Archive for the ‘Urban Institute’ Category

Plan Participation in Health Insurance Exchanges: Implications for Competition and Choice

September 11, 2012 Comments off

Plan Participation in Health Insurance Exchanges: Implications for Competition and Choice

Source: Urban Institute

This brief examines the conditions under which competition in health insurance exchanges is likely to be effective in placing downward pressure on insurance premiums. We conclude that areas with a single dominant insurer or a dominant hospital system are less likely to experience effective competition. In markets in which there are several insurers with significant market share and no dominant hospital system, the result could be limited or tiered network products that could successfully constrain the cost of premiums. Participation of existing Medicaid plans may also increase effective competition in health insurance exchanges.

On the Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform

September 1, 2012 Comments off

On the Distributional Effects of Base-Broadening Income Tax Reform
Source: Urban Institute

This paper examines the tradeoffs among three competing goals that are inherent in a revenue-neutral income tax reform — maintaining tax revenues, ensuring a progressive tax system, and lowering marginal tax ratesâ??drawing on the example of the tax policies advanced in presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax plan. Our major conclusion is that any revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers.

Tax Proposals by 2012 Presidential Candidates

August 30, 2012 Comments off

Tax Proposals by 2012 Presidential Candidates
Source: Tax Policy Center (Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

TPC has analyzed the distributional effects of tax proposals from President Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. The following pages provide links to TPC research related to the 2012 candidates.

Can the Poor Accumulate Assets?

August 21, 2012 Comments off

Can the Poor Accumulate Assets?
Source: Urban Institute

Can the poor accumulate assets? Longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and programs targeted at helping families accumulate assets provide empirical evidence that they can. Following families over a 13-year period reveals that, even among those poor more than half the time, over 40 percent increased their net worth. And following low-income, asset-poor families over time revealed that 12 years later 44 percent saved enough to escape asset poverty. This shows that across the life course a substantial proportion of poor and low-income families do manage to accumulate assets.

Weathering the Recession: The Financial Crisis and Family Wealth Changes in Low-Income Neighborhoods

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Weathering the Recession: The Financial Crisis and Family Wealth Changes in Low-Income Neighborhoods
Source: Urban Institute

This report looks closely at what happened to assets, debts and home equity for families living in low-income neighborhoods during the Great Recession, using data from the longitudinal Making Connections Survey. We find that both average savings and debt amounts increased between 2005/06 and 2008/09, but asset and debt levels remained lower for vulnerable families, and low-income families disproportionally lost equity during the crisis. Yet even in 2008/09, home equity was substantial and an important component of wealth ($66,000, more than four times as much as families had in savings) for the nearly half of families who were homeowners.

Opting in to the Medicaid Expansion under the ACA; Who are the Uninsured Adults Who Could Gain Health Insurance Coverage

August 12, 2012 Comments off

Opting in to the Medicaid Expansion under the ACA; Who are the Uninsured Adults Who Could Gain Health Insurance Coverage
Source: Urban Institute

This brief provides new national and state-level information about the uninsured adults with incomes below 138 percent of FPL who could become eligible for Medicaid if states decide to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At present, few states cover non-disabled, non-pregnant parents with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and even fewer cover such adults without dependent children. This analysis shows that the approximately 15 million uninsured adults who could gain coverage under the ACA Medicaid expansion are a diverse group in terms of their age, gender and race/ethnicity.

Correcting Labor Supply Projections for Older Workers Could Help Social Security and Economic Reform

August 11, 2012 Comments off

Correcting Labor Supply Projections for Older Workers Could Help Social Security and Economic Reform
Source: Urban Institute

Changing age demographics have powerful implications for the shape of the nation’s work force. Formal models of labor force participation fail to take into account that as the relative supply of younger workers declines, employers will increasingly turn to older workers to meet their demand for labor to provide goods and services. Increased labor force participation among older workers can add to the solvency of Social Security and the broader federal budget. Policymakers in both the public and private sectors can accommodate this trend by removing barriers that discourage hiring and retaining older workers.

