Children in Poverty: Do State Policies Matter?

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Abstract

Objective. Variations in childhood poverty are primarily responsive to changes in family structure and economic conditions. Some research also suggests that federal and state programs may help alleviate poverty among children. This research incorporates measures of family characteristics, economic conditions, and policy variables in estimating changes in childhood poverty among the U.S. states. Methods. The research design is a pooled time series for all 50 states for the years 1987–1996. Results. Economic and family circumstances indeed are the major forces affecting children in poverty among the states. The unemployment rate for females, the percentage births to unmarried mothers, and the percentage of single-parent families are especially useful estimators. Public policies are important as well: the state or federal minimum wage, Aid to Families with Dependent Children/food stamp payments, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and two measures of state child support effort. Conclusions. Although at times controversial, actions by the states and federal government can help reduce childhood poverty among U.S. states.

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