Good afternoon, and welcome. It's great to see everybody here on a rainy afternoon, but we're happy to welcome you here to what I'm sure will be a very interesting talk and reception to follow. I'm Susan Collins, a Joan and Sanford Weill dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. And it's a great personal pleasure for me to be able to introduce our speaker today, Kristin Seefeldt. Kristin is a research investigator here at the Ford School, and she's also assistant director for the National Poverty Center. She teaches a very, very highly regarded course on social welfare policy, and she's mentored a great many of our students who just simply sing her praises. We're very pleased to note that Kristin's also an alum of the Ford School, and so she has many close ties to a lot of us here in the community in different ways. She earned her Master's in Public Policy here in 1966, and we're very proud of --
1996. Did I just say '66 [laughter]?
Wasn't born [laughter].
Kristin would welcome some questions. And so why don't we take perhaps a half an hour or so, and I'll let Kristin [inaudible].
As somebody who has to leave a couple minutes early to pick up my son from day care, I have a question about child care arrangements and all of this. I understand these are more women. But to what extent did formal child care, whether paid child care, [inaudible] child care, or a relative child care through the grandmother in the area, the aunt and uncle in the area, even the neighbor in the area, to what extent did that play a role in these women's lives in helping to manage the [inaudible].
So in all the conversations we had with these women, it really didn't come up much at all, say for maybe from one or two women who had very small children. Again, for the most part, these were women whose kids were between the ages of 10 and 16, so formal child care really wasn't something that they needed. I can say, though, in a study that I'm currently working on with Helen Levy who also just left the room to get her child, we have women who have much younger children, and discussions about child care don't really come up much. And that's something that I think we're going to have to try to probe at, or my own sense is that there's probably a lot more unsupervised care than people want to admit to and a lot more of unstable familial arrangements. We do know that, at least in Michigan, the -- women who receive subsidies for child care, the primary method of provider is a relative or friend, not a formal day care arrangement. Jenene [phonetic].
I think I really like the input or the focus on the shorter work week. And I guess, in terms of trying to do that with my own organization, we seem to be bumping up against the issue of people then not being able to -- needing to work less time but not able to make do with less pay. So what are you seeing or what are your thoughts about the relationship between time at work and income, and are there some things we need to think about definitely in terms of what basis are we actually paying people? Is the product output outcome versus time in, time on task?
Yeah. I mean, I think that is certainly one -- one way to go, like looking at output rather than just the amount of time you spend in a particular place. I mean, another route to go is to think about do we need to do more through the tax system higher up, you know, the income distribution if, indeed, we want to try to be able to facilitate a better work-family balance and do that through, you know, shorter work weeks. I know there's some models, several which are in the Netherlands, which had -- you know, tried to do more with coming up with formulas that prorate wages but in a way that it's not the -- the loss isn't so great, and that's something that I'm trying to learn more about myself. Yes.
I'm not entirely sure how to ask this question, but I have a question. One of the problems you clearly indicated is that being a single mother makes managing family and work very difficult. One of my perceptions that may or may not be correct is that, when you're on welfare, that's a requirement that you be single; but as you go off welfare, that's not a requirement, obviously. And so I'm wondering if there's -- as you look at sort of what some of your people were thinking and doing over this ten-year period, is there any indication that either going off welfare encouraged two-adult families to sort of reconvene or rejoin. Or is there any indication that some of the single women realize that, if there were two adults in the household, life would be a little bit easier; and so that was maybe one of their goals or objectives.
Well, certainly many women realized that, if there were two adults in the household, life would be a lot easier. To the extent that the welfare system itself, you know, was a disincentive to form those partnerships, really, I would say not. And I think the research evidence of welfare as a -- as a disincentive to marriage just really isn't there. And there's been a number of studies that were launched after welfare reform to really explore more closely what it is that goes on in these very types of families where there is a single mom, what happens to that relationship, and look that more through the relationship lens rather than through the welfare lens. A few women -- a number of women in the WES did get married over time. In a companion qualitative study to this one, a colleague and I also conducted in-depth interviews with about 35 women who did get married to talk about, like, exactly what you're talking about, what were some of the reasons. And one women out of the 35 knew that if she got married that probably she wouldn't get Medicaid. She had some idea that there was some benefits that she would lose. But all of the other women, their reasons for getter married had to do with, you know, I finally met someone who seemed like he'd be a good companion. He gets along with my kids. You know, we have similar goals, you know, the types of things we might think that are -- you know, that are good reasons to partner up and not really the welfare system. Yes.