Identifying Those at Greater Risk of Long-Term Unemployment

August 1, 2012 Comments off

Identifying Those at Greater Risk of Long-Term Unemployment
Source: Urban Institute

This brief compares the characteristics of the long-term unemployed with those of the recently unemployed. It also compares the long-term unemployed today with the long-term unemployed at the height of the recession to identify workers for whom the risk of long-term unemployment has increased. Older workers, women, and those with more education are less likely to become unemployed than other workers but, once they become unemployed, they are disproportionately more likely to experience long-term unemployment. In addition, older workers, women, and unmarried adults without children have made up increasingly larger shares of the long-term unemployed since the recession’s end.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Receipt of Unemployment Insurance Benefits During the Great Recession

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Receipt of Unemployment Insurance Benefits During the Great Recession
Source: Urban Institute

The Great Recession hit black workers harder; the unemployment rate was higher for non-Hispanic black than for non-Hispanic white or Hispanic workers, and black unemployed workers had the lowest receipt of Unemployment Insurance benefits, 23.8 percent compared to whites’ 33.2 percent. Differences persist even after controlling for education, past employment, and reasons for unemployment.

Kids’ Share 2012: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2011

July 23, 2012 Comments off

Kids’ Share 2012: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children Through 2011
Source: Urban Institute
From press release:

Federal spending on children declined in 2011 for the first time since the early 1980s, the Urban Institute’s sixth annual “Kids’ Share” study estimates. The children’s slice of the federal budget and gross domestic product also shrank.

The decline in spending on kids will continue in the fiscal year that ends September 30, as the economic stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) are nearly exhausted. Assuming no changes in federal policies or law, the children’s share of federal program outlays and of GDP will drop through at least 2022, the Urban Institute researchers forecast.

“In 2012, federal funding on children is projected to decline significantly. State funding is uncertain, but with states still recovering from the recession, it will be challenging for them to fill the gap caused by the drop in federal funding. As a result, there may be cutbacks in services and benefits for children in 2012,” the Kids’ Share research team concludes.

The researchers analyzed dozens of programs and tax expenditures (which reduce tax liabilities) affecting children. Their analysis of fiscal 2011 data, the most recent year for which complete federal data are available, reveals the following:

  • Program outlays fell from $378 billion in 2010 to $376 billion in 2011 (figures are in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars). Tax expenditures, such as the child tax credit, declined from $72 to $69 billion. Combined, total expenditures fell from $450 to $445 billion.
  • While the federal government spent less on children in 2011, its total spending increased from $3.52 to $3.60 trillion. As a result, the share of the budget allocated to children fell from 10.7 to 10.4 percent. Programmatic spending on children slipped as a share of GDP from 2.6 to 2.5 percent, and total expenditures on children, including tax expenditures, dropped from 3.1 to 3.0 percent of GDP.
  • Children’s 10 percent share in 2011 compares to the 41 percent spent on the elderly and disabled via Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; 20 percent on defense; 6 percent on interest payments on the debt; and 23 percent on everything else.
  • Ten programs and tax provisions accounted for 75 percent of the $445 billion in expenditures on children, led by Medicaid at $74 billion.
  • Federal spending on education was $5 billion lower in 2011 than in 2010. Expenditures also fell in the areas of health, social services, training, and tax provisions, but they rose in nutrition and income security.
  • Overall federal-state-local spending per child was generally flat between 2008 and 2011. Education spending declined somewhat, while child health spending increased modestly.

What Explains Variation in Title Charges? A Study of Five Large Markets

July 22, 2012 Comments off

What Explains Variation in Title Charges? A Study of Five Large Markets
Source: Urban Institute

Title charges include title insurance premiums and charges for settling a loan. Title charges vary considerably from a median of $1,971 in California to $625 in North Dakota. This report analyzes variation in settlement costs using data from over 3,000 FHA-insured, 30-year fixed-rate home purchase loans in five metropolitan areas. Even after controlling for metropolitan area, various characteristics of homebuyers, houses, neighborhoods, and settlement agencies, more than one-half of the variation in title charges remains unexplained. Substantial differences in title charges between settlement agents within a market suggest that consumers would benefit by shopping for settlement services.

