Evidence in Action Roundup

May 31, 2017

News and notes from the intersection of research and public policy. Not endorsements… just food for thought. 

Child Poverty in the US Is a Disgrace. Experts Are Embracing this Simple Plan to Cut It.

About 11.8 percent of children in the United States live in absolute poverty. In Germany it’s 6.2 percent. And in Sweden it’s 3.6 percent. Is a child benefit the answer?

This idea, known as a child benefit or child allowance, exists in almost every EU country as well as in Canada and Australia. In many countries, the payments are truly universal; you get the money no matter how much you earn. In others, like Canada, the payments phase out for top earners but almost everyone else benefits. France has a weird scheme where only families with two or more children get benefits, as an incentive to have more kids. But the core principle is the same in every system: Low and middle-income families are entitled to substantial cash benefits to help them raise their children.

Cities Need ‘Hedges as well as Trees’ for Environment 

Not all air pollution is over our heads. That’s where hedges can help: 

A paper in the journal Atmospheric Environment says tall trees are good at absorbing pollution in more open areas. But hedges can trap toxins at exhaust pipe level, and so reduce people's direct exposure to harmful pollutants.

In Kenya, Phones Replace Bank Tellers

A study indicates that mobile money can boost incomes in developing countries. 

In 2007, Kenya’s mobile network giant Safaricom started M-Pesa, a money transfer service. That ended up changing how Kimari helps her parents—changing many aspects of her life, and much about Kenya.

Neuroscience Shows that Our Gut Instincts about Only Children Are Right

Researchers explore not only the behavior but also the brain structure of only children. 

Jiang Qiu, a professor of psychology at Southwest University in Chongqing, China and director of the Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality in the ministry of education, led a team of Chinese researchers that sought to answer this question with more than 250 college-aged Chinese students. They used standard tests of intelligence, creativity, and personality type to measure their creativity, IQ, and agreeableness. They also studied their brains, to see if growing up as an only child affects the structure of them. It did. 

Wharton’s Online Policy Simulator Isn’t Just for Wonks

Anyone can use this new tool to test the effects of a wide range of policy choices. In the past two months, more than 350,000 simulations have been run. 

The computer model is accessible at budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu. Users change settings with moving sliders and drop-down menus. Two simulators, for Social Security and immigration, let people test policy options such as raising the normal retirement age or increasing deportations.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not represent those of Mathematica Policy Research.

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