2004 Poverty Research Grants: Interactions between the Economy, Public Policies and Poverty

For 2004, our Poverty Research Grants program focused on funding research that will broaden our understanding of the linkages between economic changes, public policy changes and poverty.

We funded 5 proposals in 2004.


The state of the economy is closely correlated with the well-being of low-income populations. The most direct effect occurs as employment and wage opportunities change over the economic cycle, which in turn affects family earning opportunities.

These cyclical effects can be offset in variety of ways through changes in work behavior, in income support, or in household composition. Many observers are interested in the effects of the recent economic slowdown on the poor population, particularly those women who have increased their employment and earnings in the late 1990s following welfare reform, less-skilled workers, and others at high risk of poverty.

A more indirect economic effect occurs as economic cycles affect the availability of public funding for government spending in general and spending on anti-poverty programs in particular. The current economic slowdown has created severe state budget problems in many states. This in turn may translate into significant cuts in spending on public employees, in state services and in assistance programs for low-income populations.

To date, there is limited information on how different states are responding to their budget crisis and how this is affecting the resources and program structure of state spending, particularly income support and public assistance programs.

Economic conditions can also influence the social networks and informal systems that low-income families rely on. Friends and family that provide assistance may themselves find it more difficult to make ends meet during economic downturns, which inhibits their ability to provide assistance. In addition, public attitudes towards spending on government programs and the need for assistance to low-income families may fluctuate with macro-economic conditions.

The five proposals we funded this year investigate both the direct and indirect effects of economic and public policy changes on poor populations, anti-poverty programs, and attitudes towards the poor.

Funded research

How Do Child Welfare Policies and Economic Conditions Affect Medicaid and TANF Take-Up Rates among Kinship Care Families? Christopher A. Swann, Assistant Professor of Economics, State University of New York, Stony Brook. Michelle S. Sylvester, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

The Effect of Food Stamps on Food Security: Public Policy and Household Well-Being in the Economic Downturn of 2001-2002. Parke Wilde, Assistant Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University.

Assessing the Socioeconomic Impacts of the Federal Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities (EZ/EC) Program on Impoverished Urban Communities. Deirdre Oakley, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, State University of New York at Albany.

Economic Conditions and Public Support for Social Welfare Programs. Cindy D. Kam, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California-Davis. Yunju Nam, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Washington University.

The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on the Labor Supply of Married Couples: Structural Estimation and Business Cycle Interactions. Bradley T. Heim, Assistant Professor Economics, Duke University.