Poverty and Inequality

Regular, Monthly Unconditional Cash Gift Increases Families’ Investments in Young Children

June 21, 2024

This brief summarizes findings from The Baby’s First Years study, examining the ways in which a monthly unconditional high-cash gift has been used to support children’s learning and development. Results from the study highlight that such aid resulted in investments in children by increasing parents’ spending on child-specific goods and time spent on early learning activities.

Effects of a Monthly Unconditional Cash Transfer Starting at Birth on Family Investments Among US Families with Low Income

June 21, 2024

How does unconditional income for families in poverty affect parental investments for their young children? During the first 3 years of this study, high-cash gift households spent more money on child-specific goods and more time on child-specific early learning activities than the low-cash gift group.

Unconditional Cash and Breastfeeding, Child Care, and Maternal Employment among Families with Young Children Residing in Poverty

May 24, 2024

This study—the first randomized controlled trial of early childhood poverty reduction in the United States—investigates how increased economic resources affect 1,000 low-income US mothers’ breastfeeding, child-care, and employment practices and the ability to meet their intentions for these practices in the first year of their infant’s life.

Beyond Parental Wealth: Grandparental Wealth and the Transition to Adulthood

May 7, 2024

Young adulthood encompasses a number of decision points around education, employment, and fertility. To capture this complexity, this study examines how multigenerational wealth is related to four outcomes: college attendance, steady employment, early nonmarital birth, and idleness.

Impact of Monthly Unconditional Cash on Food Security, Spending, and Consumption

April 3, 2024

New data from the Baby’s First Years study provide a look at family food security and how families with low incomes allocate additional funds, including spending on food.

The Impact of Monthly Unconditional Cash on Food Security, Spending, and Consumption: Three Year Follow-Up Findings from the Baby’s First Years Study

April 3, 2024

This paper summarizes previously published findings coupled with new analyses of data through the third year of follow-up on the effects of a monthly unconditional cash gift on outcomes related to food security, spending, and consumption from the Baby’s First Years study.

Monthly Unconditional Income Supplements Starting at Birth: Experiences Among Mothers of Young Children with Low Incomes in the U.S.

March 2, 2024

Recently, U.S. advocates and funders have supported direct cash transfers for individuals and families as an efficient, immediate, and non-paternalistic path to poverty alleviation. This article address questions and concerns about how such programs are implemented.

Family Cash Transfers in Childhood and Birthing Persons and Birth Outcomes Later in Life

February 15, 2024

Using data from a quasi-random natural experiment of a large family cash transfer among an American Indian tribe in rural North Carolina, this paper examines whether a positive disruption in socioeconomic status during childhood improves birthing person/perinatal outcomes when they become parents themselves.

Beyond Parental Wealth: Grandparental Wealth and the Transition to Adulthood

December 14, 2023

This study considers the multigenerational consequences of wealth transmission for the transition to young adulthood.

Contraception Use and Satisfaction Among Mothers with Low-Income: Evidence from the Baby’s First Years Study

October 6, 2023

Low income can lead to limited choice of and access to contraception. This study examined whether an unconditional cash transfer (UCT) impacts contraceptive use, including increased satisfaction with and reduced barriers to preferred methods, for individuals with low income. Receipt of monthly UCTs did not impact contraception methods, perceived barriers to use, or satisfaction.

Education Gradients in Parental Time Investment and Subjective Well-Being

September 28, 2023

College-educated mothers spend substantially more time in intensive childcare than less educated mothers despite their higher opportunity cost of time and working more hours. This study looks at one reason this may be by testing the hypothesis that college-educated mothers enjoy childcare more.

Black Reparations and Child Well-Being: A Framework and Policy Considerations

September 20, 2023

This working paper provides a child-centric framework for reparations and the resulting
policy considerations and implications for child descendants of enslaved African Americans.

Associations Between Maternal Stress and Infant Resting Brain Activity Among Families Residing in Poverty in the U.S.

September 15, 2023

Findings from this study suggest that, among families experiencing low economic resources, maternal reports of stress are associated with differences in patterns of infant resting brain activity during the first year of life.

Intergenerational Effects of a Family Cash Transfer on the Home Environment

August 22, 2023

A family cash transfer in childhood that had long-term effects on individual functioning did not impact the home environment of participants who became parents. Rather, parents in both groups were providing home environments generally conducive to their children’s growth and development.

Cross-Sector Intervention Strategies to Target Childhood Food Insecurity in North Carolina

July 7, 2023

Health care systems are increasingly prioritizing food insecurity interventions to improve health, but it is unclear how health systems collaborate with other sectors that are addressing food insecurity. This study evaluated existing collaborations and explore opportunities for further cross-sector engagement.

