July 24, 2014

CSSRR Economics–July 24, 2014

Filed under: E. Working Papers,Economics — admin @ 3:46 pm

University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty Working Papers:

A. “Chapter 6: Poverty Measurement,” by Timothy M. Smeeding (DP1424-14, June 2014, .pdf format, 36p.).

The fundamental concept of poverty concerns itself with having too few resources or capabilities to participate fully in a society. Social scientists need to first establish the breadth and depth of the social phenomenon called “poverty” before they can meaningfully analyze it and explore its ultimate causes and remedies. In this chapter, we examine the complexities and idiosyncrasies of poverty measurement from its origins to current practice. We begin with the various concepts of poverty and its measurement and how economists, social statisticians, public policy scholars, sociologists, and other social scientists have contributed to this literature. We then turn to a few empirical estimates of poverty across and within nations. We rely mainly on income data from rich and middle-income nations to provide perspectives on levels and trends in overall poverty, though we refer also to the World Bank’s measures of global absolute poverty. In our empirical examinations we look at comparisons of trends in relative poverty over different time periods, and comparisons of relative and anchored poverty across the Great Recession.


B. “Is WIC Reaching Those in Need? Children’s Participation in Nutritional Policy during the Great Recession,” by Margot Jackson and Gabriel Schwartz (DP1423-14, January 2014, .pdf format, 20p.).


For the roughly 20 percent of American children living in poverty and food insecure households, nutritional policy provides an essential safety net against hunger and its negative effects on development. Though it is established that more mothers and children enrolled in the nutritional safety net during the Great Recession, it is unclear whether this increase was experienced equally by all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Using longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), we examine whether exposure to the early childhood nutritional safety net has remained steady or increased as economic need increased during the Great Recession. Specifically, we examine the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which increases access to nutritious food from the prenatal period until the time of school entry. Two questions drive the analysis: (1) Did participation in WIC increase between 2004 and 2013 for children in all age groups: in utero, infants, and ages 1-5?; and (2) Have these increases been experienced equally across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups? Preliminary findings suggest that age differences in participation remain pronounced, with infants more likely than older children, and especially the in utero population, to receive exposure to WIC. Differences between non-Hispanic whites and others declined in all age groups, driven by increasing participation among non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics. Socioeconomic differences in participation also declined, largely because of increasing participation among children in higher-educated and higher-income families. These findings suggest that, during the recession, socioeconomic status became a weaker predictor of WIC participation.


C. “Supported from Both Sides? Changes in the Dynamics of Joint Participation in SNAP and UI Following the Great Recession,” by Alix Gould-Werth and H. Luke Shaefer (DP1422-14, June 2014, .pdf format, 27p.).

This paper uses panel data from the nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) from years 2000 through 2011, to examine changes in the prevalence and character of joint participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) among job losers during the Great Recession. Descriptive as well as multivariate analyses are presented. Descriptive statistics examining changes following the onset of the Great Recession indicate heightened use of UI and SNAP; a change in the sequencing of program entrance with joint participants becoming less likely to access SNAP first (also notable is the high incidence of joint participants who began accessing SNAP while still employed both pre- and post-recession); and the composition of the group joint participants becoming more advantaged across a range of demographic characteristics.

Our multivariate results suggest that the extended length of unemployment spells following the onset of the Great Recession drives much of the increase in joint participation. The extension of UI benefits; the modernization of UI eligibility criteria; and the liberalization of SNAP eligibility requirements account for the remaining increase in joint participation. These results suggest that-through countercyclical design and through legislative action-our safety net programs have been responsive to a changed macroeconomic context and changing needs of the target populations of UI and SNAP. Further research, however, is called for to examine the sizable group of unemployed Americans who do not access help from either program.


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