in income and wealth and estimate models of self-reported health in which family income and wealth are the main explanatory variables. The results from a battery of alternative estimated model specifications suggest that income and wealth are jointly significant correlates of health, and that wealth plays a stronger role for the oldest members of this age group.

Medicaid at Birth, WIC Take-Up, and Children's Outcomes
Marianne Bitler and Janet Currie

Full Text: DP 1286-04

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food and nutritional advice to low-income women, and infants and children, who are income eligible and are nutritionally at risk. The effects of WIC on infants have been extensively studied, but children 1 to 4 are the most rapidly growing part of the WIC caseload, and little information is available about the effects of WIC on this group.

Using data from the 1996 and 2001 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we show that Medicaid policies that affected take-up among infants had long-term effects on participation in the WIC program. By contrast, increases in the generosity of Medicaid toward older children increased WIC eligibility without having much impact on participation. Hence increases in WIC participation among children have not been driven by higher-income families made eligible as a result of State Children’s Health Insurance Program, as some critics have argued.

Our most striking finding is that WIC participation at age 4 has large and significant effects on the probability that a child is at risk of being overweight (i.e., has BMI greater than the 85th percentile for sex and age). This suggests that either the nutrition education or the actual provision of healthy food is helping to prevent obesity among young children. This is an important measure of the success of the WIC program because of the importance of obesity as a public health threat, and because of the importance of establishing healthy eating habits early in life.

The Effects of Teach For America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation
Paul T. Decker, Daniel P. Mayer, and Steven Glazerman

Full Text: DP 1285-04

Based on student outcomes, our findings show that Teach For America (TFA) teachers had a positive impact on the math achievement of their students--average math scores were higher among TFA students than among control students, and the difference was statistically significant. TFA teachers did not have an impact on reading achievement--average reading gains were comparable among the TFA and control students. The findings regarding math and reading impacts were fairly consistent across grades, regions, and student subgroups, and they were robust to changes in modeling assumptions and specifications. Our results have important implications for a variety of stakeholders. Program funders, program operators, and policymakers at the state and federal levels have an enduring interest in finding ways to attract and retain high-quality teachers in low-income communities. District officials and school staff in such areas have an especially practical interest in the same question, particularly in the short term, with federal requirements under No Child Left Behind to place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Finally, parents and children in low-income communities are most directly affected by decisions about who will teach in their schools. From the perspective of TFA and its funders, our findings clearly show that the organization is making progress toward its primary mission of reducing inequities in education--it supplies low-income schools with academically talented teachers who contribute positively to the academic achievement of their students. The success of TFA teachers is not dependent on teachers having extensive exposure to teacher practice or training. Even though TFA teachers generally lack any formal teacher training beyond that provided by TFA, they produce higher student test scores than the other teachers in their schools--not just other novice teachers or uncertified teachers, but also veterans and certified teachers. Our study provides important information to policymakers who are trying to improve the educational opportunities of children in poor communities. The findings that many of the control teachers in our study were not certified or did not have forma training highlights the need for programs or policies that offer the potential of attracting good teachers to schools in the most disadvantaged communities. TFA is one such program.

New Evidence about Brown v. Board of Education: The Complex Effects of School Racial Composition on Achievement
Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, and Steven G. Rivkin

Full Text: DP 1284-04

While the goals of the integration of schools legally mandated by Brown v. Board of Education are very broad, here we focus more narrowly on how school racial composition affects scholastic achievement. Uncovering this effect is difficult, because racial mixing in the schools is not an accident but rather an outcome of both government and family choices. Our evaluation, made possible by rich panel data on the achievement of Texas students, disentangles racial composition effects from other aspects of school quality and from differences in abilities and family background. The results show that a higher percentage of black schoolmates has a strong adverse effect on the achievement of blacks and, moreover, that the effects are highly concentrated in the upper half of the skill distribution. In contrast, racial composition has a noticeably smaller effect on achievement of blacks with lower initial achievement and of whites--strongly suggesting that the results are not a simple reflection of unmeasured school quality. The uneven distribution of blacks across school districts can explain a significant portion of the black-white achievement gap in Texas.

Understanding Racial Disparities in Health: The Income-Wealth Paradox
Audra T. Wenzlow, John Mullahy, and Barbara L. Wolfe

Full Text: DP 1283-04

We examine the ways in which racial differences in health vary over the income-wealth distribution, comparing the self-reported health status of non-Hispanic whites with those of individuals of other races and ethnicities. Paradoxically, we find that although the largest unadjusted racial differences in health are between poor whites and poor nonwhites, after adjusting for income, wealth, and other demographic characteristics, health differences between nonwhites and whites are only significant among those in the upper half of the income-wealth distribution. The results suggest that unexplained racial differences in reported health status increase with socioeconomic status among individuals aged 25-54.

