Community college programs in career and technical education —
especially in health professions — lead to significant financial
returns, especially for women, according to a new policy brief by
the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research.
Within the popular American conscience—arguably a close
reflection of the mainstream media—there are two favored focal
points for discussing the problem of poverty. The first is within
the urban, inner city context—often conflated with black
poverty—which has held a critical role in American political and
cultural discourse throughout most of the past century. The
second is the poverty of the Global South: Sub-Saharan Africa,
Latin America, South Asia, and the rest of the developing world.
Every Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research, a
nonprofit organization made up of some of North America’s most
respected economists, releases its latest batch of working
papers. The papers aren’t peer-reviewed, so their conclusions are
preliminary (and occasionally flat-out wrong). But they offer an
early peek into some of the research that will shape economic
thinking in the years ahead. Here are a few of this week’s most
Imagine you’re a 37-year-old woman, three months pregnant, living
in the Arden-Arcade area, taking the bus to your job at Burger
King, where every week you work 40 hours but only earn $9.25 for
UC Davis economics professor and director of the Center for
Poverty Research Ann Huff Stevens says that when people are
“talking about moving $9 an hour to $15 an hour, we know
virtually nothing” about how that will impact employment or small
businesses. “We really don’t know, and so there’s a risk.”
A presidential budget is more than an expression of policy. It’s
also an exercise in political brand management. It aims to
project the president and his administration favorably. This is
certainly true of President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget, whose
proposals are cast as instruments of “middle-class economics.”
The government is your partner. It will protect your middle-class
status — or help you retrieve it, if it’s been lost.
In his State of the City speech Thursday night, Sacramento Mayor
Kevin Johnson said he wanted to put together a task force to look
at raising the minimum wage in the capital city.
Currently, the city’s minimum wage is the same as California’s
state minimum wage — $9 per hour. In 2016, it will increase to
$10 per hour. But some cities across the nation, such as San
Francisco and Seattle, have sought higher minimum wages for their
When our three new undergraduates arrived last January to start
their Public Policy Fellowships at the Center for Poverty
Research, they had no idea what they were getting into, and only
a vague sense of what they would accomplish by summer. All they
had was potential and an interest in poverty policy.
President Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free is a
valiant effort to address the rising demand for skilled workers
throughout the nation and to improve college access for
low-income students. As states consider his proposal, they would
be wise to look to California. Our research in the state suggests
that low tuition can put higher education within reach for many
low-income students, but it is no panacea. Even with high
participation levels and nearly free community college, many
California students do not complete degrees.
A lack of access to clean drinking water in rural California farm
communities is leading residents to turn to sugary drinks and
soda, contributing to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, researchers
said in a new policy paper. The report, from the University
of California Davis Center for Poverty Research, finds that many
agricultural immigrant communities in California’s Central Valley
have difficulty obtaining clean, drinkable water.
Latino Americans suffer from disproportionately high rates of
obesity—especially children, who are 51 percent more likely to be
obese than their white counterparts. Unhealthy advertising from
food companies, a lack of access to safe and adequate
recreational areas, and poor snack and beverage options at
schools have all been cited as major contributors to this
On the face of it, then, the War on Poverty seems to have
accomplished nothing. Critics of Johnson’s programs may also add
that the War on Poverty resulted in billions of dollars spent on
the poor. Why has there been no return on that investment?
The simple answer is that there have been improvements—but the
way we measure poverty hasn’t, until recently, accounted for
The fundamental rights of millions of Texas women are at stake in
a case in which the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral
arguments on Wednesday. The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Lakey,
will determine the constitutionality of a Texas law that imposes
ambulatory surgical center regulations on abortion providers. The
judges will essentially decide if women living outside the
state’s major metropolitan areas, and who therefore must travel
considerable distances to reach the few abortion providers able
to comply, are constitutionally relevant.
It is an understatement to say that the welfare reforms of the
1990s were intended to give a little spring to the social safety
The intention was much more radical. The reforms involved a major
make-over of income support, and turning what was imagined as a
net ensnarling many Americans behind a welfare wall, into a
springboard that would incentivize work and allow them to ride a
wave of prosperity to higher incomes that would lift their
children out of poverty.
