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Eliminating fees in the Alameda County juvenile justice system meaningfully reduced financial burdens on families

(2021)

In 2016, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors permanently repealed fees charged to youth in the county’s juvenile justice system. Unlike other types of monetary sanctions, like fines and restitution, fees are not intended to punish defendants or repair survivors. Instead, fees are imposed to recoup administrative costs. Increasingly, advocates are highlighting the harm that monetary sanctions can inflict on justice-involved youth and their families, and are calling for fees to be repealed. This study examines whether removing these fees has an appreciable effect on families’ overall financial burden by applying a rigorous causal-inference approach to data on 2,401 youth placed on probation before and after the fee repeal.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

Measuring the CalEITC Take-up Gap among CalFresh enrollees

(2021)

Some of our nation’s most important anti-poverty programs are increasingly distributed through federal and state tax systems. This is true of the recent pandemic-related stimulus checks, but is also true of ongoing programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). These credits can provide a substantial financial boost to low-income Californians, but many of these households are at high risk of not receiving these tax credits because they are not required to file taxes. Understanding who does not receive these credits despite being eligible can shed light on how to ensure that all eligible Californians receive them. In this brief, we share the first-ever estimate of the CalEITC Take-up Gap, including the number of Californians enrolled in CalFresh who did not receive the CalEITC in 2017 and the dollar amount unclaimed.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

Simplifying communications can help high school students navigate college costs and the Cal Grant program

(2021)

Over 150,000 low- and moderate-income California high school graduates each year are eligible for Cal Grant entitlement awards, which can cover full tuition and most fees at any of the three public higher education segments in the state, or can make substantial contributions toward tuition at private colleges. Unfortunately, many eligible students don’t take up the awards. Many may not be aware of their eligibility, know how to navigate the system, or feel like these funds are truly meant for them.  In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the California Policy Lab and the People Lab at UC Berkeley worked with the California Student Aid Commission to design and test more effective notifications to eligible high school seniors. The redesigned letters were clearer, shorter, and encouraged students to think of themselves as college-bound. One letter also included personalized information about the total amount of financial aid available, and how that would impact the net costs of attending the colleges and universities to which a student had already applied

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

Crime in California during the COVID-19 Pandemic

(2021)

As the COVID-19 pandemic struck the US in early 2020 and led to social dislocations, financial and health stresses, and alterations in our daily routines, crime rates in California and across the country also changed, sometimes in unpredictable ways. In this brief, we use Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), California Department of Justice (DOJ) data, and US Census data to assess the degree to which crime in 2020 changed relative to crime in 2019 in California. We also compare crime trends in California to trends in other states. This policy brief expands on testimony provided to the California Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code, and includes 437 municipalities, whereas the testimony only included municipalities with over 100,000 people.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

The California children who may miss the 2021 federal Child Tax Credit

(2021)

The newly expanded federal Child Tax Credit (CTC) will provide a significant financial boost for families throughout the U.S. While most low-income families have already received advanced payments of the new CTC, because families need to have filed a tax return to receive it, some low-income families will likely miss out on receiving some or all of the credit. This brief sheds light on which Californian children and families are at risk of not receiving the CTC. Using matched social services and state tax data, we analyze the characteristics of over 650,000 children who we estimate are at risk of not receiving the expanded CTC. One main reason that these children may miss out on the CTC is that their families had little reason to file taxes before the pandemic.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

June 30th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(2021)

The COVID-19 crisis has led to historically unprecedented increases in the level of initial Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims filed in California since the start of the crisis in mid-March. Through a partnership with the Labor Market Information Division of the California Employment Development Department, the California Policy Lab is analyzing daily initial UI claims to provide an in-depth and near real-time look at how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting various industries, regions, counties, and types of workers throughout California. Return to the main report page to see all of the policy briefs, data points, and media coverage.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

Job Postings, Applications, and Wages: Evidence from Homebase

(2021)

As COVID-19 cases decline, vaccination rates rise, and pandemic-related restrictions are relaxed, the American labor market is recovering from the large job losses that occurred in March and April 2020. There has been particular interest in how employment is recovering in retail, hospitality, and food services—the sectors that experienced the largest declines in employment at the start of the pandemic.

We’re working with Homebase data to better understand how workers and firms in these sectors have been responding to the reopening of the economy. Homebase provides timecard, scheduling, and other workforce management services to small and medium-sized businesses, many in the food services and retail sectors.  As part of these services, Homebase provides a hiring tool to their client firms that allows them to post job openings on all the main hiring websites and aggregate applications received across these hiring websites.

These hiring tool data allow us to measure at high-frequency how job posts and applications are evolving at small and medium-sized businesses providing in-person services (see our previous post and paper documenting the characteristics of Homebase clients in general for more information). These businesses are heavily concentrated in sectors like food and drink and retail that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Their jobs typically require in-person work, potentially raising concerns about virus exposure risks; offer relatively modest wages, with average offered hourly wages around $12-15; and require little in the way of formal training or credentials.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

High-frequency labor market measures for workers at small businesses

(2021)

As evidenced by both the Pandemic Recession and Great Recession, labor markets can change rapidly. More granular data on the time-path of these changes, and the role played by firm closures, layoffs, hours changes, and worker turnover can help us better understand how the labor market is evolving. On this site, we will post weekly updates of labor market information from Homebase’s timecard data to shed light on the details of a rapid evolving labor market. We aim to measure the short- and medium-term evolution of the size of the small business sector and of the health of employers in this sector, by tracking whether firms in Homebase’s userbase are expanding or contracting the number of hours that they use each week and the rate of turnover among their workers.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

March 18th Analysis of Unemployment Insurance Claims in California During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(2021)

The COVID-19 crisis has led to historically unprecedented increases in the level of initial Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims filed in California since the start of the crisis in mid-March. Through a partnership with the Labor Market Information Division of the California Employment Development Department, the California Policy Lab is analyzing daily initial UI claims to provide an in-depth and near real-time look at how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting various industries, regions, counties, and types of workers throughout California. The Policy Briefs are updated on a monthly basis. Return to the main report page to see all of the policy briefs, data points, and media coverage.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.

Data Point: As Crisis Continues, More Unemployed Californians are Receiving UI Benefits

(2021)

Historically, the share of unemployed workers receiving regular UI benefits (recipiency rate) in California has been relatively low (as has also been the case in other states).This Data Point combines administrative data from California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) with monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) data to construct an improved recipiency rate to measure the extent to which unemployed and underemployed Californians are receiving regular UI benefits.

This work has been supported, in part, by the University of California Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives grants MRP-19-600774 and M21PR3278.