Poverty

Government's Greatest Achievements of the Past Half Century

Government's Greatest Achievements of the Past Half Century
Reform Watch Brief #2, The Brookings Institution, November

Light, P.C.
01/01/2000

Looking back from the edge of a new millennium, it is difficult not to be proud of what the federal government has tried to achieve these past fifty years. Name a significant domestic or foreign problem over the past half century and the federal government made some effort to solve it, sometimes through massive new programs such as Medicare and Apollo, other times through a string of smaller initiatives to address enduring problems such as disease and poverty. If a nation's greatness is measured in part by the kinds of problems it asks its government to solve, the United States measures up very well, indeed. The proof is in the federal statutes. All totaled, Congress passed more than 500 major laws between 1944 and 1999 to improve the quality of life in the nation and world. Judged not as individual programs but as part of larger endeavors, these statutes speak to the enormous range of federal engagement since World War II. Having emerged victorious from both the war and the Great Depression, Congress called upon the federal government to tackle a bold agenda worthy of the world�s greatest democracy, and provided the statutory authority to act. Convinced that government could do great things, the nation asked the federal government to do just that.

High School Size: The Effects on Budgets and Performance in New York City

High School Size: The Effects on Budgets and Performance in New York City
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Spring

Stiefel, L., Berne, R., Iatarola, P. & Fruchter, N.
01/01/2000

Combines budget and performance information to study the effects of high school size. Suggests that since small high schools are more effective for minority and poor students, and the budget per student is found to be similar for small and large schools, policymakers might support the creation of more small high schools.

Race and the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight

Race and the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight
Social Biology. 47:77-93,

Conley, D. & Bennett, N.
01/01/2000

This paper uses intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to address the black-white difference in propensities toward low birth weight (LBW). We determine that socioeconomic conditions account for some variation in low birth weight across race. Further, while race differences in the risk of low birth weight cannot be explained entirely, we find that the inheritance of parental birth weight status dramatically reduces the black-white gap in low birth weight. Intergenerational legacies of poor infant health explain the largest share of racial disparities in filial birth weight. We then try to assess whether this intergenerational transmission of low birth weight is indeed genetic by using grandparent-fixed effects models to factor out, to a great extent, family socioeconomic circumstances. We find that even within this framework, both father's and mother's birth weight status have an important impact on filial outcomes. However, the degree of inheritance is weaker for African Americans than for other races. Finally, we theorize that the importance of paternal birth weight status implies a genetic association that does not work through the uterine environment but rather through the fetus itself.

Racial/Ethnic Identity, Congruence with the Social Context, and the Transition to High School

Racial/Ethnic Identity, Congruence with the Social Context, and the Transition to High School
Journal of Adolescent Research, 15(5), 587-602,

French, S., Seidman, E., Allen, L. & Aber, J.L.
01/01/2000

The transition to high school may serve as a race/ethnicity consciousness-raising experience that stimulates the development of one's racial/ethnic identity depending on newcomers' racial/ethnic congruence with the student body and staff, as well as their perceived social transactions with the new school. The nature of this development was tested within samples of poor, urban, Black, White, and Latino students (n = 144). Racial/ethnic identity (group–esteem and exploration) and perceived transactions with school (academic hassles, participation, and social support) were assessed at the end of both the year prior to the transition and the transition year. The results suggested that changes over the transition to senior high school served as a race/ethnicity consciousness-raising experience for both Black and European American students but in dramatically different ways.

The Microfinance Schism

The Microfinance Schism
World Development, 28 (4), April 2000, 617 - 629.

Morduch, J.
01/01/2000

Presents a study on win-win proposition, a principle of good banking, by leading microfinance advocates which can alleviate poverty through microfinance institution. Logic of the win-win proposition; Advantages of financial sustainability; Limits of the proposition.

Welfare Reform, Family Support, and Child Development: Perspectives from Policy Analysis and Developmental Psychopathology

Welfare Reform, Family Support, and Child Development: Perspectives from Policy Analysis and Developmental Psychopathology
Development & Psychopathology, 12(4), 619-632,

Knitzer, J., Yoshikawa, H., Cauthen, N.K. & Aber, J.L.
01/01/2000

This article explores the implications of recent welfare-related policy change for the well-being of children in low income families, and for research investigating child development processes and outcomes. It provides an overview of current welfare-related policies and explores the implications for developmental researchers. The article also synthesizes early findings from research, highlighting both overall impacts and the more nuanced evidence that while families are transitioning off welfare, only a small number are transitioning out of poverty, and a subgroup of families at risk are not faring well. It then examines, from a theoretical and methodological framework, what developmental psychopathology might bring to the study of welfare-related impacts on children in the context of this complex and changing policy landscape, and what welfare researchers might bring to the field of developmental psychopathology. The article concludes with broad recommendations for both research and policy.

