Article

Understanding the Dynamics of $2-a-Day Poverty in the United States

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Abstract

Shaefer and Edin (2013) have found a large rise in “extreme poverty”—defined as cash income of no more than $2 per person per day, for a month or calendar quarter—among U.S. households with children between 1996 and 2011. This article explores some underlying dynamics of this phenomenon, referred to here as “$2-a-day poverty,” presenting evidence from both qualitative fieldwork and quantitative analysis of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The rise in $2-a-day poverty has been concentrated among children experiencing it chronically—that is, for seven or more months during a calendar year. Both qualitative and quantitative evidence find that a large majority of children experiencing $2-a-day poverty live in households where an adult worked during the year, while only a small proportion live in households accessing TANF. Finally, households experiencing $2-a-day poverty appear to be more likely to face material hardships than other low-income households.

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... However, in the USA where MDA is not suggested, a paucity of research has existed in this arena for nearly 40 years, despite an extensive documented history of helminth infections in the American South and Appalachia where rates of hookworm infection have previously reached 40% prior to the 1980s [2]. Furthermore, the USA income gap has risen in recent decades, along with $2-a-day poverty among children [3,4]. This widening gap increases the potential for breakdown of community infrastructures and home sanitation systems. ...
... Despite improvements in sanitation and infrastructure on a national level, in the USA, 1.7 million households and 3.6 million children are subsisting on less than two dollars per day, with southeastern states having a disproportionate burden of impoverished populations [49]. A 2015 USA poverty study uncovered a rising number of children living at 150% or below of the poverty line [3]. ...
... Further findings uncovered that low-income children living below the poverty line were less likely to be non-Hispanic Caucasian and were regionally concentrated in the southeast and Appalachia suggesting that pockets of poverty are not demographically homogenous [3]. Individuals living in rural areas of the USA and those living under the poverty level are less likely to have health care access and thus present a challenge for identification of cases and the need for surveillance studies to prevent children in these underserved areas from further negative health outcomes [31,53]. ...
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Purpose of Review The aim of this review is to present a comprehensive look at five intestinal soil-transmitted helminths (STHs) of global health importance that may continue to plague low-income and rural areas of the USA and argue the need for enhanced surveillance of these infections, which primarily affect the nation’s most vulnerable groups. Recent Findings Human STH infections in middle- and high-income countries are at particular risk for being undiagnosed; as common symptoms are non-specific, differentials require a high index of clinical suspicion, and cases are concentrated in areas of poverty where access to care is limited. Although autochthonous STHs are thought to be rare in the USA, infections were once common in the American South and Appalachia and robust epidemiologic surveillance is limited post 1980s. However, recent community studies and case reports from small-scale farms and areas of high rural or inner-city poverty reveal the potential for persisting helminth infections in distinct populations of the country. Summary STHs are among the most common neglected tropical diseases globally causing significant morbidity in underserved communities and contributing to the continuation of cycles of poverty within vulnerable populations. Due to possible severe disease sequalae and their ability to perpetuate poverty and poverty-associated health outcomes within already vulnerable groups, it is vital that surveillance for these infections is enhanced to bolster health equity in the USA.
... As is the case for poverty more generally, labor market experiences are crucial determi- nants of falling into or avoiding deep poverty ( Fox et al., "Trends in Deep Poverty," 2015;Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015). Notably, unstable employment, combined with low hours and wages, rather than a total disconnection from employment, appears to be driving deep pov- erty for many families (Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015). ...
... As is the case for poverty more generally, labor market experiences are crucial determi- nants of falling into or avoiding deep poverty ( Fox et al., "Trends in Deep Poverty," 2015;Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015). Notably, unstable employment, combined with low hours and wages, rather than a total disconnection from employment, appears to be driving deep pov- erty for many families (Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015). Irregular or unpredictable hours, split shifts, and contingent labor arrangements leave many low-wage workers with variable and inadequate incomes (Lambert, Fugiel, and Henly 2014). ...
