Targeting Investments in Children Fighting Poverty When Resources Are Limited
edited by Phillip B. Levine and David J. Zimmerman
University of Chicago Press, 2010
Cloth: 978-0-226-47581-3 | Electronic: 978-0-226-47583-7
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

A substantial number of American children experience poverty: about 17 percent of those under the age of eighteen meet the government’s definition, and the proportion is even greater within minority groups. Childhood poverty can have lifelong effects, resulting in poor educational, labor market, and physical and mental health outcomes for adults. These problems have long been recognized, and there are numerous programs designed to alleviate or even eliminate poverty; as these programs compete for scarce resources, it is important to develop a clear view of their impact as tools for poverty alleviation.

Targeting Investments in Children
tackles the problem of evaluating these programs by examining them using a common metric: their impact on earnings in adulthood. The volume’s contributors explore a variety of issues, such as the effect of interventions targeted at children of different ages, and study a range of programs, including child care, after-school care, and drug prevention. The results will be invaluable to educational leaders and researchers as well as policy makers.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Phillip B. Levine is the Class of 1919 Professor and chair of the Department of Economics at Wellesley College and a research associate of the NBER. David J. Zimmerman is professor of economics and the Orrin Sage Professor of Political Economy at Williams College and a research associate of the NBER.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface

I. Prologue

- Phillip B. Levine, David J. Zimmerman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0001
[childhood poverty, income mobility, investments, policy, economy]
It is not difficult to motivate attempts to reduce childhood poverty. Children living in poverty are more likely to experience developmental problems, attend inferior schools, and suffer from poor health. This book looks at the childhood interventions that are most successful at alleviating subsequent poverty. An alarming number of American children experience poverty. Among economically developed countries, the United States stands as an outlier with child poverty rates that are considerably higher than elsewhere. The book also discusses the question of intergenerational income mobility, suggesting that those who begin life at the bottom of the economic ladder have a very difficult time climbing up it over their lives. It aims to provide a review of a variety of program types, and extensive reviews of those programs. The real goal is not to promote the policy, but to help the kids. This goal is important enough that spending the money wisely is worth the effort. (pages 3 - 12)
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- Phillip B. Levine, David J. Zimmerman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0002
[conceptual issues, substantive challenges, childhood interventions, poverty]
The goal of this chapter is to identify the childhood interventions that are most successful at alleviating poverty. Although this goal is straightforward in theory, its implementation in practice raises a number of difficulties. The chapter raises a number of conceptual issues that need to be resolved to better frame the scope of the exercise. It also raises a number of empirical issues regarding the specific approach to measure interventions along a scale of success. The approach in the chapter is to specify individual, substantive challenges that are faced and require specific decisions to be made, so as to organize the remainder of the study. Although school-based interventions may affect a large number of outcomes, assessments of their success tend to focus on a relatively narrow range of them. (pages 13 - 24)
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II. Early Childhood Interventions

- Greg J. Duncan, Jens Ludwig, Katherine A. Magnuson
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0003
[child development, childhood interventions, capital investments, academic skills, parent-focused programs, poverty]
This chapter reviews the available evidence about the ability of early childhood interventions to improve children's lifetime earnings prospects and, in turn, reduce their poverty over the long term. Early childhood appears to represent a particularly promising period for human capital investments, based on accumulated evidence regarding the lifelong implications of early brain development as well as the efficacy of early childhood interventions. Most early childhood interventions seek to improve the quality of the learning and social interactions that children experience. Programs are reviewed that attempt to enhance the skills of parents in hopes that they will better teach, nurture, or in other ways provide for their children, and in so doing, enhance their children's well-being. Child-based interventions that seek to provide enriching experiences to children directly, as with intensive preschool education programs, are also discussed. Some early interventions target both the child and the parent at the same time, but most programs fit into either child- or parent-based categories. (pages 27 - 58)
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- Patricia M. Anderson
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0004
[child care, front-line approach, nonparental care, Child Health, poverty]
Child care provision has been an important component of welfare reform. Time spent on child care may have immediate effects on the child and ultimately on his or her adult outcomes. Whether these effects are likely to be positive or negative is the main topic of this chapter. The focus here is simply on basic child care, which exists to care for children while their parents participate in the labor force. The chapter proceeds by first reviewing the data on current child care utilization and then by reviewing the observational literature on the effects of child care and the drawbacks, before moving on to the few nonobservational studies available. While experimental studies focused purely on child care are rare, there were many random assignment welfare-to-work demonstrations that had an important child care component. It does not seem that spending on child care itself can be considered a front-line approach to poverty fighting. The fact that children will be in nonparental care, however, means that spending on quality may pay dividends. It is here that carefully done experiments on the relatively straightforward aspects of quality, highlighted in observational studies such as those from the National Institute of Child Health and Development, would be quite useful. (pages 59 - 76)
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- Lara Shore-Sheppard
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0005
[child health, adult labor market, child health interventions]
The connection between poor health and low income has long been recognized. This chapter presents and analyzes evidence on whether and how child health interventions affect adult labor market outcomes. The evidence is discussed in two parts. First, the interventions must actually affect child health in a measurable way. Second, there must be a link between that improvement in health and adult labor market outcomes. This link may be direct (e.g., the improvement in health permits higher levels of earnings) or indirect (e.g., the improvement in health permits greater levels of education). The chapter surveys a wide range of child health-related interventions, and the links between them and long-run outcomes. There is clear evidence that several of these interventions “work” in the sense of improving children's health. However, the evidence on links between children's health and adult poverty is much weaker. (pages 77 - 120)
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III. Middle Childhood Interventions