So there's been some national rumblings, I guess, on the urban policy side with Bruce Katz coming out of the Brookings Institute sort of looking at these metro nations, revitalizing urban centers, especially Midwest. I know he's done a lot of work in Ohio. That brings to mind, you know, change in different policies, transportation policy and looking at labor policy or labor and gender policy, allowing for more flexible time with work. Do you see this happening, or are you -- are any labor policy restrictors thinking along those lines or doing any work along that?
Well, I think -- I've seen just, you know, slow movement, you know, inch at a time. Ten years ago at organizations that did a lot of policy advocacy work around issues affecting low-income families, you would never read about or hear these types of issues you're talking about, like, flex time or more working at home or some of these other. It was all about, you know, how do we -- you know, how do we best get women into jobs, how do we support them but not much about, you know, addressing care giving responsibilities. These days -- and I can speak of one particular organization, the Center For Law and Social Policy which has long been an advocate for low-income families, this is one of their key issues that they focus on is work-family balance. So I do think it's moving along, probably not what the speed some of us would like to see it. But sometimes these things happen that way. Fred.
I had a -- I have a question about how people are accounting for care in the sense of you mentioned that -- I think you mentioned that in some cases it seems that people with younger kids didn't seem to talk as much about caring arrangements as some of the people as the older kids or something like that.
Well, most of the women in the study had older kids. So, yeah. It wasn't a point of discussion really at all.
Okay. Because I was wondering whether or not there was a difference in terms of having older versus younger kids or a mix of kids or even the timing and your life course when you start having kids that might have something to do with the way you account for setting up caring arrangements. So I was wondering whether or not there were different accounts that were offered about the way they're setting up these caring arrangements.
I mean, I don't have a whole lot of cases, obviously. But 26 to 46 was the age range of women, and the difference in women's ages was not something that jumped out to me at all. You know, possibly the reason for the similarities about how they talked about care giving arrangements was that the ages of their kids were very similar, and that could definitely be true. What I was really struck by when I started this question -- started this project, my research question really was, well, you know, how are women thinking about employment advancement. You know, that was sort of the central issue. I didn't really ask a whole lot initially about this whole, you know, work-family balance issue. That came up in like the first three interviews that I did, and I realized, you know, this might be something to explore further and then started probing a lot more on that. So that was something people offered up to me and not something I necessarily was, you know, really interrogating them about. Yes.
I'm curious about their attitudes, particularly the ones that were on welfare before the reform and then afterwards what their thought was on -- I guess their attitudes towards work and their attitudes towards welfare before and after.
It's interesting. There were a couple of women who really did attribute welfare reform as, you know, that was really the reason they -- one, Jackie even said she had got off her butt and went to work. For a couple of women, it made them report work they were already doing and maybe work a little bit more than they were already doing. But welfare as a general, you know, topic, also not something I asked about directly and sort of asked about it indirectly. What could government do more of to help support your family? But it just -- it wasn't on people's minds. Welfare reform wasn't on people's minds. The current welfare system wasn't. You know, a few of them were still getting food stamps. Some were getting Medicaid for their kids. But they didn't really sort of see themselves as attached to the welfare system anymore. They were workers. Eric.
One of your suggestions is that you think that EITC [inaudible] is a one-time lump sum payment. Do you think that it should continue to be paid like that, or should we look at other ways to possibly do it, like on a quarterly basis? Or instead of having, you know, $4,800 in March, they'll have $2,000 in March, 2000 in June, something like that?
