IRP Discussion Paper Abstracts - 2002

Notes: Abstracts are plain text. Downloadable papers are in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.
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The Impact of Child Support Enforcement Policy on Nonmarital Childbearing
Robert D. Plotnick, Irwin Garfinkel, Sara S. McLanahan, and Inhoe Ku

Full Text: DP 1258-02

A simple model of fatherhood and marriage choice implies that stricter child support enforcement will tend to reduce nonmarital childbearing by raising the costs of fatherhood. We investigate this hypothesis by examining nonmarital childbearing during 1980-1993, a period when child support policy and enforcement underwent enormous changes. We use a sample of women from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, to which we add information on state child support enforcement. We examine childbearing behavior between the ages of 15 and 44, both before marriage and during periods of nonmarriage following divorce or widowhood. Discrete-time hazard models of nonmarital childbearing provide evidence that women living in states with more effective child support collection were less likely to bear children when unmarried. The findings suggest that policies that shift more costs of nonmarital childbearing to men may reduce this behavior.

Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice: Madison and Dane County in Context
Pamela Oliver and James Yocom

Full Text: DP 1257-02

This report draws on national, state, and local-level data on imprisonment rates of African Americans and whites in Wisconsin, particularly in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. We find that Wisconsin has very high rates of black imprisonment and slightly lower rates of white imprisonment than the national average, resulting in one of the highest black/white disparities in incarceration in the nation. The very high contribution of drug crimes to imprisonment rates is striking. Arrest and prosecution of these crimes has disproportionately affected blacks but is unlikely to accurately reflect differences in actual offending. A difference in imprisonment rates between racial groups does not prove discrimination. Factors such as family disruption, unemployment, and poverty are important influences on rates of offending as well as on rates of arrest and sentencing. In addition, policies and practices of the criminal justice system contribute to racial disparities, even without conscious prejudice or discriminatory intent.

Welfare Reform and New York City's Low-Income Population
Howard Chernick and Cordelia Reimers

Full Text: DP 1256-02

To evaluate the initial effects of welfare reform and changes in New York City policies and administrative procedures, we use the Current Population Survey (CPS) to compare receipt of public benefit programs, earnings, and income among vulnerable households, defined as those households with low education or single mothers in 1994–95 and 1997–99. Over this period, the CPS shows a drop in the proportion of New York City households receiving public assistance, from 11.3 percent to 7.9 percent. The proportion getting at least one benefit (public assistance, Food Stamps, Medicaid, or SSI) stayed about the same over the period, mainly because most households losing public assistance retained their Medicaid coverage.

The decline in public assistance receipt was significantly greater among Hispanic households than among blacks. Among Hispanics, the greatest rate of decline was among Puerto Ricans. The proportion of the at-risk population with earnings increased from 62 percent to 70 percent, but the proportion combining public assistance and earnings increased very little. However, among those who remained on the public assistance rolls in 1997–99, the increase was more substantial, with the proportion also receiving earnings going up from 27 to 43 percent. The proportion of at-risk households with earnings rose more for Hispanics (by 12.1 percentage points) than blacks (6.4 percentage points). Among the entire at-risk group, there were significant increases in household earnings, money income, and "comprehensive" income (including the money value of in-kind benefits) for Hispanics (38 percent, 27 percent, and 18 percent, respectively), but none for blacks or non-Hispanic whites and others.

Differences between Hispanics and blacks can be described as "gap-closing," in that Hispanic rates of welfare receipt, earnings, and income converged on those of blacks. The "pull" of a tighter labor market, together with improvements in Hispanics' education levels and shifts in family structure (i.e., marriage and doubling up of single mothers), can explain part of this convergence; but the high overall rates of decline in public assistance and the sharp differences between different ethnic groups suggest that administrative "push" has also been an important factor.

WIC Eligibility and Participation
Marianne Bitler, Janet Currie, and John Karl Scholz

Full Text: DP 1255-02

This study examines WIC eligibility and participation using the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Comparisons of these sources to administrative totals suggest that participation is significantly undercounted in the CPS and in SIPP. However, the characteristics of families reported to receive WIC in the CPS and SIPP are similar to the administratively reported characteristics of WIC recipients nationally, which suggests that the undercount may be mostly random.