Deported parents face no good solutions to the dilemma of forced
separation from their children: Either they remove their children
from their country of citizenship, or deportees return to rejoin
their children, facing harsh penalties if caught.
Many in Houston regularly face the terrible prospect.
peakers from Solano County Health and Social Services and UC
Davis Center for Poverty Research will discuss the structure of
poverty in the United States and Solano County and address ways
to approach local resources and services in the community, making
them available to women and children.
Capping the number of visas issued to foreign-born tech workers
restricts the number of U.S-born workers that firms could hire -
and the Bay Area is feeling the brunt of that impact, according
to a new study.
“As the company becomes more productive because of the
contributions of these (foreign-born) people and grows, then it
will demand more workers – workers who are there (in the U.S.)
will participate in the growth of the company,” Peri said
Low-wage workers know they have to enhance their skills to escape
low-wage jobs, but long hours and multiple jobs make
skill-building and education nearly impossible, according to a
new policy brief released by the Center for Poverty Research at
the University of California, Davis. Joining us to talk more
about the research are the authors of the brief, Victoria Smith,
a UC Davis professor of sociology and a faculty affiliate
for the Center for Poverty Research, and Brian Halpin, a graduate
student in sociology at UC Davis.
THE immediate impact of the recession — widespread buyouts and
layoffs — may be fading, but the fear of losing a job hangs over
workplaces like a cloud of worry.
“There’s a myth that in the 1950s, everyone was very loyal to
companies and companies were very loyal to people,” said Ann Huff
Stevens, a professor of economics at the University of
California, Davis. “But we always had a contingent work force
that could be laid off at any time. They were called women.”
Low-wage workers wanting to enhance their skills and move into
higher-paying jobs are blocked by working long hours and multiple
jobs that make skill-building and education nearly impossible,
according to a new policy brief released by the Center for
Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis.
In the ongoing study, Victoria Smith, a UCD professor of
sociology and a faculty affiliate for the research center, and
co-author Brian Halpin, a UCD graduate student in sociology,
conducted interviews with 25 low-wage workers in the Napa/Sonoma
area in the fall of 2012.
“People find themselves very caught up, just treading water. The
fact that they often are supporting other people heightens their
need to take extra hours when they can get them,” Smith said.
For the long-term unemployed, finding a job is hard — but keeping
one may be even harder.
…Negron’s experience echoed prescient research conducted nearly
two decades ago by economist Ann Stevens, now at the University
of California at Davis. She looked at data tracking workers from
1968 to 1988 and found that 41 percent who lost their job once
were unemployed at least once more during that period. Almost all
of the subsequent job losses occurred within five years of the
Stevens’s study did not explore the fate of the long-term
unemployed. Still, she found that multiple spells of unemployment
depressed workers’ wages by 9 percent even after several years.
“I think of the unemployment issue as another form of
inequality,” she said in an interview. “In some sense, it’s the
same people experiencing repeated unemployment and repeated job
In America’s new normal, plenty of Americans will tumble into
poverty at some point – but few will be stuck there forever.
Nearly one in three Americans experienced a stint of poverty
between 2009 and 2011, a new Census Bureau report finds, but only
a fraction of those people were stuck below the poverty line for
the entire three-year period.
“There’s a lot of movement in and out of poverty,” said Ann
Stevens, director of the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis.
California, the state renowned for Beverly Hills mansions,
glittery Hollywood stars, Malibu beaches, palm trees, and the
stunning Golden Gate Bridge, hides a deep, dark secret – it has
the nation’s highest poverty rate.
“Housing costs in Nevada or Florida… are nowhere near this
extreme,” said Ann Huff Stevens, director of the Center for
Poverty Research at University of California-Davis, in an
interview. “It is important to note that California is a
very expensive state, but it is also important to keep in mind
that this is the main factor that makes our poverty rate jump
from slightly higher than the national average in the official
measure to number 1 in the supplemental measures.”
When President Lyndon Johnson declared an “unconditional war on
poverty” in his State of the Union address, 50 years ago this
week, the official poverty rate was 19 percent.
Last year, it stood at 15 percent. And so the war goes on.
