These briefs are short and informative analyses of our research
relating to poverty policies. Policy Briefs deliver our
cutting-edge research directly to policy makers, researchers, and
stakeholders in an accessible format.
In 2014, Berkeley, California became the first US jurisdiction to tax distribution of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). In a recent study, we interviewed city stakeholders and SSB distributors and retailers and analyzed records in order to identify lessons learned from the implementation of this tax. Our findings emphasized the importance of investing tax revenues back into the community through programs that advance health equity.
COVID-19 has created a $54 billion budget deficit for California. This has significant implications for K-12 school districts. It also has the potential to harm high-poverty districts more severely. To balance the budget while averting draconian education cuts, the state’s recently enacted 2020-21 budget defers nearly $11 billion of school district state aid. This forces districts to borrow in order to maintain staffing and educational programs.
While the spread of the novel coronavirus is affecting different regions and populations to different extents, one thing is clear: people experiencing homelessness are especially susceptible to both the virus and the disease it can cause (COVID-19). This is due in part to the high concentration of people experiencing homelessness in urban and coastal regions with high infection rates. It is also true that, compared to the general population, people experiencing homelessness suffer from more health conditions and are less able to access health care.
Uninsurance for young adults (YAs) was greatly reduced by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But were federal health reforms since 2010 equally beneficial for all YAs? Did certain policies exacerbate, rather than resolve, preexisting disparities in health-insurance coverage? In a recent study, using a nationally representative sample of more than 350,000 participants, we investigated inequalities in YA insurance coverage before and after federal health reforms, including the expansions of dependent coverage, Marketplaces and Medicaid.
Food assistance is a large part of the food economy, with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) redemptions totaling $76 billion in 2013, representing more than 10 percent of sales at supermarkets. Such assistance is important to the millions of Americans who depend on it. Less clear until now has been how food assistance shapes the retail food environment. In a recent study, we set out to find out whether the rollout of Food Stamps during the 1960s and 1970s affected the retail environment.
Medicaid covers more than 72 million enrollees and represents over $500 billion in government spending annually. But does it improve the health of its beneficiaries? In a recent study, we investigated the relationship between Medicaid enrollment and mortality. To do so, we compared changes in mortality for near-elderly adults with low incomes in states that did and did not expand Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act. We found a decline of 0.132 percentage points in annual mortality associated with Medicaid expansion for this population.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves more than one-quarter of pregnant and postpartum women in the United States. In October 2009, the WIC food package underwent revisions to improve nutritional content. In a recent quasi-experimental study of more than two million California infants, we investigated the extent to which those revisions—which increased access to whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk—resulted in improvements in maternal and infant health.
Living in “deep poverty” means living on an income less than half the official poverty threshold, or, for a family of three in 2017, living with annual income of less than $9758. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 18.5 million individuals in the United States—5.7 percent of the population—lived in deep poverty in 2017. At such low levels of income, it may be particularly important to understand for how long individuals continue to live in deep poverty. My recent study investigates the long-term persistence of deep poverty. While most spells of deep poverty in the U.S.
Parents struggling with food insecurity can experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. These pressures may negatively affect their parenting, which may in turn affect the behavior of their children. In this study, we investigated the parenting aggravation levels of parents who experienced food insecurity in the aftermath of the Great Recession. We also explored the extent to which such aggravation may be responsible for the link between food insecurity and children’s behaviors.
Housing and utility costs consume the majority of monthly incomes for millions of individuals and families in the United States. Missed payments can result in penalties, utility shutoffs, and evictions. Between 14 and 16 percent of the U.S.
Among OECD countries, the United States has fallen from 1st (in 1990) to 9th (in 2016) in terms of the percentage of working age individuals with a bachelor’s degree. This makes interventions that promote college attendance in the U.S. a top policy priority. The benefits of a college education are widely known.
Preschool interventions are arguably one of the most important
elements of support for poor families. Head Start, a federal
program for children in low-income families administered through
the Department of Health and Human Services, is a case in point.
While research shows a range of benefits lasting beyond preschool
for participants, evidence of the “fade-out” of cognitive gains
of the preschool years and the differential impact of the program
on children with different skill levels in the preschool
population has prompted debate over its efficacy.
Poor children in the United States are less healthy than other
children, which may be a central factor in why poverty persists
across generations. Research approaches that use variation in
public programs let researchers disentangle the effects of a
program itself from other factors. These approaches confirm the
broad benefits of safety net programs that target children’s
health and nutrition. They also suggest that access to these
programs in early life improves children’s economic well-being as
adults, which likely transmits to the next generation.
Hospitals and clinics frequently rely on bicultural healthcare
workers as cultural brokers to offer translation and other
assistance to help low-income immigrant patients overcome
cultural barriers to healthcare. In a new study, we find that
Spanish-bilingual nurses navigate complex relationships with
their Latino patients in medical institutions with assorted
regulations and often limited resources. They do so by developing
diverse care strategies.
In recent years, for-profit colleges have seen sharp increases in
enrollment despite public community colleges being much cheaper.
In a recent study, we sent almost 9,000 fictitious resumes of
young job applicants who recently completed their schooling to
online job postings in seven major U.S. cities across six
occupational categories to track employer callback rates. We find
no evidence that employers prefer applicants with resumes listing
a for-profit college relative to those whose resumes list either
a public community college or no college at all.
