Boston University Public Health Post
June 20, 2022
COVID resulted in greater attention to the role unions can play
in promoting the health of workers and their families.
Blue-collar and essential workers faced the virus every day while
many of their managers and most white-collar workers were able to
work from home. Unions were the vanguard, advocating for the
provision of masks, personal protective equipment, distancing,
clean workplaces, and hazard pay. An unprecedented number of
strikes occurred in the fall of 2021 resulting in what some
labeled “Striketober.” And Christian Smalls, the
leader of the new Amazon Labor Union, stated that, without
management’s indifference to COVID, he would never have tried to
organize his co-workers. While union membership is at a
65-year low (6% in the private sector), public
support for unions is 68%, a 55 year high.
The 2020 Census revealed that 28.4% of the people from Yolo
County have an income below 150% of the poverty level. The
poverty rate in Yolo County is at 20.9%, according to a 2022
press release. Experts and researchers from UC Davis have weighed
in on the rising crisis of poverty in Yolo County, emphasizing
the need for county action.
Recessions in California tend to widen the gap between rich and
poor. The sharp pandemic downturn of 2020 followed this pattern
with low-income workers suffering the most. But unprecedented
government relief kept millions from falling into poverty, and
demand for labor boosted wages when businesses reopened.
As debate continues over how to complete the Affordable
Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, it’s important to remember the
crucial role Medicaid plays in births in our country. Medicaid
covers 4 in 10 births, and there’s a renewed push
to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms. There’s also
growing research showing that for kids, the benefits of Medicaid
coverage persist well into adulthood, in the form of better
health and higher earnings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic swings in the U.S.
labor market and major policy responses. In this time of crisis,
it is important to have the latest evidence on how these events
are affecting vulnerable populations so policymakers can respond
poverty dashboard provides near-real-time poverty
estimates using U.S. Census Bureau data. Authors are updating
this measure on a monthly basis as new data becomes available.
Maria Elena Hernandez recently retrieved a flowery box tucked in
her closet and dusted it off. For more than a decade, she has
used it to store tax returns, lease agreements and other
documents that she has collected to prove her family’s long years
of residence in the United States.
President Joe Biden on his first day in office sent Congress an
extensive immigration proposal that could have big implications
for California, which is home to the largest undocumented
immigrant population in the nation.
The plan, known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, would
provide a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million unauthorized
immigrants living in the United States. About 2 million of them
live in California.
It’s no secret that rural and urban people have grown apart
culturally and economically in recent years. A quick
glance at the media – especially social media – confirms an
ideological gap has also widened.
City folks have long been detached from rural
conditions. Even in the 1700s, urbanites labeled rural
people as backward or different. And lately, urban views of
rural people have deteriorated.
Congratulations to previous participants in our Visiting Graduate
Student program on the publication of their paper. Kathryn
Edwards, Jennifer Scott, and Alex Stanczyk met in 2014 through
the Center for Poverty and Inequality Research’s Visiting
Graduate Student program. They recently published “Moonlighting
to the Side Hustle: The Effect of Working an Extra Job on
Household Poverty for Households With Less Formal
Education,” a paper they began working on during our
program. Read the paper published in Families in Society: The
Journal of Contemporary Social Services below.
Third grade teacher Alena Anberg cruised down Highway 99 in her
Ford F-150, past acres of almond orchards that split the terrain
just outside her hometown of Arbuckle in Colusa County. She grew
up in this town of 3,000 and knows the back roads well, which
helped as she made several stops to deliver iPads, laptops and
old smart phones with SIM cards installed to turn them into Wi-Fi
Amidst the intertwined pandemics of COVID-19 and racism,
something unprecedented should be happening in research on
poverty and children’s development. Scholars should be looking in
the mirror and starting to see their blind spots regarding race
In a stinging blow to the Trump administration, Thursday’s
Supreme Court decision found the administration’s attempt to
terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,
known as DACA, was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Maricruz Ladino spends long nights in a freezing lettuce cooler,
inspecting and packaging pre-washed salad mixes. She usually
starts her shift around 4 p.m., after the pickers are done in the
fields, working until at least 2 or 3 in the morning.