- Phillip B. Levine, David J. Zimmerman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0006
[after-school care, investment, poverty reduction, adult labor market, nonexperimental evaluations, experimental evaluations]
After-school programs might be viewed as a potential investment in poverty reduction if they alter outcomes that either directly or indirectly improve the adult labor market outcomes of the participants. After-school programs may be regarded as an essential component of a policy framework promoting equal opportunity. This chapter discusses the motivation for interest in such programs. It discusses some of the main non-experimental evaluations that have been conducted on “flagship” after-school programs. The chapter discusses evidence on the key experimental evaluations that have been conducted and concludes with a discussion on the implications of these findings. (pages 123 - 144)
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- Susanna Loeb, Patrick J. McEwan
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0007
[education reforms, policies, direct investments, expenditures]
Education polices comprise a vast array of programs and approaches. This chapter categorizes them into one of three groups: (1) direct investments in schools, including school improvement grants and class size reductions; (2) interventions that target the teacher workforce through wages, recruitment, or professional development programs; and (3) interventions that aim to increase accountability and change decision making in schools through either enhancing parental choice or increasing test-based accountability. It selectively reviews the high-quality evidence on the effects of different approaches within each of these three groups. Among direct investments, there is no consistent evidence that simply increasing expenditures will increase test scores, although such investments can increase achievement if used well. (pages 145 - 178)
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IV. Adolescent Interventions