Who is Enrolled in For-Profit vs. Nonprofit Medicare HMOs?

Who is Enrolled in For-Profit vs. Nonprofit Medicare HMOs?
Health Affairs. 2000;19:210-220.

Blustein, J., Hoy, E.C.
01/01/2000

We compare the characteristics of enrollees in for-profit and nonprofit Medicare health plans using nationwide data from the 1996 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. We find few differences in overall health status, limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs), or history of chronic disease. However, older Americans enrolled in for-profit plans are substantially poorer and less educated than those enrolled in nonprofit plans, are more likely to have joined their plan recently, and are more likely to have joined a plan with the expectation of reducing their out-of-pocket health care costs.

The Microfinance Promise

The Microfinance Promise
Journal of Economic Literature, Dec 1999, Vol. 37 Issue 4, p1569, 46p.

Morduch, J.
12/01/1999

The article presents information about a set of financial institutions in underdeveloped countries which are striving to alleviate poverty by providing financial services to low-income households. These institutions, united under the banner of microfinance, share a commitment to serving clients that have been exclude from the formal banking sector. Almost all of the borrowers do so to finance self-employment activities, and many start by taking loans as small as $75, repaid over several months or a year. Only a few programs require borrowers to put up collateral, enabling would-be entrepreneurs with few assets to escape positions as poorly paid wage laborers or farmers. The programs point to innovations like "group-lending" contracts and new attitudes about subsidies as keys to their success. Group-lending contracts effectively make a borrower's neighbors co-signers to loans, mitigating problems created by informational asymmetries between lender and borrower. Neighbours now have incentives to monitor each other and to exclude risky borrowers from participation, promoting repayment even in the absence of collateral requirements.

Improving Infrastructure Finance Through Grant-Loan Linkages

Improving Infrastructure Finance Through Grant-Loan Linkages
International Journal of Public Administration, Volume 22, No. 23.

Smoke, P.
01/01/1999

In recent years, developing countries under fiscal pressure have increasing recognized significant weaknesses in their intergovernmental mechanisms for financing local infrastructure. Many countries are in the process of rationalizing poorly coordinated and subjectively allocated grant systems as well as loans. Such efforts, however, are typically undertaken independently of each other, often providing conflicting incentives for local fiscal behavior. I argue that the reform of grant and loan mechanisms should be explicitly linked to improve the overall effectiveness of the infrastructure finance system. The potential complications involved in designing grant-loan linkages, however, are considerable. I illustrate some key issues by examining the water sector in Indonesia, concluding with suggestions for how to think about creating such linkages in other sectors and countries.

Lives on the Line: American Families and the Struggle to Make Ends Meet

Lives on the Line: American Families and the Struggle to Make Ends Meet
Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Shirk, M., Bennett, N. & Aber, J.L.
01/01/1999

Almost half of the nation's children live in officially defined poverty or near-poverty. Putting a human face on this and other statistics, the authors present a disturbing and provocative composite portrait of 10 families struggling to make ends meetAfour white, two Hispanic, three black and one Hawaiian/Samoan. Bennett and Aber, both directors of Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, and freelance journalist Shirk (a veteran St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter), identify three factorsAteen parenthood, low educational achievement and temporary or low-wage workAthat they call "the 'Bermuda Triangle' of family poverty." Add the associated risks of domestic violence, poor child care and damage to early brain development from malnutrition, preventable birth complications, environmental toxins, etc., and readers will begin to see why poverty cuts across urban, suburban and rural areas. A few of the parents profiled here battle drug addiction; one gambles; several suffer from disabling depression; one single mother bravely raises a severely disabled five-year-old son afflicted with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and a 234-pound, 12-year-old daughter. In almost all the profiled families, one or both parents work, contradicting the widespread stereotype of the poor as lazy or irresponsible. In a succinct closing chapter, the authors call for a combination of public- and private-sector measures to help prevent or reduce child poverty. The issues they raise should fuel election-year debate.

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