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2015-16 Small Grants for Poverty Research Awarded

We are pleased to announce the winners for our 2015-2016 Small Grants for Poverty Research. All recipients will receive grants to support their research projects related to the core themes of the Center and will present at our 2017 Small Grants Conference. Congratulations!

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Breaking the Cycle? The Intergenerational Effects of Head Start
Andrew Barr, Texas A&M University and Chloe Gibbs, University of Notre Dame

Abstract:
Head Start began in 1965 as a federal program targeting low-income, preschool-aged children and their families for comprehensive child development, health, and parenting services. The program continues today, with an increased focus on early childhood education, serving approximately 950,000 children at a cost of nearly eight billion dollars per year. In this project, we consider the impact of Head Start on the participating child’s future family. Given quasi-experimental evidence of Head Start effects on long-term outcomes for participants and related evidence on the intergenerational effects of increased education, Head Start participation effects may transfer across generations in the form of improved outcomes for participants’ children. Such a finding would substantially influence cost-benefit analyses of the program and could inform current policy efforts around early childhood investments. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the NLSY79 Children and Young Adults (C-NLSY) survey, we will leverage both sibling comparisons and the rollout of the Head Start program in the late 1960s to estimate the effect of mothers’ Head Start program participation on their children’s educational attainment and labor market outcomes, health, and risky behaviors. To combat cyclical poverty, we must understand whether the government’s pivot to non-traditional safety-net policies, such as early childhood education, can break the intergenerational cycle that stacks the odds against children. This question is directly relevant to the center’s core research interests in (1) children and the intergenerational transmission of poverty, and (2) non-traditional safety net policies, and has implications for policies designed to improve educational attainment and labor market participation among impoverished families.

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Poor vs. Rich: Impact of the ACA Medicaid Expansion on Inequality in Access to Care”
Victoria Perez, Indiana University Bloomington

Abstract:
By most accounts, Medicaid is the largest federal anti-poverty program. Yet even a half-century after the enactment of Medicaid and Medicare, socioeconomic disparities in healthcare access remain substantial, especially for non-elderly childless adults who have been largely unaffected by expansions of these “Great Society” programs (Hicken, 2012). The Medicaid and Marketplace subsidy insurance expansions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have the potential to reduce these disparities. However, as a result of the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, about half the states did not expand their Medicaid program. I propose to exploit this state-level variation in Medicaid expansion, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2005-2015, to estimate the causal effect of ACA Medicaid policy on socioeconomic disparities in access to care, and its resulting influence on health. The results of my study are important for ongoing state policy discussions around ACA Medicaid expansions that have large implications for the wellbeing of low-income Americans. I conclude with directions for further research on Medicaid policy and poverty building on the work proposed in this small grant application.

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How Do Cash Transfers Disrupt the Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage? Effect of the EITC on Investments in Children
Laura Tach, Cornell University

Abstract:
Family income affects children’s wellbeing and shapes their future life chances. This stylized fact is at the core of concerns over the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage, whereby the socioeconomic circumstances into which children are born are perpetuated across generations. Raising parents’ income, as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) does, has the potential to disrupt this process. Prior research shows that it is associated with improvements in child health and educational achievement and attainment. While evidence is accumulating about what happens as a result of families’ EITC receipt, less is known about the mechanisms through which children benefit from this annual income boost. To address this question, the proposed study will use data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, 1996-2013, to investigate whether and how parents’ spending on children—including on enrichment activities and materials—is altered as a result of EITC receipt. We test whether expenditures on children differ between EITC-eligible and ineligible households in February (the modal month of EITC receipt) compared to other months. We then exploit changes in the federal EITC over time and variation in state EITCs to examine whether higher EITCs are associated with larger changes in expenditures on children. Findings will inform how government antipoverty policy weakens the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage for children growing up in low-income households. This is timely knowledge, as the 2009 EITC expansions are set to expire in 2017. Understanding how the EITC shapes families’ abilities to invest in their children provides important information for this upcoming policy debate.

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College and Intergenerational Mobility: New Evidence from Administrative Data
Danny Yagan, UC Berkeley

What is the role of college in the intergenerational transmission of income inequality? This project will tackle this question using population-level administrative data to characterize the distribution of parent and student income across the hierarchy of U.S. colleges in order to understand (a) where students from rich and poor families attend college, (b) what explains the substantial variation in poor student enrollment across similarly ranked colleges, and © what share of the persistence of inequality across generations is explained by the colleges children attend.

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