Abstracts of Reprints 750–769

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.

The Distributional Impacts of Social Programs

Daniel Friedlander and Philip K. Robins

RPT 769. 1997. 23 pp.

(Evaluation Review, Vol. 21:5 (October 1997), pp. 531-553)

We illustrate the use of nonparametric quantile regression in examining the impacts of social programs on the distributions of noncategorical outcome measures. We apply the method to earnings effects and income effects in four evaluations of employment and training programs for welfare recipients. The distributional impact estimates yield pictures of program impacts that are different from those yielded by simple mean impact estimates, especially for income. The distributional impact estimates also assist in differentiating the effects of programs using similar activities but organizing those activities to achieve different goals. Accurately estimating effects at the tail of a distribution remains a problem.

Work, Welfare, and Family Structure: What Have We Learned?

Hilary Williamson Hoynes, with Comment by Robert A. Moffitt

RPT 768. 1997. 52 pp.

(Fiscal Policy Lessons from Economic Research, ed. Alan J. Auerbach (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 101-146 and 153-158)

This chapter explores the validity of the claims that our welfare system causes low levels of work effort and high rates of female headship and nonmarital childbearing. Although it is true that the system provides adverse incentives for the formation of two-parent families, the empirical studies show conclusively that the magnitude of these disincentive effects is very small, such that the welfare system itself cannot explain the high rates of headship and illegitimacy. The estimated work disincentive effects of welfare programs are somewhat larger in size and show that public assistance programs explain about half of the difference in labor supply between participants and nonparticipants.

Comment: The ultimate goal of all welfare reform discussions is to determine good designs of welfare programs. I focus on what economic research has to say about design issues, taking each of Hoynes's topics in turn.

Transitions from and Returns to Out-of-Home Care

Mark E. Courtney, Irving Piliavin, and Bradley R. Entner Wright

RPT 767. 1997. 16 pp.

(Social Service Review, Vol. 71:4 (December 1997) pp. 652-67)

This longitudinal study employs bivariate probit regression analysis to examine factors associated with returns home from, and reentry to, out-of-home care for 21,484 children placed by child welfare authorities in California. A central focus of the study is to determine the degree to which phenomena unaccounted for in analyses of the returns home from care are correlated with factors unaccounted for in analyses of the process of reentry to care. Although a previous analysis implies direct effects of race and age on foster care reentry, current results suggest that these effects are mediated by other factors. A second concern of the study led to the finding that Aid to Families with Dependent Children eligibility is associated with delays in the return home of children initially placed in kinship foster care.

Economic Security for Children: From Means Testing and Bifurcation to Universality

Irwin Garfinkel

RPT 766. 1996. 50 pp.

(Social Policies for Children, I. Garfinkel, Jennifer L. Hochschild; and S. S. McLanahan (eds.), Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1996: 33-82).

The structures of several major domains of our income transfer system must be changed. Except for public education and social insurance, the transfer system for children is bifurcated, with means-tested benefits going to families at the very bottom of the income distribution and tax subsidies going primarily to families in the upper-middle and upper parts of the income distribution. Furthermore, the bulk of means-tested benefits are targeted at the poorest of the poor by limiting them to single-parent families. The very poor and very rich derive the greatest benefits, respectively, from means-tested benefits and tax expenditures. The near poor, lower-middle class, and even the middle class pay the price. This system is not only inequitable, it also undermines work and marriage at the bottom of the income distribution.

To increase both the equity and efficiency of the system of transfers to families with children, I propose a reform agenda that replaces welfare programs and their complementary tax subsidies with universal programs. The transformation requires the following:

  • A universal health insurance system;
  • A universal child care system;
  • Refundable income tax credits for children and refundable housing tax credits for adults (in lieu of child and adult exemptions, the food stamp program, and all housing subsidies);
  • A national child support assurance system; and
  • A noncategorical relief program consisting of time-limited cash assistance and services that promote independence, followed by work relief (in lieu of the current aid to families with dependent children [AFDC] program).

Does Welfare Play Any Role in Female Headship Decisions?

Hilary Williamson Hoynes

RPT 765. 1997. 29 pp.

