Panel: Work Barriers, Economic Instability, and the Role of Social and Housing Policies in Supporting Low-Income Families
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Friday, November 9, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
8223 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Yoonsook Ha, Boston University
Discussants:  Daniel Meyer, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Addressing Health-Related Barriers to Work and Promoting Employment Using Housing Policy: A Focus on Low-Income Welfare Families
Theresa Osypuk1, Pamela Joshi2, Nicole Schmidt1, Naomi Thyden1 and Toben Nelson1, (1)University of Minnesota, (2)Brandeis University

The Impact of Public Transfer Programs on Income Instability Among Low-Income Families
Yoonsook Ha1, Thomas Byrne2, Daniel Miller1 and Margaret M. C. Thomas1, (1)Boston University, (2)U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Paid Family Leave: Supporting Work Stability Among Lower Income Mothers
Pamela Winston, Lauren Antelo and Rashaun Bennett, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Many low-income families experience barriers to work including mental and physical health and have limited access to work supports such as family and medical leave. Even for those who are employed, a high proportion of adults in these families work in low-wage jobs and face challenges with finding full-time jobs and remaining steadily employed, all of which can lead to unstable income and employment. Despite the challenges related to employment among low-income families, the “work first” approach to public assistance programs and many social programs have increasingly shifted the programs’ focus to support work and impose more stringent work requirements for the receipt of the program benefits. The mismatch between the reality of work barriers that low-income families experience and the work requirements of social policies could limit the important role that social policies play in supporting economic outcomes of low-income families. Moreover, it may limit the effectiveness of social programs that intend to promote work. This panel aims to understand the complex relationship between work barriers, their impact on income and employment instability, and the role of social policies in reducing economic instability that low-income families experience. The panel consists of three papers, and the contributors to this panel use diverse sources of data with various samples of low-income families.

The first two papers document the work barriers that low-income families experience and examine the relationship between work barriers and employment. Specifically, the first paper uses long-term follow up data from the Moving to Opportunity housing voucher experiment to examine low-income mothers’ health barriers and the impact of the health barriers on employment and welfare-to-work transitions. The second paper uses qualitative data collected from low-income single mothers living in states with Paid Family Leave (PFL) and examine work barriers and work attachment around the time of childbirth and how PFL might support work stability among low-income single mother families. The final paper uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and examine the extent to which public assistance programs affect increase/decrease income instability and the relative importance of various public assistance programs in reducing income instability for low-income families.

The discussant will put three papers together and discuss issues of work barriers, income and employment, and social policies in the context of precarious economic circumstances of low-income families. The discussant then will comment on the current administration’s approach to strengthening work requirements for public assistance programs and the implications on the importance of addressing work barriers among low-income families to improve economic stability.

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