Abstracts of Reprints 689–709

Notes: IRP reprints are not available online or in hard copy due to copyright restrictions, please refer to the citation given in the article. Reprints are listed in reverse order of reprint number.

Poverty and Children's Nutritional Status in the United States

Jane E. Miller and Sanders Korenman

RPT 709. 1994. 11 pp.

(American Journal of Epidemiology)

This study describes deficits in nutritional status among poor children in the United States using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth for children born between 1979 and 1988. The prevalence of low height-for-age (stunting) and low weight-for-height (wasting) is higher among children in persistently poor families. Differentials appear greater according to long-term rather than short-term income; hence, single-year income measures do not adequately capture the effects of persistent poverty on children's nutritional status. Differences in nutritional status between poor and nonpoor children remain large even when controls for other characteristics associated with poverty, such as now maternal educational attainment, single-parent family structure, young maternal age, low maternal academic ability, and minority racial identification, are included. The excess risks of stunting and wasting among poor children are not reduced appreciably when size of the infant at birth or mother's height and weight are controlled.

Welfare Dependence: Concepts, Measures, and Trends

Peter Gottschalk and Robert A. Moffitt

RPT 708. 1994. 5 pp.

(American Economic Review)

While the idea that some individuals may be "dependent" upon the welfare system for support is intuitively clear, the concept of welfare dependence is rather ill-defined. Our aims in this paper are to clarify what is meant by welfare dependence; to discuss the implications for data handling, measurement, and statistical modeling; and to present new results on the level and trend in welfare dependence in the United States. We argue that measures of welfare dependence based on the total time an individual is on welfare or on the total percentage of income received from welfare--both of which incorporate the effects of multiple spells of welfare receipt--are superior to measures of dependence based on the length of single welfare spells. Our empirical investigation reveals that dependence has not grown significantly in the population as a whole, contrary to popular perception, although it has increased substantially among younger women. We find that the increase in dependence among young women has resulted not from an increase in welfare spell durations, but rather from a drop in the age at first entry onto welfare.

Are There Really Deadbeat Dads? The Relationship between Ability to Pay, Enforcement, and Compliance in Nonmarital Child Support Cases

Judith Bartfeld and Daniel R. Meyer

RPT 707. 1994. 37 pp.

(Social Science Review)

This article examines the determinants of child support compliance in nonmarital child support cases in Wisconsin by focusing on the father's ability to pay and the stringency of the child support enforcement system. It is found that tougher enforcement rules positively affect compliance rates. Higher incomes are associated with higher compliance rates, and lower incomes, with lower rates. The percentage of income that is owed in child support also has an effect on compliance. Orders that represent a high percentage of income relative to existing guidelines are associated with lower compliance rates. However, owing a low percentage of income only has an effect on compliance for fathers with very low incomes; for these fathers, obligating them to pay low amounts of support positively affects compliance. These results suggest that a father's ability to pay, in addition to his willingness to pay, determines the extent to which he fulfills his child support obligation. We conclude that to increase child support collections, both the earning power of noncustodial parents and the stringency of the enforcement system should be increased.

The Growth in Male Earnings Inequality, 1973-1988: The Role of Earnings Capacity and Utilization

Robert H. Haveman and Lawrence Buron

RPT 706. 1994. 40 pp.

(The Changing Distribution of Income in an Open U.S. Economy ed. J.H. Bergstrand, T.F. Cosimo, J.W. Houck and R.G. Sheehan)

Estimates of the increase in earnings inequality among males since the early 1970s are presented using several measures of inequality. The increase in earnings inequality for male workers is substantially less than that for all males of working age. The results indicate that the increase in male earnings inequality may have had less to do with changes in labor market opportunities than previous researchers have suggested and more to do with the choices of individuals regarding both work hours and wage rates. The concept of "earnings capacity" is employed in the analysis, and estimates are presented of the changes in inequality of both earnings capacity and the utilization of earnings capacity using data from the March 1974 and 1989 Current Population Surveys.

