I survey key developments in applied and theoretical research on poverty rates and poverty gaps over the past two decades, and provide a detailed analysis of poverty trends across of variety of income measures and poverty indexes. Included is an extensive summary of how poverty thresholds and economic resources are measured and several proposed recommendations for revision. In addition I discuss axiomatically derived alternatives to the standard poverty rate that provide estimates not only of the incidence of poverty, but also the intensity and the inequality of poverty.

At least in Florida, we find that local discretion has increased in importance under TANF. We find significant variation in local practices and strong evidence that these differences are tied to local political values. We also find that social class variables are important in determing sanction outcomes. Individuals with lower levels of human capital are more likely to be sanctioned. Our analysis also underscores the potential importance of using a longitudinal design to study sanctioning outcomes.

We study the factors affecting the employment probability of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients using recent quarterly panel data from Atlanta, Georgia. A central focus of our study is to determine whether the TANF recipient’s proximity to job opportunity and the availability of childcare affect her probability of full-time employment. Both static and dynamic models of employment choice are estimated that control for unobserved individual effects.

Although the Food Stamp Program is the largest entitlement program remaining in the social safety net, comparatively little is known about the potential benefits that the program may confer on recipients. In this paper we examine an important dimension of well being, mental health, and the extent to which participation in the Food Stamp Program may attenuate the effect of food insufficiency on levels of emotional distress.

This paper examines the introduction of premiums into the SCHIP program in Kentucky. Kentucky introduced a $20 monthly premium for SCHIP coverage for children with family incomes between 151% and 200% of the federal poverty level in December 2003. Administrative data between 2001 and 2004 is used to estimate a Cox proportional hazard model that predicts enrollment duration in this premium-paying category. The results suggest that a premium reduces the length of enrollment and that the effect is much stronger in the first two months after the introduction of the premium.

US states provide both cash and health insurance benefits for the poor, partially financed by fiscal transfers from the Federal government. The 1996 welfare reform drastically reduces Federal support for cash transfers at the margin, lowering the relative price to states of providing benefits to the poor through Medicaid.


This project first reports descriptive evidence of the characteristics of mothers in the American South and compares them to mothers in other regions of the country. Women in the South (and West) tend to have their children at younger ages than those in the Midwest and Northeast. Mothers in the South (and West) also have much lower levels of education and are more likely to be African American or Hispanic compared to women in the Midwest and Northeast. Next, this paper attempts to link the characteristics of the mothers in the American South to the high rates of poverty there.

This paper reports findings of a study examining child-, classroom-, and school-level factors that effect academic achievement among public school children in the South. Using ECLS-K data, we compare and contrast the learning environments in high/low minority and high/low poverty schools. A sizeable minority of Southern children attend schools that are race and/or class segregated; on multiple dimensions these schools are less desirable than are schools attended by more privileged children, and children attending these schools have lower levels of academic achievement.


Refugees are typically poorer than other immigrants and native born, although the average difference is smal, with changes in the unemployment rate explaining most of the difference in poverty rates. In times of recession, or in areas with particularly high unemployment rates, refugees will fare worse, perhaps due to concentrations of refugees in industries with higher cyclical variation in unemployment. We also find that refugees’ poverty rates start higher but fall more rapidly with time, suggesting that refugees assimilate more rapidly than other immigrants.

In this paper I exploit the fact that the social and economic reforms over the past two decades differentially affected the opportunity costs of non-participation in work, welfare, and disability programs for single mothers across different birth-year and education cohorts. This cohort variation in after-tax wages and transfer benefits is used to identify own- and cross-price elasticities of demand for and substitution across wage, welfare, and disability income over 1979 to 2001 in the Current Population Survey.