- Beau Kilmer, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0008
[drug use, substance-use prevention, poverty, education, high school]
This chapter considers whether substance-use-prevention programs targeted at adolescents can influence the probability of experiencing poverty as an adult. Because we are not aware of any studies that have directly addressed this question, we draw conclusions from two different literatures: (1) the literature on the effectiveness of programs intended to prevent substance use among adolescents and (2) the literature on the effect of substance use on educational attainment and labor market outcomes. A discussion on the etiology of substance use that helps the reader understand why the timing of substance use initiation and escalation complicates studies attempting to assess the causal effect of this use on later life outcomes is presented. The chapter discusses the effectiveness of substance-use prevention and the effect of substance use on education, employment, and earnings. Although there is a fair amount of evidence suggesting that prevention programs for adolescents have short-term effects on consumption, there is very little evidence to suggest that these effects remain through high school. (pages 181 - 220)
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- Melissa Schettini Kearney
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0009
[teen pregnancy prevention, program interventions, public policies, antipoverty strategy, economic outcomes]
Teen childbearing is widely considered a major social problem. This chapter focuses on program interventions, but it also includes a brief discussion of the potential impacts of relevant public policies. The effectiveness of teen pregnancy prevention as an antipoverty strategy depends on two key elements: (1) the effectiveness of teen pregnancy prevention interventions in preventing teen pregnancies and births and (2) the effectiveness of reducing teen childbearing in driving down rates of poverty. There is a lack of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of many program interventions, but there is some cause for optimism that the best programs may work in the right settings. The chapter discusses the evidence on the link between teen childbearing and subsequent economic outcomes including rates of poverty among teen mothers. The evidence is weak that driving down rates of teen childbearing per se will lead to measurable reductions in poverty. (pages 221 - 248)
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- Bridget Terry Long
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0010
[school dropout prevention, college entry rates, longitudinal interventions, counseling, summer activities]
The benefits of education are substantial in terms of both monetary and nonmonetary returns. Investments in high school dropout prevention and college preparatory programs could greatly reduce poverty by addressing these major leaks in the educational pipeline. This chapter reviews high school dropout prevention and college preparatory programs with the goal of summarizing the available research. It continues by giving additional background on the problems: the considerable numbers who drop out of high school, the low college entry rates among some groups, and the insufficient postsecondary preparation of many high school graduates. Major initiatives and programs that target high school dropout prevention and college preparation are also discussed. Several of the evaluations conclude that systemic, longitudinal interventions have been more successful, with the effects increasing with prolonged involvement in a program. Interventions providing a variety of services including instruction, counseling, and intensive summer activities have been found to have had positive effects. (pages 249 - 282)
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- David Deming, Susan Dynarski
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0011
[college drop out, educational attainment, students, community colleges, college costs]
Students who enter college but drop out without a degree are an important target for those who wish to increase educational attainment. Dropout rates are especially high at community colleges, where poor students are concentrated. Interventions that increase persistence in community colleges are therefore a sensible focus if the goal is to increase the educational attainment of the poor. The Opening Doors demonstration projects provide strong evidence that pairing financial incentives with support services can increase college persistence among low-income students attending community colleges. This chapter reviews the evidence from experimental and high-quality quasi-experimental studies on a key tool available to policy makers: reducing college costs. (pages 283 - 302)
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- Julia Burdick-Will, Jens Ludwig
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0012
[neighborhood effects, community initiatives, place-based policies, housing vouchers]
This chapter reviews the available evidence about neighborhood-place effects on children's achievement outcomes, and the degree to which “place-based” policies might help improve outcomes for poor children and reduce disparities across race and class lines. It focuses mostly on those studies that exploit the substantial excess demand for means-tested housing subsidies, and in particular housing vouchers, which provide a source of identifying variation in neighborhood environments across observably similar low-income families that helps overcome the self-selection concerns with previous research in this area. There is a large literature that examines the effects of community development interventions such as urban enterprise zones or policing interventions, almost none of which examines the impacts on children's outcomes. The chapter also discusses the different behavioral mechanisms through which voucher-induced neighborhood moves might affect the academic outcomes of poor children. (pages 303 - 322)
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- Robert LaLonde, Daniel Sullivan
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0013
[vocational training, public sector, adult poverty, employment, training initiatives, basic skill levels]
The purpose of this chapter is to assess the success of the public-sector-sponsored vocational and training programs in augmenting the skills of youths and young adults, and in reducing adult poverty. The chapter also discusses the range of existing programs and initiatives, and reviews what the evaluations of these programs tell us about the likelihood that youth or young adult participants will be poor when they reach adulthood. Employment and training initiatives that target economically disadvantaged youths who are at risk of dropping out of school or have already dropped out of high school have not usually been effective. Improving basic skill levels in primary schools and keeping kids in secondary school through a range of options from career academies to athletic programs appears to be the most effective strategy for reducing the risk of adult poverty among at-risk youths. (pages 323 - 350)
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V. Epilogue

- Phillip B. Levine, David J. Zimmerman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0014
[poverty status, young children, adulthood, children's earnings]
The goal of this chapter is to evaluate the poverty-reducing impact of these interventions, and it is in this dimension that additional analysis of the programs that would appear to help accomplish that task is pursued. Among these programs, the question then becomes which of these policies works the best. As different interventions target different outcomes, a direct comparison of their benefits is difficult. The summaries provided in the chapter suggest that interventions can be categorized into three groups: (1) those that do not seem to have an any impact on children's outcomes, (2) those that seem to have an impact on children's outcomes, but not in any way that may lead to subsequent poverty reduction, and (3) those that may reduce the likelihood that the child is poor later in life. (pages 353 - 376)
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- Phillip B. Levine, David J. Zimmerman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475837.003.0015
[childhood interventions, economic prospects, childhood education programs, parenting programs, poverty]
A comprehensive review of the existing base of knowledge has been assembled on a wide range of interventions targeted at children, with the aim of raising their lifetime economic prospects. This book has attempted to provide a rational sifting of the evidence, connecting the dots between interventions and outcomes and forcing us to extrapolate the effects several years into the future. Some interventions show more promise than others. Several interventions convincingly show positive impacts on the human capital of children, while others do not. Early childhood education programs, mentoring programs, reductions in class sizes, curricular reforms, improved teacher training and increased teacher pay, increased college aid, and intensive vocational training can all be credibly linked to poverty reduction. However, parenting programs, school vouchers, after-school programs, dropout prevention programs, substance abuse programs, general jobs programs, and employment/training subsidies either show limited effectiveness in reducing poverty or lack a credible empirical basis from which to draw conclusions. (pages 377 - 382)
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Contributors

Author Index

Subject Index