... State policies regarding work requirements, lifetime limits on program participation, fam- ily caps, and time-limited cash benefits, as well as diversionary tactics for applicants, appear to have affected rates of deep poverty (Hetling, Kwon, and Saunders 2015) or, at the very least, resulted in a considerable segment of the poor population having very little access to cash in- come (Shaefer and Edin 2013;Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015). At the same time, funding for work supports, such as childcare subsidies, subsidized health insurance, nutrition assis- tance, and wage supplements (in the form of the EITC) grew extensively. ...
... The primary task of poverty alleviation is to accurately understand the poverty status of the poor and thus implement targeted measures to reduce and alleviate poverty [7]. However, the standard poverty measure is a static measure of a household's welfare at a specific point in time and does not take into account the future welfare of the household or the risks associated with that welfare but is instead an ex-post measure [8,9]. While the standard poverty measure reflects the poverty status of the poor to a certain extent, this measure is unable to predict the future poverty status of the poor [8]. ...
... However, the standard poverty measure is a static measure of a household's welfare at a specific point in time and does not take into account the future welfare of the household or the risks associated with that welfare but is instead an ex-post measure [8,9]. While the standard poverty measure reflects the poverty status of the poor to a certain extent, this measure is unable to predict the future poverty status of the poor [8]. Moreover, the anti-poverty policies formulated on this basis are limited, thus increasing the likelihood that those who have escaped poverty, as well as those who are not already poor, will fall into poverty [10]. ...
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... Declines in cash assistance to low-income nonworking families sparked an interest in deep or extreme poverty in the United States in the decades following welfare reform. Edin and Shaefer (2015) and Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert (2015) focused their work on those subsisting on $2 a day per person in cash income within the United States, finding extreme disadvantage among a subset of the U.S. population. The extremes of U.S. poverty were also highlighted in a recent report of the U.N. Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (Human Rights Council, 2018); the report highlighted the "stark contrasts" in the United States, with both immense wealth and millions living in "Third World conditions of absolute poverty" (p. ...
... 3). Although there is considerable debate about the size and scope of the deep poor population and trends in deep poverty over time, with estimates varying widely Meyer, Mooers, & Wu, 2018;Shaefer et al., 2015;Shaefer & Edin, 2013;Winship, 2016), given the shift away from cash support in the United States during the past 2 or more decades, it is reasonable to conclude that a nonnegligible number of Americans live on very little cash income. It is also clear that counting SNAP and other in-kind benefits as income equivalents substantially reduces the estimates of the depth and severity of poverty Shaefer & Edin, 2013;Tiehen, Jolliffe, & Smeeding, 2016). ...
Article
Prior Journal of Marriage and Family decade‐in‐review articles have grappled with the definition and role of family policy for research and policy practice while emphasizing its value to both. In this article, we begin with a broad conceptualization of family policy that encompasses actions intended to achieve explicitly stated goals for families (explicit policies) and those that affect families without an explicitly stated goal for doing so (implicit policies), which we believe provides a solid framework for guiding and understanding both research and practice in the field. Second, we review major U.S. policy initiatives in the past decade and their documented and potential effects on families. Third, we describe several key aspects by which contemporary families have become more diverse and complex. Fourth, we discuss the implications of ongoing family complexity for public policies. We conclude with a discussion about future research and policy development in the context of contemporary family complexity.
... In recent decades, consensus has emerged among poverty and inequality scholars that measures of income should be as comprehensive as possible, incorporating all taxes and transfers (Brady et al. 2018, Duncan and Petersen 2001, Rainwater and Smeeding 2003, Smeeding and Weinberg 2001. Shaefer and Edin's (2015) main results are based on cash income excluding near cash transfers (e.g. SNAP and refundable tax credits). ...
... Several scholars suggest that an increase in extreme poverty has resulted from welfare reform, or the introduction of the TANF program in 1996 (Danziger 2010, Moffitt 2015, Shaefer, Edin and Talbert 2015. Since welfare reform, however, SNAP benefits have gradually increased in both benefit value and take-up rate as TANF benefits have declined. ...
