Enough to Live

Kevin Lewis

November 24, 2022

Parenting Promotes Social Mobility Within and Across Generations
Jorge Luis García & James Heckman
NBER Working Paper, October 2022


This paper compares early childhood enrichment programs that promote social mobility for disadvantaged children within and across generations. Instead of conducting a standard meta-analysis, we present a harmonized primary data analysis of programs that shape current policy. Our analysis is a template for rigorous syntheses and comparisons across programs. We analyze new long-run life-cycle data collected for iconic programs when participants are middle-aged and their children are in their twenties. The iconic programs are omnibus in nature and offer many services to children and their parents. We compare them with relatively low-cost more focused home-visiting programs. Successful interventions target both children and their caregivers. They engage caregivers and improve the home lives of children. They permanently boost cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Participants in programs that enrich home environments grow up with better skills, jobs, earnings, marital stability, and health, as well as reduced participation in crime. Long-run monetized gains are substantially greater than program costs for iconic programs. We investigate the mechanisms promoting successful family lives for participants and find intergenerational effects on their children. A study of focused home-visiting programs that target parents enables us to isolate a crucial component of successful programs: they activate and promote parenting skills of child caregivers. The home-visiting programs we analyze produce outcomes comparable to those of the iconic omnibus programs. National implementation of the programs with long-run follow up that we analyze would substantially shrink the overall US Black-White earnings gap.

No Evidence the Child Tax Credit Expansion Had an Effect on the Well-Being and Mental Health of Parents
Benjamin Glasner et al.
Health Affairs, November 2022, Pages 1607-1615 


In 1997 the US established the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which offers payments to parents of dependent children to help defray child-rearing costs. In 2021 a temporary expansion to the CTC increased the size of payments, extended payments to families with low or no earnings, and distributed payments monthly instead of annually. Quasi-experimental evidence from the US and experimental evidence from low- and middle-income countries shows that moderate-to-large cash transfers improve subjective well-being and mental health. We estimated the CTC’s expansion’s effects on the subjective well-being and mental health of adult recipients, using data from the Understanding America Study, a nationally representative survey with more than 7,000 respondents and more than 2,700 unique respondents with children. We found no evidence that the CTC expansion had a significant short-term impact on measures of life satisfaction, anxiety, and depression symptomology among adult recipients. We speculate that the null effects may be due to the expansion’s temporary nature.

Administrative Burdens and Child Medicaid Enrollments
Iris Arbogast, Anna Chorniy & Janet Currie
NBER Working Paper, October 2022 


Following decades of increasing child access to public health insurance, enrollments fell in many states between 2016 and 2019 and the number of uninsured children increased. This study provides the first national, quantitative assessment of the role of several common types of administrative burdens in driving the pre-pandemic drop in child health insurance coverage. In addition, we undertake to identify the groups of children who were most affected by administrative burden. We show that regulations that increased administrative burdens placed on families reduced public health insurance coverage by a mean of 5.4 percent within the year following the implementation of these changes. Declines were largest for children without college educated parents, Hispanic families, and families with non-citizen parents. Declines in insurance coverage have been temporarily arrested by federal measures taken in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. But unless policies increasing administrative burden are reconsidered, the decline in children’s public health insurance enrollments is likely to resume when the emergency declaration is lifted.

The Impacts of Fare-Free Bus Programs on Educational Outcomes of K–12 Students

Emanuel Garcia Munoz & Hector Sandoval
Journal of Human Capital, Winter 2022, Pages 556–584 


With the increasing difficulty in providing student transportation, school districts have increased their collaboration with public transit providers to offer access to public transportation through free or reduced-fare programs. One such program was implemented in Florida, allowing any K–12 student in Leon County to ride the bus for free at any time to any destination. This paper applies the synthetic control method to estimate the impact of this program on school attendance and chronic absenteeism. Surprisingly, our results show negative impacts on both attendance and absenteeism outcomes, highlighting the potential unintended consequences of programs with no restriction on student ridership.

Parental involvement and neighborhood quality: Evidence from public housing demolitions in Chicago
Joel Kaiyuan Han
Review of Economics of the Household, December 2022, Pages 1193–1238 


I study how parental involvement responds to declines in neighborhood quality. Previous research on this topic has largely been limited to current/former public housing residents. In contrast, I examine a population that has not selected into public housing. I utilize the mass closure and demolition of public housing projects in Chicago, but I focus on the spillover effects on neighborhoods receiving relocations. In the short run, parents in receiving neighborhoods respond by increasing parental involvement. Over a longer time horizon, these effects fade out as parents move out of the affected neighborhood. I use these responses to quantify the causal effect of declining neighborhood quality on parental involvement. To address neighborhood selection, I derive an instrumental variable for neighborhood quality based on the predicted impact of public housing closures on the family’s neighborhood. I find that, on average, parents compensate for decreased neighborhood quality by increasing parental involvement. Without accounting for parental responses, estimates of neighborhood effects are likely to understate the direct impact of neighborhood environment on children. The overall increase in parental involvement is mainly driven by parent-child interaction. Non-parenting household activity does not respond to changing neighborhood quality. Finally, there is evidence of heterogeneous neighborhood quality effects: most notably, parents with low initial involvement decrease parental involvement even more when neighborhood quality decreases. This pattern of heterogenous responses is not replicated for standard measures of socioeconomic advantage.

Pecuniary effects of public housing demolitions: Evidence from Chicago
Hector Blanco
Regional Science and Urban Economics, forthcoming 


This paper studies the effects of public housing on private house prices. I examine the impact of a large and negative housing supply shock caused by the demolition of public housing developments in Chicago in the 1990s and 2000s. By comparing census tracts near demolitions to a synthetic control composed of tracts in distant parts of the city, I estimate that house prices increased by up to 20 percent over a ten-year period in census tracts near the demolitions. I provide evidence of similar long-run rent increases and show that households living in these areas after demolitions are higher-income and less likely to be black than previous residents. A calibration exercise indicates that reduced housing supply can fully explain the observed price changes under some assumptions, although the wide range of estimates and the demographic effects of demolitions suggest that demand factors may have also contributed to price increases.


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