Thursday, November 4, 2010

APPAM Panel: Deep Poverty, TANF

I am attending the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management conference in Boston and am posting my notes from the various sessions. If you would like to contact me, you can find my cell phone number on my CV, linked above. I will check messages between sessions.

Kathryn Larin (GAO) - had participation in TANF [temporary assistance for needy families] not fallen off from 85% in 1995 to 40% in 2005, 800,000 children would not be in poverty during the current recession.

Julia Isaacs (Brookings) - States with lowest child poverty rates: New Hampshire (8.4%) Connecticut and Minnesota (10.9), Maryland (11.0), New Jersey (11.3), Utah (11.5). Highest rates: DC (30.9%), Mississippi (28.8), New Mexico (26.0), West Virginia (24.8), Arkansas (24.1), Alabama (23.3), Texas (22.7).  SNAP (food stamp) participation and lagged child poverty are much better predictors of child poverty than unemployment rates. Unemployment has leveled off, but food stamp need has been increasing.

Moderator 1: A lot of interesting work needs to be done on the "disconnected" - unemployed and without access to safety nets and services. A panel of economists agreed - and how rare is that! - that we will not get back to an unemployment rate of ~5.5% for 4-5 years.

Q&A: So many of the poor are not in the labor force, why use unemployment rate at all? The problem with relying only on published child poverty is that you have to wait until August to find out where child poverty was a year ago. Unemployment is available now.

Increasing the busy work to apply for TANF decreases the number of people participating to those truly in need. Good or bad? It's transparent and varies by state. There has not yet been a systematic analysis of cross-state participation.

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