What that official measure of poverty fails to capture are other,
harder-to-quantify successes, according to Ann Huff Stevens,
economics professor and director of the UC Davis Center for
“Because we now provide a substantial number of low-income
families with Medicaid, with health insurance for their children,
with food stamp nutrition support, with school lunch, we see
improvement in the health of the poor people,” Stevens said.
In the 50 years since Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson declared “an
unconditional war on poverty,” the United States has gained
ground in some areas of the fight and lost in others. Income
disparity between rich and poor Americans has increased, while
programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance have made a
huge difference in reducing poverty rates.
One of the initiatives signed by Johnson during his presidency is
the School Breakfast Program. While it isn’t responsible for
decreases in poverty, it has successfully fed hungry children and
increased learning in poor areas of America. Joining us with an
evaluation of the School Breakfast Program is Assistant Professor
in the Department of Economics at the University of Iowa David
Frisvold, who is speaking at a UC Davis “War on Poverty”
During the tail end of the recession and its aftermath, nearly a
third of Americans suffered bouts of poverty lasting two months
or more, the U.S. Census Bureau found in a newly released report.
“The fact that someone comes out of poverty for a few months
should not lead us to conclude that poverty is not chronic,” said
Ann Stevens, director of the UC Davis Center for Poverty
Research. Though only 3.5% of Americans were poor throughout the
entire period from 2009 to 2011, Stevens said, other research
suggests many more bobbed in and out of poverty.
50 years ago today, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson announced
the war on poverty. This “war” was meant to help the nearly 1 in
5 Americans who were poor.
Half a century later, after the country’s great recession, the
number of people living below the line hasn’t gone down by much.
That reality is also reflected here, where Californians tend to
struggle more than the rest of the country.
For more we’re joined by Ann Huff Stevens, director of the Center
for Poverty Research at UC-Davis.
On Dec. 28, right between Christmas and New Year’s, federal
emergency unemployment compensation will expire, taking away the
last form of jobless aid available to more than 3,000 long-term
unemployed workers here in Maine. By the middle of next year, an
additional 9,000 Mainers and their families will be left without
any form of jobless assistance.
The Center for Poverty Research found that since 2009,
unemployment insurance has been responsible for a 25 percent
reduction in poverty among children with an unemployed parent.
Three days after Christmas, 1.3 million Americans will lose their
unemployment insurance benefits after Republicans in Congress
choose not to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation
program, which provides jobless benefits beyond the traditional
Additionally, “a recent study by the Center for Poverty Research
found that since 2009, unemployment insurance has been
responsible for a 25 percent reduction in poverty among children
who have had an unemployed parent.” Now children in similar
circumstances will have to endure life below the poverty line.
An alternative method of measuring poverty revealed that
California is the most impoverished state in the country, with
nearly a quarter of its residents living below the poverty line
due mostly to housing costs.
Under the study, a household of two adults and two children
earning less than about $35,000 would be considered below the
poverty line, said Ann Stevens, director for the Center for
Poverty Research at UC Davis. That number was increased from just
over $23,000 used in the official poverty measure in 2012.
“It is almost entirely the cost of housing that is used to make
the adjustment,” Stevens said. “It draws attention to the
combination of the resources that Californians have and the costs
that they face.”
A new way of measuring poverty reveals California has by far the
biggest share of people in economic despair, eclipsing states
such as Mississippi and Louisiana, when housing and other costs
The alternative yardstick, known as the supplemental poverty
measure, found nearly 2.8 million more people are struggling
across the country than the traditional benchmark shows.
“Anyone who has moved to California from somewhere else knows the
dramatic increase of the cost of living,” said Ann Stevens,
director for the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis. “It’s
not more surprising that California looks more impoverished. It
is really driven by the cost of housing. California is a very
expensive place to live.”
“Even if the economy was rebounding, I don’t think the official
poverty statistics show it that much,” said Ann Stevens, an
economics professor who directs the UC Davis Center for Poverty
Unemployment insurance gives many down-on-their-luck Americans
enough income to stay above the poverty line, but Stevens said
the official poverty measurements don’t count food stamps,
housing assistance and other programs that help people survive
but don’t give them cash income.
“They’re likely to be used to say, look, the war on poverty isn’t
working,” Stevens said of the latest numbers. “We know these
programs do have benefits, they just don’t show up in these basic