Visiting Scholars, 1998–1999

Reports on Current Research

Mark Turner inaugurated the visitors program with a one-week visit in the spring of 1998, giving a seminar on "Nonresident Fathers and Child Support Modifications." Then a Research Associate at the Urban Institute, he subsequently joined the Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University before founding a consulting firm, Optimal Solutions Group.

Robert A. Brown, Susan T. Gooden, and Lauren Rich were the visiting scholars at IRP during the 1998-1999 academic year. Below are brief reports by each on the research projects current at the time of their visit.

Robert A. Brown

Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Program for African American Studies, Emory University

African-American Urban Representation Amid the Urban Transition of the 1970s and 1980s

For African Americans, the quest for representation has been an issue of historic proportion, and one of the most significant developments in contemporary American politics over the past thirty years has been the growth in the number of black elected officials. African Americans have made considerable progress at all levels of government, having their greatest success at the urban level. In a somewhat unfortunate irony, African Americans achieved a greater measure of urban political representation during the 1970s and 1980s when many cities struggled--economically, socially, and politically. Moreover, many of the cities in which blacks became mayors and city council members were among the nation's most economically ravaged cities with some of the highest levels of poverty and unemployment--cities such as Detroit, Gary, and Newark.

How have black mayors governed their cities? Specifically, have black mayors and city council members actually altered the fiscal priorities of city governments in ways responsive to the needs and concerns of black citizens, many of whom are mired in serious poverty? And how did black mayors govern during the 1970s and 1980s as many cities were experiencing significant economic and demographic change? Did they respond to the policy interests of black constituents, given the formidable constraints upon the fiscal capacity of their city governments? Finally, did black mayors govern their cities in ways different from white mayors, even those in cities with high levels of poverty?

My research seeks to answer these questions by examining city governments' expenditures on public welfare and housing and community development, two of the three major social policy categories for which many city governments have some responsibility. The major proposition I test is whether black mayors and city council members have a significant, positive effect upon cities' social spending. My analysis of urban fiscal policy uses expenditure data of the city governments, which are compiled by the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce and are available in its Censuses and Annual Surveys of Governments. The data I developed have annual fiscal data for American cities from 1972 to 1988 and include all of the nation's cities with at least 50,000 residents, approximately 380 cities. The data include the necessary control variables for demographic and economic factors that also affect cities' social spending.

Using pooled regression analysis, I find that black mayors clearly had an effect upon increasing social spending for housing and community development. However, there is variation in the seeming ability of mayors to affect their cities' social spending: black mayors failed to exhibit any significant influence upon public welfare spending. My analyses thus far have also found that white mayors in cities with higher poverty rates increased the housing and community development spending of their city governments, although at lower levels than those of black mayoral cities. The strong positive effects exhibited by white mayoral cities with higher poverty rates indicate that political officials attempt to respond to the economic demand within cities for necessary social provision. These results, in particular, introduce a new aspect to traditional political science research regarding the race of political officials and their influence upon urban social policy, suggesting that mayors in cities experiencing serious economic problems generally commit city government resources to policy that is of great consequence to many urban citizens.

Susan T. Gooden

Assistant Professor in the Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech

Examining Job Retention Outcomes of Federal Welfare-to-Work Employees

On March 8, 1997, President Clinton announced the federal government's Welfare to Work initiative, a major effort designed to provide job opportunities for welfare recipients in federal agencies. In particular, all executive departments and agency heads are expected to use all available hiring authorities to hire welfare recipients into government positions. Although such hiring is an important step in realizing the policy goals of federal welfare reform legislation, other steps remain. In particular, the ability of welfare recipients to retain their jobs after employment is equally important in promoting long-term economic self-sufficiency.

One challenge that states, localities, and service providers face is developing job retention benchmarks for welfare employees. What are reasonable job retention rates? Do the job retention patterns of welfare employees differ from other employees? Often, this difficulty is attributable, in part, to the absence of a comparison group to assist in developing job retention goals. The study that we are undertaking compares job retention patterns between welfare-to-work employees and other employees who are working in similar federal occupations.

Using quantitative data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Central Personnel Data File, this study examines job retention outcomes of the federal Welfare to Work initiative. This analysis compares 3- and 6-month job retention rates of welfare-to-work employees with other federal employees in terms of age, education, occupational category, grade, work schedule, race, and Veterans' Preference. In total, we examine 18,500 federal employees.