Article
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This paper applies improved household income data to reevaluate the levels, trends, composition, and role of social policy in extreme child poverty in the U.S. from 1997-2015. Unlike prior research, we correct for the underreporting of means-tested transfers and incorporate the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Doing so reduces the share of children below $2 per day from about 1.8% to 0.1%. That said, we acknowledge use of survey data omits the estimated 1.3 million homeless children in 2014-2015. We find that three different measures of extreme child poverty have declined since 1997. Unlike prior literature’s focus on single motherhood, citizenship status is the more consequential characteristic. Between 58-73% of children in extreme poverty live in households headed by non-citizens. Simulations granting them access to the median SNAP benefit reduce their extreme poverty substantially. Two-way fixed effects models show that higher state-level generosity and take up of SNAP and TANF significantly reduce extreme poverty. Unlike prior research’s focus on the decline of TANF, we show SNAP has grown in generosity and take-up. In turn, changes to social policy since 1997 have probably had offsetting effects on extreme child poverty.
... This signals that children with disabilities who are not White may have less access to helpful resources. Further, measures of socioeconomic status, such as income and education, are associated with access to institutional resources, including welfare and job opportunities, increasing familial stress for low-income and low-education families (Shaefer et al., 2015). Therefore, perhaps adopted children with disabilities who are of lower socioeconomic statuses are at increased risk of not residing with two married parents. ...
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... Since the 1990s, deep poverty has doubled, and currently, about two million children, or 2.7 percent of all children, live in deep poverty, with a higher percentage for black children (4.5 percent) and single-mother households (5.3 percent) (Fox, 2019). While there is evidence that the welfare reform has benefited working families with low incomes by making more eligible to tax benefits and food assistance, recent research argues that it may be increasing the number of low-income households that fall through the cracks of the work-based safety net and struggle to move out of poverty (Shaefer et al., 2015). ...
Article
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Although pregnancy and the first year of life are sensitive windows for child development, we know very little about the lived experiences of mothers living in poverty or near poverty during the perinatal period; specifically, how they perceive and use public resources to support themselves and their newborn. In this qualitative study, we explore how predominantly Black and Latinx mothers with infants living in or near poverty and engaged in public assistance manage to meet their family’s needs with available resources from safety net programs and social supports. We conducted 20 qualitative interviews with mothers living in (85%) or near poverty in New York City (NYC). All participants (mean age = 24) had an 11-month-old infant at the time of the interview. Using thematic analysis, we identified five main themes reflecting how mothers experience and navigate living with very low incomes while engaging in public assistance programs: (1) experiencing cascading effects of hardships during pregnancy, (2) relying on food assistance and informal supports amid scarcity, (3) waiting for limited affordable housing: ‘life on hold’, (4) finding pathways towards stability after the baby’s birth, (5) making it work: efforts to look forward. Results describe how the current focus on “work first” of existing federal and state policies adds a layer of stress and burden on the lives of single mothers experiencing low incomes and entangled hardships during pregnancy and after birth. We document how mothers experience coverage gaps and implementation challenges navigating the patchwork of public assistance programs, yet how the support of flexible caseworkers accessing, using, and coordinating assistance has the potential to help mothers plan for longer-term goals.
... Bauman (Bauman 1999(Bauman , 2002Carle, Bauman, and Short 2009), Sondra Beverly (Beverly 1999(Beverly , 2000, Sandra Danziger (Danziger et al. 2000), Colleen Heflin (Heflin 2006), John Iceland (Iceland and Bauman 2007), Gesimia Nelson (Nelson 2011) and Luke Shaefer (Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015;Shaefer and Gutierrez 2013;Shaefer and Ybarra 2012). Matthew Desmond has repeatedly addressed one form of material hardship, eviction (Desmond 2012(Desmond , 2016Desmond and Kimbro 2015). ...
