Does how much you earn affect your fertility? And 3 other questions tackled in recent research
Here’s the latest research on daylight saving time, food benefit trafficking and child tax credits
With news about Russia’s war on Ukraine, Supreme Court confirmation hearings and inflation dominating news cycles right now, one could be forgiven for missing other news that’s relevant to American families right now.
The relationship between daylight saving time and sleep, how wages impact fertility differently for men and women, food stamp fraud and tax credit work requirements all have this in common: they’re on the minds of policymakers, researchers and others this month. Here’s what experts are saying about them:
Daylight saving time and teens
As Congress contemplates extending daylight saving time permanently, researchers are discussing evidence that extending light at the end of the day and shortening it at the beginning is a losing proposition for teens especially.
The Atlantic just published an article by marriage and family therapists Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright addressing the already well-known truth that teens tend to stay up too late and then not get adequate sleep because of school, work and other obligations. That’s a problem that is likely to worsen if we move the clock forward an hour permanently, they say, arguing that the shift will exacerbate the problems young people have with sleep.
The duo, who co-wrote the book “The Happy Sleeper” and the soon-to-be-released “Generation Sleepless” about teens and tweens and what they need, say messing with time can hurt our bodies, which are “exquisitely attuned to the sun’s rhythm.”
A lot of woes related to too little sleep have been documented. Their list includes increasing stress levels, inflammation and depression. Since teens need extra ZZZs, Turgeon and Wright say having a dearth of sleep leads young people to more accidents, greater risk of depression, more risky behavior and a tilt toward sadness and anger. As the Deseret News reported extensively in a yearlong project, anxiety and depression are already a challenge for teens and young adults.
There’s long been a push to start school later in the morning because of issues teens have with inadequate sleep, so Turgeon and Wright hope Congress will nix the notion.
Work, gender and fertility
With more than half of all married couples in America employed and earning a living, the notion of a “male breadwinner norm” might seem outdated.
But “evidence from the U.K, U.S. and Europe suggests that for men, the link between making a living and having a family still exists,” according to an Institute for Family Studies blog by Rosemary L. Hopcroft, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Her research found that if a man earns more money, his wife is apt to have more children. The higher her income, the fewer children they’re likely to have.
“These results suggest that for men in the U.S., fathering children is still related to being able to provide. And for women, husband’s income remains important for childbearing,” wrote Hopcroft, who is also the author of “Evolution and Gender: Why It Matters for Contemporary Life.”
Her analysis is based on data from the 2014 wave of the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, which includes information on personal incomes from all sources and also data about family.
She told the Deseret News she measured biological children for both men and women, though they are not necessarily the children of the current spouse. Then she did it again with couples who had only been married to each other and found the same thing.
Her findings were published last month in the journal Biodemography and Social Biology.
Child tax credit and work
Paying the child tax credit monthly from July to December didn’t drive workers who received the payments from the labor force as some critics had feared, according to a new analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“Our analyses of real-world data suggest that the expanded CTC did not have negative short-term employment effects that offset its documented reductions in poverty and hardship,” wrote Elizabeth Ananat, Benjamin Glasner, Christal Hamilton and Zachary Parolin.
That fear is part of the discussion around the temporary expanded version of the child tax credit that was offered last year as part of pandemic relief. Instead of reserving the full credit for tax time, half was provided in monthly payments, while the rest is now being claimed during this tax filing season.
In a working paper published this month, researchers from the bureau used data from the monthly Current Population Survey and the Census Pulse, both including April through December 2021, and found only “statistically insignificant impacts of the CTC on both employment in the prior week and on active participation in the labor force among adults living in households with children.”
Part of the talk about the child tax credit and whether it should once again be paid monthly has centered around whether it should include a work requirement. The expanded, pandemic-aid version which ended in January didn’t have a work incentive.
Critics worry that if people could qualify for the tax credit without having to earn a minimum amount, some would choose not to work. During the temporary credit expansion because of COVID-19, the tax credit was made refundable, which means even those who don’t have to pay taxes because they earn too little could claim the credit.
The paper notes that “scholars have simulated employment scenarios assuming various labor supply elasticities,” some of which suggest people would work less if they could just get the credit. This research, though, looks at what actually happened in the expansion, the authors said, and didn’t find a difference for households for whom the expansion got rid of the work incentive.
Trafficking food benefits?
American Enterprise Institute scholar and poverty studies expert Angela Rachidi made a case this week for more policing of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
She noted research showing improper payments have increased from 3.8% in 2010 to 7.3% in 2019, usually in the form of overpayments, and predicts the problem ”will only worsen as SNAP caseloads grow and more federal dollars flow.”
According to Rachidi, the errors range from inadvertent mistakes made by government workers and recipients to cases of outright fraud by those using benefits for which they are not eligible.
One concern is trafficking, defined in a Government Accountability Office report as “a practice in which retailers exchange recipients’ benefits for cash instead of food, often taking a fraudulent profit.” In 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service reported that between 2015 and 2017, the trafficking rate is 1.6%, which isn’t a big share, but is a lot of money: about $1.27 billion. The store violation rate was 12.87%, that report said.
Rachidi wrote that trafficking happens when a retailer charges an amount, such as $100, to a restricted-use debit card on which food benefits are loaded, but gives the cardholder some cash, say $50. “The individual gets unrestricted cash and the retailer charges the federal government for the full $100, making a profit.” Some retailers also reportedly use that type of card, called an electronic benefit transfer or EBT card, to buy food items cheaply at a bulk store, then sell the items through their own businesses to make a profit.
As public officials discuss expanding the food assistance program, Rachidi says fraud is not new to pandemic programs for which President Joe Biden has promised to beef up policing. “The problem of fraud extends far beyond programs that were new to the pandemic,” Rachidi said. “And the current administration should turn their attention to those as well.”