Research

Overview

Primary Research Areas

Overview

Research on the Non-traditional Safety Net: Health & Education

The U.S. safety net has changed substantially in the past two decades. The role of direct cash assistance has diminished, while the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has expanded. Traditional forms of non-cash assistance such as Food Stamps, WIC, and Head Start comprise a larger share of the safety net than ever before.

Our Research Affiliates are finding that many non-cash programs make a substantive difference in families’ well-being, even if these programs do not increase families’ cash income. Affiliates also actively pursue research agendas that embrace a broader set of programs that assist low income groups such as education and health care programs. Many of these programs have not traditionally been considered part of the safety net but play a crucial role affecting poor families’ well-being.

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For Young Adults, Low Socioeconomic Status Diminishes Gains from Some Federal Health Reforms
By Lauren E. Wisk, UC Los Angeles, and Niraj Sharma, Harvard Medical School

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 Programs Have Positive Impacts on Food Retail
By Timothy K.M. Beatty, Marianne P. Bitler, and Cynthia van der Werf, UC Davis

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.

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Cash for Kids
Marianne P. Bitler, Annie Laurie Hines, Marianne Page (Affiliates in Economics)

Although a growing number of studies suggest that providing poor families with income supplements of as little as $1,000 per year will improve children’s well-being, many poor  children miss important sources of income support provided through the tax system because their parents either do not work or do not file taxes. Accessing assistance through means-tested programs is also challenging.

Overview

Research on Labor Markets & Poverty

In 1996, the United States reformed its welfare system, linking benefits more directly to labor force participation. When combined with the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which subsidizes low wage workers through the tax code, work has become a cornerstone of American anti-poverty policy. At the same time, rising income inequality and stagnant real wages among less-skilled workers mean that working one’s way out of poverty is more challenging than ever before.

With these trends as a backdrop, a number of new questions are emerging. For example, how can government programs best address poverty if full-time work itself does not provide sufficient income to move many families out of poverty? Given the evolving consensus that poor mothers should be expected to work, how will women’s employment, family structure and poverty evolve in the 21st Century?

Our Research Affiliates are tackling these questions, as well analyzing trends in immigration and related demographic changes that have important implications for labor market opportunities available to the poor.

Research Paper Ryan Finnigan

Work Variability and Unionization in the Great Recession
Ryan Finnigan and Jo Hale (Affiliates in Sociology)

Millions of workers experienced increased variability in the regularity and predictability of their working hours in the Great Recession. This volatility brings negative consequences for their economic security and family lives, which can be as profound as job loss. The growth of work variability was facilitated by the decline of labor market institutions protecting workers from such volatility, particularly the profound decline of labor unions.

Research Paper Marianne P. Bitler

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession
Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes (Affiliates in Economics)

Much attention has been given to the large increase in safety net spending, particularly in Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamp spending, during the Great Recession. In this paper we examine the relationship between poverty, the social safety net, and business cycles historically and test whether there has been a significant change in this relationship during the Great Recession. We do so using an alternative measure of poverty that incorporates taxes and in-kind transfers.

Research Paper Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

Over the past 45 years, the United States has experienced a rising standard of living, with real GDP per capita more than doubling between 1959 and 2004. In contrast, living standards among some groups seem to have stagnated. Although a number of studies have documented a correlation between macroeconomic conditions and poverty, the relationship is not as simple, or as strong, as one might think. What additional factors can explain the starkly different trends in economic well-being that are measured by overall GDP growth and the poverty rate?

Overview

Research on Children & the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty

Much of the variation in adult income in the United States is related to family background during childhood. One-third to one-half of children who are poor for a substantial part of their childhood will be poor as adults. Welfare participation is also substantially correlated across generations. Widening income inequality in the U.S.  has been accompanied by a widening achievement gap between children living in high- vs. low-income families. 

Across the social sciences, our Faculty Affiliates are engaging in projects aimed at better understanding and isolating the causal relationships between parents’ socioeconomic status and their children’s eventual ability to escape poverty. Research Affiliates are also investigating how the stressors that many poor children face affect their emotional development and behaviors.