(Journal of Public Economics, 65 (1997): pp. 89-117)

Previous studies have examined whether the welfare system has contributed to the dramatic increase in single-parent families. This paper explores why the results in this literature are sensitive to the presence of state fixed effects. It considers one natural explanation, namely that the composition of the population differs across states in ways that are related to welfare program generosity. After controlling for individual effects the results provide no evidence that welfare raises the propensity to form female-headed households for either whites or blacks. These results illustrate the potential pitfalls of assuming that state factors are fixed over a long period of time. They also suggest that previous studies may have overstated the effect of welfare programs on family structure.

The Impact of Percentage-Expressed Child Support Orders on Payments

Judith Bartfeld and Irwin Garfinkel

RPT 764. 1997. 22 pp.

(The Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 31:4 (1996): 794-815)

We examine the impacts on child support payments of explicitly indexing orders to noncustodial parents' incomes by expressing orders as a percentage of income rather than as a fixed sum. Using data collected from 21 counties in Wisconsin, we find that payments on behalf of percentage-expressed orders increase much faster than would be expected were orders expressed as a fixed sum, after controlling for differences between cases with the two award types. Collections on behalf of percentage-expressed orders increase relative to fixed-sum orders because of large increases over time in the amount of the obligation; in comparison, fixed-sum obligations are extremely stable.

Verbal Ability and Socioeconomic Success: A Trend Analysis

Robert M. Hauser and Min-Hsiung Huang

RPT 763. 1997. 46 pp.

(Social Science Research, Vol. 26 (1997): 331-376)

Along with other recent analyses of American social structure, Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve offers several hypotheses about the increasing centrality of cognitive ability in social stratification during the 20th century. These include growing cognitive sorting in education, occupational standing, and income and-by implication-increasing stratification of children's cognitive ability by their social and economic background. However, Herrnstein and Murray provide scant evidence of growth in cognitive sorting. Using data from the General Social Survey, we test each of these hypotheses using a short verbal ability test which was administered to about 12,500 American adults between 1974 and 1994. While weaknesses of the verbal ability test preclude definitive conclusions, they provide no support whatever for any of the trend hypotheses advanced by Herrnstein and Murray.

Employment and Social Protection: Are They Compatible?

Robert Haveman

RPT 762. 1997. 14 pp.

(OECD Social Policy Studies, No. 21 (1997), pp. 101-114)

Among the larger and more industrialised OECD countries, a large and financially costly system of income protection is in place. The constellation of policies yielding a generous and accessible safety net of social protection has both positive and negative economic impacts. Both positive and negative consequences are related to the comprehensiveness, generosity and accessibility of the system; however, only negative effects arise from administering the system in a loose or open-ended manner. High levels of available income support to working-age people through unemployment, disability, sickness and early retirement programmes—combined with relatively high and rigid minimum wages—appear to contribute to a "poverty-trap" or "jobless trap" for low-skilled workers. This prompts the question of whether there are alternative approaches to social policy that could simultaneously address the problems of both (1) high aggregate unemployment, growing joblessness, and poverty traps in the (mainly European) countries with generous, accessible, and in some cases ill-managed income protection programmes; and (2) stagnant wages, high rates of non-employment among low-skilled workers, and increasing inequality that characterise the (mainly North American and Australian) countries with relatively modest income protection programmes. The proposal offered here is a two-pronged employment subsidy programme for low-skilled workers. It is aimed both at disadvantaged workers and those who hire them. Its effect would be to alter the terms on which workers could be hired—in effect, to make hiring low-skilled workers a more profitable and attractive proposition than it is now. Both prongs of the policy are designed to offset restrictions on labour demand from market rigidities, to increase the employment of less-skilled workers, and to increase the returns to them from the work that they do. In the process, business costs would tend to fall, while output would tend to increase.

A Dynamic Analysis of Homeless-Domicile Transitions

Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Irving Piliavin

RPT 761. 1997. 16 pp.

