Who Needs a Ring? The 1996 Welfare Reform’s “Independence Effect”

Ratio of earnings and employment for single mothers vs. single men

In 1996 federal welfare reform replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the oldest welfare program for the poor, with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The primary goal of this historic reform was to encourage work and decrease welfare dependence. However, another explicit goal was to decrease single motherhood and encourage marriage. This emphasis on single motherhood and marriage is based on a long-standing criticism of the AFDC program—that it discouraged marriage because the eligibility rules made it difficult for married couples to receive benefits from the program.

In a recent study, Robert Moffitt, Brian Phelan, and Anne Winkler take advantage of the passage of time to reexamine whether welfare reform had its intended effect of discouraging single motherhood and encouraging marriage.
Continue reading “Who Needs a Ring? The 1996 Welfare Reform’s “Independence Effect””

Does Parents’ Access to Family Planning Increase Children’s Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X

For the past several decades, the U.S. government has invested heavily in anti-poverty programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Head Start, aimed at closing the resource gap for disadvantaged children and improving their long-term outcomes. There is a vast literature studying the impacts of such programs, yet there is one potential source of disparity that has been largely overlooked: family planning.
Continue reading “Does Parents’ Access to Family Planning Increase Children’s Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X”

Effective Policy for Reducing Poverty and Inequality? The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Distribution of Income

The United States stands out among industrialized nations as one with high poverty and income inequality. In 2016, the supplemental poverty measure shows that 13.9% of all persons, and 15.1% of children, lived in families with incomes below the poverty level. Since the mid-1970s earnings for less skilled workers have stagnated, and real family income for the bottom 20% of the population has made no gains. At the same time, there is the related problem of declines in employment rates among prime-aged men, and more recently, women. In a recent study, Hilary Hoynes and Ankur Patel examined whether one strategy to fight poverty—the earned income tax credit (EITC)—is working.
Continue reading “Effective Policy for Reducing Poverty and Inequality? The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Distribution of Income”

Job Corps Improves Earnings, Employment, and Use of Public Benefits…Even for Eligible Nonparticipants

Job Corps effects

Government-sponsored job training programs are believed to be essential to improve the job prospects of economically disadvantaged citizens and reduce dependence on safety net programs, but do they work? Job Corps is the main federal training program in the United States targeted at disadvantaged youth ages 16 to 24. Xuan Chen (Renmin University of China), Carlos A. Flores (California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo), and Alfonso Flores-Lagunes (Syracuse University) measure the effectiveness of Job Corps training and find a positive effect on three important outcomes—earnings, employment, and amount of public benefits received.
Continue reading “Job Corps Improves Earnings, Employment, and Use of Public Benefits…Even for Eligible Nonparticipants”

Head Start’s Long-Run Impact

Head Start impact

Because experiences in early childhood are known to influence child development, preschool programs are often viewed as policy interventions with the most potential to improve the prospects of children from low-income families. In a new study, Owen Thompson (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) examined the impact of Head Start on a variety of socioeconomic outcomes for participants through age 48.
Continue reading “Head Start’s Long-Run Impact”

Children’s Self-Portraits Show that Child Sponsorship Increases Hope

Child poverty illustrated by children: draw yourself in the rain

The role of psychological attributes such as hope and self-efficacy in escaping poverty has attracted increasing attention among economists, policy-makers, and development practitioners. Researchers recently borrowed a technique from clinical psychology to learn what self-portraits can tell us about the effectiveness of a child sponsorship program in the slums of Jakarta.
Continue reading “Children’s Self-Portraits Show that Child Sponsorship Increases Hope”