IWPR’s Research News Reporter is distributed monthly to highlight informative, innovative, and sometimes controversial research related to women and their families. Each selection includes a short description of the research and either a link to the report itself or a citation. We sometimes include short pieces in their entirety.
In this edition:
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
This report by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities evaluates changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program’s work activity requirements for states and families, as passed by the House and Senate in the budget reconciliation conference agreement. The new TANF provisions require that 90 percent of a state’s two-parent families receiving assistance participate in work programs for at least 35 hours per week. While current law mandates the same participation rate, it does not apply to programs funded solely through state funds. Also under current law, a state’s work participation requirement is lowered as the number of families receiving assistance falls. The conference agreement would eliminate both of these provisions. Under the new law, states that provided assistance to poor, two-parent families and failed to meet the new work requirement would face fiscal penalties. Researchers and policymakers have long deemed the 90 percent participation rate an unrealistic requirement, and the new restrictions would likely cause states to avoid penalties by denying much needed assistance to poor, two-parent families.
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Jared Bernstein, Elizabeth McNichol, Karen Lyons
Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Much of the recent public discussion of the U.S. economy has focused on economic growth and recovery from the 2001 recession. Little attention has been paid, however, to income inequality in the United States. This report by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examines how trends and changes in economic inequality vary by state. The authors find that the incomes of the richest fifth (20 percent) of the families grew faster than those of the poorest fifth in 38 states between the late 1980s and the early 2000s. Only in Alaska did low-income families’ incomes grew faster than those of the richest families. When comparing the incomes of families in the top five percent of the income distribution to families in the bottom 20 percent, the study finds an even more striking disparity in income growth. In Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, the average incomes of the richest five percent of families increased by over $100,000 between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. In those same five states, the largest increase in the average incomes of the bottom 20 percent of families was $4,000. The gap has also grown between the middle- and high-income families. Since the early 1980s, the number of states in which the average income of the top-fifth was more than 2.3 times greater than the bottom-fifth grew from 1 to 36.
The authors offer a host of state policy recommendations to counter income inequality, including: instituting more progressive taxation at the state level, providing state-level tax credits for low-income workers, increasing unemployment assistance to jobless workers and cash assistance to welfare recipients, enabling collective bargaining, and raising state minimum wages. Such policies would provide middle- and low-income families with some of the supports needed to overcome barriers to income security and growth. The creation of a more equitable income distribution, however, will require efforts on behalf of both the federal and state governments.
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Catherine Hill and Elena Silva
AAUW Educational Foundation
A recent report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finds that sexual harassment is widespread on college campuses with nearly two-thirds of students (62 percent) having experienced some type of sexual harassment. The report presents analysis of a nationally representative survey of undergraduate college students commissioned by AAUW that asked students about their perception of, experience with, response to sexual harassment. The report also assesses the emotional and educational impact of sexual harassment on students and gives students’ recommendations for improving the response to sexual harassment on college-campuses. Among the findings are:
The authors conclude that the prevalence of sexual harassment on college campuses might be in part due to the lack of dialogue between college students, faculty, and staff about how to address the issue.
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United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization
This report by UNESCO assesses progress made on the Education for All (EFA) goals set by 164 governments in 2000 at the World Education Forum, with particular focus on achieving universal primary education (UPE) and gender parity and quality in education. Although improvements have been observed in UPE and gender parity and quality, in 2002 close to 100 million children still were not enrolled in primary school. Over half of those children were girls and 70 percent lived in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. The 2005 gender parity target has been missed by 94 countries out of the 149 with data and 86 countries may not even achieve this target by the year 2015. Aid for basic education more than doubled between 1999 and 2003, but only accounted for 2.6 percent of Official Development Assistance.
The report advocates for countries to adopt explicit literacy strategies comprising (a) expansion of quality primary and lower-secondary education (b) scaling up of youth and adult literacy programs, and (c) the development of an environment in which individuals are encouraged to acquire and sustain their literacy skills. The report concludes by setting priorities for action to achieve EFA goals in the next ten years, including achieving good quality universal primary education, decreasing gender disparities in education, and focusing on literate societies, not just on individuals.
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This edition of Research News Reporter was prepared by IWPR Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellows Jessica Koski and Inku Subedi.