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THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

The welfare reforms enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996 gave states substantial leeway to design cash assistance programs for low-income and predominantly female-headed families with children. States used this discretion to implement a wide variety of changes in their welfare programs. One change made by many states was to disregard a higher share of the earnings of working women in calculating their welfare benefits, effectively reducing the implicit tax rate on earnings. In general, economic theory would predict such an increase in the return to working should induce greater labor supply among low-wage workers. Moreover, even in the absence of any change in labor supply, higher earnings disregards should increase income among welfare recipient workers by allowing them to receive more welfare benefits at a given level of earnings.

States that adopted higher disregards in the mid-1990s used these arguments, claiming that they would increase work incentives, thereby reinforcing other program changes also designed to push welfare recipients into employment, as well as supplement the income of single mothers on welfare who work. In many states, these changes in earnings disregards were large, with reductions in the implicit tax on earnings of 50 percentage points or more. Despite a large literature that evaluates the effects of welfare reform, few studies have focused on the role of the dramatic changes in earnings disregards policies implemented in and after 1996. This paper investigates whether the increases in the average return to work induced by changes to earnings disregards produced increases in labor supply and also investigates their effects on income.

Despite very large differences in earnings disregards across states, our results suggest that states that adopted higher disregards and thus a greater return to work do not exhibit substantially larger increases in labor supply among low-skilled single mothers. This is true whether we look at labor force participation or hours of work. Even more surprising, we find no income supplementation effect from these disregards. This is puzzling, since higher disregard states should be providing greater subsidies to low-wage women as they enter work. We verify these results across several data sets and multiple specifications. Why should this be true? Our data suggest that very few working women in high disregard states appear to take advantage of earnings disregards to receive ongoing income supplements from welfare; instead they leave welfare entirely once they are working. We discuss a number of reasons why women might choose to forego ongoing support from the public assistance system that high earnings disregards could provide.

DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

In 2006, Massachusetts passed health care reform legislation designed to achieve nearly universal coverage through a combination of insurance market reforms, mandates, and subsidies that later served as the model for national reform. Understanding the implications of the Massachusetts reform can therefore help inform the ongoing debate about the future of the Affordable Care Act. Previous research has shown that the Massachusetts reform expanded insurance coverage and affected health care utilization. However, little prior evidence exists on whether the reform affected health.

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we examine the Massachusetts reform's effect on overall self-assessed health, as well as a number of specific components of overall health: physical health, mental health, health-related limitations, activity-limiting joint pain, body mass index, exercise, and smoking. We begin with difference-in-difference models that directly estimate the population-wide effects of the reform on health. The reform improved overall self-assessed health, and various robustness checks and placebo tests support a causal interpretation of the results. We also document increases in physical and mental health and decreases in functional limitations, joint disorders, and body mass index. We then utilize the reform in an instrumental variables framework to estimate large positive effects of health insurance on health. Given the similarity of the Massachusetts and national reforms, these results suggest that health improvements are likely if the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

Much controversy exists regarding emergency contraception (EC), more commonly known as the “morning-after pill.” Since the late 1990s, access to EC has spread, as states, and, eventually, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have allowed women in certain age groups to purchase EC without a prescription. But questions remain regarding the impact of this expanded access, and thus whether further efforts to promote access are warranted.

In “What Happens the Morning After? The Costs and Benefits of Expanding Access to Emergency Contraception,” Tal Gross, Jeanne Lafortune, and Corinne Low study the effects of past expansions of access to EC. The authors study changes in access to EC over the past 15 years, as individual states allowed women to obtain EC without a prescription, and as in 2006 the FDA allowed all women above age 18 to obtain EC without a prescription.

Advocates of making EC more freely available have predicted that such a policy could greatly diminish the number of unwanted pregnancies. The authors empirically test this claim. They also examine the broader public health impact of expanding access, including the effect for sexual assault victims who previously were required to visit a doctor or an emergency department to obtain the prescription and may now simply approach a pharmacist.

INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

Colleges and universities across the United States are under increasing pressure to produce more graduates, and to do so with fewer resources. Expanding the use of technology in teaching is often pointed to as a promising way of controlling costs and improving access, but has also prompted concerns that at least some kinds of online learning are low quality and online learning in general depersonalizes education. Despite the rapid growth in the adoption of online learning, there is still an unfortunate lack of rigorous efforts to evaluate these new instructional models, in terms of their effects on both quality and costs.

