Featured in The New York Times: Disparities in Exposure to School Closures and Distance Learning

In a new study, Emma K. Lee and I track school closures at more than 100,000 schools across nearly every county in the U.S. We find large socio-economic, demographic, and geographic disparities in which students are engaged in distance learning. Read the full paper and access our U.S. School Closure & Distance Learning Database here.

Coverage in The New York Times: Disadvantaged Students More Likely to Be Learning Remotely, Study Finds

Study’s Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many school districts to turn to distance or at-home learning. Studies are emerging on the negative effects of distance learning on educational performance. Less is known, however, about the socio-economic, geographic, and demographic characteristics of students exposed to distance-learning across the United States. We introduce a U.S. School Closure & Distance Learning Database that tracks in-person attendance across more than 100,000 schools from January through October 2020. We measure year-over-year change in in-person attendance for each school throughout 2020 to estimate whether the school is engaged in distance learning after the onset of the pandemic. Our findings reveal large socio-economic, geographic, and demographic disparities in exposure to distance learning. In October 2020, schools recording the lowest third-grade math scores are nearly twice as likely to be closed compared to schools recording the highest math scores. The average racial composition of closed schools is 25 percentage points less white compared to schools operating in-person (40% versus 65%). Moreover, closures are more common in schools with a higher share of students who experience homelessness, are of limited English proficiency, are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch, live in single-parent families, or are racial/ethnic minorities. Distance learning is more common in high schools and middle schools relative to elementary schools, but disparities in exposure to distance learning are comparable across school type. Given the potential negative consequences of school closures on educational performance, the vast inequalities in exposure to distance learning portend rising disparities in learning outcomes.

Featured in The New York Times: Monthly poverty rates in the United States during COVID-19

Our latest report (“Monthly poverty rates in the United States during COVID-19”) finds that the expiration of the CARES Act’s primary income supports has contributed to an increase in monthly poverty rates

Full report: Monthly poverty rates in the United States during COVID-19

Initial coverage in the The New York Times: 8 Million More in Poverty Since May as Federal Aid Has Dried Up

Additional coverage: CNN, Washington Post, NPR, NBC, CNBC, LA Times, BBC, Vice, Guardian, Yahoo Finance, Esquire, Politico

Featured in New York Times & Washington Post: Forecasting Poverty Rates during the Pandemic

June 2020: The New York Times has featured our latest results on the potential impact of the CARES Act on poverty rates in the U.S. You can read the full brief here, or see the NYT story here.

April 2020: The New York Times and Washington Post featured my latest research with Christopher Wimer on the potential rise in poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings do not yet incorporate the CARES Act. You can read our brief here, or see the links below for the press coverage.

New York Times: A Gloomy Prediction on How Much Poverty Could Rise

Washington Post: Coronavirus recession could plunge tens of millions into poverty, new report warns

The Atlantic: Welfare Money Is Paying for a Lot of Things Besides Welfare

Note: This is an excerpt of my text published in The Atlantic on June 13, 2019. You can read the full version here. 

What do a Christian overnight camp, abstinence-only sex education, and pro-marriage advertisements all have in common? They’ve all been funded with money that used to provide cash assistance to low-income families.

In the United States, the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program—often known simply as “welfare”—is administered by the 50 states, which have considerable leeway in how to spend the money. The choices states make are unmistakably correlated with race. The higher the proportion of African Americans in a state, the more likely officials are to try to change the way poor families run their lives, rather than simply help them with basic expenses.

Read the rest over at The Atlantic.

New publication: Unequal unions? A comparative decomposition of income inequality in the European Union and United States Abstract: 

With Stefano Filauro, I take a look at how income inequality in the 50 United States compares to that of the combined EU-28. Take a look at our new publication in the Journal of European Social Policy:

Unequal unions? A comparative decomposition of income inequality in the European Union and United States

Abstract: This study applies improved household income data to measure and decompose trends in pan-European income inequality from 2006 to 2014. To contrast the relative significance of economic homogeneity versus the efficacy of welfare state and labour market institutions in shaping income distributions, we compare the structure of inequality in the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU-28) to that of the 50 United States. This comparison stands in contrast to the standard practice of evaluating the United States against individual EU Member States. Despite the greater relative heterogeneity of the EU-28 and our corrections for the underreporting of household income in the United States, post-fisc income inequality in the EU-28 remains lower than that of the United States from 2006 onward. Moreover, inequality appears to be rising in the United States, while it has remained stagnant since 2008 in the EU-28. In both unions, and particularly the United States, within-state income differences contribute more to union-wide inequality than between-state differences. In a counterfactual analysis, we find that if the EU-28 matched the between-state homogeneity of the United States, but maintained its relative within-country inequalities, pan-European inequality would fall by only 20 percent. Conversely, inequality in the United States would fall by 34 percent if it matched the within-country inequality of the EU-28. Our findings suggest that the strengthening of egalitarian institutions within the 28 Member States is more consequential than economic convergence in reducing pan-European income inequality. We highlight institutional challenges towards achieving a ‘more equal’ Europe and discuss implications for future EU policymaking.

Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0958928718807332

New publication: Poor State, Rich State: Understanding the Variability of Poverty Rates across U.S. States

What explains variation in poverty rates across the 50 United States? We take a look in our new publication at Sociological Science.

Poor State, Rich State: Understanding the Variability of Poverty Rates across U.S. States

Authors: Jennifer Laird, Zachary Parolin, Jane Waldfogel, Christopher Wimer

Abstract: According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, state-level poverty rates range from a low of less than 10 percent in Iowa to a high of more than 20 percent in California. We seek to account for these differences using a theoretical framework proposed by Brady, Finnigan, and Hübgen (2017), which emphasizes the prevalence of poverty risk factors as well as poverty penalties associated with each risk factor. We estimate state-specific penalties and prevalences associated with single motherhood, low education, young households, and joblessness. We also consider state variation in the poverty risks associated with living in a black household and a Hispanic immigrant household. Brady et al. (2017) find that country-level differences in poverty rates are more closely tied to penalties than prevalences. Using data from the Current Population Survey, we find that the opposite is true for state-level differences in poverty rates. Although we find that state poverty differences are closely tied to the prevalence of high-risk populations, our results do not suggest that state-level antipoverty policy should be solely focused on changing “risky” behavior. Based on our findings, we conclude that state policies should take into account cost-of-living penalties as well as the state-specific relationship between poverty, prevalences, and penalties.

Link: https://www.sociologicalscience.com/articles-v5-26-628/

San Francisco Chronicle: California’s troubling poverty rate

Note: This is an excerpt of my text, co-authored with David Brady, published in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 7, 2018. You can read the full version here. 

At a forum in 2017, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley (San Bernardino County), noted that California has “the highest poverty rate in the nation.” Fact-checkers, progressives and conservatives have joined Mayes in a growing chorus calling attention to the fact that more than 20 percent of Californians lived in poverty from 2014 to 2016 — the highest rate in the nation. Much of this is based on the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, though the Public Policy Institute of California’s poverty measure finds the same thing.

There is much controversy over poverty measures, but even putting those disagreements aside, California still has the highest poverty rate in the U.S. Why?

It is certainly not, like some conservatives allege, because our social policies are too generous. There is no evidence that a stronger safety net discourages Californians from working. Even among Californians in poverty, nearly 70 percent live in working households. Moreover, the state’s labor force participation rate is significantly higher than other states from Alabama to Arizona that offer much less generous social policies.

Read the rest over at the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Atlantic: How the Netherlands Made Geert Wilders Possible

Note: This is an excerpt of my text published in The Atlantic on March 13, 2017. You can read the full version here. 

In the 17th century, Dutch settlers flocked to the southern half of what is now Manhattan to establish New Amsterdam, a fur-trading post that would welcome Lutherans and Catholics from Europe; Anglicans, Puritans, and Quakers from New England; and Sephardic Jews who were, at the time, discouraged from settling in America’s other nascent regions. Though its English conquerors would rename the city New York, the values of diversity and tolerance that the Dutch introduced would remain the region’s hallmarks for centuries to come.

In the modern-day Netherlands, however, the Dutch Republic’s founding pledge that “everyone shall remain free in religion” will soon collide with the ambitions of one of the country’s most popular politicians.

“Islam and freedom are not compatible,” claims Geert Wilders, the Party for Freedom (PVV) leader who campaigns on banning the Quran, closing Dutch mosques, and ending immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. “Stop Islam,” the phrase that sits atop Wilders’s Twitter page, aptly summarizes his party’s platform. In December, Dutch courts found Wilders guilty of carrying his rhetoric too far, convicting him of discriminatory speech for rallying supporters in an anti-Moroccan call-and-response. Nonetheless, Wilders is a leading contender to receive the plurality of votes in the country’s parliamentary elections on March 15.

The nation’s peculiar path from “live and let live” to “Make the Netherlands Ours Again” (as Wilders recently said) has as its guideposts a changing definition of tolerance, some instances of political opportunism—and a pair of grisly assassinations.

Read the rest over at The Atlantic.