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Research Roundup: Small Business Employment, Credit Card Use in Recession, Poverty and Pregnancy, Implementing Election Reform,

An International Comparison of Small Business Employment - Contrary to popular perceptions, the United States has a much smaller small-business sector (as a share of total employment) than other countries at a comparable level of economic development, according to this new Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) report.  The report highlights how high health insurance costs and uncertain access discourages small business formation and self-employment in the United States compared to other nations.

The Plastic Safety Net: How Households are Coping in a Fragile Economy - This Demos survey finds that in the first nine months of the recession, three-quarters of low- and middle-income households reported using their credit cards to cover essential living expenses, with nearly half of all households surveyed reporting medical expenses as the chief factor.   The report emphasizes how stagnating wages have fed dependence on debt for most households and the need for policies that raise wage standards, especially for low-wage workers, and address issues like health care and unemployment insurance modernization to ease families' financial burdens.

Supporting women in poverty and during pregnancy

  • Parenting with Dignity: A Series Exploring Real Supports for Pregnant Women - To find more common ground in the debate on reducing the need for abortions by women, the Center for American Progress has launched this series to highlight ways to ease the economic burdens faced by women in pregnancy, from health care to fears of discrimination in the workplace, in order to assist them in ultimately having a child that they might want to have if those obstacles can be overcome.
  • Meager and Diminishing Welfare Benefits Perpetuate Widespread Material Hardship for Poor Women and Children - TANF benefits have declined in real dollars since 1996, dropping in July 2008 for a family of three to a daily, per-person benefit of less than $8.00 in all but one state, less than $5.00 in thirty states, and as low as $1.86 in one state (Mississippi), according to this brief by Legal Momentum.  In no state does this meet the poverty line, itself inadequate, with this report providing state-by-state levels of TANF funding and its value combined with Food Stamps in absolute terms and as a percentage of poverty.

Two new comprehensive reports on implementation of election reform in the states:

  • The National Voter Registration Act at Fifteen - This Project Vote report reviews the implementation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 in states across the country finds that while there are successes, many states have failed to fully implement best practices on motor voter and mail-in registration, while requirements to register voters at public assistance and disability services agencies has been largely neglected and ignored in many state agencies and poor voter list maintenance has often led to discriminatory purging of voters.   The report emphasizes ways to improve implementation across the states.
  • The State of Elections In The Fifty States - This comprehensive report, including recommendations for improvement, by the Center for Democracy and Election Management finds that there has been real but incomplete progress in improving registration lists, voter identification remains a contentious issue with some states requiring photo ID without providing free access to them, more states are providing a voter-verifiable paper audit trail for voting machines, and early voting and vote-by mail have grown dramatically.

Addressing health equity, insurance exchanges, structuring "play-or-pay" requirements for employers, and health care for immigrant children:

Studies on addressing both early learning and building vibrant neighborhoods for successful schools:

  • Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - By following a diverse birth cohort of children born in 2001, this Child Trends study examines which factors lead to lower levels of educational achievement by low-income families. The report finds that low-income, racial/ethnic minority status, non-English home language and low maternal education each play an independent and cumulative role as risk factors leading to developmental disparities.  The report indicates that early intervention before a child is three is critical to avoid these risk factors leading to long-term disparities in achievement.
  • Vibrant Neighborhoods, Successful Schools: What the Federal Government Can Do to Foster Both - This Urban Institute report finds that poor school performance is inextricably tied up in poor housing policies that create feedback loops of richer families looking for better schools driving up housing costs in good school districts and thereby often making such districts unaffordable for low-income families. Better policies outlined in this report would address the connections between schools and housing in order to trigger positive feedback that enhances neighborhood vitality, improves school quality, and promotes equity and opportunity for families and their children.

Port Trucking Down the Low Road: A Sad Story of Deregulation - The costs of trucking deregulation decades ago is highlighted in this Demos report in examining port trucking, as highway safety has diminished, public health from emissions has been endangered, and health services have been burdened as low-wage drivers lose employer-provided health care.  The report recommends the end of the misclassification of truckers controlled by larger companies as independent contractors and new standards for diesel emissions and highway safety.

It's Getting Hot in Here: Texas Weatherization Assistance Program Provides Relief to Low-Income Families and Creates Jobs for the New Economy - This report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities highlights how the federal ARRA recovery act has provided weatherization funds for 25,000 to 30,000 new low-income homes, cut their utility bills and increased the value of their homes while creating new jobs.



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