The Buffering Effect of State Eviction and Foreclosure Policies for Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States

June 19, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred an economic downturn that may have eroded population mental health, especially for renters and homeowners at risk of housing loss. Findings show that individuals who reported difficulty keeping up with rent or mortgage had increased anxiety and depression risks but that state eviction/foreclosure bans weakened these associations.

The Role of Public and Private Food Assistance in Supporting Families’ Food Security and Meal Routines

May 6, 2023

“Backpack” food programs administered through public schools send non-perishable foods home with children to supplement school meals. Power Packs Project (PPP) is a unique backpack program, in that it provides fresh food. This study is the first to examine the effect of picking up a Power Pack in a given week on parent and child food insecurity and meal routines.

Day-to-day Variation in Adolescent Food Insecurity

April 1, 2023

Food insecurity among adolescents is not static but varies from day to day. This daily variation is greater for economically disadvantaged youth.

Unconditional Cash Transfers for Families with Children in the U.S.: A Scoping Review

February 23, 2023

This paper reviews the economic research on U.S. safety net programs and cash aid to families with children and what existing studies reveal about its impacts on family investment mechanisms and children’s outcomes.

“It’s Like Night and Day”: How Bureaucratic Encounters Vary Across WIC, SNAP, and Medicaid

February 16, 2023

Research characterizes public assistance programs as stigmatizing and stressful (e.g., psychological costs) but obscures differences across programs or the features of policy design that contribute to varied bureaucratic encounters.

Net Worth Poverty and Adult Health

February 1, 2023

This study broadens the traditional focus on income as the primary measure of economic deprivation by providing the first analysis of wealth deprivation, or net worth poverty (NWP), and adult health.

Practitioners in North Carolina’s TANF and Related Income Assistance Programs Offer Perspectives on Latino Families’ Experiences

December 20, 2022

This brief is part of a series to examine state-level policies that relate to social service and safety net programs and the ways in which state and federal policy implementation at the local level may affect the reach of program benefits among Latino families.

Earned Income Tax Credit Receipt By Hispanic Families With Children: State Outreach And Demographic Factors

December 6, 2022

In this study, researchers found that states’ granting of drivers’ licenses to undocumented people, availability of government information in Spanish, and employer mandates to inform employees were associated with higher EITC receipt among Hispanic families. These findings showcase ways in which information and outreach at the state level can support the equitable receipt of tax refunds and similar types of benefits distributed through the tax system.

Parents as Earners: What Parental Work Means for Parenting and the Role of Public Policy

December 1, 2022

Lisa Gennetian and Anna Gassman-Pines’ chapter in The Cambridge Handbook of Parenting focuses on families with young children age 0-5 and considers the context of work and employment for parents, the role of child care and early education as supports for working parents, and the theoretical and empirical linkages between parents’ work contexts and parenting.

How Charter Schools Undermine Good Education Policymaking

November 10, 2022

In this policy memo, Ladd argues that charter schools disrupt four core goals of education policy in the United States, namely: 1) establishing coherent systems of schools, 2) attending to child poverty and disadvantage, 3) limiting racial segregation and isolation, and 4) ensuring that public funds are spent wisely. Ladd offers policy recommendations to better meet these challenges.

Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Pandemic-Era Unemployment Insurance Access: Implications For Health And Well-Being

November 7, 2022

During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers not identifying as White non-Hispanic in our sample were more likely to get laid off than White workers. However, these workers were less likely than White workers to receive unemployment insurance at all. Among those who were laid off, these workers and White workers experienced similar increases in material and mental health difficulties and similar gains when they received unemployment insurance.

‘I don’t know nothing about that’: How “Learning Costs” Undermine COVID-Related Efforts to Make SNAP and WIC More Accessible.

November 1, 2022

Scholars have focused on administrative burden or the costs of claiming public benefits. Learning, psychological, and compliance costs can discourage program participation and benefit redemption. Although policy changes during COVID-19 were poised to reduce compliance costs and ease conditions that create redemption costs in each program, the learning costs of policy changes prevented many program participants from experiencing the benefits of these policy transformations.

Comprehensive Support and Student Success: Can Out of School Time Make a Difference?

October 1, 2022

The author investigates the effects of a multiyear program, StudentU, on the early high school outcomes of participating students by exploiting data from oversubscribed admissions lotteries. Results suggest that comprehensive services delivered outside of the regular school day have the potential to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students.

Net Worth Poverty and Child Development

September 7, 2022

These findings provide evidence that net worth poverty has negative associations with children’s development. Net worth poverty predicts lower reading and applied problem scores and increased behavioral problems.

Net Worth Poverty and Child Development

September 6, 2022

This study provides evidence that net worth poverty has negative associations with children’s development.

Impact of a Universal Perinatal Home-Visiting Program on Reduction in Race Disparities in Maternal and Child Health

August 23, 2022

This study demonstrates that a universal approach to early family intervention can have positive population impact while also reducing disparities in outcomes.