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Growing Up in Poverty Increases Risk of Developing Psychosis-spectrum Disorders in Adulthood
By Paul D. Hastings, University of California, Davis; Lisa A. Serbin, William Bukowski, Dale M. Stack, Daniel J. Dickson, and Alex E. Schwartzman, Concordia University; Jonathan L. Helm, San Diego State University; Jane E. Ledingham, University of Ottawa

A person’s risk for developing psychosis-spectrum disorders such as schizophrenia in adulthood is determined by multiple factors. With this in mind, we examined the risk for the development of such disorders in a two-generation, 30-year prospective longitudinal study of 3,905 urban families in Montréal, Canada. This study took place against a sociocultural backdrop of changing economic and social conditions.

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For Young Adults, Low Socioeconomic Status Diminishes Gains from Some Federal Health Reforms
By Lauren E. Wisk, UC Los Angeles, and Niraj Sharma, Harvard Medical School

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.

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Among Disadvantaged Children, Education is Largely Unaffected by Divorce
By Jennie E. Brand, University of California, Los Angeles; Ravaris Moore, Loyola Marymount University; Xi Song, University of Pennsylvania; Yu Xie, Princeton University

Parental divorce is generally associated with unfavorable outcomes for children, particularly with regard to education. But not every divorce is equally harmful for the children it affects. Why is this? In a recent study, we found that parental divorce does lower educational attainment, but only for children whose parents are statistically unlikely to separate. For these children, divorce is an unexpected shock to an otherwise privileged childhood.

Overview

Research on Immigration and Poverty

The Center’s focus on immigration and poverty is motivated by the important role immigrants play in the U.S. economy, and by the Center’s location in the Central Valley of California. Each of our other research areas: Labor Markets and Poverty, the Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty, and the Non-cash Safety Net hold questions that are unique to the immigrant experience.

For example, what is the connection between low skilled workers’ wages, inequality and immigration? How do access and take-up of safety-net programs among immigrant populations differ from native populations? How does the process of immigrant assimilation affect intergenerational mobility?

Our Research Affiliates across a wide range of disciplines are employing both quantitative and qualitative research strategies to shed light on these important questions.

Immigrant Detention, COVID-19, and Opportunities for Action
By Caitlin Patler, PhD, UC Davis; Altaf Saadi, MD MSc, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School; Hamid Yazdan Panah, JD, Immigrant Defense Advocates

Conditions of confinement in immigrant detention facilities make them a ticking time bomb for COVID-19 infections. The health risks are dire and urgent, but federal and state governments can still take legal action to prevent infections, flatten the curve, and save lives.

The Problem

Substandard conditions of confinement with little oversight

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From Undocumented to Lawfully Present: Do Changes to Legal Status Impact Psychological Wellbeing among Latino Immigrant Young Adults?
Caitlin Patler (Affiliate in Sociology)

Exclusionary immigration policies have led to a sizeable undocumented population that is largely barred from access to resources in the United States, however there is little research that looks at the impact of legal status on immigrants’ psychological wellbeing. 

Research Paper Marianne Page Ann Huff Stevens

Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations
Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page, and Ann Huff Stevens (Affiliates in Economics)

Over the past 45 years, the United States has experienced a rising standard of living, with real GDP per capita more than doubling between 1959 and 2004. In contrast, living standards among some groups seem to have stagnated. Although a number of studies have documented a correlation between macroeconomic conditions and poverty, the relationship is not as simple, or as strong, as one might think. What additional factors can explain the starkly different trends in economic well-being that are measured by overall GDP growth and the poverty rate?

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2015-16 Small Grants for Poverty Research Awarded

We are pleased to announce the winners for our 2015-2016 Small Grants for Poverty Research. All recipients will receive grants to support their research projects related to the core themes of the Center and will present at our 2017 Small Grants Conference. Congratulations!

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2014-15 Small Grants for Poverty Research Awarded

We are pleased to announce the winners for our 2014-2015 Small Grants for Poverty Research. All recipients will receive grants to support their research projects related to the core themes of the Center and will present as part of our seminar series. Congratulations!

Announcement

2013-14 Small Grants for Poverty Research Awarded

We are pleased to announce the winners for our 2013-2014 Small Grants for Poverty Research. All recipients will receive grants to support their research projects related to the core themes of the Center and will present at our 2015 Small Grants Conference. Congratulations!

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