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Government economic security programs such as food assistance, housing subsidies, and working-family tax credits — which bolster income, help families afford basic filetyep, and keep millions of children above the poverty line — also have longer-term benefits, studies find: One in jeannw U. Economic security programs can blunt these negative effects of poverty and bring poor children closer to equal opportunity, numerous studies find.
In addition, women who had access to food stamps as young children had improved economic self-sufficiency in adulthood. Other economic security programs have been found to improve health outcomes at birth, raise reading and math test scores in middle school, increase high school completion and college entry, lift lifetime income, and extend longevity.
The findings come from studies of the Earned Income Tax Credit EITCanti-poverty and welfare-to-work pilot programs in the s, an earlier public assistance program for mothers, and various negative income tax experiments in the late s through early s, among others.
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In addition, a recent well-known housing study found that housing vouchers that help poor families move to less poor neighborhoods before children turn 13 raise the earnings of these children jdanne 31 percent when they reach adulthood. Researchers are still exploring the reasons why more adequate family income helps children over the long term. Another may be by helping lobg afford better jexnne environments from child care through college.
Important gains for children have been found both in programs that boost income by filstype parental employment and in programs that raise income without an increase in parental employment.
Overall, the weight of oong evidence indicates that economic security programs not only open doors of opportunity for participating low-income children but also lift their future health, productivity, and ability to contribute to their communities and the economy in ways that benefit society as a whole.
Economic security programs help low-paid or out-of-work families afford the goods and services a child may need to thrive — whether it be nutritious food, a safe home and neighborhood, transportation to a doctor or library, eyeglasses to see the school blackboard, or lead-paint abatement to avoid lead poisoning.
Most families participating in these programs work for at least part of the year. Growing evidence shows that low income can have lasting adverse effects on children and that bolstering family income can keanne poor children catch up in a range of areas. Particularly compelling filetye that income support can help poor children catch up in school comes from a series of cross-program comparisons of several welfare-to-work and anti-poverty pilot programs in the United States and Canada in the s.
When programs provided more generous income assistance, the comparisons consistently showed better academic performance among young children transitioning into school.
A later study that examined 16 interventions produced similar findings, with income gains leading to higher school achievement but with little effect from higher parental employment. Earlier income subsidy programs also showed positive results.
A series of federally funded Negative Income Tax NIT experiments from to randomly assigned families to receive varying levels of guaranteed income in several urban and rural sites around the country. As summarized by researchers Neil Salkind and Ron Haskins: The quality of nutritional intake was higher in the experimental than in the control group…. Three of the experiments found higher school attendance levels….
Receiving the [guaranteed income] was associated with higher grades and achievement test scoreswhich act as powerful reinforcers for increased self-esteem….
In New Jersey, educational level was higher among experimental than control children. By ages 19 and 20, teens from families with a guaranteed income completed an average of one-third to one and a half more years of formal education, relative to teens in a randomly assigned control group. Two other NIT experiment sites that examined school attendance but not school completion Seattle and Denver found school attendance improved by 9 percentage points for teens ages 16 to 21; for year-olds, attendance rose by an impressive 14 percentage points, from 28 percent to 42 percent.
Long Jeanne Silver
A recent retrospective study of income assistance provided a century ago found positive effects that were life-long. The program operated from to and served low-income mothers whose husbands were missing or incapacitated. The study found that assisted children completed one-third more years of schooling, had nearly 14 percent higher incomes by early adulthood, were less likely to be underweight, and lived an average of one year longer, compared with peers whose mothers had applied for the income assistance but were turned away.
The rejected families were generally slightly less poor at the time of application but significantly poorer after the assistance was taken into account. Several studies examined family income and child outcomes following federal and state EITC expansions enacted during the s through the s. One preliminary study links the receipt of larger EITCs to higher rates of graduating from high school and attending college.
Those children also had a 4. The findings show that the academic benefits of larger EITC benefits extend to children of all racial and ethnic groups, with some evidence that the benefits are larger for children of color, boys, and younger children i. Further, the authors report suggestive evidence that assisted students persist through a full four-year college education. In addition, expansions of state and federal EITCs may even reduce child maltreatment, according to one study.
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A recent study examined what happened as the federal government gradually introduced food stamps across the country, county by county, in the s and early s. It concluded that children from disadvantaged families that had access to food stamps in utero or early childhood had better health outcomes as adults than otherwise-similar children born in counties that had not yet implemented the program. The researcher estimated that for each additional year that immigrant parents were eligible for food stamps while their children were in the prenatal year through age 5, the children experienced a decline of 6 percent or 1.
Rental subsidies such as vouchers and public housing help families afford decent, stable housing. Research links the housing-related problems that housing assistance addresses to a range of adverse outcomes with long-term consequences. Children in homeless families are more likely than other low-income children to drop out of school, repeat a grade, or perform poorly on tests.
The researchers emphasize that there was no general pattern of improvement across a broad list of child outcomes that included health and crime. Other research, however, shows that vouchers are more effective for children when they are designed to help families move to areas of higher opportunity — which the vouchers in the Chicago study were not.
Studies have found lasting positive results from recent fiiletype in housing assistance that help low-income families use housing vouchers to move to lower-poverty areas with higher opportunity and less crime. Children whose families moved to low-poverty neighborhoods were more likely to attend college and earn more as adults, relative to children who remained in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to an important recent study by Raj Chetty and colleagues.