How Do Welfare Sanctions Work?
Chi-Fang Wu, Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer, and Geoffrey Wallace

Full Text: DP 1282-04

Under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), families are subject to greater work requirements, and the severity of sanction for noncompliance has increased. Utilizing Wisconsin longitudinal administrative data, we employ event history analysis to examine the dynamic patterns of sanctioning and the patterns of benefits following a sanction. We find very high rates of sanctioning (especially partial sanctions). Multiple sanctions are fairly common but sanction spells are quite short. The most common transition from a sanction is back to full benefit receipt. We also examine the factors associated with being sanctioned and the severity of sanctions by comparing a traditional model with an event history model. We find that it is important to estimate a model that takes into account the period of risk. Many results are similar, confirming that those who may be least able to succeed in the labor market are most likely to be sanctioned. But important differences also emerge, relationships that were hidden by the more traditional analysis.

Declining Employment among Young Black Less-Educated Men: The Role of Incarceration and Child Support
Harry J. Holzer, Paul Offner, and Elaine Sorensen

Full Text: DP 1281-04

In this paper, we document the continuing decline in employment and labor force participation of black men between the ages of 16 and 34 who have a high school education or less. We explore the extent to which these trends can be accounted for in recent years by two fairly new developments: (1) the dramatic growth in the number of young black men who have been incarcerated and (2) strengthened enforcement of child support policies. We use micro-level data from the Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Groups, along with state-level data over time on incarceration rates and child support enforcement, to test these hypotheses. Our results indicate that post-incarceration effects and child support policies both contribute to the decline in employment activity among young black less-educated men in the last two decades, especially among those aged 25-34.

The Role of Food Assistance Programs and Employment Circumstances in Helping Households with Children Avoid Hunger
Nader S. Kabbani and Myra Yazbeck

Full Text: DP 1280-04

Households with children in the United States are more likely to experience food insecurity than households with no children. However, households with children are less likely to experience hunger. This finding suggests that food insecure households with children may be drawing on personal and/or public resources to help them avoid hunger. In this paper, we use data from the April Food Security Supplements of the Current Population Survey to evaluate whether federal food assistance programs play a role in helping households with children avoid hunger. The problem of the endogeneity of a household's participation decision is addressed in two ways. First, for the Food Stamp Program, we use exogenous state-level policy variables that affect participation but not food security. Second, for households that experienced hunger during a given year, we study whether participation in any of the three largest federal food assistance programs was associated with lower levels of food insecurity during the last 30 days of that year. The paper also studies whether one personal resource, household employment circumstances, helps households with children avoid hunger. We find that by using better income data from the March Demographic Survey and by using a 10-item adult-referenced food security scale that excludes child-referenced items, we are able to control for the observed differences between households with and without children under 5 years old. For households with school-age children, only participation in the National School Lunch Program appears able to explain why they are able to avoid hunger.

Who Exits the Food Stamp Program after Welfare Reform?
Colleen M. Heflin

Full Text: DP 1279-04

I estimate the effects of work and welfare receipt on the probability of exiting the Food Stamp program using four waves of the Women's Employment Study. A competing risk analysis shows that work increases the odds of jointly leaving the Food Stamp program and welfare, but is unrelated to the odds of leaving the Food Stamp program while continuing to receive welfare benefits. Analyses also indicate that the odds of exiting are positively associated with being married, the number of adults in the household, and drug dependence. The rate of exiting is negatively associated with age, educational level, welfare history, the number of children in the household, having access to a car, and knowledge of Food Stamp eligibility rules.

Intimate Partner Violence and Child Maltreatment: Understanding Co-occurrence and Intergenerational Connection
Lynette M. Renner and Kristen Shook Slack

Full Text: DP 1278-04

Low-income adult women were interviewed regarding their experiences with intimate partner violence and child maltreatment during childhood and adulthood, and intra- and intergenerational relationships between different forms of family violence were identified. Analyses demonstrated weak to moderate associations across multiple forms of violence within generations. Only weak support was found for the transmission of violence hypothesis, according to which maltreated children are more likely to grow up to maltreat their own children. Stronger support was found for the theory of learned helplessness, whereby children maltreated or witness to violence during childhood are more likely to be victimized as an adult. The results from this study suggest that interventions with children who are identified for one form of victimization should be assessed for other forms of victimization, and interventions should also address learned behaviors associated with continued or future victimization.

Exploring the Influence of the National School Lunch Program on Children
Rachel E. Dunifon and Lori Kowaleski-Jones

Full Text: DP 1277-04

Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, 1998-1999 Kindergarten Cohort, the study examines two research questions: What are the effects of participation in the National School Lunch Program on changes in children's behavior, test scores, and body weight? Do these effects differ by gender? To address issues of selection, we use first-difference regression techniques. These techniques reduce the bias resulting from unobserved time-invariant characteristics that influence a family's enrollment in the National School Lunch Program. The results from this project provide insights into the role of the program in influencing child health, academic well-being, and social development.