Tag Archives: politics

New Measures Reveal the True Impact of America’s Anti-Poverty Programs

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Jane Waldfogel carries out research on a range of topics including the measurement of poverty, food insecurity, work-family policies, the effects of the Great Recession on parents and children, and inequality in school readiness and school achievement, both within the United States and across countries.

Half a century ago, President Lyndon Johnson launched America’s War on Poverty; yet by the 1980s President Ronald Reagan famously declared that “we waged a war on poverty and poverty won.” To back up this claim, conservatives point to official U.S. statistics showing that the percentage of Americans living in poverty, around 15%, has changed very little over the decades.

But the official poverty measure is outdated – so I teamed up with several colleagues to produce estimates using a more accurate one. When we use the improved measure, it turns out that U.S. social programs and taxes have had a powerful effect on reducing poverty since the mid-1960s. Back then, government programs did little to alleviate poverty, but today public programs and taxes cut the percentage of people living in poverty by almost half, from the 28.7% it would be without government efforts to 16% after public programs are included. Far too many Americans continue to have inadequate incomes, but U.S. policies have helped millions avoid poverty. (more…)

How Passers-by and Policymakers View Beggars in American Communities

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Shai Dromi focuses on the ways beliefs about morality shape social life. His current research focuses on the emergence and institutionalization of long-distance humanitarianism.

Many municipalities across the United States have taken measures to keep homeless people and panhandlers out of sight in public spaces. Legislators and government officials justify such steps as necessary to protect the public against unsafe or provocative conduct by “street people.” But some previous studies suggest that many Americans who have frequent interactions with street beggars see them in more benign and nuanced ways. To learn more, I did interviews and collected questionnaire responses from passers-by who recounted their reactions to recent interactions with beggars. My methods allowed me to tap the meanings these interactions hold for people who pass beggars on the street – meanings not usually captured in quantitative studies. (more…)

The Changing Relationship of Congress and the Federal Judiciary

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Bruce Peabody is a Professor of Political Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. His  areas of expertise include judicial independence, the separation of powers, changing conceptions of American heroism, and the intersection of popular culture and problems in the U.S. political system.

Relationships between members of the United States Congress and the judiciary are shifting, as Democrats and Republicans alike reassess whether the courts are political allies or foes in this highly polarized era. My research tracks what members of the House of Representatives have had to say about judges and the judiciary in recent years—specifically, I have teamed up with a colleague to analyze public statements published on official House websites from 2010 to 2014, a pivotal and contentious period in recent politics. (more…)

Make the First Two Years of College Free—A Cost-Effective Way to Expand Access to Higher Education in America

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Sara Goldrick-Rab is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She is an expert on higher education policy especially its relation to finance, financial aid, degree completion, and underrepresented populations such as low-income individuals and people of color.
Nancy Kendall is an Associate Professor of Education Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She specializes in comparative, international, and global education policy.

Almost half a century ago, the U.S. federal government expanded financial aid to college students to make college more affordable—but today the odds of getting a degree are more tightly linked to family income than ever before. Getting a college degree remains a good investment, but the current distribution of federal and state financial aid dollars leaves many families of modest means out in the cold. Between 1992 and 2004, the odds that a high school graduate who took at least Algebra II would decide not to go to college went up among all income-groups except the very wealthiest. Sadly, students from families of modest means have also become more likely to drop out from public colleges and universities—leaving with debts, not degrees. (more…)

Why Meeting the Global Warming Challenge Is So Difficult

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Bryan Brophy-Baermann is an Assistant Professor and Chair of Social Sciences Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Lesley University. His research focuses on environmental politics and policy and foreign policy.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its Fifth Assessment Report, presenting the latest accumulation of scientific evidence about the threat of global warming and calling for urgent actions to meet the threat. Earlier reports have pointed in the same directions, but the political, economic, and simple human obstacles to facing and coping with the dangers of global warming remain today as they were twenty-five years ago on the eve of the Intergovernmental Panel’s First Assessment Report. People in the United States and across the globe are no more likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically in 2014 or soon thereafter than they were in 1990. Modern political and economic systems are not geared to cope with this sort of challenge. And there is an enduring collective action problem: no single individual or organization, not even a few working together, can execute necessary solutions. Most must learn to act together, or the game is over—the causes and dire effects of increasing global warming simply will not be handled in time. (more…)

Health and Access Improved After the 2006 Massachusetts Reforms that Paved the Way for Federal Health Reform

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Philip J. Van der Wees is a Senior Researcher at Celsus Academy for Sustainable Healthcare and Scientific Institute for Quality of Healthcare at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. His research projects are aimed at quality, implementation, and evaluation of healthcare.

