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  • Individual Author: Martinez, John
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2002

    Public housing residents are commonly thought to be harder to employ than other low-income working-age populations, but detailed evidence on their actual employment experiences and difficulties is scarce. The dearth of information can hinder efforts by policymakers and administrators to reduce the high rates of poverty, joblessness, and related social problems found in many public housing developments across the country.

    This report helps to address the information gap by analyzing data from a special survey of residents in eight public housing developments (in seven cities) with customarily high rates of joblessness and reliance on welfare. These developments have been part of the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families, an ambitious research demonstration project that aims to improve residents’ employment and quality-of-life outcomes. The survey, undertaken to collect baseline data about the communities and their residents just prior to the start of the Jobs-Plus program, sheds important light on how closely...

    Public housing residents are commonly thought to be harder to employ than other low-income working-age populations, but detailed evidence on their actual employment experiences and difficulties is scarce. The dearth of information can hinder efforts by policymakers and administrators to reduce the high rates of poverty, joblessness, and related social problems found in many public housing developments across the country.

    This report helps to address the information gap by analyzing data from a special survey of residents in eight public housing developments (in seven cities) with customarily high rates of joblessness and reliance on welfare. These developments have been part of the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families, an ambitious research demonstration project that aims to improve residents’ employment and quality-of-life outcomes. The survey, undertaken to collect baseline data about the communities and their residents just prior to the start of the Jobs-Plus program, sheds important light on how closely residents were already connected to the labor market, what kinds of jobs they obtained, and why some residents worked or looked for work less than other residents.

    Key Findings

    • The survey of residents revealed a more extensive and varied connection to the labor market than had been expected, given the very low rates of employment that characterized the public housing developments in the years prior to their selection for Jobs-Plus in the mid-1990s. Slightly more than 90 percent had worked at some point in their lives, and a majority were either currently employed or searching for work at the time of the survey.
    • Many residents who worked did so only part time, and the majority were employed in low-wage jobs paying less than $7.75 per hour and offering no fringe benefits.
    • Health status was the factor most clearly associated with residents’ engagement in the labor market. Survey respondents who described themselves as having health problems were less likely than others to have had recent work experience or to engage in job search activities.
    • Even with extensive data, it is difficult to create statistical profiles that accurately differentiate survey respondents who can be characterized as easier to employ from those who are harder to employ. Across a wide range of measures — including demographic characteristics, incidence of domestic violence, and residents’ social networks — no consistent patterns emerged to distinguish which residents were most actively and least actively involved in the labor market.

    Building on these new insights into public housing residents’ relationship to the labor market, future studies will explore how financial incentives, employment services, and the reinforcement of community supports for work can increase residents’ success in the labor market. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Morris, Pamela; Jones, Stephanie; Smith, Jared
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2002

    This paper begins to fill the information gap by capitalizing on the unique opportunity provided by the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families, an ambitious research demonstration project that aims to improve residents’ employment status. Using data on nearly 1,500 children of public housing residents collected before the implementation of Jobs-Plus, the paper examines the well-being of children living in public housing developments and explores whether characteristics of their parents and the communities are associated with differences in the children’s outcomes.

    Key Findings

    On some, but not all, measures of school and behavioral outcomes, a substantial proportion of children living in public housing exhibited negative outcomes. As expected, older children and boys were at greater risk than younger children and girls.

    When compared with data on other children receiving welfare in selected states, children in the Jobs-Plus developments were shown to be at...

    This paper begins to fill the information gap by capitalizing on the unique opportunity provided by the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families, an ambitious research demonstration project that aims to improve residents’ employment status. Using data on nearly 1,500 children of public housing residents collected before the implementation of Jobs-Plus, the paper examines the well-being of children living in public housing developments and explores whether characteristics of their parents and the communities are associated with differences in the children’s outcomes.

    Key Findings

    On some, but not all, measures of school and behavioral outcomes, a substantial proportion of children living in public housing exhibited negative outcomes. As expected, older children and boys were at greater risk than younger children and girls.

    When compared with data on other children receiving welfare in selected states, children in the Jobs-Plus developments were shown to be at only slightly greater risk of experiencing negative school and behavioral outcomes.

    Few associations were found between measures of the Jobs-Plus children’s well-being and their parents’ employment or welfare status.

    Parents’ mental health and experience with domestic abuse were associated with negative aspects of children’s schooling and behavior. However, contextual factors of the housing developments, such as the proportion of parents who had jobs, were not related to children’s outcomes.

    The data reported here provide a first look at the children in the Jobs-Plus demonstration communities. Further examination of the effects of the Jobs-Plus demonstration on child and adolescent development is planned as part of the evaluation project. This work will provide crucial information to our understanding of how neighborhood change, in combination with changes occurring within individual families, may affect the well-being of children in public housing. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Polit, Denise F.; London, Andrew S.; Martinez, John M.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2000

    Despite the strength of the American economy in the past few years, food insecurity and hunger continue to affect millions of American families. Drawing on 1998-1999 survey and ethnographic data from the Urban Change study (a multicomponent study of the implementation and effects of welfare reform in four large cities), this paper describes the food security of mother-headed families who were living in highly disadvantaged urban neighborhoods and who had received or were currently receiving cash welfare benefits. The families of four groups of women were compared: those who, at the time of the interview, worked and were no longer receiving welfare; those who combined welfare and work; nonworking welfare recipients; and those who neither worked nor were then receiving welfare. The survey results indicated that food insecurity in the prior year was high in all groups. Overall, about half the families were food insecure, and hunger was found in slightly more than 15 percent of the families. Moreover, in nearly one-third of the families there were food hardships that affected the...

    Despite the strength of the American economy in the past few years, food insecurity and hunger continue to affect millions of American families. Drawing on 1998-1999 survey and ethnographic data from the Urban Change study (a multicomponent study of the implementation and effects of welfare reform in four large cities), this paper describes the food security of mother-headed families who were living in highly disadvantaged urban neighborhoods and who had received or were currently receiving cash welfare benefits. The families of four groups of women were compared: those who, at the time of the interview, worked and were no longer receiving welfare; those who combined welfare and work; nonworking welfare recipients; and those who neither worked nor were then receiving welfare. The survey results indicated that food insecurity in the prior year was high in all groups. Overall, about half the families were food insecure, and hunger was found in slightly more than 15 percent of the families. Moreover, in nearly one-third of the families there were food hardships that affected the children’s diets. Food insecurity was most prevalent among families where the mother had neither employment income nor welfare benefits. Food insecurity was lowest among the families where the mothers were working and no longer getting welfare, but even in this group 44.5 percent were food insecure, and nearly 15 percent had experienced hunger. Data from in-depth ethnographic interviews indicate that, in this population, women who are food secure nevertheless expend considerable energy piecing together strategies to ensure that there is an adequate amount of food available for themselves and their children. (Author abstract)

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