Thesis
Who is poor? For decades, the Official Poverty Measure largely answered this question. Using measures of material hardship in the Survey of Income and Program Participation, it is clear that concrete material hardships extend far above the federal poverty line. 18% of all households experience this hidden material hardship above the poverty line, largely ignored by policy makers, ineligible for social assistance programs, and obscured by conventional poverty measures themselves. The duration of spells of material hardship indicate that a far larger proportion of the population is at risk of hardship than is commonly thought. Over a third of households experience either chronic or episodic hardship, compared the fifth of households in chronic or episodic poverty. Racial disparities in the experience of material hardship are stark. Even when taking other demographic factors and wealth into account, the risk of experiencing material hardship for a white household earning $50,000 a year is similar to a black household that earns $125,000. A white household with a head who has a high school diploma has the same predicted probability of experiencing material hardship as a black household with head who has a bachelor’s degree. The events and shocks that trigger entry into, and exit from, a spell of hardship display similar racial disparities. The main implication of these findings is that the current social safety net does not address the vast majority of households in material hardship, nor is it capable of doing so in its current configuration.
... I suspect it has deeper roots. Edin and Shaefer (2015) and Shaefer et al. (2015) document the lives of Americans who somehow manage on $2 per day; and despite the lurid detail these authors provide, it is hard to imagine such destitution. You see, while the World Bank may have achieved intercountry price parity, it neglected differences in the bundle of needs. ...
Article
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This paper is a broad expansion of an SRSA Research Fellows Address presented in Roslyn, Virginia on April 16th, 2019. In it, I extol the virtues of poverty research, particularly that focused on the U.S. where households living on less than $4/day/person compose the largest shares of county populations. I note that two factors that are the hallmark of such extreme poverty - lack of a vehicle and lack of internet service - are forcing poor household to perceive themselves as ever more isolated, for greater accessibility for the rest of the U.S. population amplifies the gap created by their deficiency. This is because others expect everyone has such access. Southern areas with persistent poverty - the Black Belt, the Mississippi Delta, and Appalachia - have concentrations of such extreme poor and also have deficient access to the rest of the world. I suggest that Americans should find away to ameliorate this condition. I conclude by encouraging my SRSA colleagues to do what they do best, but with a poverty tilt, as a means of petitioning policy makers and the public.
... Whereas AFDC was an entitlement program that guaranteed benefits to those who qualified with no time limits, TANF implemented federal lifetime limits on welfare receipt, stricter work requirements, and more severe sanctions for recipients, including benefit reduction and case closure for noncompliance (Danziger 2010;Gais and Weaver 2002). Under TANF, the welfare caseload dropped significantly (Shaefer, Edin, & Talbert, 2015). ...
Article
Income inequality among U.S. families with children has increased over recent decades, coinciding with a period of significant reforms in federal welfare policy. In the most recent reform eras, welfare benefits were significantly restructured and redistributed, which may have important implications for income inequality. Using data from the 1968–2016 March Supplement to the Current Population Survey (N = 1,192,244 families with children) merged with data from the historical Supplemental Poverty Measure, this study investigated how income inequality and, relatedly, the redistributive effects of welfare income and in-kind benefits changed, and whether such changes varied across states with different approaches to welfare policy. Results suggest that cash income from welfare became less effective at reducing income inequality after the 1996 welfare reform, because the share of income coming from cash welfare fell and was also less concentrated among the neediest families. At the same time, tax and in-kind benefits reduced inequality until the Great Recession. Consistent with the “race to the bottom” hypothesis, results suggest that the redistributive effects of welfare income dropped in all states regardless of their approach to welfare policy.
... Several have contended that increases in deep/extreme poverty resulted from the 1996 welfare reform and related social policy changes (Danziger 2010). Shaefer et al. (2015) found that $2/day poverty is much less common if HHs receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Because TANF receipt has declined (Danziger 2010;Moffitt 2015;Parolin 2019b), Edin and Shaefer (2015) inferred that the 1996 welfare reform contributed to the rise of extreme poverty. ...
