IRP Discussion Paper Abstracts - 2014

Notes: Abstracts are plain text. Downloadable papers are in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.
1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999
2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009
2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017
The Upward Bound College Access Program 50 Years Later: Evidence from a National Randomized Trial
Douglas N. Harris, Alan Nathan, and Ryne Marksteiner

Full Text: DP 1426-14

Upward Bound (UB) was one of the original federal Great Society programs of the 1960s and remains, fifty years later, the single largest college access program in the country. Recently, Congress has reduced funding and considered eliminating the program because of federal budget pressures and because the first analysis of the only national randomized trial concluded that UB had "no detectable effect." In this study, we explain problems with the study design that have made this conclusion controversial and made it difficult to identify average treatment effects that are unbiased for the program population. The study design is sufficient, however, to test other important hypotheses. We show that UB has drifted away from its original intent of serving disadvantaged students and become less efficient in the process. Specifically, over time, UB has come to serve students whose parents have higher incomes and education levels. Also, program administrators deem students ineligible based on misbehavior and other factors, even though assignment to the UB treatment increases this ineligible group's probability of graduating high school and obtaining some type of college credential by 6–10 percentage points. We show that the program is cost-effective for this group and would reduce achievement gaps if it were better targeted. In short, the government should encourage sites to get back to the program roots of serving more disadvantaged students.

Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged
Benjamin Backes, Harry J. Holzer, and Erin Dunlop Velez

Full Text: DP 1425-14

In this paper we examine a range of postsecondary education and labor market outcomes, with a particular focus on minorities and/or disadvantaged workers. We use administrative data from the state of Florida, where postsecondary student records have been linked to Unemployment Insurance (UI) earnings data and also to secondary education records. Our main findings can be summarized as follows: (1) gaps in secondary school achievement can account for a large portion of the variation in postsecondary attainment and labor market outcomes between the disadvantaged and other students, but meaningful gaps also exist within achievement groups; and (2) earnings of the disadvantaged are hurt by low completion rates in postsecondary programs, poor performance during college, and not choosing high-earning fields. In particular, significant labor market premia can be earned in a variety of more technical certificate and Associate in Arts (AA) programs, even for those with weak earlier academic performance, but instead many disadvantaged (and other) students choose general humanities programs at the AA (and even the bachelor's or Bachelor of Arts) level with low completion rates and low compensation afterwards. A range of policies and practices might be used to improve student choices as well as their completion rates and earnings.

Chapter 6: Poverty Measurement
Timothy M. Smeeding

Full Text: DP 1424-14

The fundamental concept of poverty concerns itself with having too few resources or capabilities to participate fully in a society. Social scientists need to first establish the breadth and depth of the social phenomenon called "poverty" before they can meaningfully analyze it and explore its ultimate causes and remedies. In this chapter, we examine the complexities and idiosyncrasies of poverty measurement from its origins to current practice. We begin with the various concepts of poverty and its measurement and how economists, social statisticians, public policy scholars, sociologists, and other social scientists have contributed to this literature. We then turn to a few empirical estimates of poverty across and within nations. We rely mainly on income data from rich and middle-income nations to provide perspectives on levels and trends in overall poverty, though we refer also to the World Bank's measures of global absolute poverty. In our empirical examinations we look at comparisons of trends in relative poverty over different time periods, and comparisons of relative and anchored poverty across the Great Recession.

Is WIC Reaching Those in Need? Children's Participation in Nutritional Policy during the Great Recession
Margot Jackson and Gabriel Schwartz

Full Text: DP 1423-14

For the roughly 20 percent of American children living in poverty and food insecure households, nutritional policy provides an essential safety net against hunger and its negative effects on development. Though it is established that more mothers and children enrolled in the nutritional safety net during the Great Recession, it is unclear whether this increase was experienced equally by all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Using longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we examine whether exposure to the early childhood nutritional safety net has remained steady or increased as economic need increased during the Great Recession. Specifically, we examine the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which increases access to nutritious food from the prenatal period until the time of school entry. Two questions drive the analysis: (1) Did participation in WIC increase between 2004 and 2013 for children in all age groups: in utero, infants, and ages 1–5?; and (2) Have these increases been experienced equally across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups? Preliminary findings suggest that age differences in participation remain pronounced, with infants more likely than older children, and especially the in utero population, to receive exposure to WIC. Differences between non-Hispanic whites and others declined in all age groups, driven by increasing participation among non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics. Socioeconomic differences in participation also declined, largely because of increasing participation among children in higher-educated and higher-income families. These findings suggest that, during the recession, socioeconomic status became a weaker predictor of WIC participation.