Young and Mobile? State Pensions May Not Be an Appealing Match

July 18, 2012 Comments off

Young and Mobile? State Pensions May Not Be an Appealing Match
Source: Urban Institute

Twenty-somethings fresh out of college or graduate school may need to rethink starting jobs in state government, cautions a report from the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy. The new recruits could end up paying for their state’s unfunded pension liabilities without much to show for their efforts.

Ninety-two percent of full-time state and local government workers in 2011 had access to a defined benefit retirement plan, the traditional pension that promises a set stipend from retirement until death. With state pensions underfunded by an estimated $2.7 trillion, however, many governors and legislators are seeking to close the chasm by increasing employee contributions, raising the age at which benefits become available, or reducing the plans’ generosity. While lowering pensions’ net costs to states, these shifts may make it harder for states to modernize their workforce.

In “Are Pension Reforms Helping States Attract and Retain the Best Workers?” Richard Johnson, Eugene Steuerle, and Caleb Quackenbush use New Jersey’s Public Employees Retirement System and its five waves of reform since 2007 to show how state pensions provide little incentive for young workers to join the state’s workforce, lock in middle-aged workers even if they are unproductive or unhappy, and push many older, seasoned workers into premature retirement.

The actuarial assumptions underlying reforms in New Jersey and some other states, the Urban Institute researchers explain, rely on contributions from new and younger employees to help pay off unfunded liabilities owed to workers hired before the reforms. New workers who don’t stick around “will get back only their own contributions plus interest, but compounded at a lower rate of return than the state assumes it will earn on plan assets.” In a sense, these reforms attempt to partially protect taxpayers and older workers already in the plans by shifting costs to the young, including future state employees.

Young workers who leave their jobs with fewer than 25 years of service “forgo nearly all retirement benefits from the employer. The more mobile the workforce and the stronger the desire to maintain the option of changing careers or moving to another state, the more this benefit structure discourages workers from entering state employment.”

Locating and engaging youth after they leave foster care

July 6, 2012 Comments off

Locating and engaging youth after they leave foster care (PDF)
Source: Urban Institute

+ States are required to collect data on youth aging out of foster care and provide them to the National Youth in Transition Database.
+ Youth aging out of foster care are difficult to trace, being highly mobile and even experiencing bouts of homelessness. Those most difficult to find are most likely in need of services.
+ For states to successfully locate youth who have left foster care, they must plan ahead, employ a large set of tracking methods, establish rapport with the youth,
and connect with youths’ families.

What a Supreme Court Decision to Eliminate the Individual Mandate Could Mean for Coverage and Costs

June 23, 2012 Comments off

What a Supreme Court Decision to Eliminate the Individual Mandate Could Mean for Coverage and Costs
Source: Urban Institute

Could the ACA function successfully without the mandate? This brief summarizes the effects on costs and coverage if the Supreme Court rules to eliminate the individual mandate. Findings indicate ACA could function, but increases in coverage will be lower and private insurance premiums would be higher.

Uninsured Veterans and Family Members: Who Are They and Where Do They Live?

June 11, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Urban Institute (RWJ Foundation)
According to the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), one in 10 of the nation’s 12.5 million nonelderly veterans reports neither having health insurance coverage nor using Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. While veterans are less likely than the rest of the nonelderly population to be uninsured, there are an estimated 1.3 million uninsured veterans nationwide. Another 0.9 million veterans use VA care, but have no other health insurance coverage. An additional 0.9 million adults and children in veterans’ families are uninsured. Both uninsured veterans and their family members report significantly less access to needed health care than their counterparts with insurance coverage.
Compared with insured veterans, uninsured veterans have served more recently, are younger, have lower levels of education, are less likely to be married, and are less connected to the labor force—all of which could contribute to lower access to employer-sponsored coverage. Uninsurance among veterans ranges widely across states—from under 5 percent to over 17 percent—and state variation remains even when adjusting for veterans’ demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. States also vary in levels of uninsurance among veterans’ family members.
The coverage provisions slated to be implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, could increase coverage among the U.S. population, including many uninsured veterans. We estimate that nearly half of uninsured veterans would qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage. Another 40 percent of uninsured veterans could potentially qualify for subsidized coverage through health insurance exchanges if they do not have access to affordable employer coverage. However, when we classify states according to how much progress they have made toward implementing exchanges, we find higher rates of uninsurance among veterans in those states that have thus far made the least progress; nearly 40 percent of uninsured veterans and their family members live in these states. To the extent that the ACA can achieve dramatic reductions in uninsurance among veterans and their family members, success will depend on aggressive ACA implementation and enrollment efforts nationwide.