Measuring Educational Opportunity in North Carolina Public School Districts

August 19, 2022

This research brief examines two measures of educational opportunity in North Carolina public school districts, average achievement and achievement growth. The first measure— average achievement—indexes the average level of student achievement at a single point in time. The second measure—achievement growth—indexes the rate of growth in student achievement over time.

Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Case Positivity and Social Context: The Role of Housing, Neighborhood, and Health Insurance

August 18, 2022

This paper analyzed how housing, neighborhood, and health insurance explain disparities in case positivity between and within racial-ethnic groups in Durham County, North Carolina, finding that housing, neighborhood, and health insurance had a significant role in producing racial-ethnic disparities in COVID-19 case positivity.

Unconditional Cash and Family Investments in Infants: Evidence from a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Experiment in the U.S.

August 1, 2022

A key policy question in evaluating social programs to address childhood poverty is how families receiving unconditional financial support would spend those funds. Economists have limited empirical evidence on this topic in the U.S. We find that the cash transfers increased spending on child-specific goods and mothers’ early-learning activities with their infants.

The Effects of the Emeryville Fair Workweek Ordinance on the Daily Lives of Low-Wage Workers and Their Families

August 1, 2022

Emeryville, California’s Fair Workweek Ordinance (FWO) aimed to reduce service workers’ schedule unpredictability by requiring large retail and food service employers to provide advanced notice of schedules and to compensate workers for last-minute schedule changes. The FWO decreased working parents’ schedule unpredictability and improved their well-being, decreased parents’ days worked while increasing hours per work day, and parent well-being improved.

Three Reasons Why Providing Cash to Families With Children Is a Sound Policy Investment

May 13, 2022

This paper, co-authored by Lisa Gennetian, provides three reasons why giving cash to families with low incomes is a sound policy investment for families and children. (It focuses on why cash is important, not which policy option is the optimal mechanism for distributing cash to families.)

Marriage, Kids, and the Picket Fence? Household Type and Wealth among U.S. Households, 1989 to 2019

April 25, 2022

Researchers examine net worth by the intersection of gender, parental, and relationship status during a period of increasing wealth inequality and family diversification using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances from 1989 through 2019. Despite changing social selection into marriage and parenthood, married parents consistently held a wealth advantage over demographically similar adults in other household types.

The impact of a poverty reduction intervention on infant brain activity

January 24, 2022

Data from the Baby’s First Years study, a randomized control trial, show that a predictable, monthly unconditional cash transfer given to low-income families may have a causal impact on infant brain activity.

Evaluation of a Family Connects Dissemination to Four High-Poverty Rural Counties

January 12, 2022

Home visiting is a popular approach to improving the health and well-being of families with infants and young children in the United States; but, to date, no home visiting program has achieved population impact for families in rural communities. The current report includes evaluation results from the dissemination of a brief, universal postpartum home visiting program to four high-poverty rural counties.

Understanding Patterns of Food Insecurity and Family Well-Being Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic Using Daily Surveys

September 1, 2021

This paper investigates economic and psychological hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic among a diverse sample of socioeconomically disadvantaged parents and their elementary school-aged children. Longitudinal models revealed that food insecurity, negative parent and child mood, and child misbehavior significantly increased when schools closed; only food insecurity and parent depression later decreased.

Increasing Instability and Uncertainty among American Workers Implications for Inequality and Potential Policy Solutions

August 20, 2021

Anna Gassman Pines, Elizabeth Ananat, and Yulya Trushinovsky wrote a chapter in the book Who Gets What? The New Politics of Insecurity. In the chapter, they identify how recent trends combine to increase instability and uncertainty among low-wage workers, discuss the effects of instability and uncertainty on workers and families, and consider potential policy solutions.

“It Was Actually Pretty Easy”: COVID-19 Compliance Cost Reductions in the WIC Program

August 13, 2021

Studies identify one element of compliance costs—quarterly appointments—as a barrier to continued WIC participation. This article draws on 44 in-depth qualitative interviews with participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to examine how WIC participants perceived the reduction of compliance costs following the implementation of remote appointments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. WIC participants reported satisfaction with remote appointments and a reduction in the compliance costs of accessing and maintaining benefits.

Childhood Wealth Inequality in the United States: Implications for Social Stratification and Well-Being

August 1, 2021

Wealth inequality—the unequal distribution of assets and debts across a population—has reached historic levels in the United States, particularly for households with children.

Behind the Findings: Policies that Contribute to Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Net Worth Poverty

July 1, 2021

This brief summarizes the findings from Net Worth Poverty in Child Households by Race and Ethnicity, 1989–2019 in the Journal of Marriage and the Family and offers historical context for U.S. policies that have contributed to racial and ethnic differences in net worth poverty in child households.

