We analyze the role of newly integrated data from the child support and child welfare systems in seeding a major policy change in Wisconsin. Parents are often ordered to pay child support to offset the costs of their children’s stay in foster care. Policy allows for consideration of the “best interests of the child.” Concerns that charging parents could delay or disrupt reunification motivated our analyses of integrated data to identify the impacts of current policy. We summarize the results of the analyses and then focus on the role of administrative data in supporting policy development.
Russell Sage Foundation
Poor children begin school with fewer academic skills than their nonpoor peers, and these disparities translate into lower achievement, educational attainment, and economic stability in adulthood. Child poverty research traditionally focuses on urban or rural poor, but a shifting spatial orientation of poverty necessitates a richer examination of how urbanicity intersects with economic disadvantage.
Could we combat poverty by reducing the number of unintended and nonmarital births?
We propose a two-generation anti-poverty strategy to improve the economic fortunes of children in the United States. Our policy bridges two traditionally siloed interventions to boost their impacts: Head Start for children and career pathway training offered through community colleges for adults. We expect that an integrated two-generation human capital intervention will produce greater gains than either Head Start or community college alone for developmental and motivational, logistical and financial, social capital, and efficiency reasons.
Financial stability depends on emergency savings. Low-wage workers regularly experience drops in income and unexpected expenses. Households with savings absorb these financial shocks but most low-income Americans lack rainy day savings. Therefore, even a small shock, like car repairs, can result in a cascade of events that throws a low-income family into poverty. Nonetheless, existing policies address emergency savings only indirectly. However, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) already functions as an imperfect, makeshift savings tool.
To address the housing affordability crisis for low-income Americans, we argue for a refundable renter’s tax credit. The proposed credit would be delivered through the tax code, reach a broad segment of renters, and target those with high housing cost burdens. We simulate the effects of the credit using Current Population Survey data. The credit would reach nearly 60 percent of poor renters and more than 70 percent of renters facing severe housing cost burdens, the credit amount averaging $2,059.
Although the central objective of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to reduce food insecurity in the United States, the majority of SNAP households are food insecure. Higher benefits may lead these households to food security. To evaluate this possibility, we use a question from the Current Population Survey that asks respondents how much additional money they would need to be food secure. Food insecure SNAP households report needing an average of about $42 per week to become food secure.
We argue that child support, the central program specifically targeting single-parent families, should increase financial resources for children living with a single parent, with a secondary goal of holding parents responsible for supporting their children. Current child support policy is substantially successful for divorcing families in which the noncustodial parent has at least moderate formal earnings.
In recent years, the big news in Social Security reform has been the program’s fiscal concerns. In light of concerns about both program costs and benefit adequacy, we propose an effective and relatively inexpensive targeted program to provide a minimally adequate floor to old-age income through the Social Security system. This minimum benefit plan would provide a cost-effective method for reducing elder poverty to very low levels. A key element is that the benefit would not count toward income eligibility thresholds for other social programs.
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. We propose replacing the complicated array of benefits provided through the tax system with a universal child benefit of $2,000 per child that would be available regardless of parents’ work status.