An examination of WIC takeup by eligible households using SIPP shows that takeup is lower for pregnant women than for infants, and that it is lower still for children 1 to 4. Our estimates suggest that there is substantial scope for expanding participation by eligibles, which would have significant budgetary implications for the program. A more detailed analysis of WIC participation using state-level administrative data, SIPP, and the CPS suggests that WIC participation is not strongly correlated with state-level economic indicators such as poverty and unemployment rates. Participation is correlated with program rules. States with stricter rules have lower participation, but a striking degree of state-to-state variation in participation rates remains unexplained. Demographic characteristics are predictive of participation. For example, conditional on income and eligibility, it is the less well educated who are most likely to participate. Finally, we present preliminary information showing positive correlations between WIC receipt and children's anthropometric outcomes. These estimates are of interest given the paucity of information about the effects of WIC on children, and the fact that children have the lowest participation rates of any categorically eligible WIC group.

Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks, and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers
Harry J. Holzer, Steven Raphael, and Michael A. Stoll

Full Text: DP 1254-02

In this paper, we analyze the effect of employer-initiated criminal background checks on the likelihood that employers hire African-Americans. We find that employers who check criminal backgrounds are more likely to hire African-American workers, especially among men. This effect is stronger among those employers who report an aversion to hiring those with criminal records than among those who do not. We also find similar effects of employer aversion to ex-offenders and their tendency to check backgrounds on their willingness to hire other stigmatized workers, such as those with gaps in their employment history. These results suggest that, in the absence of criminal background checks, employers discriminate statistically against black men and/or those with weak employment records. Such discrimination appears to contribute substantially to observed employment and earnings gaps between white and black young men.

Single Mothers and Emergency Food Assistance in the Welfare Reform Era
Judi Bartfeld

Full Text: DP 1253-02

This paper documents the characteristics, economic circumstances, and concurrent use of food stamps among single mothers using food pantries in Wisconsin in 1999. Single mothers who seek emergency food assistance have strong ties to the labor force, with almost half employed and most of the others having been employed during the past year. Most of these women use food pantries as an alternative, rather than a supplement, to food stamps, despite appearing to meet income criteria for food stamps. Concurrent food stamp use is more common among mothers with weaker employment ties, more recent welfare involvement, and greater levels of need. Single mothers who use food pantries and live in counties which have experienced large food stamp declines in the welfare reform years are less likely themselves to receive food stamps, despite high levels of need.

Food Insecurity or Poverty? Measuring Need-Related Dietary Adequacy
Jayanta Bhattacharya, Janet Currie, and Steven Haider

Full Text: DP 1252-02

We examine the extent to which food insecurity questions and the standard poverty measure are correlated with various dietary and physiologic outcomes. Our findings suggest that the correlations vary tremendously by age. We find that the food insecurity questions are correlated with the dietary outcomes of older household members, but that they are not consistently related to the diets of children. In contrast, poverty predicts dietary outcomes among preschoolers. Among adults, both poverty and food insecurity questions are good predictors of many dietary outcomes.

Health Inequality between Black and White Women
Yu-Whuei Hu and Barbara Wolfe

Full Text: DP 1251-02

The black-white inequality in health status in the United States has persisted despite large increases in life expectancy and improvements in the health status of both races. Our objective is to examine the inequality in health status between black and white women and to explore the extent to which such differences are associated with observed dissimilarities in characteristics such as insurance status, utilization of care, and socioeconomic status. We use data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to estimate (reduced-form) health production functions. Based on results of a "Chow-type" test, separate models are estimated for the black and white samples. To account for the endogeneity of medical care utilization, we employ a Murphy-Topel two-step econometric method; a Hausman test rejects the exogeneity hypothesis. According to our medical care utilization estimation, those who are both poor and uninsured are less likely to use physician services. Controlling for observed factors, including prior health status, our estimation of the health production function shows that greater use of medical care and higher educational levels increase the likelihood of being healthy, while lower incomes and being overweight reduce that likelihood. On the basis of our estimates, we predict that black women's likelihood of having excellent health would increase by 3-4 percentage points if they had the same characteristics, such as number of physician visits, educational level, marital status, weight status, and income level, as those of their white counterparts.

The Impact of South Carolina's Family Independence Program on Movers, Stayers, and Those In Between
Marilyn Edelhoch, Qiduan Liu, Linda Martin, and Michael Wiseman

Full Text: DP 1250-02

In its 1999 report, the National Research Council's (NRC) Panel on Welfare Reform Evaluation states that "good" welfare reform studies should distinguish between long-term, short-term, and "cycler" recipients in describing reform results. In this paper we question the utility of this prescription on practical and theoretical grounds. Instead we distinguish among welfare cases in South Carolina on the basis of expected case duration (ECD) in the absence of reform. We find that when evaluated on this basis, the caseload is indeed diverse, but no natural division, tripartite or otherwise, is apparent. We find that the consequences of introduction of South Carolina's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for closure and for outcomes for leavers are related to our measure of expected case duration. To the extent that comparisons are possible, our results appear consistent with many other studies of welfare leavers, although no other studies differentiate on an ECD basis. Among all leavers, those who would have been expected to leave welfare fastest appear on average to be most vulnerable to incidents of food deprivation. Recent studies that attempt to implement NRC guidelines are reviewed; judged from work available to date, the long-term/short-term/cycler distinction has been difficult to apply in practice.