Article
Recently, there has been tremendous interest in deep and extreme poverty in the United States. We advance beyond prior research by using higher-quality data, improving measurement, and following leading standards in international income research. We estimate deep (less than 20% of medians) and extreme (less than 10% of medians) poverty in the United States from 1993 to 2016. Using the Current Population Survey, we match the income definition of the Luxembourg Income Study and adjust for underreporting using the Urban Institute’s TRIM3 model. In 2016, we estimate that 5.2 to 7.2 million Americans (1.6% to 2.2%) were deeply poor and 2.6 to 3.7 million (0.8% to 1.2%) were extremely poor. Although deep and extreme poverty fluctuated over time, including declines from 1993 to 1995 and 2007 to 2010, we find significant increases from lows in 1995 to peaks in 2016 in both deep (increases of 48% to 93%) and extreme poverty (increases of 54% to 111%). We even find significant increases with thresholds anchored at 1993 medians. With homelessness added, deep poverty would be 7% to 8% higher and extreme poverty 19% to 23% higher in 2016, which suggests that our estimates are probably lower bounds. The rise of deep/extreme poverty is concentrated among childless households. Among households with children, the expansion of SNAP benefits has led to declines in deep/extreme poverty. Ultimately, we demonstrate that estimates of deep/extreme poverty depend critically on the quality of income measurement.
... Though the plight of those in deep poverty is dire, by definition, (e.g. Shaefer et al. 2015), another group that merits attention include the near-poor-individuals and families who are above the poverty threshold but by margins small enough to put them at greater risk for transitions into poverty (Hokayem and Heggeness 2014). We observe (Fig. 3) that high school graduation rates decline almost linearly with additional years in near-poverty, below 200 percent of the federal poverty levelfrom well over 90 percent with no near-poverty exposure to under 80 percent with 3 years of near-poverty exposure. ...
Article
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We examine the relationship between family income dynamics—poverty, low permanent income, and income volatility—and high school graduation, college enrollment, and dropout among young adults using the Transition to Adulthood supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Our intent is to shed light on potential mechanisms driving the transmission of intergenerational advantage to help understand whether and how such income dynamics have played a role in the persistent gap in college achievement. We find that poverty and income volatility during adolescence is related to near term educational outcomes of high school completion and college enrollment. Some of this relationship is mediated by household instability coinciding with poverty. It also apparent that the timing of poverty spells during adolescence is vital. Poverty occurring close to the end of high school drives has relatively large deleterious effects on educational attainment.
... Earlier studies found that cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has the potential to buffer the most vulnerable families from material hardship and housing instability, but a decline in the accessibility of cash assistance, in part through punitive policies such as harsh sanctions and time limits, has greatly reduced the reach of this program (Kalil, Seefeldt, and Wang 2002;Shaefer, Edin, and Talbert 2015). A recent study relying on within-state changes in TANF caseloads over time found that for every 100 fewer cash assistance cases in a state, there were an additional 14.9 more homeless students (Shaefer et al. 2019). ...
Article
During the 2015–16 school year, 1.3 million students nationwide experienced homelessness. Yet hardships like homelessness represent dynamic rather than static states, and so annual figures understate the cumulative risk that students face over time. Moreover, despite recent efforts to understand eviction and foreclosure as exploitative and racialized processes, there have been few efforts to connect homelessness to these and other structural conditions. Using administrative data on the population of public school students in Michigan, we found that close to 1 in 10 students experienced homelessness while in school. Moreover, black students were over three times more likely to experience literal homelessness than white students. County-year fixed effects models indicate that rental costs, forced housing moves, and the opioid epidemic were associated with greater student homelessness. These findings have implications for our understanding of racial inequalities and the ways in which disadvantage and inequality are products of exploitative relationships.
... A large rise in extreme poverty, defined as cash income of no more than $2 per person per day, for a month or calendar quarter, has been documented among U.S. households since 1996. 26,27 According to the most recent American Community Survey, an estimated 470,774 occupied households lack full indoor plumbing, which may include a toilet. 28 Based on Census Bureau estimates of average household size of 2.6, more than 1.2 million Americans live without the plumbing required for basic sanitation. ...