The Adequacy of Supplemental Security Income Benefits for Aged Individuals and Couples

Daniel R. Meyer and Steve Bartolomei-Hill

RPT 705. 1994.

Information is provided on the adequacy of benefits using state-level data on costs and benefits and multiple indicators of adequacy. Maximum Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for aged persons are generally shown to be inadequate. However, when income from other sources is included, couples' SSI benefits appear more adequate when compared to the preferred measures, while those for individuals remain inadequate. Adequacy is also compared across states, and a multivariate analysis is conducted to determine factors that may predict the presence or amount of state supplementary payment. Policy options for improving the adequacy of benefits are discussed.

What Fathers Say about Involvement with Children after Separation

Judith A. Seltzer and Yvonne Brandreth

RPT 704. 1994. 29 pp.

(Journal of Family Issues)

This article examines the potential impact of nonresponse on information about paternal involvement after separation by comparing the sample of mothers whose children have a nonresident father to the sample of nonresident fathers in the National Survey of Families and Households. We show that when the samples are restricted to parents of children who were born in a first marriage, resident mothers and nonresident fathers are similar on a variety of demographic characteristics, including racial composition, family size, and duration of separation. Although resident mothers and nonresident fathers in the restricted sample report more similar levels of paternal involvement after divorce than in the comparison of the unrestricted samples, fathers still report greater involvement than do mothers. Whether the respondent is the mother or father does not affect the factors that predict variation in child support receipts or payments or visits between nonresident fathers and children. The last part of the article examines nonresident father's attitudes toward their role as a parent. fathers' evaluation of their role depend more on their remarriage and characteristics of the children in their new household than on involvement with children from a previous relationship.

The Health, Earnings Capacity, and Poverty of Single-Mother Families

Barbara L. Wolfe and Steven Hill

RPT 703. 1993. 32 pp.

Using SIPP and CPS data, we document the lower health status, on average, of single mothers as compared to married mothers and of nonworkers as compared to workers. Health status influences the earnings capacity of single mothers: poor health substantially reduces potential earnings. We estimate that the earnings capacity of a single mother in poor or fair health is about $2900 per year. Based on these projections, all of these women and their children could expect to live in poverty if they worked at their capacity and received no transfers.

We also use a functional type index of health in our study and find that all of the women with two or more impaired functions would live below the poverty line even if they worked at their capacity, about $2300 per year. A single mother with a disabled child also has limited earnings capacity. We estimate that the mean earnings capacity of such mothers is about $8000 per year.

This evidence suggests that labor force participation by itself may not raise a single-mother-headed family above the poverty line. The central problem is not so much low earnings as it is a limitation on hours available to work. Hence, policy should concentrate on designing a welfare program that provides more generous benefits to single mothers with health limitations than to single mothers in good health.

Duration of Homeless Careers: An Exploratory Study

Irving Piliavin, Michael Sosin, Alex H. Westerfelt, and Ross L. Matsueda

RPT 702. 1993. 23 pp.

In this article, we examine the duration of homeless careers. We build a model of career length based on four conceptual frameworks: institutional disaffiliation, psychological dysfunction, human capital deficit, and cultural identification. Using survey data from a sample of 331 individuals in Minneapolis, we estimate a structural equation model of homeless career onset and duration. We find that, conditioned on age, people who have less consistent work histories, experienced childhood foster care, and currently express less discomfort with life on the streets have longer homeless careers. Contrary to our hypothesis, we find that people who experienced prehomeless psychiatric hospitalization had relatively shorter homeless careers, and people who suffered from severe symptoms of alcoholism had homeless careers no different in average length than those of other sample members.

The Link between Population Density and Welfare Participation

Mark R. Rank and Thomas A. Hirschl

RPT 701. 1993. 16 pp.