(Social Problems, Vol. 44:3 (August 1997): 408-423)

Using data from a longitudinal study in Alameda County, California, this paper examines the relevance of the individual deficit and the institutional resource frameworks in understanding homeless-domicile transitions of female family heads, single women and single men. The study employs two analytic strategies. First, by pooling data from the three groups, we examine the extent to which variables derived from the two frameworks account for cross-group differences in homeless-domicile transitions. Second, by conducting separate analyses for the three subgroups, we explore whether the effects of individual deficit and institutional resource factors vary according to homeless individuals' gender and family status. Our pooled sample analysis provides more support for the institutional resource than for the individual deficit framework. Our findings from within-subsample analyses, however, suggest that both individual deficit and institutional resource variables are linked to homeless-domicile transitions of the three groups. The absence of consistent effects of individual deficit and institutional resource variables for exits from and returns to homeless spells, as well as across the three groups, points to the possible interactions between the two frameworks in affecting homeless-domicile transitions.

Gender in the Welfare State

Ann Orloff

RPT 760. 1997. 28 pp.

(Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 22 (1996): 51-78)

Gender relations—embodied in the sexual division of labor, compulsory heterosexuality, gendered forms of citizenship and political participation, ideologies of masculinity and femininity, and the like—profoundly shape the character of welfare states. Likewise, the institutions of social provision—the set of social assistance and social insurance programs and universal citizenship entitlements to which we refer as "the welfare state"—affect gender relations. Until recently, two broad approaches to gender relations and welfare states predominated: one which saw states contributing to the social reproduction of gender hierarchies, and a second which saw states having an ameliorative impact on gender inequality. More recently, two new strands of research have emerged emphasizing the variation in the effects of social policies on gender.

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Perceptions of Economic Insecurity: Evidence from the Survey of Economic Expectations

Jeff Dominitz and Charles F. Manski

RPT 759. 1977. 27 pp.

(Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 61 (1997): 261-287)

The Survey of Economic Expectations (SEE) is a new national survey initiated in an effort to learn how Americans perceive their near-term futures. This article uses SEE data on more than two thousand labor force participants interviewed in 1994 and 1995 to describe how Americans in the labor force perceive the risk of near-term economic misfortune. We measure economic insecurity through responses to questions eliciting subjective probabilities of three events in the year ahead: absence of health insurance, victimization by burglary, and job loss. Respondents are willing to describe their expectations in probabilistic terms, and they appear to do so in a meaningful way. Using the responses to classify individuals as relatively secure, relatively insecure, and highly insecure, we find that respondents with a high risk of one adverse outcome tend also to perceive high risks of the other outcomes. Males and females have similar risk perceptions, but there is substantial variation in perceptions by schooling and race. In particular, black males and males with no postsecondary schooling tend to perceive much greater insecurity than do others in the labor force. Expectations and realizations of health insurance coverage and of job loss tend to match up closely, but respondents substantially overpredict the risk of burglary.

Is the Whole Greater Than the Sum of the Parts? Interaction Effects of Three Non-Income-Tested Transfers for Families with Children

Rebecca Y. Kim, Irwin Garfinkel, and Daniel R. Meyer

RPT 758. 1996. 12 pp.

(Social Work Research, Vol. 20:4 (December 1996): 274-285)

If the government sponsored programs that offered a refundable tax credit for children, national health insurance, and an assured child support benefit to all families with children-poor families as well as nonpoor families-what would happen to poverty and welfare dependency? Using data from the 1987 Survey of Income and Program Participation, the authors simulate the effects of three such programs operating on their own and of all three acting in concert. They find that the effects of the programs interacting with one another would be much larger than the sum of the effects produced by each program alone. As a result of interaction effects, poverty rates drop by 43 percent rather than only 34 percent, and AFDC caseloads shrink by 22 percent instead of only 2 percent. The implication for social work is that multifaceted universal programs are an especially effective means to combat poverty and welfare dependence.

Children of Early Childbearers as Young Adults

Robert Haveman, Barbara Wolfe, and Elaine Peterson

RPT 757. 1997. 28 pp.

(Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy, ed. Rebecca A. Maynard, 1997, Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, pp.257-284.)

Having a mother who first gave birth as a teen has negative consequences for her children. This is so even after taking into account the differences we observe, with data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, in the backgrounds of these mothers compared to later-fertility mothers. On a statistical basis, the impact is more significant for the child's education level than for the daughter's fertility behavior or the child's economic inactivity at age 24. If teenagers could be convinced to postpone childbearing, their children (and hence society) would have improved life chances and outcomes.