Associations between Participation in the National School Lunch Program, Food Insecurity, and Child Well-Being
Rachel Dunifon and Lori Kowaleski-Jones

Full Text: DP 1249-02

This paper examines the associations between food insecurity, participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and children's well-being. We address problems of selection by restricting our sample to children in families in which at least one child participates in the NSLP. Results suggest that food insecurity is associated with behavioral problems, but not health or cognitive difficulties, among children. Additionally, after adjusting for selection, participation in the NSLP does not significantly impact child outcomes; the exception is for children in families experiencing child hunger, for whom participation is associated with reduced behavioral problems.

The Decline of Male Employment in Low-Income Black Neighborhoods, 1950-1990: Space and Industrial Restructuring in an Urban Employment Crisis
Lincoln Quillian

Full Text: DP 1248-02

Many urban theorists, notably W. J. Wilson, hypothesize that rates of male joblessness in low-income urban neighborhoods have increased since the 1960s. No comprehensive study examines this claim, and case studies that consider it do not adjust for changes in rates of school enrollment and the size of the old-age population. This paper tabulates male employment trends in census tracts in 49 metropolitan areas from 1950 to 1990 and models causes of these trends. The results show a marked decline in the employment of working-age men in low-income black tracts, both in absolute terms and relative to the employment rates of male residents of other types of tracts. By 1990, more than 40 percent of working-age black men in low-income tracts were not employed, about two-thirds of whom were adults between the ages of 25 and 64. Models indicate that declining urban manufacturing employment contributed to the declining rates of work for black men in low-income neighborhoods, but they do not support explanations based on spatial mismatch, suburbanization, or black out-migration. The paper concludes that Wilson is right to focus on the employment problem of low-income black neighborhoods, and that black male joblessness in low-income neighborhoods in 1990 reached crisis levels.

Trends in Employment Outcomes of Young Black Men, 1979-2000
Harry J. Holzer and Paul Offner

Full Text: DP 1247-02

In this paper, we present evidence that the employment and labor force participation rates of less-educated young black men declined in the 1980s and the 1990s, despite the very strong economic conditions of the latter period. The secular decline among young black men is much stronger than among other less-educated young men and stands in sharp contrast to the improving employment rates of young black women during the 1990s. Trends in real wages are also considered. Although several factors (such as rising school enrollment rates and the shrinkage of blue-collar jobs in the labor market) appear to have contributed to the declining employment of young black men, much of the decline remains unexplained at this time.

WIC Participation and the Initiation and Duration of Breastfeeding
Pinka Chatterji, Karen Bonuck, Simi Dhawan, and Nandini Deb

Full Text: DP 1246-02

The objective of this paper is to measure the effect of participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) after the birth of a child on one important health behavior, the initiation and persistence of breastfeeding. The study is based on linked data on mothers and children from the Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Baseline, two-stage least squares, and fixed-effects model estimates show a negative effect of WIC participation on some forms of breastfeeding. The findings demonstrate that the WIC program faces a difficult challenge in encouraging low-income mothers to breastfeed while also providing needed infant formula to formula-fed infants.

Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title I Chicago Child-Parent Centers
Arthur J. Reynolds, Judy A. Temple, Dylan L. Robertson, and Emily A. Mann

Full Text: DP 1245-02

We conducted the first cost-benefit analysis of a federally financed, comprehensive early childhood program. The Title I Chicago Child-Parent Centers are located in public schools and provide educational and family support services to low-income children from ages 3 to 9. Using data from a cohort of children born in 1980 who participate in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, findings indicated that the measured and projected economic benefits of preschool participation, school-age participation, and extended program participation exceeded costs. The preschool program provided a return to society of $7.14 per dollar invested by increasing economic well-being and tax revenues, and by reducing public expenditures for remedial education, criminal justice treatment, and crime victims. The extended intervention program (4 to 6 years of participation) provided a return to society of $6.11 per dollar invested while the school-age program yielded a return of $1.66 per dollar invested. Economic benefits to the general public, exclusive of individual earnings, also exceeded costs for all three levels of program participation. Findings demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of public early childhood programs.

