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Addressing the School Readiness Gap: The Promise of Cash Assistance Programs as Platforms for Innovation? Lisa Gennetian. Improving Low-Income Children’s School Readiness: New Perspectives on an Enduring Challenge September 29-30, 2010. The Overall Landscape(2007).

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Addressing the School Readiness Gap:The Promise of Cash Assistance Programs as Platforms for Innovation?Lisa Gennetian

Improving Low-Income Children’s School Readiness: New Perspectives on an Enduring Challenge

September 29-30, 2010

the overall landscape 2007
The Overall Landscape(2007)

No.Recips(000) Expends(mil)

Medicaid 54,900 $328,900

School Food 39,400 10,900

SNAP 25,600 30,400

EITC 23,800 48,500

WIC 8,000 5,400

SSI 7,100 41,200

Housing 4,900 39,400

TANF 3,800 11,600

Ben-Shalom, Moffitt & Scholz (2010).


Is TANF a Promising Gateway?

Half of today’s caseloads are child-only cases (12% in 1990 to over 30% in 2000)

62% of poor children received TANF in 1994, plummeting to 31% in 2003

Growing % of what would have been TANF cases are disconnected single mothers (not working and not on TANF)

Test of recent recession: What is the future of TANF as safety net? A work support? Emergency support?


Other limitations

TANF program:

IS means-tested, so outreach is only as effective as income eligibility

HAS conditions and penalties: time limits, sanctions

RELIES on performance accountability that does not prioritize children’s developmental outcomes, never mind school readiness, as a performance metric



Not cash assistance but….

Platforms that target economic self-sufficiency of parents (or families) with young children

Why is this a promising approach?

What are the gateways? Who is eligible? Who is served?

What is most amenable to innovation, low cost/high impact?


Stylized facts

Lots of moms (and, dads) work and earnings is a key source of income

In 2008: Young children are particularly likely to live in low-income families--44 percent of children under the age of 6 live in low-income families.

51 percent of low-income children have at least one parent who works full-time, year-round.

In 2009, 64.2% mothers with children under 6 years old participated in the labor force. The participation rate of mothers with infants under a year old was 56.6%.

the evidence base
The Evidence Base

Income has a small independent positive effect on child development, & employment has few detrimental effects

    • Negative Income Tax experiments Income supplements (Salkind & Haskins, 1982): increased grades and test scores
    • Earnings supplements programs vs. mandatory work (Morris, Duncan & Rodrigues, 2010): $1,000 increase 6% SD increase in achievement
  • EIC expansions Dahl & Lochner (2008) : $1,000 increase 6% SD increase combined math & reading test scores

Brooks-Gunn, Han & Waldfogel (2010); Gennetian, Castells, & Morris (2010).


Improve economic self-sufficiency (and improve school achievement by a bit)

Use work-income-security platforms as gateways for outreach, recruitment and intervention (Ca$hPlus)

(*added bonus: parents, non-gender specific)


Promising Gateways: EIC and Tax Sites

VITA (voluntary income tax assistance) sites: churches, credit unions and sometimes multi-service community organizations

In 2010, VITA sites served 1.2 million clients and over 400,000 EITC (earned income tax credit) recipients


Promising Gateways: WIA

The 1998 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) created a new, comprehensive workforce investment system.

One-Stop service delivery system (job search, individual employment plans, training and linkages with other community services)

$2.9 billion expended 7/08 to 6/09, half for adult activities (vs. youth or dislocated workers)

Some evidence WIA programs increased earnings, (Heinrich, Mueser & Troske, 2008)


Promising Gateways: Other examples of one-stop multi-service organizations

Community Action Programs

($3M families/year. 63% offer training/employment)


NYC Financial Clinics

Foundation Communities, TX


Innovation & Evidence-Building

History of fertile ground for innovation and experimentation (and scale-up):

Welfare waiver experiments

EIC expansions

Work Advancement and Support Center Demonstrations (Miller, Tessler & Van Dok, 2010)

The next “New Hope” model (Bos, Gennetian, Duncan and Hill 2008)


Challenges & Limitations

Miss the growing % of disconnected workers. Between fiscal year 1996 and 2004, the number of single mothers receiving TANF fell by 2 million, yet employment among single mothers rose by only about 1 million. (Parrot and Sherman, 2006)

Take-up and retention

Speed of responsiveness to local economic cycles and labor market

Complicated funding & political silos


Rating Promising Platforms

Least promising: TANF (low caseloads, most severe cases, questionable public and political appetite)

Moderately promising: EIC and tax system—huge initial reach but no structure for ongoing contact. Capitalize on sites with combined multiple services.

Most promising: WIA, one-stops, multi-service year-around (micro and macro) needs-responsive organizations


Take a step back: Conceptual Framework Bronfenbrenner’sMicrosystem


Housing & neighborhood initiatives

(the microsystem as a platform?)

Section 8 and housing assistance:

13% of children in U.S. live in crowded housing.

66% of children in low income households (income <200% of poverty level) housing cost exceed 30% of income.

Moving to Opportunity; Jobs Plus

School/neighborhood based initiatives:

Promise Neighborhoods (Harlem Children’s Zone) “cradle-to-career” services!



Ben-Shalom, Yonatan, Robert Moffitt, and John Karl Scholz. 2010. An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Anti-Poverty Programs in the United States. In preparation for the Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Poverty.

Berlin, Gordon. 2010. Rethinking Welfare in the Great Recession: Issues in the Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families . New York: MDRC.

Bos, J., G. Duncan, L. Gennetian, and H. Hill (2007). New Hope: Fulfilling America’s Promise to “Make Work Pay” with Johannes Bos, Greg Duncan, and Heather Hill. Hamilton Project Paper. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.

Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne, Wen-Jui Han and Jane Waldfogel. 2010. FIRST-YEAR MATERNAL EMPLOYMENT AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT IN THE FIRST 7 YEARS 75(2) Monographs for the Society for Research on Child Development

Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count

Employment Characteristics of Families, downloaded September 24, 2010.

Dahl, G., & Lochner, L. (2008). The impact of family income on child achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit. (NBER Working Paper Series: Working Paper No. 14599). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.



Gennetian, L. A., N. Castells, and P. Morris ( 2010) Meeting the Basic Needs of Children: Does Income Matter? National Poverty Center Working Paper No. 2009-11. Gennetian, L.A., T. Leventhal and S. Newman (eds) special issue of Children and Youth Services Review 32(9).

Heinrich, C.P., P. Mueser, and K. Troske 2008. Workforce Investment Act Nonexperimental Net Impact Evaluation, Impaq International.

Miller, Cynthia, Betsy Tessler and Mark Van Dok. 2010. Strategies to Help Low Wage Workers Advance: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Work Advancement and Support Center Demonstration. New York: MDRC.

Parrott, Sharon and Arloc sherman. 2006. TANF at 10 Program Results are More Mixed Than Often Understood

Salkind, N. J., & Haskins, R. (1982). Negative income tax: The impact on children from low-income families. Journal of Family Issues, 3(2), 165-180.

Workforce Investment Act: