Our policy briefs deliver our cutting-edge research directly to
policy makers, researchers, and stakeholders in an accessible
format. These peer-reviewed resources are short and
informative analyses of our research relating to poverty and
The goal of federal food and nutrition programs in the United
States is to improve the nutritional well-being and health of low
income families. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to
states to support nutrition for pregnant and post-partum mothers
and children up to age five. Our study, one of the first to
convincingly describe the program’s causal effect, found that
WIC’s implementation led to an increase in average birthweight,
especially among mothers with low levels of education. This
suggests that the value of WIC benefits for needy participants is
substantial compared to the program’s relatively low costs.
Where children grow up has a striking effect on where they live
as young adults. Our new study examined an experimental federal
housing voucher program from the 1990s to learn what factors may
contribute to children living in higher-income neighborhoods as
young adults. We find that housing assistance helps the next
generation to exit concentrated poverty. We also found that a
family’s finances, ties to neighborhoods and the housing market
all play roles, but a family’s desire to live in higher-income,
more integrated neighborhoods is also important.
Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides income for workers to take time
off to care for a newborn or sick loved one. The U.S. is the only
industrialized country without national PFL. Moreover,
job-protected leave is not universal. A large body of research on
policies outside the U.S. suggests that paid and protected leave
help workers remain in the labor force. Increasing researchers’
access to governmental administrative data would further show how
to improve these policies for U.S. workers. Limited existing data
from California PFL show that the majority of new mothers do not
take advantage of this policy, and that take-up is even lower
among low-wage women.
In 2010, an estimated 2.7 million children and one in nine
African-American children had an incarcerated parent.
Incarceration creates challenges for inmates’ families. Resources
that inmates had contributed are removed, while incarceration
introduces new expenses. Children with incarcerated fathers have
worse educational outcomes and poorer mental health than
otherwise comparable children. Employment assistance and less
restrictive visitation rules may mitigate the economic and
emotional effects incarceration has on families.
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
California health advocates are increasingly aware of the hazards
of Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis), a disease caused by a
fungus spore living in semi-arid regions of the west and
southwest U.S. California has the most associated deaths despite
only representing about 31 percent of all U.S. cases. Policy
makers can reduce its impact on low-income communities and save
millions of dollars in treatment each year by addressing the
circumstances of infection, as well as the difficulties
low-income populations face in accessing care.
After decades of reductions in official measures of family
violence, annual incidence rates have plateaued over the past ten
years. Poverty and the increased stress it causes can increase
the risk for family violence, which suggests that economic
downturns like the Great Recession may contribute to this
stagnation. Income support in new and existing interventions
may help reduce family violence, especially among high-risk, poor
Intensified violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle
countries of Central America have spurred migration among
youth who seek to either reunite with family or to support
families who remain abroad. Policies to protect these youth would
promote their holistic integration into U.S. society, enforce
safety and well-being along the U.S. southern border and help
strengthen the youths’ countries of origin socially, economically
Despite significant efforts to deter unauthorized immigration,
repeat migration to the United States following deportation is
common. In a new study, my co-authors and I examined how having
family in the U.S. affects the intent to return among migrants
deported to El Salvador. We found that being separated from their
families in the U.S. is the most important factor in the intent
to return, even despite the severe penalties if caught.
Domestic violence is a significant problem in the U.S. It leads
to serious medical and emotional costs for victims and their
children, but also has important negative spillovers. Our new
work finds that exposure to a higher proportion of peers
experiencing domestic violence during primary school leads to
lower academic achievement in the long-run, even after moving to
schools with a mixed peer composition.
With obesity affecting over a third of the U.S. population,
public health advocates—including first lady Michelle
Obama—have called to “drink up” on water instead of sugary
beverages. In new work, supported by the Center for Poverty
Research, we find that low-quality drinking water is a potential
barrier to reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
in high-poverty rural immigrant communities.
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
With unauthorized youth at the forefront of immigration reform
discourse and policy proposals, understanding the diversity of
their profiles and experiences is necessary to create holistic
Some safety net programs, such as unemployment insurance (UI) and
food stamps (SNAP), have shown to automatically stabilize income
during financial downturns. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
raises millions of American workers out of poverty, but its
impact in times of crisis has not been explored.
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.
Growing up in poverty may have long-term impacts beyond the
chance of a better financial future. The stress of early-life
poverty may in fact be associated with serious health problems
well into adulthood.
Ongoing research by Center Graduate Student Fellow Natalie Troxel
and Faculty Affiliate Paul Hastings examines the association
between poverty and compromised adult health, which may have
implications for healthcare costs in the U.S.
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.
From 1900 through the 1960s, millions of black Americans moved
northward during The Great Migration toward economic
opportunity and away from Jim Crow in the South. However,
over the last few decades many of those destination cities
in the north have fared poorly.
There has been considerable debate about whether payday lending
alleviates or exacerbates financial distress. On the one hand,
payday loans can help a family weather shocks to household income
or expenditures. Many argue, however, that these high-cost loans
lead to greater financial difficulties in the long run.
Community-based organizations (CBOs) serve low-income immigrants
who face significant barriers to public aid. An increasing
proportion of these populations includes families with children
who live in poverty.
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.
Transitions into and out of poverty often happen after major
events such as marriage, divorce, or changes in income. They are
also associated with economic factors, such as unemployment rates
For an extended period now, U.S. farms have enjoyed an abundance
of workers from Mexico who work for stable or decreasing real
wages. However, since 2008 the overall number of these farm
workers, both these working in the U.S. and those who remain in
Mexico, has shrunk substantially.
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.
Those who come to the United States looking for work compete with
some groups of native-born workers but complement others. Since
wages and the local poverty rate play a part in how many arrive,
it is a challenge to quantify the effect they in turn have on
both, and whether they push native workers below the poverty
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.