Article
Strongyloidiasis affects an estimated hundreds of millions of people worldwide, with infection possibly persisting for life without appropriate therapy because of the helminth's unique autoinfection cycle. Like other soil-transmitted helminths, because of the environmental conditions required for the life cycle of Strongyloides stercoralis, this parasite is endemic to tropical, subtropical, and temperate countries and areas with inadequate sanitation infrastructure. Given continued poverty and that nearly one in five American homes are lacking proper sanitation systems, many U.S. regions are at risk for intestinal parasites. A central Texas community was chosen as the study site, given previous reports of widespread sanitation failure, degree of poverty, and community willingness to participate. A total of 92 households were surveyed and residents tested for nine intestinal parasites using a multi-parallel quantitative real-time PCR and ELISA serology. From 43 stool samples, 27 (62.8%) tested positive for Blastocystis spp. and one (2.3%) for Giardia lamblia. From 97 serum samples, Strongyloides serology detected 16 (16.5%) positive individuals. These high rates of heterokont and helminthic laboratory findings in a peri-urban central Texas community suggest several key policy implications, including that strongyloidiasis should be added to the Texas notifiable conditions list, that clinical suspicion for this infection should be heightened in the region, and that residents without access to functioning and sustainable sanitation infrastructure should be provided that access as a basic human right and to promote public health.
... Following 18 families for months and sometimes years, they observed desperate attempts by adults and some children to secure cash-through collecting scrap metal, selling sex, or donating plasma. Furthermore, instability begets instability: Schaefer, Edin, and Talbert (2015) found that children living in such deep poverty were also more likely than other low-income children to experience residential moves during the year. They argued that these families' suffering worsened after welfare reform, which appeared to have directed social spending away from the poorest poor to the less poor and the near poor, some of whom managed to find and keep full-time work. ...
Article
During the past decade, scholars continued to focus on how larger economic trends impacted families across the income spectrum. From income and wealth inequality to economic insecurity, the gaps between the haves and the have nots remained, and some widened during this period. The authors' comprehensive review found the following three major takeaways: first, the biggest economic divides run through families with children; second, low‐income families face concentrated disadvantage marked by insecurity and precarity; and third, inequality and insecurity shaped the “dynamism” of family life, including how families respond culturally and emotionally to economic changes, and how these responses unfold over time. They examine active areas of research, including parenting trends and the transition to adulthood. They also document a new scholarly emphasis on uncertainty and instability along with the forces that exacerbate or mitigate them, such as job quality, economic volatility, wealth, and incarceration. Research during the past decade focused on the experience and consequences of dynamism, reflecting not only the reality that families evolve but also that they face continual change in their economic, social, and political contexts. The authors highlight research investigating how families “do dynamism,” work that looks over time or offers in‐depth examinations of how families adapt to and cope with dynamism every day. This research reveals that inequality and insecurity are not only matters of levels and gaps but also ongoing matters of meaning‐making, identity, and feeling. The authors conclude by highlighting some strengths and weaknesses of these research streams and pointing out new avenues for future scholarship.
... This ratio is defined as family income relative to the poverty threshold, where 1.0 represents a family income at the poverty line. We set the family economic hardship at 150% or below the income-toneeds ratio based on previous poverty research (Shaefer et al. 2015). Broader indicators of poverty such as our measure of economic hardship are often used to determine eligibility for social assistance. ...
Article
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Background: Caring for a child with a neurodisability (ND) impacts the financial decisions, relationships and well-being of family members, but evidence on the economic trajectories of families throughout the life course is missing. Methods: Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we tracked the families of 3317 children starting 5 years before childbirth until the child reached 20 years of age. We used regression and latent growth curve modelling to estimate trajectories of poverty and economic hardship over time. Results: Families with a child with an ND had higher rates of poverty and economic hardship prior to childbirth and persistently over time. Analysis uncovered five latent trajectories for each indicator. After controlling for family and caregiver characteristics that preceded the birth of the child, raising a child with an ND was not associated with a unique trajectory of poverty. Families raising a child with an ND were however more likely to experience persistent economic hardship. Conclusions: The study establishes descriptive evidence for how having a child with an ND relates to changes in family economic conditions. The social and economic conditions that precede the child's birth seem to be driving the economic inequalities observed later throughout the life course.