With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating in March,Congress
scrambled to design a more than $2 trillion economic package that
would prop up private companies, keep the financial system
liquid, and, at the same time, provide financial help to
individuals whose income was evaporating as the result of states
issuing stay-at-home orders and temporarily shuttering
How you survive the coronavirus crisis may depend on your ZIP
code. Even before the Bay Area shuttered schools and parks,
businesses and restaurants, the region was known for its vast
During economic downturns the social safety net can play a
critical role for families as well as for the economy more
broadly. Social programs can protect vulnerable families by
making it easier for them to continue to meet basic needs. The
social safety net can also act as a fiscal stimulus — increasing
government spending when other spending is in retreat — and, in
so doing, prevent further job loss. However, over the past couple
of decades there has been an important shift in U.S.
The U.S. spends trillions every year on a social safety net for
people in all steps of life, from childhood to retirement.
A new study from two Harvard University economists, Nathaniel
Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser, examines 133 U.S. policy
changes over the past half-century, including the creation
of Medicare, Medicaid expansions, the introduction of food
stamps, as well as dozens of state and local programs.
Recent Republican attempts to weaken the social safety
net have one big thing in common: The pain they would
inflict on poor children could last a lifetime. This is not
only miserly but also shortsighted. Research
shows that safety net programs keep children in school and
out of trouble, and increase their chances of being healthier and
living longer. All of this has a positive effect on our economy.
Convened to examine the causes of civil unrest in black
communities, the presidential commission issued a 1968 report
with a stark conclusion: America was moving toward two societies,
“one black, one white — separate and unequal.”
No group is as linked to poverty in the American mind as single
mothers. For decades, politicians, journalists and scholars have
scrutinized the reasons poor couples fail to use contraception,
have children out of wedlock and do not marry.
The reality, however, is that single motherhood is not the reason
we have unusually high poverty in the United States, compared
with other rich democracies.
For the past two decades, U.S. anti-poverty policy has coalesced
around the idea that work should be at the center of anti-poverty
programs. Bi-partisan welfare reform in the 1990s focused on work
requirements and time limits. The growth and popularity of the
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which increases the after tax
income for those working near the bottom of the wage
distribution, has also emphasized the importance of work.
Recently, proposals to require work for those receiving a variety
of benefits, including Medicaid, SNAP, and public housing,
continue this employment focus.
The widely expected passage of the tax reform bill will almost
undoubtedly cause significant harm to Medicare. And provocative
statements by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan
declaring that “entitlement reform” will be next threatens
Medicaid. Put these two together and, I think, one thing is
clear: Big Medicare and Medicaid cuts are coming.
Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for
people with low incomes. Overall, the Medicaid program covers one
in five Americans, including many with complex and costly needs
for care. Historically, nonelderly adults without disabilities
accounted for a small share of Medicaid enrollees; however, the
Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded coverage to nonelderly adults
with income up to 138% FPL, or $16,642 per year for an individual
The report asserts that the basic needs for people with
disabilities go beyond what is covered in the official U.S.
definition of poverty and that a new definition of poverty could
help highlight the financial challenges facing people with
disabilities and influence changes in policy.
A new proposal by Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (CO) and
Sherrod Brown (OH) would provide a child allowance. The American
Family Act of 2017 would dramatically expand the child tax
credit, which currently offers up to $1,000 a year for families
with significant earnings but little or nothing for many
California has 11 of the 20 most-affluent cities in the nation,
while Florida and Ohio each have four cities on the list of the
20 poorest cities, based on an analysis of 2016 median household
The data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American
Community Survey, the results of which were released this
month. The release included numbers for the 599 U.S.
municipalities and 806 counties with at least 65,000
Although it started as a plan to cover only the poor, Medicaid
now touches tens of millions of Americans who live above the
poverty line. The program serves as a backstop for America’s
scattershot health care system. Today Medicaid is the
nation’s largest health insurance program, covering 74 million
people — more than 1 in 5 Americans. Twenty-five percent of
Americans will be on Medicaid at some point in their lives
New research suggests programs aimed at helping low-income U.S.
children, such as Head Start early childhood education and
Medicaid health coverage, may have benefits not only for
participating children but for their children as well.
New research on a program in Mexico gives us a real-world
test case for the idea that providing universal basic income
would cause inflation. And it strongly suggests that giving out
cash doesn’t cause inflation — or if it does, the effects are
very, very mild.
