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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School Closures Disproportionately Affect Disadvantaged Communities
By Noli Brazil, University of California, Davis

As public-school closures have increased in number across U.S. cities, opponents have argued that the closures bring many negative consequences, such as greater local crime rates. In a recent study of the 2013 Chicago mass school closure, during which 49 elementary schools were shut, I tested this claim. Looking at each school’s status after closure (vacant, repurposed, or merged with an existing school), I found that vacancy and repurposing into a non-school were associated with decreased crime.

Support for the ACA Among its Beneficiaries May Secure its Future
By Adrienne Hosek, UC Davis

A decade after it passed into law, a majority of Americans now support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a recent study, I investigated whether the policy itself, through its beneficiaries, changed public opinion and sowed the seeds of its own defense against efforts to repeal it. I found that individuals who enrolled in plans on the health insurance marketplaces had significantly more positive opinions of the ACA after implementation.

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Pandemic Compounds Hardships for People Experiencing Homelessness in Sacramento, CA
By Ryan Finnigan, UC Davis

Across the United States, the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are much greater for already disadvantaged people. The health and economic burdens faced by people experiencing homelessness make them especially vulnerable.[1] This vulnerability has been heightened further by the widespread curtailing of crucial services for people experiencing homelessness following COVID-19 outbreaks at temporary shelters.

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.

Growth of Local Latino Populations Linked to Increase in County-Level Immigration Policy Adoption
By M. Anne Visser, University of California, Davis, and Sheryl-Ann Simpson, Carleton University

Though immigration policymaking has traditionally occurred at the federal level, it is increasingly prevalent at sub-national levels, too. In a recent study, we examined the adoption of these policies at the county level in the United States. Specifically, we considered the implementation of migrant labor market regularizations (LRs) between 2004 and 2014. LRs affect aspects of migrant workers’ status in labor markets and include laws and ordinances related to anti-solicitation, language access, local enforcement of federal immigration law, and employment verification.

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Pandemic Compounds Hardships for People Experiencing Homelessness in Sacramento, CA
By Ryan Finnigan, UC Davis

Across the United States, the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are much greater for already disadvantaged people. The health and economic burdens faced by people experiencing homelessness make them especially vulnerable.[1] This vulnerability has been heightened further by the widespread curtailing of crucial services for people experiencing homelessness following COVID-19 outbreaks at temporary shelters.

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.

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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School Closures Disproportionately Affect Disadvantaged Communities
By Noli Brazil, University of California, Davis

As public-school closures have increased in number across U.S. cities, opponents have argued that the closures bring many negative consequences, such as greater local crime rates. In a recent study of the 2013 Chicago mass school closure, during which 49 elementary schools were shut, I tested this claim. Looking at each school’s status after closure (vacant, repurposed, or merged with an existing school), I found that vacancy and repurposing into a non-school were associated with decreased crime.

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ACA Policies Aimed at Adults Also Help Low-Income Families with Children
By Lauren E. Wisk, UC Los Angeles; Alon Peltz and Alison A. Galbraith, Harvard Medical School

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sought to improve access and affordability of health insurance. Most ACA policies targeted childless adults; the extent to which these policies also positively impacted families with children has been unclear. In a recent study, we aimed to examine changes in health care-related financial burden for US families with children before and after the ACA, based on income-eligibility for ACA policies. Using a difference-in-differences design in a cohort of U.S.

Boosting Executive Function May Help Close Income-Based Achievement Gap
By LillyBelle Deer, Paul Hastings, and Camelia Hostinar, UC Davis

Children growing up in economically disadvantaged contexts are at risk of underperforming academically. Why is this? One explanation may be underdeveloped ‘executive function’, an important collection of attention-regulation skills. Executive function is malleable in childhood, indeed—interventions have been effective in improving it, especially among children facing adversity. In a recent study, we set out to examine whether early-life family income predicted long-term academic achievement, and to investigate the role of executive function in explaining this association.

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.

Growth of Local Latino Populations Linked to Increase in County-Level Immigration Policy Adoption
By M. Anne Visser, University of California, Davis, and Sheryl-Ann Simpson, Carleton University

Though immigration policymaking has traditionally occurred at the federal level, it is increasingly prevalent at sub-national levels, too. In a recent study, we examined the adoption of these policies at the county level in the United States. Specifically, we considered the implementation of migrant labor market regularizations (LRs) between 2004 and 2014. LRs affect aspects of migrant workers’ status in labor markets and include laws and ordinances related to anti-solicitation, language access, local enforcement of federal immigration law, and employment verification.

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Granting In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students Increases Their Rates of College Attendance
By Michel Grosz, Federal Trade Commission, and Annie Hines, Cornerstone Research

Among disadvantaged groups, rates of postsecondary enrollment are disproportionately low, with undocumented immigrants facing particularly high barriers to college. In a recent study, we investigated the effects of a decrease in Colorado college tuition on college application and enrollment behavior. Specifically, we used student-level data to analyze a law that granted in-state tuition to certain undocumented students residing in Colorado. We found an increase in the credit hours and persistence of newly enrolled and likely undocumented students in the period after the law was introduced.

DACA Enables Mobility, but its Uncertain Future Undermines Benefits for Recipients
By Erin R. Hamilton, Caitlin Patler, and Robin Savinar, UC Davis

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, implemented in 2012, granted a subset of undocumented youth temporary relief from deportation, as well as work authorization and other benefits. In a recent study, we analyzed both whether and how DACA impacted education and employment among undocumented immigrants in California. We found mixed effects. DACA enabled college for some, but discouraged it for others. DACA recipients perceived substantial occupational mobility, but for many, this was not reflected in movement out of the secondary labor market.

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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!