If teenagers who gave birth before age 15 could be induced to postpone their first births to ages 16 to 17, for example, the probability that their children would graduate high school would increase by about 7 percent, from .71 to .76. Similarly, the probability that their daughters would give birth by age 19 would be decreased by about 9 percent. We estimate an even larger decrease, about 16 percent, the biggest estimated impact, in the probability that the daughters would give birth out of wedlock by age 19. We also expect that the probability of children being economically inactive as young adults would decrease by about 16 percent. If teenagers who are currently having their first birth between the ages of 16 and 17 could be induced to postpone that birth until they are 18 to 19, the expected increase in the probability of their children graduating high school is quite small. However, postponement until age 20 or later leads to sizable expected increases of about 7 percent, from .785 to .839. In the case of subsequent early fertility for the daughters born to these teenage mothers, a one- to two-year postponement of the age when the mother first gave birth (from 16 to 17 to 18 to 19) is not expected to have a sizable impact on her daughter's probability of giving birth as a teen; however, a shift to age 20 or older again has a much larger expected impact.

Teen Children's Health and Health Care Use

Barbara Wolfe and Maria Perozek

RPT 756. 1997. 23 pp.

(Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy, ed. Rebecca A. Maynard, 1997, Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, pp. 181-203)

We use a nationally representative data set, the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Study (NMES), to investigate the association between teen parenting and health and medical care costs of the children. This is the most recent data set to collect detailed data on medical care utilization, health status, and insurance coverage for a national sample. We use these data to construct a sample of 3,047 children who were less than 14 years old at the time of the last interview and who had mothers less than 33 years old. Maternal characteristics are merged onto the child's observation to complete our analysis file. The sample is restricted to children and mothers for whom complete information is available.

The children of teenage mothers tend to be in poorer health than are the children of older mothers. In addition, although the children of teen mothers visit medical providers less frequently and have lower total medical expenses, more of the expenses they do incur are paid by others in society than is the case among children of nonteen mothers, both proportionately and absolutely. Our simulations suggest that the medical expenses paid by society would be reduced dramatically if teenage mothers were to wait until they were older to have their first children. These simulations are based on the assumption that current teen mothers will "act" like older mothers, not only in terms of their fertility behavior but also in their educational attainment, earnings, and insurance. If these assumptions do not hold, our results are likely to overstate the savings to society from postponing the childbearing of current teenage mothers.

Welfare Reform in the United States: A Background Paper

Michael Wiseman

RPT 755. 1996. 44 pp.

(Housing Policy Debate, Vol. 7, Issue 4, 1996, pp. 595-648)

A remarkable convergence of political developments produced a major change in the U.S. welfare system in 1996: the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. This article reviews recent welfare policy history in the United States, surveys the major issues in welfare reform, outlines Democratic and Republican proposals, and summarizes the new legislation.

It is argued that the new initiative will increase the hardship experienced by the poor over at least the next few years. The act's changes in federal funding for public assistance plus state responses to new fiscal incentives the legislation creates are likely over time to increase, rather than reduce, the federal role in welfare finance, if not administration. The new welfare system presents an administrative and political challenge to governors and indirectly to political leadership in the nation's cities. Despite reduced federal regulation of public assistance, the federal government still has an important role in program evaluation.

Reducing Poverty while Increasing Employment: A Primer on Alternative Strategies, and a Blueprint

Robert Haveman

RPT 754. 1996. 36 pp.

(OECD Economic Studies, no. 26, 1996/I, pp. 7-42)

This paper addresses the conflict between poverty reduction and work incentives implicit in the income protection policies of several OECD countries. Alternative approaches to reducing the well-known "poverty trap" are identified and assessed, including Credit and Negative Income Tax programs, earnings supplementation, and two marginal employment subsidy plans. It is concluded that a judicious combination of a moderate income guarantee plus programmes to stimulate the supply of and the demand for lower-skilled labour could yield gains in a number of dimensions relative to existing income protection arrangements. A stylized "blueprint" which illustrates such an approach is presented.

State Strategies for Welfare Reform: The Wisconsin Story

Michael Wiseman

RPT 753. 1996. 32 pp.

(Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 15(4, Fall 1996): 515-546)

Wisconsin is commonly cited as exemplar of the capability of states for reforming welfare. Wisconsin's welfare caseload declined 22.5 percent between 1986 and 1994. I argue that the decline resulted from restriction of eligibility and benefits, a strong state economy, and large expenditures on welfare-to-work programs encouraged by an exceptional fiscal bargain with the federal government. Continued reduction of welfare utilization by means other than denying access are jeopardized by proposed changes in federal cost-sharing, a prospective state deficit, and the growing share of the caseload accounted for by residents of Milwaukee. Wisconsin Works, the state's plan for public assistance in a post-block grant world, continues benefit reduction and eligibility restriction but expands emphasis on employment. The special circumstances enjoyed by Wisconsin are unlikely to be duplicated elsewhere.

The 'Window Problem' in Studies of Children's Attainments: A Methodological Exploration

Barbara Wolfe, Robert Haveman, Donna Ginther, and Chong Bum An

RPT 752. 1996. 13 pp.

(Journal of the American Statistical Association 91(435, September 1996): 970-982)

Numerous statistical studies of the determinants of children's attainments measure the circumstances or events occurring over the childhood period by observations of these variables for a single year or a short duration during childhood. These variables are accepted as proxies for information over the entire childhood period. We explore the reliability of estimated results from studies that use such "window" variables. Because window variables describing intermittent events and discontinuous periods of more persistent characteristics may fail to correspond to variables describing the entire childhood experience, the basic question concerns the extent to which such limited duration information is consistent with that measured over the entire childhood period. We first present an omitted variables model that describes the nature of the "window" problem, and which allows us to measure the consistency of window variables to their longer-duration counterparts. We then use the distinctions revealed by this model to empirically study the potential problems associated with the use of window variables. We use 21 years of data on a sample of 1,705 children from the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics in reduced form models of the determinants of children's schooling and fertility outcomes. We develop four tests of the reliability of estimates using varying window lengths relative to full information on the childhood experience. These include omitted variable likelihood ratio tests, tests of goodness of fit, a sign and significance comparison, and a comparison of the magnitude of the simulated changes using window variables versus those of longer duration.

We conclude that single-year and limited duration window variables serve as weak proxies for information describing the entire childhood experience, and often lead to inferences of effects that may be misleading; we draw the implications of this finding for future data collection and research.

Cognitive and Family-Support Mediators of Preschool Effectiveness: A Confirmatory Analysis

Arthur J. Reynolds, Nancy A. Mavrogenes, Nikolaus Bezruczko, and Mavis Hagemann

RPT 751. 1996. 22 pp.

(Child Development)

Investigated in this study were the mediators of the effects of preschool intervention on children's school achievement in sixth grade. A confirmatory structural model developed in a previous study of third graders was tested with 360 low-income, mostly black children who were available at the 3-year follow-up. The model incorporated cognitive readiness at kindergarten entry and parent involvement in school (rated by teachers and parents) as primary mediators of preschool effectiveness. In sixth grade (age 12), preschool participation at ages 3 or 4 was significantly associated with higher reading achievement, higher math achievement, and with lower incidence of grade retention. Cognitive readiness and parent involvement in school significantly mediated the estimated effects of preschool participation on school achievement and grade retention 7 years postprogram. Teacher ratings of school adjustment, school mobility, and grade retention also contributed to the transmission of effects. This integrated model fit the data better than several alternative models, including those based on the cognitive-advantage and family-support hypotheses.

Effects of Family Instability, Income and Income Instability on the Risk of a Premarital Birth

Lawrence W. Wu

RPT 750. 1996. 23 pp.

(American Sociological Review)

In previous work, my colleagues and I reported (1) a strong and statistically significant association between frequent changes in the numbers and types of parental figures a young woman has lived with and her risk of bearing her first child out of wedlock, and (2) weak and statistically nonsignificant associations between measures of a young woman's exposure to a mother-only family during childhood and adolescence and her risk of a premarital birth (Wu and Martinson 1993). A serious limitation of these findings is the absence of controls for income. Failure to control for income is especially problematic because the positive association between frequent changes in family structure and premarital birth risks could be an artifact of changes in economic circumstances that typically accompany family changes. In this study, I use prospective income histories and retrospective parental histories from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to determine if the effect of family instability on premarital births is an artifact of low, unstable, or declining family income. I find that low income, declining income, and frequent changes in family structure are associated with significantly increased premarital birth risks. The effects of income and change in family structure are largely independent.

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