Both proposed versions of the Republican health care bill—the
American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Better Care
Reconciliation Act (BCRA)–create an option for states to receive
Medicaid funds in the form of a block grant (in the BCRA, the
Medicaid Flexibility Program). The lessons from welfare reform
can provide valuable insights into the potential impact of
Medicaid block grants: namely, states may have a considerable
incentive to pursue block grants, because they pose an attractive
opportunity to cut state spending and allocate Medicaid dollars
for other uses should the state desire that outcome.
Congratulations to Pulitzer winner Professor Matthew
Desmond, who presented this important new work on the process and
toll of evictions in America to Center for Poverty Research
faculty and students in November 2015.
Meals on Wheels has been delivering food to older people in the
United States since the 1950s. Last year it served 2.4 million
people. This week, after President Trump released his budget
proposal, a furor erupted over the program’s future and
effectiveness. Let’s look at the evidence.
Meals on Wheels has been the subject of many peer-reviewed
studies in the medical literature. So many have been done that
there are several systematic reviews gathering these studies into
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—In making their case for California’s policies
on climate and immigration, Democrats proudly note the state’s
status as one of the world’s most powerful economies, driven by
thriving tech and creative industries.
Republicans here are pointing to a different metric: the poverty
“Poverty is the No. 1 issue for California.… We have to work to
fix it,” said Republican state Assembly leader Chad Mayes. “It is
directly related to the policies we have put in place in
On a frigid morning here, Nancy Godinez was piling bread and
other staples into her car outside a food pantry. She had lost
her job as a custodian, her unemployment checks had run out, and
her job search had proved fruitless.
One thing she still had was health insurance, acquired three
years ago after Arkansas’ Republican-controlled legislature
agreed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The
coverage, she said, has allowed her to get regular checkups and
treatment for tendinitis in her foot.
When Americans talk about the failings of the country’s economy,
the focus is usually on inequality—the uneven distribution of
prosperity among the population. Poverty, on its own terms,
receives less attention.
That’s not the case in a necessary new book by Kathryn J. Edin
and H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing
in America. In it, they report on the roughly 1.5 million
households that are surviving on cash incomes of practically
nothing and not much in the way of government assistance.
“…Economist Chris Benner of the University of California at Davis
does not agree that a higher minimum wage would lead to job
“There may be some job impact in those small businesses
themselves,” he said. But in the entire economy, when you
increase income to low-wage workers, it creates jobs because
those workers are likely to spend their additional income and
that increases demand for goods and services….”
In 2010, an estimated 2.7 million children and one in nine
African-American children had an incarcerated parent. Now,
consider new research from the UC Davis Poverty Center that finds
children whose parents are in prison have worse health, poorer
school performance and are at a greater risk for depression,
anxiety, asthma and HIV/AIDS. The UC Davis report finds that a
parent’s incarceration has long-lasting effects on his or her
Rich and poor students don’t merely enroll in college at
different rates; they also complete it at different rates. The
graduation gap is even wider than the enrollment gap.
In 2002, researchers with the National Center for Education
Statistics started tracking a cohort of 15,000 high school
sophomores. The project, called the Education Longitudinal Study,
recorded information about the students’ academic achievement,
college entry, work history and college graduation. A recent
publication examines the completed education of these young
people, who are now in their late 20s.
Researchers, grant-makers and policymakers have long relied on
enrollment numbers for the federally subsidized Free and
Reduced-Price Lunch program. They use those numbers as a handy
proxy for measuring how many students are struggling
economically. The paperwork that families submit to show their
income becomes the basis of billions in federal funds.
To be eligible for these programs, a family must earn no more
than 85 percent above the poverty line. Just over half of public
school students fit that description.
James Baker was pedaling to work along a slick, snow-covered road
in Frederick County, Md., when a traffic light changed abruptly.
He braked and skidded to the ground, unhurt but making a mess of
his clothes before a long day of work and school.
He was on his bicycle that snowy morning last December, about an
hour northwest of Washington, because the bus service in
Frederick was so erratic. Routes were far apart and the buses
often late, making a 30-minute bike ride, whatever the weather, a
In the wake of the Los Angeles riots more than 20 years ago,
Congress created an anti-poverty experiment called Moving to
Opportunity. It gave vouchers to help poor families move to
better neighborhoods and awarded them on a random basis, so
researchers could study the effects.