This article explores a neglected topic in the social welfare, poverty, and demographic literatures--the link between population density and welfare participation in the United States. Longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics are used to meet two objectives: first, to test whether a relationship exists between population density and use of the food stamp program among eligible households; second, to explore the potential reasons for such a relationship. Our findings show that population density has a strong, positive impact on the likelihood of participating in the food stamp program. Low-income respondents in urban areas are significantly more likely to use food stamps in both an aggregate and a multivariate context. In analyzing the dynamic underlying such an effect, we find that those in urban areas are more likely to possess accurate eligibility information and to hold less adverse attitudes toward the use of welfare. These factors in turn increase the likelihood of food stamp participation.

Simplicity and Complexity in the Effects of Parental Structure on High School Graduation

Roger A. Wojktiewicz

RPT 700. 1993. 17 pp.


As more and more children experience nonintact families because of nonmarital birth or parental marital disruption, researchers have paid more attention to whether nonintact family experiences have negative effects on later life. This study uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to consider how experiences of parental structure affect chances of high school graduation. The study shows that the negative effects of parental structure are simpler than theoretical notions might suggest.

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Who Are the Truly Poor? Patterns of Official and Net Earnings Capacity Poverty, 1973-88

Robert Haveman and Larry Buron

RPT 699. 1993. 31 pp.

(Poverty and Prosperity in the USA in the Late Twentieth Century ed. Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Edward N. Wolff)

In this paper we study changes in the prevalence and composition of poverty in the United States over the 1973-88 period, focusing on the first and last years. Over this period, official poverty rose from 23.6 million people (11.4 percent of the population) to 31.9 million (13.1 percent), passing over a peak in the recession of 1981-83 of over 15 percent of the population.

An important implication of our research in that the official measure is a weak reed on which to rest assessments of the nation's progress against poverty, resting as it does on recorded cash income. A superior measure of poverty status, we argue, would rest on an assessment of the capabilities of individuals and families, rather than on their observed outcomes. Our Net Earnings Capacity measure is such an indicator. Overall, we find that only about 40 to 50 percent of the CY (current income) are indeed poor in terms of their ability to be independent and self-sustaining.

On the basis of the NEC estimates, a number of family types are seen to have shockingly high poverty and vulnerability problems. They, together with their average NEC poverty rates, are as follows:

  • the rural black family (91 percent)
  • the black low-education family (34 percent)
  • the AFDC stereotype (99 percent)
  • the suburban single mother (75 percent)
  • the ghetto youth (63 percent)

Because these truly poor families are of working age, two sorts of policy measures would seem to be in order: (1) policies designed to increase the earnings capacities of these groups, and (2) policies designed to enable them to more fully utilize the capacities that they do possess. The goal would be to move these truly poor and vulnerable families toward economic independence through the exercise of their own earnings abilities.

Children's Prospects and Children's Policy

Robert Haveman and Barbara Wolfe

RPT 698. 1993. 22 pp.

(Journal of Economic Perspectives)

This paper offers some facts on trends in children's economic status and an economic perspective for thinking about public policy toward children. Throughout, we attempt to make clear what is known and what is not known empirically about the relationships that are embodied in our perspective.

Our knowledge of the full impact of both public sector and parental investments on children's attainments is more broad than deep. Moreover, the full economic costs associated with securing either public or family increases in children's investments are often murky. Yet, based on the existing evidence, some responsible approaches for policy are indicated. Increases in years of school completed seem to have potential for improving the success of, at least, the next generation of children. Substituting earned income for welfare income through both workfare mandates and work subsidization could increase the incomes of families and alter expectations regarding how income should be obtained. To increase the nonwelfare financial resources available to mother-only families, policies designed to increase child support collections from noncustodial parents, including a universal child support program, should be considered. In the absence of any direct public means of reducing the family-based stressful events that appear to strongly prejudice children's attainments, increased resources for improving the effectiveness of counseling and adjustment programs would appear justified. Since there is little evidence that children who grow up with mothers who work have lower levels of success and attainments than those whose mothers stay at home (indeed, the opposite effect seems to predominate), policy should perhaps encourage opportunities for women to work outside the home. Altering the functioning of the low-skilled segment of the labor market through both supply- and demand-side subsidization would appear worthy of large-scale testing; options include marginal employment subsidies and a wage rate subsidy. Providing health care coverage to children regardless of their family's income would decrease the incidence or severity of preventable diseases among children, encourage parents' labor force participation, and increase labor mobility.

