Research

Overview

Primary Research Areas

Overview

Research on the Non-traditional Safety Net: Health & Education

The U.S. safety net has changed substantially in the past two decades. The role of direct cash assistance has diminished, while the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has expanded. Traditional forms of non-cash assistance such as Food Stamps, WIC, and Head Start comprise a larger share of the safety net than ever before.

Our Research Affiliates are finding that many non-cash programs make a substantive difference in families’ well-being, even if these programs do not increase families’ cash income. Affiliates also actively pursue research agendas that embrace a broader set of programs that assist low income groups such as education and health care programs. Many of these programs have not traditionally been considered part of the safety net but play a crucial role affecting poor families’ well-being.

Article Michal Kurlaender

Mismatch And The Paternalistic Justification For Selective College Admissions
Michal Kurlaender, University of California, Davis & Eric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin

Center Executive Committee Member & Faculty Affiliate Michal Kurlaender and colleague Eric Grodsky have garnered a lot of attention, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court Ruling on affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas. This paper is forthcoming in Sociology of Education

Research Paper Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Is a WIC Start a Better Start? Evaluating WIC’s Impact on Infant Health Using Program Introduction
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

A large body of literature evaluates the extent to which the Supplemental Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) has accomplished the goal of improving nutritional well-being and health of low income families, but most studies have been based on research designs that compare program participants to non-participants. If selection into these programs is non-random, then such comparisons will lead to biased estimates of the program’s true effects. In this study, investigators use the rollout of the WIC program across counties to estimate the impact of the program on infant health.

Overview

Research on Labor Markets & Poverty

In 1996, the United States reformed its welfare system, linking benefits more directly to labor force participation. When combined with the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which subsidizes low wage workers through the tax code, work has become a cornerstone of American anti-poverty policy. At the same time, rising income inequality and stagnant real wages among less-skilled workers mean that working one’s way out of poverty is more challenging than ever before.

With these trends as a backdrop, a number of new questions are emerging. For example, how can government programs best address poverty if full-time work itself does not provide sufficient income to move many families out of poverty? Given the evolving consensus that poor mothers should be expected to work, how will women’s employment, family structure and poverty evolve in the 21st Century?

Our Research Affiliates are tackling these questions, as well analyzing trends in immigration and related demographic changes that have important implications for labor market opportunities available to the poor.

Research Paper Ryan Finnigan

Work Variability and Unionization in the Great Recession
Ryan Finnigan and Jo Hale (Affiliates in Sociology)

Millions of workers experienced increased variability in the regularity and predictability of their working hours in the Great Recession. This volatility brings negative consequences for their economic security and family lives, which can be as profound as job loss. The growth of work variability was facilitated by the decline of labor market institutions protecting workers from such volatility, particularly the profound decline of labor unions.

Research Paper Marianne P. Bitler

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession
Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes (Affiliates in Economics)

Much attention has been given to the large increase in safety net spending, particularly in Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamp spending, during the Great Recession. In this paper we examine the relationship between poverty, the social safety net, and business cycles historically and test whether there has been a significant change in this relationship during the Great Recession. We do so using an alternative measure of poverty that incorporates taxes and in-kind transfers.

Research Paper Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

Over the past 45 years, the United States has experienced a rising standard of living, with real GDP per capita more than doubling between 1959 and 2004. In contrast, living standards among some groups seem to have stagnated. Although a number of studies have documented a correlation between macroeconomic conditions and poverty, the relationship is not as simple, or as strong, as one might think. What additional factors can explain the starkly different trends in economic well-being that are measured by overall GDP growth and the poverty rate?

Overview

Research on Children & the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

Much of the variation in adult income in the United States is related to family background during childhood. One-third to one-half of children who are poor for a substantial part of their childhood will be poor as adults. Welfare participation is also substantially correlated across generations. Widening income inequality in the U.S.  has been accompanied by a widening achievement gap between children living in high- vs. low-income families. 

Across the social sciences, our Faculty Affiliates are engaging in projects aimed at better understanding and isolating the causal relationships between parents’ socioeconomic status and their children’s eventual ability to escape poverty. Research Affiliates are also investigating how the stressors that many poor children face affect their emotional development and behaviors.