Discussions of the safety net available to families in poverty
overwhelmingly focus on government assistance programs. An
additional component of how many families make ends meet is with
support from their private networks, especially from parents,
grandparents, or extended family. For some, this “private safety
net” can support material needs not sufficiently met though
earnings and public assistance. However, some individuals may
lack connections to family members who can provide such support.
Understanding how access to a private safety net varies by group
is key to assessing kin support’s role in alleviating material
At the core of debates about Head Start is evidence of its
effectiveness, which has been questioned due to the reduction in
test score gains, known as test score “fade-out”, in the years
following participation. However, short-term test score gains may
not accurately reflect the impacts of the program. A number of
studies suggest that the program yields long-term improvements
that include social, cognitive and physical well-being. These
findings show that, overall, Head Start produces a positive
return on investment.
Despite a near-continuous decline over the past 20 years, the
teen birth rate in the United States continues to be higher than
in other developed countries. Many have advocated for long-acting
reversible contraceptives (LARCs), which are more effective at
preventing pregnancy than more commonly used contraceptives. In a
new study, we
analyze Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative, the first
large-scale policy intervention to improve access to LARCs in the
U.S. We find that the program reduced the teen birth rate by
about five percent, and these effects were concentrated among
Colorado counties with higher rates of poverty.
National efforts to increase college attainment and to address
the nation’s skills gap have focused heavily on community
colleges. Understanding returns to community college programs is
particularly important for low-income students, since nearly half
of low-income students begin their college careers at community
colleges, compared to just 15 percent of high-income students.
Using administrative data from California, we find that
students who earn vocational certificates and degrees see large
earnings gains that vary substantially by course of study.
During the most recent economic recession in the U.S., many
parents lost their jobs. When a parent loses a job, it can impact
their child’s well-being in complex ways. In a new study, we
sought to understand how a parent losing a job affects their
children’s health. We found that after a job loss, an increase in
public coverage offset much of the decrease in private coverage.
In addition, we found almost no effects on children’s use of
routine health care services and no evidence that job loss
negatively affects children’s physical health in the short run.
However, we do find that parental job loss results in a
deterioration of mental health for some children, which may have
negative implications for child health in the long run.
Truancy in California is a pervasive problem that
disproportionately impacts children in high-poverty schools. Our
study examined how school safety and connectedness relate to
truancy in California’s high-poverty middle and high schools.
We found that children who perceive their schools to be unsafe
and feared being in fights were more likely to skip school.
Students who reported that they were more closely connected to
their schools, particularly students who reported having a
teacher or adult who cared about them, were more likely to
attend. School-wide initiatives enhancing both school safety and
connectedness may lead to improved school attendance at
California’s most disadvantaged schools.
A major component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a mandated
expansion of Medicaid. The law also prescribed cuts to Medicaid
Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments, which subsidize
hospitals with high levels of uncompensated care. For states that
have opted out of Medicaid expansion, Medicaid reimbursements
will not make up for lost DSH payments. However, DSH cuts may
also create additional financial challenges for these hospitals
in opt-in states if Medicaid expansion does not reduce overall
In recent years, inner-city school districts have worked to
balance budgets despite funding cuts and unpredictable enrollment
due to demographic changes. While redistricting—the process of
changing school boundaries, closing and/or consolidating
schools—can effectively address budget and enrollment problems,
it can disproportionally affect disadvantaged students and
Public insurance can provide needed medical coverage for those
who cannot afford it. Considering that private insurance is often
bound to employment, a public option could have an impact on the
labor market if it reduces incentives to work.
In July 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown overhauled the
state’s school finance system, which has long been criticized for
its complexity and failure to meet student needs. The prior
system generally did provide more revenues to districts serving
many disadvantaged students, but the new Local Control Funding
Formula (LCFF) dramatically increases the state’s investment in
those districts, and creates a more transparent and
equitable school finance system.
In recent years, ethnic concordance—matching the ethnicity of
healthcare workers to that of their patients—has been promoted as
an important measure for achieving “patient-centered care” for
minority patients in the U.S.
Health problems, such as diabetes, are often considered the
result of either genetics or individual choices. In fact, our
network of family, friends and co-workers can have a major impact
on how we measure and manage our health.
For decades, high school students have taken technical training
classes that prepare them for jobs, but little research has
examined the impact these classes have on whether those students
go to college.
Smaller classes help students, many argue, especially those most
“at risk.” Research shows that on average this is true. However,
when “risk” is defined beyond ethnicity or socioeconomic status,
the picture of who most benefits becomes less clear.
Research suggests that violence and low academic performance in
public schools play a big role in a family’s decision to use
state-funded vouchers to send their children to a private school.
However, little research has considered the impact of nearby
private and public school markets.
One in five children in the United States is the child of
immigrants. These new Americans, most of whom are U.S. citizens,
are more than twice as likely as children of natives to have no
health insurance. Prior research has shown that differences in
income or employment between native and immigrant parents do not
account for the disparity in coverage.
Linking income and health has been a notorious challenge for
researchers. With multiple sources of income such as earnings,
cash transfer and near cash transfer programs, it is difficult to
isolate their effects on health. The 1993 expansion to the Earned
Income Tax Credit (EITC), the largest and most recent of federal
expansions to date, provided researchers a unique opportunity.