In 2006, the Massachusetts legislature passed and Governor Mitt Romney signed into law a health care reform with subsidized health insurance coverage for low-income people, a health insurance exchange to help people not otherwise covered choose among available plans, an individual mandate requiring residents to obtain coverage if affordable, and an expansion of Medicaid to include children and long-term unemployed adults. The reform in Massachusetts turned out to be a blueprint for the Affordable Care reforms passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. ObamaCare, as the federal reform law is sometimes called, is only now going into full effect, as debate continues to swirl about its provisions and its likely effects. No one can tell what the national reform’s impact on Americans’ health will turn out to be, but we can get an idea of possible benefits by looking at what is known so far about the aftermath of the earlier Massachusetts reforms. (more…)

While California Expands Insurance Coverage, Texas Blocks Health Reform—Despite Greater Needs

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Ling Zhu is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston. Her research focuses on health care politics and policy, inequity in access to health care and other forms of social safety net program, comparative social welfare policy, and public health management.
Markie McBrayer is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Houston. She is interested in using geography to examine health care inequities across the United States with a focus on the urban/rural divide.

The Affordable Care Act aims to extend health insurance to tens of millions more Americans through two major routes: by giving people information and in many cases tax credits to help them purchase private insurance plans offered on state or national “exchanges,” or online marketplaces; and by giving the fifty U.S. states plus the District of Columbia additional federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs to insure all low-income people just above as well as below the federal poverty line. States have a key role in implementing health reform. Each state can choose to run its own exchange marketplace and help its residents learn about their options for purchasing affordable plans. Each state also decides whether or not to accept new federal subsidies to expand Medicaid (covering 93% of the costs from 2014 through 2022). What states do—or refuse to do—makes a big difference, as a comparison of the nation’s two largest states, California and Texas, makes clear. California is leading the way in showing that Affordable Care can work, while authorities in Texas are obstructing implementation with gusto. (more…)

How Mass Incarceration Undermines America’s Democratic Way of Life

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Glenn C. Loury is a Merton P. Stoltz Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University. He has been published mainly in the areas of applied microeconomic theory, game theory, industrial organization, natural resource economics, and the economics of race and inequality.

Imprisonment in the contemporary United States far surpasses other nations. The ironies are sharp and manifold. The United States deploys armies abroad under the banner of freedom and at the same time has the largest custodial prison infrastructure on the planet, a system of jails and prisons that locks up a greater fraction of our people for life—more than fifty for every 100,000 residents—than the population share imprisoned for any length of time by Denmark, Sweden, and Norway combined. American democracy is inspired by ideals of active and equal citizenship, yet racial and class inequalities run through the heart of our criminal justice system. Urban black communities have little voice in setting criminal justice policies, even though they experience the brunt of violations and the direct and indirect effects of punishment. Intellectuals have an obligation to lay bare the threat to American democracy caused by massive, racially skewed imprisonment. To that end, I offer the following reflections. (more…)

The Struggle to Restore Voting Rights for Former Prisoners—and a Telling Success in Rhode Island

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Michael Leo Owens is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Emory University. He specializes in urban politics, state and local politics, and the politics of mass incarceration.

Even after felons pay their dues to society and leave prison, America sidelines them from the public square. Parolees and probationers are often perceived as undeserving of citizen benefits, and they have little power to assert their rights. Not only do governments often deny felons public resources such as Food Stamps, subsidized college loans, public housing and professional opportunities like licenses and contracts, it is also common for U.S. states to deny former prisoners the right to vote and otherwise exercise full and free citizenship.   (more…)

How Community Health Centers and Millions of Uninsured Are Hurt by the Refusal to Expand Medicaid in Texas

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This article is a Scholars Strategy Network Brief.

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Jessica Sharac is a Senior Research Associate with Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative and Department of Health Policy at George Washington University. She conducts research on community health centers, women's health, and behavioral health.
Peter Shin is the Director of Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative and an Associate Professor of Health Policy at George Washington University. He is an expert policy analyst and health services researcher.
Sara Rosenbaum is a Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy and Founding Chair of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University. She has devoted her professional career to issues of health justice for populations who are medically underserved as a result of race, poverty, disability, or cultural exclusion.

The state of Texas leads the nation in the percentage of residents lacking health insurance. In 2012, nearly a quarter of the state’s population went without health coverage, some 6.4 million people. Texas alone is home to 13% of all uninsured Americans, with poor and low-income people the most affected. More than ninety percent of well-off Texans have health insurance. But the ranks of the uninsured include more than two out of five impoverished Texans—as well as more than a quarter of individuals earning modest incomes in 2014 between $11,670 and $46,680 (or between $19,970 and $79,880 for a family of three). (more…)