Panel: Earnings, Public Assistance, and Well-being
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Burnham (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Heather Hill, University of Washington
Panel Chairs:  Irwin Garfinkel, Columbia University
Discussants:  Marci Ybarra, University of Chicago

What Influences Wellbeing? Using Data from the Columbia University/Robin Hood Poverty Tracker to Assess the Relative Value of Hardship and Health
Sophie Collyer, Irwin Garfinkel, Kathryn Neckerman, Julien Teitler, Jane Waldfogel and Christopher Wimer, Columbia University

Low Wages, Public Assistance, and Subjective Financial Well-Being: Evidence from a Qualitative Study of Minimum Wage Workers in Seattle
Talia Kahn-Kravis1, Angela Bruns2 and Heather Hill2, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, (2)University of Washington

Hardships of Undocumented Immigrants in the United State: Evidence from the 1996-2008 SIPP
Claire Altman, University of Missouri, Columbia, Colleen Heflin, Syracuse University and Chaegyung Jun, University of Missouri

The Role of Welfare State Benefits in Closing the Income Gap Among Different Types of Families
Irwin Garfinkel1, Sara McLanahan2, Laurel Sariscsany1 and Laura Vargas1, (1)Columbia University, (2)Princeton University

This panel presents four papers on the relations between earnings, public assistance, and well-being.  The first paper by Collyer et al. presents a framework for assessing the relative influence of different material hardships and personal health problems on subjective wellbeing using the rich array of income, material hardship, and health measures collected by the Columbia University/Robin Hood Poverty Tracker, a longitudinal study of poverty and disadvantage in New York City. The authors find that wellbeing is related to a variety of hardship and health problems, but that poor health stands out as having a particularly large influence on wellbeing.

The second paper by Kahn-Kravis et al. describes a mixed method study being conducted as part of the Minimum Wage Study at the University of Washington. This study uses multiple waves of data from workers in low-wage jobs and raising children, including respondents’ monthly budgets and qualitative interview data, to examine both the objective and subjective realities of financial well-being. Preliminary findings suggest that families struggle to makes ends meet on low wages, but that the same objective budget circumstances produce variable subjective experiences of financial well-being.

Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) spanning more than a decade (1996-2008), the third paper by Altman et al. explores the relationship between immigrant legal status and the experience of material hardship in seven individual measures of housing, medical, dental, utility, food, and essential expenses hardship. The authors estimate probit models predicting the probability of experiencing each form of material hardship controlling for demographic characteristics and year fixed effects. Preliminary results reveal a legal status gradient irrespective of hardship outcome. Unauthorized immigrants experience the highest rates of hardship on every outcome and naturalized immigrants experience the lowest.

The fourth and final paper, by Garfinkel et al., uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study (FFS) to describe the role of welfare state benefits in the economic lives of US children from birth to age 15.  The paper builds on previous research examining welfare state benefits through age 5 and found that the absolute value of benefits received by married parents, cohabiting parents, and single mothers was nearly equal, whereas the relative value was very different. Welfare state transfers and the taxes required to finance them reduced family status differences. This paper examines the extent to which these patterns and magnitudes persist or change as children grow older and enter adolescence.

The panel’s discussant, Marci Ybarra, is an academic with expertise in poverty and inequality and family wellbeing.

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