This study fills a significant gap in the literature about the relative effectiveness of different learning formats by providing the first evidence from randomized experiments of hybrid instruction conducted at a significant scale across multiple public university campuses. The study reports the results from a randomized experiment in which students on six campuses were randomly assigned to take an introductory statistics course in a hybrid format (with interactive online instruction accompanied by one hour of face-to-face instruction each week) or a traditional format (as it is usually offered by their campus, typically with about three hours of face-to-face instruction each week). Student outcomes, measured by pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy, were essentially the same, on average, under the two different modes of instruction.

Given the pressing need for institutions to use limited resources as effectively as possible, the study also addressed educational costs, which have also received limited attention in prior research related to the effectiveness of online instruction. Speculative simulations indicate that adopting hybrid models of instruction in large introductory courses has the potential to significantly reduce instructor compensation costs in the long run. In sum, the results of this study suggest that well-designed interactive systems have the potential to achieve at least equivalent educational outcomes while opening up the possibility of saving significant resources that could then be redeployed more productively.

STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

Teacher contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and professional norms often restrict school districts from reassigning teachers to different schools without the teacher's consent except when enrollment reductions lead to the loss of teaching positions, and even in those cases, seniority typically helps determine where teachers are placed. As a result, involuntary teacher transfer policies are rarely used by school districts in a strategic fashion to, for example, move teachers to counter the well-documented sorting of effective teachers toward schools with relatively more advantaged student populations or to match teachers to school environments where they are more likely to be effective. Improvement in the fairness of the distribution of teachers across school districts or increases in the aggregate productivity of teachers might make policies that facilitate greater flexibility in teacher assignments across schools more attractive for district leaders. On the other hand, as opponents point out, less restrictive involuntary transfer policies may not achieve these goals and could in fact have negative effects if they shuffle ineffective teachers among low-achieving schools, result in poorer matches between teachers and schools, or discourage teachers in ways that reduce their effort.

This article examines equity and efficiency in the implementation of an involuntary transfer policy over three years in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the fourth-largest school district in the United States. Under the policy, principals were given discretion to choose teachers for involuntary reassignment to other schools if the transfers were “in the best interest of the school system” in the language of the collective bargaining agreement with the local union. The study demonstrates numerous equity gains under the policy: Principals in the district's lowest performing schools used the policy to transfer out teachers with below-average value-added scores and above-average work absences, then hired more productive replacements. Rather than creating a “dance of the lemons,” transferred teachers were moved to much higher performing schools, on average, than the ones they left, moving from approximately a D to a B on the Florida accountability grading scale. Efficiency impacts appear more mixed. Although transferred teachers were absent from work approximately two fewer days per year following the move, their impacts on student test scores remained low. The authors conclude that district flexibility over personnel assignment can be used to improve the fairness of the distribution of teacher effectiveness in urban schools, with potential positive impacts on teacher productivity as well.

THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

Mandatory seat belt laws have been steadily implemented in the United States since the mid-1980s, and are demonstrated to increase seat belt use and reduce fatalities. Laws with primary enforcement, which allow unbelted drivers to be cited without being stopped for another offense, increase belt use and reduce fatalities to a greater extent than do laws with secondary enforcement. A number of studies suggest that individuals with lower socioeconomic credentials are less likely to use seat belts, but it is not clear whether this reflects differences in risk preference, risky driving habits, or willingness to invest in prevention. These hypothesized mechanisms for socioeconomic inequalities in rates of seat belt usage suggest a potential for heterogeneous effects of seat belt laws on different socioeconomic groups.

This paper investigates whether mandatory seat belt laws have differential effects on seat belt use among individuals with different levels of education. We estimate the differential impact of legislation across higher versus lower education individuals using variation over time among states in implementing mandatory seat belt laws.

We find strong effects of mandatory seat belt laws for all education groups, but the effect is stronger for those with fewer years of education. This finding is at odds with the hypothesis that lower educated individuals are less likely to buckle up because they are generally riskier drivers. In addition, we find that the differential effect by education is larger for mandatory seat belt laws with primary rather than secondary enforcement. Our results imply that existing socioeconomic differences in seat belt use, and potentially traffic accident mortality, would be further mitigated if all states upgraded to primary enforcement.

FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

North Carolina has been a recognized leader in early childhood programs. This study examines the community-wide effects of two statewide early childhood policy initiatives rolled out in the 1990s and early 2000s. One initiative provided funding to improve the quality of child care and family services at the county level for all children between the ages of 0 and 5, and the other provided funding for preschool slots for disadvantaged four-year-olds. Under the first initiative, the recipient partnerships at the level of the county or county group were given significant flexibility to determine how to use the funds. With the second initiative, the state included requirements that the funds be used only for high-quality preschool programs. Planned and haphazard differences across counties in the timing of the rollout and in the magnitude of the state financial investments relative to the populations of age-appropriate children provide the variation in programs needed to estimate their effects in subsequent years.