The children were also likelier to live in better neighborhoods as adults, and the girls were 30 percent less likely to be single parents as adults. Likewise, a Maryland study found that low-income children are more likely to succeed in school when housing assistance is used to help them grow up with residential stability in high-opportunity areas with low-poverty schools. Low-income families accepted into public housing were assigned a housing site and an affiliated neighborhood school.
By the end of elementary school, students in families that had used housing assistance to move to a high-opportunity area had cut their filerype, sizeable filetypr gap with non-poor students in their district by half for math and one-third for reading. Moreover, while some opponents of using vouchers to help poor families move to low-income areas argue that this would increase crime in the destination neighborhoods, a careful study of neighborhood crime rates in ten large cities found no evidence of this occurring.
One way assistance programs may help children is by improving nutrition in their earliest years, starting before birth. Researchers note that even mild voluntary daytime fasting in the first trimester of pregnancy is associated with lower child test scores by age 7 as well as lower adult earnings and a 20 percent increase in the likelihood of disability, especially mental disability.
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Reducing severe stress is a second major way that income can affect children, partly through its effects on parents and parenting. Stress can also matter in the ,ong run.
These health problems can result jeamne lost work hours and lower adult productivity. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Results show that ciletype income, particularly in very early childhood between the prenatal and second year of lifeis associated with increases in early-adult hypertension, arthritis, and limitations on activities of daily living.
Moreover, these relationships and particularly arthritis partially account for the associations between early childhood poverty and adult productivity lony measured by adult work hours and earnings. The results suggest that the associations between early childhood poverty and these adult disease states may be immune-related. Income can also help families afford more effective learning environments, from child care through college. This finding builds on earlier research suggesting that access to center-based child care for low-income young children has benefits for their cognitive development.
Income has also had a growing effect on college attendance in recent decades. In a previously mentioned study, children who received Mothers Pensions roughly a century ago lived an average of about a year longer than otherwise-similar children who were turned down. Some have suggested that increases in parental employment — not income — are the real reason children seem to fare better in economic security programs.
The evidence suggests otherwise. Educational filetpye have been found both from income-support programs that raise parental employment and those that do not. One cross-program comparison of 16 local welfare-to-work and anti-poverty policies in the early s noted:.
All of these policies increased parental employment, while only some increased family income. These analyses indicated improved academic achievement for preschool and elementary school children by programs that boosted both income and parental employment, but not by programs that only increased employment.
Taken together, this suggests that income gains tend to help children succeed in school, while lifting parental employment is neither necessary nor sufficient to do so. One of the pilot programs, the Minnesota Family Investment Program MFIPlooked at whether adding an employment mandate to income assistance helps children. The study divided families at random into three groups.
Cash assistance benefit levels have since eroded further in Minnesota and most other states. A third group received those positive work incentives plus work requirements backed by financial penalties.
The Incentives Only policy raised average incomes by 11 percent among long-term public assistance recipients, relative to the control group.
The majority of the recipients remained below the poverty line, though, even after counting their food stamps and EITC. Adding the mandates increased earnings but decreased welfare income, resulting in no significant change in net income relative to the Incentives Only group. Some people also suggest that better child care services, not income, may explain the better outcomes of young children in some financial assistance pilot programs.
There is little doubt that good child care can help children succeed and that one way income support can help children succeed is by enabling their parents to purchase better child care. Welfare time limits and other stringent welfare rules — which, in the absence of adequate child care or other services, often function more as a cut in assistance than as a path to stable employment — have been found to have harmful effects in other studies as well.
One Delaware study found that the child protective services agency was more likely to become involved with families that had been randomly assigned to a program of lower welfare benefits, time limits, strict work requirements backed by financial penalties, and other limitations, relative to families receiving a modestly more generous traditional welfare program in the s. The findings are consistent, however, with the previously mentioned study finding that child maltreatment and child protective services involvement fell after state and federal EITC expansions boosted family incomes.
The bulk of evidence supports the conclusion that economic security programs play a strong role in helping low-income children, although there are exceptions. In science, including the social and behavioral sciences, individual studies are rarely conclusive by themselves; what matters is where the bulk of evidence lies.
On balance, the evidence is strongly on the side of the importance of income assistance for low-income children. Of the 34 studies identified, only five found no evidence of an income effect on any of the outcomes examined, and methodological problems contributed to this result in at least four of those five, the researchers said.
Not every study finds positive results. Another area needing further study is the stage of childhood at which income matters most. At the same time, there is also substantial evidence of income effects in older childhood, especially for other types of outcomes. Income, however, may play somewhat different roles at different stages of childhood.
On balance, despite some signs that income may matter more in some stages of childhood than others, evidence for such age differences remains mixed. Further research would provide more insight. Economic security policies help form a critical foundation for the well-being of children by ensuring that low-income families can put food on the table, pay the rent, and afford other basics.
Research has linked income losses around the time of pregnancy, for example, with a rise in stress that can affect both mother and baby. Stress and other circumstances of poverty may influence brain structure. Children in poverty had gray matter volumes 8 to 10 percent below normal in several areas of the brain associated with school readiness skills, one research team found.
Income support appears to help. For example, mothers targeted by the expansion of the EITC showed signs of reduced stress such as less inflammation and lower diastolic blood pressure.