Finally, because of the multiple and interconnected problems which impede successful child and youth development in central city ghettos--lack of jobs, rampant crime and drug use, substandard housing, nonfunctioning schools, and the absence of role models--experimenting with multipronged intervention programs would be desirable. Only in this way can we learn about the potential synergistic effects of interventions that, taken one at a time, appear to have only minimal benefits.

Escaping Poverty through Work: The Problem of Low Earnings Capacity in the United States, 1973-88

Robert Haveman and Lawrence Buron

RPT 697. 1993. 17 pp.

(Review of Income and Wealth)

This paper documents the changes in earnings capacity poverty that occurred between 1973 and 1988. Families are "Earnings Capacity Poor" if they are unable to generate enough income to lift them out of poverty, even if all working-age adults in the family work full-time, year-round. Data from the March 1974 and March 1989 Current Population Surveys indicate that earnings capacity poverty increased more rapidly than official poverty. Much of this increase can be attributed to the rise in earnings capacity poverty among whites, intact families, and family heads with more than a high school diploma. Most alarming, the percentage of children in earnings capacity poor families is considerably higher than it is among persons over eighteen; in 1988, nearly 15 percent of children under six lived in families that could not have escaped poverty even if the adults in their family were working and earning at their full capacity levels.

Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem

Charles F. Manski

RPT 696. 1993. 12 pp.

(Review of Economic Studies)

This paper examines the reflection problem that arises when a researcher observing the distribution of behavior in a population tries to infer whether the average behavior in some group influences the behavior of the individuals that comprise the group. It is found that inference is not possible unless the researcher has prior information specifying the composition of reference groups. If this information is available, the prospects for inference depend critically on the population relationship between the variables defining reference groups and those directly affecting outcomes. Inference is difficult to impossible if these variables are functionally dependent or are statistically independent. The prospects are better if the variables defining reference groups and those directly affecting outcomes are moderately related in the population.

The Decline in College Entry among African Americans: Findings in Search of Explanations

Robert M. Hauser

RPT 695. 1993. 42 pp.

(Prejudice, Politics, and the American Dilemma, ed. P.M. Sniderman, P.E. Tetlock, and E.G. Carmines)

Counter to the long growth swing from the 1940s to the mid-1970s, college entry declined among African American high school graduates from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. The peak college attendance of the mid-1970s was not abnormally high, at least not in the context of the encouraging public policies of that period, and neither did increased high school graduation produce lower rates of college entry. We cannot blame the decline either on African American youth or on their families. It is not explained by changes in family income or in academic achievement, by an increased interest in technical, vocational, or two-year colleges, or by a decreasing interest in completing a four-year college program. We cannot blame the decline on competition from the military. The share of black high school graduates entering military service declined at the same time that the share entering college declined.

As best I can read the present evidence, the major factor driving down African American college attendance was its decreasingly attractive terms of support, both financial and social. One of the most significant characteristics of the African American population is its vulnerability to general social and economic conditions and to changes in public policy.

How People with Disabilities Fare When Policies Change

Richard V. Burkhauser, Robert Haveman, and Barbara Wolfe

RPT 694. 1993. 119 pp.

(Journal of Policy Analysis and Management)

Changes in public policy and in macroeconomic conditions have dramatically affected the economic well-being of people with disabilities over the past two decades, both absolutely and relative to people without disabilities. Using data from the Current Population Survey (1968-1988), we find that the households of white or well-educated males with disabilities have fully recovered from the program cuts and recession of the early 1980s. However, much of this recovery was due to additional earnings by other household members. The households of males who are "doubly handicapped"--nonwhite or poorly educated males with disabilities--have not recovered. We conclude that the new mandates on business aimed at integrating people with disabilities into the workplace are not likely to significantly benefit the doubly handicapped.