... This ratio was defined as family income relative to the poverty threshold, where 1.0 represents a family income at the poverty line. We set the family economic hardship at 150% or below the income-to-needs ratio based on previous poverty research (Shaefer, Edin, & Talbert, 2015). Broader indicators of poverty such as our measure of economic hardship are often used to determine eligibility forms of social assistance. ...
Preprint
Caring for a child with a neurodisability (ND) impacts the financial decisions, relationships, and well-being of family members. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), we tracked families from 5 years before child with ND birth until the child reached 20 years of age and used latent growth curve modeling to estimate different trajectories for risk of two indicators: poverty and economic hardship. In bivariate terms, families raising a child with ND had higher risks of poverty and economic hardship across time. Five latent growth trajectories were identified for each indicator. After controlling for family and caregiver characteristics that preceded the birth of the child with an ND, families raising a child with a ND were more likely to experience persistent economic hardship. However, raising a child with a ND was not associated with a unique poverty risk, suggesting that families already in poverty are more likely to remain poor if they have a child with a ND. The study establishes descriptive evidence for how having a child with a ND relates to changes in family economic conditions. The importance of social and economic conditions that precede the child’s birth lend support for a social causation framework of health inequalities.
... Although some groups, such as veterans, have seen dramatic declines in homelessness, child homelessness is also on the rise (Child Trends 2015). And rates of residential instability, food insecurity, and medical hardship are significantly higher among the extreme poor than among other families living below the poverty level ( Shaefer et al. 2015). The point-in-time and annual income and employment data used to document trends in work and income obscure the importance of temporal dynamics. ...
Article
The remarkable transformation of the American social safety net that began in the early 1990s has led to seismic shifts in who benefits and how. More than two decades later, how should these changes be judged? Expanding and updating prior influential reviews, we evaluate how the transformation of the safety net-broadly defined-has shaped economic and family dynamics within low-income households. Collectively, social safety net policies have expanded support for working poor parents quite dramatically, while the cash safety net for the nonworking poor has all but collapsed. Working poor families have come out ahead economically, with mounting evidence of positive long-term benefits for child health and development. At the same time, a substantial number of poor families have fallen through the cracks, disconnected from stable, adequate wage income and cash aid. A growing number report income so low that it can be tracked with indicators used to measure poverty in the developing world. Meanwhile, contrary to reformers' predictions, these changes have had little effect on marriage or unwed births. We call for a reinvigorated focus on the continued evolution of the social safety net and discuss ways in which a sociological perspective can enhance such work.
... Yet, economic benefits of current policies constitute proportionately less of their income for poor families now than in prior decades ). The public benefits that remain available to low-income families are mostly concentrated among families with earnings, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), mostly come in the form of in-kind benefits-like SNAP-rather than cash assistance (Shaefer et al. 2015), and often fall very short of full coverage for those in need. For example, Section 8 housing choice vouchers, which guarantee that a family will pay no more than 30% of its income for housing, are available only to a third of poor renting families (Desmond 2016). ...
Article
The child poverty rate in the United States is higher than in most similarly developed countries, making child poverty one of America's most pressing social problems. This article provides an introduction of child poverty in the USA, beginning with a short description of how poverty is measured and how child poverty is patterned across social groups and geographic space. I then examine the consequences of child poverty with a focus educational outcomes and child health and three pathways through which poverty exerts its influence: resources, culture, and stress. After a brief review of the anti-poverty policy and programmatic landscape, I argue that moving forward we must enrich the communities in which poor families live in addition to boosting incomes and directly supporting children's skill development. I conclude with emerging research questions.
