Perspectives on Economic Self-Sufficiency


  December 4, 2018


Public Lecture with Bruce Meyer, University of Chicago - Is the U.S. Winning the War on Poverty?

Recent research suggests that rates of extreme poverty, defined as living on less than either $2 or $4 per-person per-day, are high and rising in the United States. We reexamine the rate of extreme poverty using the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), generally thought to have the most accurate survey income data in the U.S. In addition to income, the SIPP provides information on hours worked, assets, hardships, and other household characteristics. We link these data to IRS tax records and administrative program data on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), public and subsidized housing benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI).

We find that more than 90% of the 3.6 million households with survey-reported cash income below $2/person/day are misclassified once we account for in-kind transfers, errors in earnings reports, errors in transfer reports, and substantial assets. Several of the largest misclassified groups appear to be at least middle class based on material hardship, housing characteristics, tax data, and other variables. More than two-thirds of all misclassified households are initially categorized as extreme poor due to errors in cash reports of earnings, asset income, and retirement income. Of the households remaining in extreme poverty, 90% consist of a single individual. An implication of the low recent level of extreme poverty is that it cannot have risen substantially over time or due to welfare reform.

Bruce Meyer is the McCormick Foundation Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

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June 6, 2018

Public Lecture with Kevin Murphy, University of Chicago - Human Capital, Inequality, and Economic Growth


For many, the solution to an increase in inequality is to make the tax structure more progressive—raise taxes on high-income households and reduce taxes on low-income households. While this may sound sensible, it is not. A more sensible policy is to try to take greater advantage of the opportunities afforded by the higher returns to human capital and encourage more human capital investment. Attempts to raise taxes and impose other penalties on the higher earnings that come from greater skills could greatly reduce the productivity of the world’s leading economy by discouraging investments in its most productive and precious form of capital—human capital.

Kevin Murphy is the George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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  April 3, 2018

Public Lecture with Robert A. Moffitt, Johns Hopkins University - Has the Work-Based Safety Net Gone Too Far?


The welfare system in the United States has undergone a long-term evolution from one that provides benefits primarily to nonworking poor families to one that increasingly provides benefits to low-income families with working adults. Many of these families have incomes above the official government poverty line and are not poor. This evolution reflects changing American preferences with regards to the question of who among the poor is deserving and who is not.

Moreover, this evolution reflects long-lasting preferences toward supporting employment, which greatly increases financial incentives for poor families to work, a favored goal among economists and many policy makers. However, at the same time, it has led to declining support for the poor, and has led to reduced financial incentives to higher income families. The resulting policy challenge needs to be addressed with new thinking about welfare programs.

Robert A. Moffitt is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics at Johns Hopkins University, where he has worked since 1995. 

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 April 25, 2017

Public Lecture with Jesse Rothstein, University of California, Berkeley - The Robots Are Coming! Encouraging Work When Jobs Disappear 


Two policy proposals are designed to address issues related to workforce participation in a modernizing world: The Earned Income Tax Credit and Universal Basic Income.

The EITC has become the centerpiece of our safety net. The motivating idea behind the EITC is that too few people are working and so policies are needed to encourage work by subsidizing earnings. But what happens to low-skill workers in a world of increased automation when there are simply too few jobs to be had? Universal Basic Income is pitched as a policy that will be needed to sustain workers when low-skill jobs become scarce. The different views of labor markets of the future – one in which low-skill workers have ample job opportunities but require incentives to work for low-wage jobs, and the other with insufficient job opportunities for low-skilled workers – point to a real and important tension in choosing the best policies to provide income support.

Jesse Rothstein is a professor of public policy and economics at UC Berkeley, where he directs the Institute for Labor and Employment. He is also a research affiliate at UC Irvine’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute. In 2010 he served as Chief Economist at the US Department of Labor.

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 January 10, 2017

Public Lecture with Professor Jacob Vigdor, University of Washington - Initial Findings from the Seattle Minimum Wage Study


The political will to pursue redistributive economic policies is geographically concentrated. Recent years have seen local governments pass laws imposing new worker protections, higher minimum wages, regulations promoting the construction of lower-cost housing, and most recently taxes on high executive compensation. The traditional concern with local redistribution has been sustainability: when cities tax the rich to support the poor, the rich have the option to move to the suburbs.

This narrative has been applied to mid-century American cities. As cities become wealthier and the poor suburbanize, new concerns arise: cities appear to be adopting pro-poor policies only after most of the poor have been priced out of them, and the means of fighting inequality have been privatized -- compared to government-funded income support, a high minimum wage is worthless for those who cannot find work. This lecture will consider the prospects of this new urban agenda.

Jacob Vigdor is the Daniel J. Evans Professor of Public Policy and Government at the University of Washington. He is also a research affiliate at UC Irvine's Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute. He is in the midst of a study at the University of Washington that examines the impact of the Seattle Minimum Wage ordinance on labor market outcomes.

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 November 17, 2016

UC Center Sacramento - Lecture by Jacob Vigdor and Heather Hill on Initial Findings from the Seattle Minimum Wage Study


The City of Seattle minimum wage ordinance went into effect in April 2015, with a minimum wage of $10 or $11 depending on the size of the employer and whether the employer provides health insurance. The mandate covers nearly all workers in the City of Seattle, regardless of where the employer is headquartered. The wage rate is scheduled to increase incrementally every January through 2021 and is tied to inflation thereafter. The authors of the study (Jacob Vigdor and Heather Hill) will give a lecture on the study at the UC Center Sacramento on November 17.

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 October 27, 2016

What Should the Next President Do to Increase Economic Opportunity? 


With Election Day closing in, a topic on the minds of many Americans is economic opportunity. What ideas does the next president have for increasing incomes and employment? Addressing our country’s growing prison population? Growing income inequalities and neighborhood segregation? Children and their education, health and well-being?

We invite you to join the newly formed Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute and UCI School of Social Sciences for a panel discussion focused on these important, timely topics. ESSPRI, directed by Chancellor’s Professor of economics David Neumark, spearheads original and cutting edge research on policies and programs designed to support economic self-sufficiency.

The event will consist of brief presentations by UCI faculty members on key topics related to promoting economic self-sufficiency, as well as remarks by special guest Max Gardner, president and CEO of Orange County United Way. Under Gardner's stewardship, Orange County United Way is working to create a brighter future for the next generation via quality education, financial stability, good health, and stable housing, all of which align with the policy focus of ESSPRI. The presentations will be followed by discussion among the panelists and with the audience.

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