Article Sign up for e-news Michal Kurlaender

Charting Students’ Pathways out of Poverty
Education Researcher Studies the Pipeline from Middle School to College and Jobs

By Alex Russell

In the classroom at Kit Carson Middle School in Sacramento, Michal Kurlaender sits at one of four small desks pushed to face each other. The walls are papered in yellow, red and bright blue, and wavy corrugated borders frame a flutter of papers under the banner “AMAZING.”

Kurlaender is interviewing a teacher as part of her evaluation of the school’s teacher development program to improve students’ college readiness skills. The sudden, grating buzz of the class bell startles everyone. Kurlaender smiles. “It’s nicer when it’s the music instead,” she says.

Research Paper Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

Over the past 45 years, the United States has experienced a rising standard of living, with real GDP per capita more than doubling between 1959 and 2004. In contrast, living standards among some groups seem to have stagnated. Although a number of studies have documented a correlation between macroeconomic conditions and poverty, the relationship is not as simple, or as strong, as one might think. What additional factors can explain the starkly different trends in economic well-being that are measured by overall GDP growth and the poverty rate?

Research Paper Erin R. Hamilton

Assimilation and Emerging Health Disparities Among New Generations of U.S. Children
Erin R. Hamilton (Affiliate in Sociology), Jodi Berger Cardoso, Robert A. Hummer and Yolanda C. Padilla

Children of immigrants currently make up one in four of all children in the United States, and this proportion is expected to increase to one-third by 2050. On average, children of immigrants are more likely than children of natives to live in poverty, experience food insecurity, and live in crowded housing. Additionally, they are less likely than children of natives to receive public assistance or to have health insurance. In this project, investigators provide a comprehensive picture of the health of children of immigrants in comparison to children of natives using recent, nationally representative data.

Overview

Research on Immigration and Poverty

The Center’s focus on immigration and poverty is motivated by the important role immigrants play in the U.S. economy, and by the Center’s location in the Central Valley of California. Each of our other research areas: Labor Markets and Poverty, the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty, and the Non-cash Safety Net hold questions that are unique to the immigrant experience.

For example, what is the connection between low skilled workers’ wages, inequality and immigration? How do access and take-up of safety-net programs among immigrant populations differ from native populations? How does the process of immigrant assimilation affect intergenerational mobility?

Our Research Affiliates across a wide range of disciplines are employing both quantitative and qualitative research strategies to shed light on these important questions.

Research Paper Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

Over the past 45 years, the United States has experienced a rising standard of living, with real GDP per capita more than doubling between 1959 and 2004. In contrast, living standards among some groups seem to have stagnated. Although a number of studies have documented a correlation between macroeconomic conditions and poverty, the relationship is not as simple, or as strong, as one might think. What additional factors can explain the starkly different trends in economic well-being that are measured by overall GDP growth and the poverty rate?

State Child Health Insurance Program Policies & Immigrant-Native Disparities in Children’s Health Care
Erin Hamilton (Affiliate in Sociology) with graduate researcher Ethan Evans (Sociology)

This project, funded through the Center for Poverty Research Graduate Student Fellowship Program, examines whether differences in state implementation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) affects disparities in health care between children of immigrants and children of natives. 

Research Paper Philip Martin

Importing Poverty? Immigration and Changing the Face of Rural America
Philip Martin (Affiliate in Agricultural and Resource Economics)

American agriculture employs some 2.5 million workers during a typical year, most for fewer than six months. Three fourths of these farm workers are immigrants, half are unauthorized, and most will leave seasonal farm work within a decade. What do these statistics mean for farmers, for laborers, for rural America?

Overview

Research in Progress: Funded Projects

Research projects funded by the Center reflect the depth and breadth of our Research Affiliates, our Small Grant Award winners, and our graduate students’ expertise in our priority research areas. Our projects include a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods across a number of disciplines in the social sciences and beyond. Though organized around the priority areas, there are substantial connections across these areas, and many projects address more than one of our research themes.

Post

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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2014-15 Small Grants for Poverty Research Awarded

We are pleased to announce the winners for our 2014-2015 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 as part of our seminar series. Congratulations!

Announcement

2013-14 Small Grants for Poverty Research Awarded

We are pleased to announce the winners for our 2013-2014 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 2015 Small Grants Conference. Congratulations!

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