Teen Out-of-Wedlock Births and Welfare Receipt: The Role of Childhood Events and Economic Circumstances

Chong-Bum An, Robert Haveman, and Barbara Wolfe

RPT 693. 1993. 14 pp.

(Review of Economics and Statistics)

Using 20 years of longitudinal data on nearly 900 girls aged 0 to 6 in 1968 (19 to 25 in 1987) from the University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the authors measure the influence of family background, individual characteristics, economic resources (or the lack thereof), and the experience of particular disruptive family events on the probability that a teenager will give birth out of wedlock and subsequently apply for and receive welfare. The prior welfare participation of a teenage daughter's mother, the other economic circumstances and stressful events are all important aspects in the analysis, which employs a bivariate probit model. Among the many findings of the investigators is that teenage daughters whose mothers have more education are less likely to give birth out of wedlock, that teens whose mothers received welfare are more likely to give birth out of wedlock and receive welfare themselves, and that teens who grew up in a home experiencing stressful events (e.g., parental separation, geographic moves) are more likely to give birth out of wedlock.

Income Growth among Nonresident Fathers: Evidence from Wisconsin

Elizabeth Phillips and Irwin Garfinkel

RPT 692. 1993. 15 pp.


This study examines the changes over time in the personal incomes of nonresident fathers--whether divorced or nonmarital--in Wisconsin. Using data from the Wisconsin Court Record data base and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the authors examine the incomes of these fathers over the first seven years following a divorce or the initiation of a paternity suit. They also study separately the income patterns of initially poor nonresident fathers and fathers whose nonresident children receive welfare. The most important finding is that the incomes of nonmarital fathers, which typically are low in the beginning, increase dramatically over the years after paternity establishment--often to a level comparable with the incomes of divorced fathers. On the basis of their findings, the authors conclude that failing to establish child support obligations for nonresident fathers simply because their incomes are initially low does not appear justified.

The Future of SIPP for Analyzing Labor Force Behavior

Glen G. Cain

RPT 691. 1993. 22 pp.

(Journal of Economic and Social Measurement)

SIPP is examined for its uses for economic research, particularly as a basis for estimating causal relationships between labor market outcomes and potential policy variables. The Current Population Survey dominates SIPP as a provider of descriptive statistics for most, but not all, purposes. As a large longitudinal survey, extending for up to 32 months, and with rich data on income, wages, and other variables, SIPP has unique advantages for dynamic analysis of labor force behavior that is described by short or moderate durations, such as unemployment. Examples of historical and contemporary research studies are discussed to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of SIPP. Among several recommendations for using SIPP, it is argued that the most important is to obtain market characteristics for the city or county locations of the survey respondents.

The Economic Costs of Marital Disruption for Young Women over the Past Two Decades

Pamela J. Smock

RPT 690. 1993. 19 pp.


This paper examines the economic costs of separation and divorce for young women in the United States from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. Broadened opportunities for women outside marriage may have alleviated some of the severe economic costs of marital disruption for women. This paper contrasts the experiences of two cohorts of young women: those who married and separated or divorced in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s and those who experienced these events in the 1980s. Based on panel data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979-1988, Young Women 1968-1978, and Young Men 1966-1978, the results show stability in the costs of disruption. A multivariate analysis shows that young women in the more recent cohort have more labor force experience before disruption than those in the earlier cohort, but prior work history does not protect women from the severe costs of marital disruption.

Single-Mother Families in Eight Countries: Economic Status and Social Policy

Yin-Ling Irene Wong, Irwing Garfinkel, and Sara McLanahan

RPT 689. 1993. 21 pp.

(Social Service Review)

Previous research suggests that single mothers in the United States are less well off in a relative sense than single mothers in other countries and that overreliance on income-tested programs in the United states is the principal culprit for this disparity. We test these hypotheses using multiple regression analysis and data from eight countries in the Luxembourg Income Study. We find that cross-country differences in demographic characteristics, labor force participation rates, levels of public and private transfers, and the degree of income testing account for much of the difference in the relative economic status of single-mother families in different countries.

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