So the EITC -- and, Sheldon, you can correct me if I'm wrong -- people can opt to have it paid out over the course of a year or over quarters, one or both. Most people don't do that. So that option already exists. You know, there's some argument that if the EITC in whole was larger people might have more of an incentive to take it throughout the year. But I think it -- my impression, again -- and this is from a new study I'm doing -- is that people like the lump sum. You know, it's something to look forward to. And also, you know, certainly now when people in the low-wage job sector are bouncing around from job to job so much and experiencing some, you know, not so insignificant spells of unemployment in between, maybe it wouldn't make sense to have it paid out over the 12 months and just take it as a lump sum at the end. Susan.
I would be interested in knowing whether any of the interviews that you conducted with the women raised issues around some of the other kinds of institutional supports available for their children. So, for example, a number of the women that you referred to were talking about they need to make sure they were there to support their kids [inaudible] and to make sure that they were actively engaged in positive ways after school. Did it come up whether there were concerns about availability or help within the schools or after school or other kinds of organizations? And was that something that was raised on the interviews in specific?
Could you talk a bit more about how they're thinking about higher education but it was something a lot of them were thinking about for the future, mainly because I don't need to know the literature very well, but my understanding is different types of views of higher education that lead to vastly different outcomes. So actually getting a degree is, you know, worth a lot more than going or, you know, associate's and bachelor's degree. So what type of education are they thinking about?
Well, if the goal of Work First slogan was jobs, better jobs, career, do you think it failed in the sense that career was either not chosen or not obtained?
So I'll answer that two ways. Yes, it failed. But I'm not actually sure that that mantra was an actual goal of the programs as it was a slogan to make people who actually show up to the program feel better about it. You know, a lot of that caseload decline that you see is because people went to work first and got a job. A lot of it was people were told they had to show up at this program and were, like, I can -- I can get a job on my own. I know how to do the stuff that they're going to do, teach me in there. So I will just go off myself. And for some women, just, you know, the ones who have the mental health problems, the ones who have multiple challenges, they are an increased likelihood to just dropped off altogether and not found jobs at all, and there's nothing in the safety net there to pick them back up. Yes.
Speaking of that, did you run into anybody who had been homeless or was homeless at the time?
Not with the in-depth interviews. But, again, I purposefully selected women who had more stable employment histories, so they were likely not to have experienced homelessness. Certainly homelessness and evictions happened to women in our study more broadly. And it could also be that other women were homeless but had just moved in with a family member or a friend for a short period of time. A lot of -- they were only now understanding how difficult it can be in surveys to pick up a lot of these changes and situations that can happen pretty rapidly and be very dynamic and, you know, might be homelessness, but women themselves might not consider themselves homeless. Yeah.
I'm just wondering about also off-the-books support that women do. So is it -- did any of them talk about whether they were taking up off-the-books types of housekeeping or other types of work because it might be that some of the informal work might help to account for their willingness to forego better jobs because they can supplement that income in other ways that are off the books? And similarly with caring arrangements, it also seems to me there might be other types of informal types of caring arrangements that they might be able to tap into that they might not even call it child care. So there might be other types of arrangements that aren't accounted as child care, but they serve the function of child care. I was wondering whether or not you were able to get into any of that qualitative work?
So on the off-the-books piece, I think there were two women among these 32 who were doing off-the-books intermittent things like mowing lawns. I can't remember what the other women was doing. But they were doing that because they really did have great steady work. So Mayline, you know, who gets paid $130 a week to take care of her grandmother, she said that was her job. That was her job. But, then, on the side, she also did some child care because her job just didn't pay her enough. The other women, though, no. And I would say it was probably because they didn't have the time. You know, they were working 35 to 40 hours a week and off -- you know, if you want to spend quality time with your kids, where are you going to find the time to do that off-the-books or kind of informal work? On the -- you know, the issue of more informal child care arrangements, yeah. I think that probably was going on. Women certainly did talk about, like, you know, swapping, trading off with a sister where sister could pick up her kids on the day she had to work late. I more heard about it, though, in that that was what I used to do. But then I noticed my sister wasn't paying attention to their homework, so now I have to watch them. Sarah.
