Tuesday, August 02, 2016

What is Done for the Poor Among Us in the United States?; Useful Data From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Within a Cage of Normative Constraints

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

Starting almost 20 years ago, as I was looking at the construction of the present institutional framework for the provision of poor relief in the United States, I noted its utility for virtually all of the virtues of an industrial society, other than the alleviation of poverty (e.g., here).  True to its ancient roots in the transformation of early modern Europe (e.g., here) it was, and remains, an instrument through which social, legal, and economic forces are brought to bear to socialize the poor and to assuage the rest (e.g., here). Over the last quarter century much has changed, yet the overall dynamic has not, nor can it given the fundamental premises on which its ordering is based (see, e.g.,  here).   And there is little to suggest that its fundamental character as a means of social control will change (see, e.g., here).  Just as the European Marxists bend social, economic and political rules to produce the model revolutionary worker (e.g. here (Cuba)), so Western democracies seek to move the levers of economic, political, and legal authority, backed by tremendous efforts at setting the social discourse, to produce the model citizen as an economic, social and political actor (e.g., here).        
All of this came to mind as I read an alert from my colleague Francine Lipman at UNLV, whose work in the area are must reads.   The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is "a nonpartisan research and policy institute. We pursue federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways." (CBPP Mission). It has released a user-friendly overview of its state-by-state antipoverty data analysis, including information about broad and deep participation in Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A program that has been referenced in recent national news.

The following Center on Budget and Policy Priorities announcements with links and interactive charts follows.
The Safety Net’s Impact: A State-by-State Look
Impact of the Safety Net: State Fact Sheets, Data Sources, and Calculations

Isaac Shapiro
Senior Fellow
Our new state-by-state fact sheets on the safety net’s impact show that, in every state, programs assisting low-income Americans lift large numbers of people above the poverty line and provide health coverage to a large share of children. The fact sheets illustrate that:
--From 2009 through 2012, the safety net reduced poverty by more than half in 41 states, and reduced child poverty by more than half in 43 states.
--Over the same period, the safety net reduced poverty overall by two-thirds in four states: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, and West Virginia.
--In 2016, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health coverage to more than one of every three children in 45 states, and provide coverage to more than half of all children in 14 states. In Louisiana and Mississippi, three in five children receive health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP.

The fact sheets use the latest government information of its kind available, as explained here, often combining several years of information to enhance state-level reliability. The figures modestly overstate the safety net’s current overall anti-poverty impact, largely due to the drop in unemployment benefits since 2012.

In addition to assessing the overall extent to which government programs reduce poverty in their state, readers can use the fact sheets to learn how many people are helped by the programs with the largest anti-poverty effects: Social Security, SNAP (formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, and federal rental assistance. The fact sheets also explain how many state residents have health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP.

Safety net programs not only reduce immediate deprivation but also have long-term benefits for children, a growing body of research indicates. The findings suggest, for instance, that SNAP and the EITC help reduce infant mortality and low birthweight, and improve children’s reading and math test scores, high school completion, college entry, and expected future earnings. The findings also indicate that housing assistance that helps low-income families move to safe, low-poverty neighborhoods with better schools can enhance their children’s long-term prospects. Further, people eligible for Medicaid coverage in childhood miss fewer school days due to illness or injury, are likelier to complete high school and college, and earn more as adults.

The fact sheets consider both federal and state benefits, but federal programs account for the vast majority of poverty reduction in every state.

Find the individual state fact sheets here.


Impact of the Safety Net: State Fact Sheets, Data Sources, and Calculations
July 22, 2016
The information in the state fact sheets reflects the latest of its kind available as of July 2016.

Anti-poverty estimates. Obtaining reliable estimates of how much individual programs, or programs in aggregate, reduce poverty requires combining several years of data; for most states the sample size from a single year of the relevant survey data is too small. In cases where the sample size would be insufficient even with several years of data, that figure is not shown.

In order to produce the best possible estimates of how much safety net programs reduce poverty, the calculations use the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). Unlike the government’s “official” poverty measure, which only considers the effects of government cash assistance, the SPM includes both cash and near-cash assistance (such as SNAP or the Earned Income Tax Credit). Given the importance of non-cash assistance, analysts across the ideological spectrum favor its inclusion in poverty calculations. The poverty reduction estimates are from a CBPP analysis of the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey and SPM public use files.

Most of the CBPP poverty-reduction estimates also adjust for the underreporting of certain benefits that often occurs in household surveys. The HHS/Urban Institute Trim3 model is used to correct for underreporting of SNAP, Supplemental Security Income, housing assistance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits in Census data.

Most of the poverty-reduction figures are four-year averages for the period from 2009 (the first year for which Census provides SPM data files) to 2012 (the latest year for which the underreporting corrections we use are available from TRIM).

The figures on how many people the EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) lift out of poverty cover 2011-2013. Since underreporting issues are not significant for these credits, underreporting adjustments are not needed and more current information can be used.

Program participation. The figures on how many people receive aid from individual programs are the official participation figures from the agency administering the program (for example, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the number helped by federal housing assistance is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and USDA). The Medicaid administrative data are for March 2016, and the SNAP and housing assistance data are for 2015.

Estimated numbers of persons and children receiving tax credits are based chiefly on Internal Revenue Service data (for tax year 2013), supplemented with Census Bureau data. Figures for individuals receiving the low-income portion of the CTC but not the EITC are IRS figures compiled by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. National Census Bureau data were used to help estimate the number of children in certain larger families receiving the EITC, as well as the number of children and spouses in families receiving the low-income portion of the CTC but no EITC.
For Further Information

CBPP has also produced state fact sheets with more detailed information on certain individual means-tested programs. (The figures they contain may not always match these fact sheets due to differences in data and methodology.) See:
--A Closer Look at Who Benefits from SNAP: State-by-State Fact Sheets, http://www.cbpp.org/research/a-closer-look-at-who-benefits-from-snap-state-by-state-fact-sheets
--State Fact Sheets: The Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/state-fact-sheets-the-earned-income-and-child-tax-credits
--National and State Housing Fact Sheets & Data, http://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/national-and-state-housing-fact-sheets-data?fa=view&id=3586#map
--Medicaid Works: State Fact Sheets, http://www.cbpp.org/research/health/medicaid-works-state-fact-sheets

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