This study also utilizes qualitative field research to interview senior and front-line managers in various federal agencies regarding their agency's approach toward hiring and retaining welfare hires and their managerial experiences with welfare-to-work employees. These results will provide useful insights into the dynamics of job retention among welfare recipients who are hired into federal sector employment.

Job retention is important to welfare recipients, program administrators, and employers. For welfare recipients, job retention may be the first step toward establishing a positive work history, moving up the career ladder, and securing financial independence. Many program administrators at the state and local levels routinely report job retention rates as an indicator of economic self-sufficiency outcomes. Job retention goals are typically specified when state and local governmental agencies provide job placement services. Despite the demand for entry-level employees, employers are often concerned about the risk involved in employing welfare recipients and the costs associated with hiring and losing an employee within the first months of employment. This study provides useful information to each of these groups on job retention outcomes among newly employed welfare recipients.

This study, directed by Susan T. Gooden and Margo Bailey, has been published as:

Gooden, Susan Tinsley and Margo Bailey. (2001) "Welfare and Work: Job Retention Outcomes of Federal Welfare-to-Work Employees." Public Administration Review. 61(1): 83-91.

Note: Margo Bailey is Assistant Professor of Public Administration at The American University

Lauren Rich

Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania

Employment and Enrollment Status and the Likelihood of a Nonmarital Teenage Pregnancy

In this study, we estimate random- and fixed-effects models of the monthly likelihood of pregnancy among a sample of white, African-American, and Hispanic teens from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY). Our primary independent variable is school enrollment and employment status in the current month. We build on previous research on this topic by testing and controlling for the presence of unobserved variables which may be correlated with both enrollment and employment status and the likelihood of pregnancy. Also, because enrollment and employment are jointly determined for teenagers, we employ a measure which allows for the joint influence of these variables. Finally, we also include a direct measure of perceived future opportunities, which may be related to current and past enrollment and employment status.

The NLSY is particularly appropriate for this endeavor because it contains extensive work history data which allow for the construction of monthly employment status. In addition, each year it queries respondents regarding their enrollment in each month of the prior year. Finally, it includes a large number of individual and family background variables which we employ as control variables, including mother's and father's education, number of siblings, number of years with both parents until age 13, religious identification and frequency of attendance at religious services, and achievement test scores. The major disadvantage of the NLSY is that premarital pregnancies are underreported, particularly among African Americans. We deal with this problem by restricting the sample to young women aged 14-16 in 1979. Because older teens are more likely to have experienced an unreported pregnancy, we believe that restricting the sample in this way should minimize the proportion of young women with an unreported prior pregnancy.

We find that, in the raw data, the likelihood of pregnancy in a given month is lower for months in which young women are either enrolled or both enrolled and employed, relative to months in which they are neither enrolled nor employed. When we separate the sample by race/ethnicity, we find that this pattern continues to hold for whites and Hispanics, but not for African Americans.

Ater controlling for differences in observable characteristics, we find that, for whites, the probability of pregnancy in a given month is significantly lower in those months in which young women are either enrolled, employed, or both (relative to months in which they were neither enrolled or employed). For Hispanics, we find that the probability of pregnancy in a given month is significantly lower only in those months in which young women are enrolled only.

We then conduct tests which confirm the presence of unobservable, individual-specific characteristics that are constant over time and which indicate that these variables are correlated with some or all of the observed explanatory variables. After controlling for these differences, we find that the probability of pregnancy continues to be significantly lower in those months in which young white women are either enrolled or both enrolled and employed. In the case of Hispanics, however, enrollment is no longer associated with a significantly lower likelihood of pregnancy.

These results suggest that current enrollment and/or employment may reduce the time available to some young women to engage in risky behaviors such as premarital sex. It may also be that young women who are currently employed and/or enrolled perceive a higher opportunity cost associated with premarital pregnancy. However, we find little evidence that higher occupational expectations, which may be affected by past employment or enrollment, are associated with a lower likelihood of pregnancy.

The causes of the racial differences in the relationship between enrollment/employment status and the likelihood of pregnancy deserve further investigation, especially in light of the fact that rates of premarital pregnancy are higher among these groups. In particular, further research might profitably examine whether this result is due to differences in the types of schools attended by African Americans and Hispanics versus those attended by whites. Similarly, future research might examine whether the types of jobs held by African-American and Hispanic young women differ significantly from those held by whites.

The study is being conducted by Lauren M. Rich and and Sun-Bin Kim. Sun-Bin Kim is a graduate student in economics at the University.