Maternal Imprisonment and the Timing of Children’s Foster Care Involvement

May 25, 2021

Beth Gifford, Megan Golonka and Kelly Evans wrote a chapter of the book, Children with Incarceratead Mothers Separation, Loss, and Reunification. The chapter summarized findings of their study that examined the timing of mother’s incarceration in relation to her children’s involvement with social services, contributory factors leading to foster care placement, and foster care discharge outcomes.

Improving Access to Critical Nutrition Assistance Programs

May 1, 2021

Participants of the study pointed to a number of actionable recommendations to increase program participation and enhance the participant experience in the nutrition assistance programs SNAP and WIC: Federal and state WIC programs should strengthen vendor management to improve the shopping experience. State and local agencies should develop peer programs to educate WIC participants on…

“It Takes a While to Get Used to”: The Costs of Redeeming Public Benefits

April 1, 2021

Scholars have examined how administrative burden creates barriers to accessing public benefits but have primarily focused on the challenges of claiming benefits. Less is known about the difficulties beneficiaries face when using public benefits, especially voucher-based public assistance programs. Examining redemption costs can help clarify when and where beneficiaries experience burdens, reasons behind discontinuity in program participation, and why public programs fail to meet objectives.

Lower neural value signaling in the prefrontal cortex is related to childhood family income and depressive symptomatology during adolescence

April 1, 2021

Lower family income during childhood is related to increased rates of adolescent depression, though the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood.

Experiences of Hispanic Families with Social Services in the Racially Segregated Southeast: Views from Administrators and Workers in North Carolina

February 19, 2021

While we expected to find that Hispanic families may be disadvantaged by decentralized service delivery in a manner that is similar to the experiences of African American families, workers instead note significant resources that help facilitate Hispanic families’ access to programs.

Work Schedule Unpredictability: Daily Occurrence and Effects on Working Parents’ Well-Being

February 1, 2021

Family science has long considered the ways in which parents’ experiences in the workplace can affect families.

Reimagining Policing: How Community-Led Interventions Can Improve Outcomes for Domestic Violence and Mental Health Calls

January 1, 2021

In response to police killings of Black people and the ensuing protests that took place in communities across the country in 2020, media coverage in North Carolina and in much of the nation this past year has focused heavily on instances of police violence and the protests and counterprotests that have since occurred throughout the…

Net Worth Poverty in Child Households by Race and Ethnicity, 1989–2019

November 26, 2020

This study is the first to examine net worth poverty, and its intersection with income poverty, by race and ethnicity among child households in the United States.

Working Families’ Experiences of the Enduring COVID Crisis: Snapshot from Midsummer

November 1, 2020

Key Takeaways: Economic instability remains high among hourly service workers — from both job and household income loss. Food insecurity has increased significantly among working families. Safety net programs can help families maintain their incomes and reduce food insecurity, however benefits are not reaching everyone. Keeping vulnerable families afloat during the pandemic will require policymakers…

“New Normal” for Children and Families: Developing a Universal Approach with a Focus on Equity

August 1, 2020

This brief provides an overview of the various channels through which COVID-19 has affected the lives of children and families, and proposes 4 key actions to help communities heal and build stronger, equitable systems: Create a “new” public health system centered upon a universal approach to care with a focus on equity. Invest in early…

The Added Benefit of North Carolina’s Evictions Moratorium: Protecting Vulnerable Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 1, 2020

Key Takeaways: Government officials halted housing evictions in North Carolina as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. We analyze administrative data on evictions from the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and on public school children in Durham to identify characteristics of children who experience eviction. Our analysis shows that an additional benefit of the…

State of Empowerment: Low-Income Families and the New Welfare State

February 21, 2020

Carolyn Barnes uses ethnographic accounts of three organizations to reveal how interacting with government-funded after-school programs can enhance the civic and political lives of low-income citizens.

Mothers’ and Fathers’ Time Spent with Children in the U.S.: Variations by Race/Ethnicity Within Income from 2003 to 2013

February 10, 2020

Using data from the American Time Use Survey, we examine the empirically underexplored ways in which racial and ethnic identity shapes parental time use.

Professionals, friends, and confidants: After-school staff as social support to low-income parents

March 1, 2019

Policy makers, practitioners, and researchers have emphasized the importance of supportive relationships between staff and parents in early childhood education settings and schools.

WIC Recipients in the Retail Environment: A Qualitative Study Assessing Customer Experience and Satisfaction

November 27, 2018

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is an important intervention for prevention and treatment of obesity and food insecurity, but participation has dropped among eligible populations from 2009 to 2015.

Multifaceted Aid for Low-Income Students and College Outcomes: Evidence From North Carolina

August 10, 2017

We study the evolution of a campus-based aid program for low-income students that began with grant-heavy financial aid and later added a suite of nonfinancial supports.