Social Security Claiming: Trends and Business Cycle Effects

May 3, 2012 Comments off

Social Security Claiming: Trends and Business Cycle Effects
Source: Urban Institute
Social Security claiming behavior matters because early claimants receive lower monthly benefits for the rest of their lives. Early claiming fell over the past decade, after increasing over the previous 10 years. However, high unemployment encourages early claiming by less-educated men. A 1 percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate is associated with a 0.4 percentage point increase in the monthly claiming probability by men who never attended college, implying that the Great Recession boosted their claiming rates by about 40 percent. In contrast, claiming behavior by women and well-educated men is not significantly correlated with the unemployment rate.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Public Housing Transformation and Crime: Making the Case for Responsible Relocation

April 8, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Urban Institute
Our analysis indicates a complex relationship between public housing transformation and crime in Chicago and Atlanta, though the efforts led to small net decreases in crime over a study period where crime declined significantly. In neighborhoods with public housing demolition, crime rates fell substantially, while in destination neighborhoods for households relocated with vouchers, they did not fall as much as expected. On average, neighborhoods with a modest or high density of relocated households saw higher crime rates than areas without relocated households. These findings suggest a need for thoughtful relocation strategies that support both assisted residents and receiving communities.

+ Full Document (PDF)

Preventing Violence and Sexual Assault in Jail: A Situational Crime Prevention Approach

April 7, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Urban Institute
With help from Urban institute researchers, three county jails adopted strategies to prevent sexual assault and violence among inmates by increasing the effort required to commit violent acts and by making perpetrators more likely to get caught. Rather than changing the underlying motivation behind offending behavior, these strategies used a situational crime prevention approach to change the environment and how it is managed, closing off opportunities for crime [Clarke 1997]. Fewer triggers and opportunities to commit violence should translate into fewer offenses — and the jail environment is, in most cases, easier to control than individual behavior.

High-Cost Loans Among the Unbanked

April 2, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Urban Institute
Using tax filing data, this fact sheet demonstrates dramatic behavioral differences among the banked and unbanked in their use of two at-times costly tax-time financial products, refund anticipation checks (RACs) and refund anticipation loans (RALs). Banked tax filers are much more likely to avoid such products. Even for those who are otherwise similar in income and background, the banked are 57 percent less likely to use a RAC and 83 percent less likely to use a RAL. Such evidence may suggest the need for broader strategies that encourage savings and target the asset side of the household balance sheet.

Full Document (PDF)

Demographic Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Housing Markets

March 17, 2012 Comments off

Demographic Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Housing Markets
Source: Urban Institute

This paper summarizes six key demographic trends against the backdrop of the still unfolding U.S. housing crisis. In 2010, young adults lived in their parents’ homes, doubled up with other families, or stayed with roommates at rates far higher than in 2000. All working-age adults reduced their rates of homeownership; blacks and Hispanics saw especially acute declines in homeownership during the housing bust. The crisis has also increased poverty rates to their highest level in two decades, reducing many families’ ability to pay for housing. Home vacancies stand well above year-2000 levels; at year-2000 vacancy rates, 2.7 million fewer units would now be vacant. In addition, about 10 percent of residential mortgages are either in foreclosure or delinquent.

+ Full Paper (PDF)


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