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.
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 hardship.
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 uncompensated care.
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 families.
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.