So there's been a lot of attention to the declining [inaudible] of men, particularly less educated, less skilled men in the labor force in the United States as there's rightfully been a lot of attention to women. And I was thinking about your policy options and wondering whether some of these changes or some of these policy lovers would actually help them as well. So if you could speak a little to that, I know it's not at all what you do, but it's kind of interesting to think about how there could be broader spill-over effects making some of these changes for men who are having a really hard time in this labor market, as well.
Well, interestingly enough, on Friday, I was at a whole day workshop on how to reconnect disconnected men. So I feel like I now know a little bit more about that than I certainly did on Thursday. Certainly, you know, changes to higher education could help men in the same, you know, in terms of financial aid packages could help similarly situated men as women, especially if they're trying to juggle work with going to school. You know, and you might also -- there are -- there's definitely been a lot of discussion about doing some changes to the earned income tax credit so that men who -- you have to be the custodial parent in order to claim it, so men who are dads but don't have the kids living with them can't claim it. So we could think about changing the EITC so that men could also get a bonus too. There's a lot of complications about that and issues about what do we do if they're not paying formal child support, but I think there are probably ways that that can get hashed out. And on the shorter work week, you know, the hope is that that sends a message to men also that they can and should be equal care giving partners with their children.
But just [inaudible] what's happened is that men have lost mostly manufacturing jobs that were, in fact, full-time higher wage, and women have not been in that category. So, of course, more men are losing those jobs now. Women are much more likely to be employed part-time and in positions that aren't even counted in terms of welfare or after layoff resource is provided. So it's not exactly so rosy.
Although if you're -- particularly a young African-American male coming out of prison or otherwise have a criminal record, things are not looking so good for you. Eric.
One of the articles that was read in class talked about scaled payments for women based on the age of the child. Do you think that's something we can actually implement here in the United States or that we should implement?
What article are you talking about now [laughter]? It's very embarrassing [laughter].
Basically, it was that [inaudible].
Yeah. Oh, right. Yes, yes. I don't know. I'm not sure that -- that that's necessarily the right way to go because there are these other costs, right, these costs or benefits, depending on the lens you're looking at it, just the time. And even if young children cost more in dollar figures because you have to put them in formal child care, it doesn't mean that we should necessarily treat older kids differently when it is true that their mothers want to -- want to participate in their lives just as much. Kerry.
I'm curious in your conversations with your interviewees whether or not you got a sense of their knowledge of the system, especially after they had left the welfare rolls if they had an emergency come up or came across other barriers to employment whether or not they were able to access services or knew where to go to be able to maintain their employment instead of having a span where they had to quit or some other sort of --
So, no, not really. And part of that I think stems from the fact that they'd been out of the welfare system for quite some number of years. But also because they had been part of the welfare system, I got a very strong sense that public systems outside of education but public systems that we in the policy community think of as being out there to help and to assist were viewed with some amount of suspicion, either being too invasive to one's privacy, wanting too much information, or just not providing the kind of assistance that they thought they needed. So, you know, if I were going to suggest something to -- for example, like the workforce development sector, I would say, you know, you need to do some more marketing and just get the word out and also maybe change -- change the image a little bit. Yes.
I had two questions. First is about who conducted the 32 qualitative interviews and second is about the way that questions were framed about the time bind between work and family. And the reason I'm asking these questions is for the first question there may be some distance in the social identity, the class and race and education backgrounds of the interviewers and interviewees and sort of a process where interviewees are miming the things that they think that people want to hear about family values and work ethic. And the second question also has to do with that, how questions may or may not have been framed in getting respondents to fixate on that time bind as opposed to other challenges that they may have been facing.
Fair enough. So I did the majority of the interviews. And I primarily -- one other graduate -- no, two other graduate students who kind of helped do the rest. So these women, though, had been interviewed since 1997 by women who were hired through the Survey Research Center here at U of M. By and large, these tended to be other women from that community who sort of looked like them socioeconomically.
Well, thank you very much, first of all, to all of you joining us. We do have copies of Kristin's book. So [inaudible] book store has brought them, and we have a reception and a book signing to follow. But I'd also invite you to help me thank Kristin for giving a window on a very important and interesting set of issues and some of the insights from her new book. So thank you very much.
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