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More than 3000 U.S. counties are used to examine a hypothesis that the enterprise dependency index (population numbers/enterprise numbers, EDI) can serve as a measure of community prosperity/poverty. The theoretical derivation of EDI is presented. Then, a slightly nonlinear relationship between the total and poor populations of the counties is recorded. Poverty is slightly more systematically concentrated in smaller counties. The foregoing indicates that poverty forms part of the demographic–socioeconomic–entrepreneurial nexus of human settlements. The EDIs and poverty rates of counties are statistically significantly and positively correlated. The nonlinear power law, however, explains only about 45% of the variation, suggesting that the two measures are not identical. Further analyses confirm the independence of the two measures. Poverty is only one part of the two-part prosperity/poverty continuum. Measurement of poverty rates seemingly ignores the economic impacts of prosperity in communities. The analyses suggest that EDI, based on the ability of communities to ‘carry’ enterprises, is a more sensitive measure of community prosperity/poverty than the poverty rate. The hypothesis that EDI is a useful measure of community prosperity/poverty is accepted. Further research is, however, needed to optimize the use of this measure.
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Economic instability has increased in recent decades and is higher for families with low incomes and Black families. Such instability is thought to be driven primarily by precarious work and unstable family structure. In addition, the social safety net has become less of a stabilizing force for low‐income families, in part because benefits are often tied to employment and earnings. Too much change in economic circumstances may disrupt investments in children, parenting practices, and family routines—particularly if the economic changes are unpredictable, undesired, or not part of upward mobility. Given the considerable evidence that economic circumstances affect child health and development, economic stability can and should be an important goal of multiple policy domains. In this report, we describe economic instability, review the pertinent theories for considering how economic instability might matter to children, and describe ideas for policies that could reduce or moderate instability. We include policies that reduce instability in earnings, use public assistance to stabilize income or reduce material hardship, or enhance parents' capacity to deal with or avoid instability.
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We examine the predictors of state spending on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, which has fallen dramatically since the passage of welfare reform in 1996. Over the 2000s, states allocating 33% or more of their TANF expenditures toward cash assistance are more likely to have higher minimum wages and are more liberal, though with fewer Black residents—both overall and on the TANF caseload. Our preferred empirical specifications suggest a negative link between state basic assistance expenditures—which we use as a measure of cash assistance—and the proportion of Black residents on the state’s TANF caseload. These findings contribute to a longstanding body of research examining the political economy of racial disparities within the welfare system and support further investigation into the mechanisms driving these observed associations. Upon considering the Kerner Commission’s call to reinvest in economically disadvantaged communities, it is important to consider how reform proposals modeled off of TANF may extend to new domains of the American social safety net. Our findings, as well as those of others within the welfare research literature, recommend a closer look at whether and how race operates within systems of devolved authority.
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This article studies the evolution of African American neighborhoods since the publication of the groundbreaking Kerner Commission report in 1968. We first examine how black and riot-affected neighborhoods evolved in four representative cities-Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.-during this period. Among black neighborhoods in these cities, we find that black neighborhoods not directly affected by riots fare better but trend similar to those that were. Notably, a number of disparities the commission identified as policy priorities-such as relatively lower income, higher poverty, and higher unemployment-persist despite declines in racist attitudes, extreme segregation, and an increased suburbanization of blacks. Fifty years after its publication, these findings suggest that the concerns of the Kerner Commission report remain relevant.
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This study focuses on the long-term trend in happiness by income level in the United States. General Social Survey data suggest that in the past, rich and poor Americans were not only more equal in terms of income, but also in terms of their subjective wellbeing: the happiness gap between the poor and the rich has been increasing. Today’s poor suffer greater relative unhappiness than the poor of past decades. The gap between the poor and the rich is substantial, approximately 0.4 on a 1–3 happiness scale. The increase in the happiness gap is striking: comparing the 1970s to the 2000s, the gap has widened by about 40 % between the poor and the rich, and by about 50 % between the middle class and the rich.
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