Focus on Policy
IRP introduced a new series of two-page briefs, Focus on Policy, in order to summarize recent poverty-related research for policymakers in a concise format.
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Focus on Policy No. 10
A recent symposium on poor urban men began with a question: Why focus on men? Three reasons were cited. First, most men have children—nearly two-thirds of young low-educated men are fathers—and fathers represent an important potential source of family income and financial support for children. Second, since 2000, poor urban men have retreated en masse from employment as median wages for low-skilled workers have dropped and their incarceration rate has shot up. Third, much research on the 1990s' welfare reforms focused on poor single women with children, whereas relatively little attention has been paid to disadvantaged men. Despite their importance to families and society, the plight of urban men with a high school education or less has not been widely documented or discussed. The symposium was designed to provide an evidence-based overview of the lives of disadvantaged urban men. Particular focus was on key issues affecting poor urban men—incarceration, child support, and labor markets—and on policy options that have produced measurable and replicable results.
Focus on Policy No. 9
SNAP is unique in serving as a near-universal entitlement: While there are needs-based eligibility criteria, there are few other restrictions across age, family structure, disability, or employment status and all qualified applicants are guaranteed a benefit. At the same time, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program) operates in tandem with the broader safety net, which also includes cash and in-kind transfers that target specific segments of the population, such as children, workers, and people with disabilities. This brief explores how SNAP operates in conjunction with other, more targeted safety net programs. It focuses on school meal programs to examine the food safety net for school-age children; and subsequently considers how SNAP interacts with the broader tax and transfer safety net. This is the last in a four-part series drawing from a comprehensive new book, SNAP Matters: How Food Stamps Affect Health and Well-Being, edited by the authors of this brief.
Focus on Policy No. 8
By providing additional resources for food, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously called the Food Stamp Program) is expected to make people better off—in the immediate terms by reducing food insecurity, and in the longer term by enhancing nutrition and health. This brief provides an overview of research on how SNAP is linked to food security, nutrition, health, and obesity. Further, it discusses some of the pervasive challenges in linking policies such as SNAP to complex outcomes such as these, while highlighting some of the critical questions still remaining. The discussion draws on a comprehensive new book, SNAP Matters: How Food Stamps Affect Health and Well-Being, edited by the authors of this brief.
Focus on Policy No. 7
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the Food Stamp Program) operated in the shadows of the safety net for its first 30 years in terms of both policy and research interest. A countercyclical program with caseloads that have historically ebbed and flowed with the ups and downs of the economy, SNAP participation has grown rapidly over the past 15 years. This growth has led to diverging views among policymakers: for some, it highlights structural constraints on the labor market; for others, it implies flaws in program design. This brief, the second in a four-part series, examines the changes in SNAP caseloads since 1980, and the factors that contributed to those changes. The brief also summarizes the newest research on the program's antipoverty impact. The discussion draws on a comprehensive new book, SNAP Matters: How Food Stamps Affect Health and Well-Being, edited by the authors of this brief.
Focus on Policy No. 6
This policy brief is one in a series of four briefs by safety net scholars Judith Bartfeld, Craig Gundersen, Timothy Smeeding, and James Ziliak that summarize the latest research findings on the nation's largest food assistance program. Over the past 50 years, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously called the Food Stamp Program) has evolved from a small pilot program to a critical component of the safety net. A comprehensive new book, SNAP Matters: How Food Stamps Affect Health and Well-Being, edited by the authors of this brief, provides an overview of SNAP, including how and why it has changed over time, how it affects the well-being of participants, and its interconnections with the broader safety net. Drawing on that volume, this brief provides an overview of how SNAP works, summarizes some of the key research conclusions, and considers some of the critical policy debates surrounding the program. Three accompanying briefs look in more detail at what research says about SNAP.
Focus on Policy No. 5
This policy brief by Lawrence Berger, Maria Cancian, Jennifer Noyes, and Vanessa Rios-Salas draws from the authors' 2015 article in Pediatrics 135(1), which examines the effect of foster care placement on school achievement. The authors find that out-of-home placement (foster care) itself does not appear to be causally related to school achievement, which is a fundamentally different conclusion from past studies. Many past studies document that, on average, youth in foster care perform worse in school than other children. However, the Berger and colleagues study employed a more focused and relevant set of comparisons than most previous studies, using linked administrative data for a sample of more than 222,000 children who had either experienced foster care or were in comparison groups.
Focus on Policy No. 4
In this policy brief, Barbara Wolfe shares recent research evidence on the connections between low income and poor health in the United States. Wolfe, the Richard A. Easterlin Professor of Public Affairs, Economics, and Population Health Sciences, and Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, examines the latest figures on disparities in health insurance coverage, access to care, and health. National health survey data on health status of children and adults by poverty status reveal significant disparities by income, especially among adults. Adults living below the poverty line are five times more likely to experience health limitations and fair or poor health than nonpoor adults. Wolfe describes the major health care programs that serve poor Americans and suggests cost-effective, evidence-based policy options to reduce and prevent these disparities that could be funded by shifting some current public health expenditures on efforts that have not proved successful.
Focus on Policy No. 3
This policy brief, by Carolyn Heinrich and Timothy Smeeding, looks at the research evidence on hard-to-employ persons—such as young single mothers, ex-offenders, and people with less than a high school diploma—and how measures to stabilize the economy during the Great Recession, coupled with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act income support policy expansions, helped keep poverty from rising for children. Many conference presentations focused on ways to improve work opportunities, earnings, and incomes for this group, many of which are featured in this policy brief.
Focus on Policy No. 2
This policy brief, by Carolyn Heinrich and Timothy Smeeding, examines the range of challenges faced by disadvantaged families, noting that there is widespread agreement that work must be part of any strategy to increase their self-sufficiency. Also noted is the reality that low-wage and often part-time, variable-hours work that many low-income families rely on, along with the EITC and SNAP, does not provide enough income to cover a family's basic needs. Some of the most promising policy ideas on this topic that were discussed at the Building Human Capital conference are featured in this brief.
Focus on Policy No. 1
This inaugural issue of Focus on Policy summarizes recent research on the ways in which the American family has changed over the past half century. Changes include how couples form partnerships, have children, earn a living, and struggle to get by.