Supported from Both Sides? Changes in the Dynamics of Joint Participation in SNAP and UI Following the Great Recession
Alix Gould-Werth and H. Luke Shaefer

Full Text: DP 1422-14

This paper uses panel data from the nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) from years 2000 through 2011, to examine changes in the prevalence and character of joint participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) among job losers during the Great Recession. Descriptive as well as multivariate analyses are presented. Descriptive statistics examining changes following the onset of the Great Recession indicate heightened use of UI and SNAP; a change in the sequencing of program entrance with joint participants becoming less likely to access SNAP first (also notable is the high incidence of joint participants who began accessing SNAP while still employed both pre- and post-recession); and the composition of the group joint participants becoming more advantaged across a range of demographic characteristics.

Our multivariate results suggest that the extended length of unemployment spells following the onset of the Great Recession drives much of the increase in joint participation. The extension of UI benefits; the modernization of UI eligibility criteria; and the liberalization of SNAP eligibility requirements account for the remaining increase in joint participation. These results suggest that—through countercyclical design and through legislative action—our safety net programs have been responsive to a changed macroeconomic context and changing needs of the target populations of UI and SNAP. Further research, however, is called for to examine the sizable group of unemployed Americans who do not access help from either program.

Mandating Prescription Contraception Coverage: Effects on Contraception Consumption and Preventive Health Services
Kerri M. Raissian and Leonard M. Lopoo

Full Text: DP 1421-14

While recent national discussions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made the introduction of mandated contraceptive coverage within health insurance policies seem like a novel idea, it is not new at all. Since the late 1990s, 29 states have mandated that insurance providers include prescription contraceptive supplies and/or services in their coverage. We use state-level policy variation to generate both difference-in-differences and triple difference estimates to determine if women in states with state-level contraception supply or contraception supply and services insurance mandates experienced changes in their utilization of contraception and preventive health care services. We do not find a relationship between these policies and contraception use; however, our results show an increase in the consumption of preventive health services as a result of these health insurance mandates.

Food Assistance During and After the Great Recession in Metropolitan Detroit
Scott W. Allard, Sandra K. Danziger, and Maria Wathen

Full Text: DP 1420-14

Economic shocks produced by the Great Recession have contributed to rising food insecurity, with 14.7 percent of U.S. households being food insecure in 2009, compared to 11.1 percent in 2007. At the same time, SNAP caseloads increased by nearly 60 percent since 2007 and the program now reaches more than 40 million persons. Using data from the first two waves of the Michigan Recession and Recovery Survey (MRRS), a unique panel survey of a representative sample of working-age adults in the Detroit Metropolitan Area, this project explores three research questions related to the receipt of SNAP among low-income households: How have low-income families in the Detroit Metropolitan Area bundled SNAP with other types of public assistance and help from charitable nonprofits in the wake of the Great Recession? When controlling for economic shocks and respondent characteristics, to what extent is access to local food assistance resources related to receipt of SNAP and charitable nonprofit food assistance? How are receipt of SNAP assistance and economic shocks related to household food shopping behaviors and food security? Several important findings emerge from this project that should be of interest to scholars, policymakers, and advocates. Among them is the finding that food insecurity is quite prevalent among poor and near-poor households in metro Detroit following the Great Recession. Fifty-one percent of households below the federal poverty line were food insecure in the year prior to the Wave 1 survey.

Post-1970 Trends in Within-Country Inequality and Poverty: Rich and Middle Income Countries
Salvatore Morelli, Timothy Smeeding, and Jeffrey Thompson

Full Text: DP 1419-14

This paper is prepared as a chapter for the Handbook of Income Distribution, Volume 2 (edited by A. B. Atkinson and F. Bourguignon, Elsevier-North Holland, forthcoming). Like the other chapters in the volume (and its predecessor), the aim is to provide a comprehensive review of a particular area of research. We examine the literature on post-1970 trends in poverty and income inequality, up to 2010 or 2011 in most countries. We provide measures of the levels and trends in each of these areas, as well as an integrated discussion of empirical choices made in the measurement of poverty, overall income inequality, and inequality amongst those with top incomes.

Housing Voucher Receipt and the Quality of Schools Available to Recipient Children
Deven Carlson, Robert Haveman, Thomas Kaplan, and Barbara Wolfe

Full Text: DP 1418-14

Using data on housing voucher recipients with school-aged children residing across the state of Wisconsin, we perform a three-stage analysis of the relationship between voucher receipt and the educational opportunities of children in recipient households. First, we examine the extent to which voucher receipt results in households relocating to a different school district. Second, we estimate the effect of voucher receipt on the quality of the school district—as measured by average standardized test scores in the district—in which recipient households reside. Finally, for the subset of recipient households residing in the Madison Metropolitan School District, we estimate the effect of voucher receipt on the quality of the specific school attendance zone—again measured by average standardized test scores—in which recipient households live. Our results indicate that voucher receipt initially induces cross-boundary relocation for households with children, but provides greater stability in subsequent years; there is some evidence that these moves result in voucher recipients residing in areas with access to higher quality public schools, particularly in urban areas. We discuss the implications of these findings for research and policy.