Our community-wide focus differentiates this study in two ways from many other studies of early childhood programs, which typically focus on how such programs affect the program participants alone. First, it avoids the statistical problem of selection bias that arises whenever participating children are not randomly assigned to the program under investigation. Second, the approach means that we are estimating the full effects of the programs—both those on the participants themselves and those that spill over to other children, in either positive or negative ways. The outcomes of interest for this paper are children's third-grade standardized test scores. The unit of observation is the individual child clustered by county, and the data set includes all children born in North Carolina between 1988 and 2000 who can be matched to their third-grade test scores in subsequent years. Our matched sample includes about 891,000 children from 13 birth cohorts. The inclusion of county-fixed effects in all our models means that we are identifying the effects of each program based on the within-county variation across cohorts of students in the state allocations to the programs.

We find substantial positive effects of each program on third-grade test scores in both math and reading. The estimated effects are all positive, but differ somewhat across specifications. Our preferred results imply that the combined average effects on test scores of investments in both programs at 2009 funding levels are equivalent to about four months of reading instruction and about two months of math instruction in grade 3. Moreover, consistent with policy goals, and as would be predicted by past research, the effects are somewhat larger for children whose mothers have less than a high school education compared to those whose mothers have more education. Thus, the programs narrow the parental education achievement gap for third graders. Given the mother's education, the effects do not differ between children of black and white mothers, and the effects are somewhat mixed for children of Hispanic mothers relative to those with white mothers. Combined with other effects of the two programs, some of which are documented in separate research, the effects on third-grade test scores reported in this paper indicate that the two programs appear to have been cost-beneficial investments for the state.

AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

  1. Top of page
  2. THE IMPACT OF EARNINGS DISREGARDS ON THE BEHAVIOR OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES
  3. DOES UNIVERSAL COVERAGE IMPROVE HEALTH? THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
  4. WHAT HAPPENS THE MORNING AFTER? THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF EXPANDING ACCESS TO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
  5. INTERACTIVE LEARNING ONLINE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES: EVIDENCE FROM A SIX-CAMPUS RANDOMIZED TRIAL
  6. STRATEGIC INVOLUNTARY TEACHER TRANSFERS AND TEACHER PERFORMANCE: EXAMINING EQUITY AND EFFICIENCY
  7. THE EFFECT OF MANDATORY SEAT BELT LAWS ON SEAT BELT USE BY SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION
  8. FROM BIRTH TO TEST SCORES: EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVES AND THIRD-GRADE OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA
  9. AN APPLICATION OF UNCONDITIONAL QUANTILE REGRESSION TO CIGARETTE TAXES

Despite numerous antismoking policy initiatives, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. A total of 20.6 percent of American adults smoke, and smoking is associated with 443,000 deaths and $193 billion in medical care and productivity costs annually. There is consensus among health policymakers that cigarette taxation is an effective policy lever. However, we know little about how specific types of smokers respond to tax increases.

This study uses a recently developed estimator, unconditional quantile regression (UQR) to examine heterogeneity in cigarette tax elasticity among a sample of adult smokers. We make two contributions to the policy analysis literature. First, we contribute methodologically by comparing UQR with the more commonly utilized conditional quantile regression (CQR), and we argue that UQR is more appropriate than CQR in many state policy analyses. Second, we estimate models of conditional demand (measured by the number of cigarettes smoked in the past 30 days) as a function of the cigarette tax using data on adults drawn from the Current Population Survey (1992–2011).

While ordinary least squares regressions show a negative, but imprecise, relationship between smoking and taxes among smokers, UQR reveals heterogeneity in tax responsiveness. We find that smokers between the 20th and 50th quantiles are the most responsive to cigarette tax increases: a $1.00 (135 percent) increase in the cigarette tax leads to a 3.5 percent reduction in cigarettes smoked (implied tax elasticity = −0.03). Thus, the magnitudes of our estimated effects are small. Three key findings emerge from our study: (1) UQR offers an appealing alternative to CQR, particularly in empirical state policy analyses, (2) focusing on mean effects may miss important heterogeneity in cigarette tax response that is useful to policy makers, and (3) cigarette tax increases may not lead to substantial reductions in cigarettes smoked among adult smokers.