Before and after TANF: The Economic Well-being of Women Leaving Welfare
Maria Cancian, Robert Haveman, Daniel R. Meyer, and Barbara Wolfe

Full Text: DP 1244-02

Welfare caseloads have fallen dramatically in the last several years, raising questions about the economic well-being of former participants. We use administrative data from Wisconsin to provide information on the employment, earnings, and income of those who left welfare. We offer a context for understanding postwelfare well-being by making two comparisons. First we compare outcomes for welfare leavers under early Wisconsin reforms with outcomes for those who left under the later, more stringent TANF program. We also make a pre-post comparison of individual experiences, examining a leaver's employment, earnings, and income during a calendar quarter of welfare receipt with these outcomes a year after leaving welfare.

We find substantially higher rates of exit in the later cohort. Leavers in the later cohort are slightly more likely to be employed, with 84 percent employed during the year after exit, compared with 81 percent in the first cohort. Earnings are lower in the second cohort, which we find to be related to its members having human capital and labor market characteristics associated with lower earnings.

We measure postexit personal income by adding earnings, cash assistance, Food Stamps, and the estimated EITC available to leavers and subtracting estimated payroll and income taxes. We find that leavers have substantially higher earnings than they did prior to exit, but on average the decline in benefits outweighs these increases, and as a result total measured net income in the year following exit is lower. We also make this pre-post comparison using an estimate of the family income of leavers. Although this measure reduces the rates of poverty postexit, the poverty rates of leavers are quite high, with recent leavers more likely to be poor. These results provide valuable information on outcomes for welfare recipients as reform efforts have evolved.

For an analysis of longer-term outcomes see IRP Special Report no. 77.

Will Employers Hire Ex-Offenders? Employer Preferences, Background Checks, and Their Determinants
Harry J. Holzer, Steven Raphael, and Michael A. Stoll

Full Text: DP 1243-02

In this paper, we analyze employer demand for ex-offenders. We use data from a recent survey of employers to analyze not only employer preferences for offenders but also the extent to which they check criminal backgrounds in light of the very imperfect information about the job applicants whom they consider. We investigate the firm and job characteristics that correlate with these measures of employer demand. Using data from surveys administered at different points in time, we also consider the extent to which such demand changed during the 1990s in response to tighter labor market conditions. Finally, we consider the quantities of demand for ex-offenders relative to their supply, based on a variety of estimates of total stocks and annual flows of offenders back to the civilian population.

How Close Is Close Enough? Testing Nonexperimental Estimates of Impact against Experimental Estimates of Impact with Education Test Scores as Outcomes
Elizabeth Ty Wilde and Robinson Hollister

Full Text: DP 1242-02

In this study we test the performance of some nonexperimental estimators of impacts applied to an educational intervention—reduction in class size—where achievement test scores were the outcome. We compare the nonexperimental estimates of the impacts to "true impact" estimates provided by a random-assignment design used to assess the effects of that intervention. Our primary focus in this study is on a nonexperimental estimator based on a complex procedure called propensity score matching.

Previous studies which tested nonexperimental estimators against experimental ones all had employment or welfare use as the outcome variable. We tried to determine whether the conclusions from those studies about the performance of nonexperimental estimators carried over into the education domain.

Project Star is the source of data for the experimental estimates and the source for drawing nonexperimental comparison groups used to make nonexperimental estimates. Project Star was an experiment in Tennessee involving 79 schools in which students in kindergarten through third grade were randomly assigned to small classes (the treatment group) or to regular-size classes (the control group). The outcome variables from the data set were the math and reading achievement test scores.

We carried out the propensity-score-matching estimating procedure separately for each of 11 schools' kindergartens and used it to derive nonexperimental estimates of the impact of smaller class size. We also developed proper standard errors for the propensity-score-matched estimators by using bootstrapping procedures. We found that in most cases, the propensity-score estimate of the impact differed substantially from the "true impact" estimated by the experiment. We then attempted to assess how close the nonexperimental estimates were to the experimental ones. We suggested several different ways of attempting to assess "closeness." Most of them led to the conclusion, in our view, that the nonexperimental estimates were not very "close" and therefore were not reliable guides as to what the "true impact" was.

We put greatest emphasis on looking at the question of "how close is close enough" in terms of a decision-maker trying to use the evaluation to determine whether to invest in wider application of the intervention being assessed—in this case, reduction in class size. We illustrate this in terms of a rough cost-benefit framework for small class size as applied to Project Star. We find that in 30 to 45 percent of the 11 cases, the propensity-score-matching nonexperimental estimators would have led to the "wrong" decision.