Blog

Last week at HiredPen…

We’re trying something new. Each week (or so) we’ll be writing a recap—ala Ann Friedman— of what we’ve been up to, which given our wide range of clients, we hope will become a regular way of catching up with what’s going on in the social policy field.

Read: A great Pediatrics article on why doctors should think about neighborhoods. Purpose Built success stories in Atlanta and New Orleans (reminds me that yes, we can build affordable, attractive neighborhoods). Urban planning then and now. Then: Slums and City Planning, by Robert Moses, circa 1945 (best word to bring back: “mossbacks). Now: ULI’s toolkit for developers for how to build for health.

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What If We Just Gave Young Poor Mothers Money? A New RCT Will Find Out

Poverty is a hard nut to crack. We’ve been at it (half-heartedly) for more than two-hundred years now, our solutions swinging between “fix them” (“them” in this case being poor people) to “fix the root causes.” Advocates who claim that poverty hurts children are countered by others who say “it’s not poverty, it’s single-parent families or character” or any number of other explanations. And of course, the hoary argument of who is “deserving” of support has a long and storied history, evident still today in the lopsided support for the “working poor” at the expense of those who aren’t.

All of these arguments are not just hot air or academic diversions. After all, if you believe the problem is a single mother’s character, “the fix” will be very different than if you think the problem of single-parent families stems from a lack of marriageable men because good paying jobs have disappeared. Look no further than the difference between Republicans and Democrats in their policy proposals.

To date, it’s been a he-said/she-said argument, and the pendulum has swung regularly between the two camps. The he said/she said persists for a simple reason. It’s very hard to prove either argument. You can’t get very far into these debates with correlational evidence only, which is what we have.

But we may be on the brink of a “smoking gun” of evidence that could put this argument to rest. [More]

A Turning Point for Poverty Policy?

Happy winter

As 2015 swings into full gear, with resolutions to keep and pounds to lose (delicious riddance, ye annual box of Frango mints), we want to take a moment to thank all our clients and colleagues for making 2014 a turning point for HiredPen. It was a big year for us. We expanded our staff, hiring two full-time writers, Kathleen and Natalie. We opened an office in Berkeley to join our office in Chicago. And we added several new, exciting projects, including Build Healthy Places, a project at the intersection of public health and community development; the Mindsets Scholars Network; and work with New America and the Packard Foundation on early education policy in California.

It’s a special privilege to get to write about ideas every day, and it’s even more amazing to get to write about ideas that change people’s lives.

So what do these ideas portend for 2015? I’ve been covering US poverty policy for 15 years, and it strikes me that 2014 might have been a turning point for new thinking about this age-old problem in America.

Three trends that took root in 2014 give me hope: [More]

In Policymaking, the Best Narrative Wins

We all like a good story. Even the wonkiest academic with a copy of Thomas Pikerty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century on her nightstand will agree: There’s nothing quite like being drawn into a good tale, with its hook, its tension, its real people and real quandaries, and its resolution. There’s a reason journalists start every story with a human being. We can relate.

And yet, read a research report on social welfare issues—the very issues with human beings at their core—and you can almost guarantee it will start with something like this:

In 2012, nearly 16 million U.S. children, or over one in five, lived in households that were food-insecure, defined as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited access to food.

Or this:

It is well-known theoretical result that a risk-averse consumer prefers full insurance offered on actuarially fair terms under expected utility maximization without state dependence.

No wonder why research rarely makes it across the bridge from academia to policymaking. [More]

We've been remarkably impressed by how quickly Barbara and Sarah have come to know our community (though they don't live here), by how smartly they've been in crafting stories about local goings-on (while simultaneously adding national context), and by how many readers have described their published pieces as being helpful (for context and understanding, for marketing and outreach, and for attracting financial and volunteer support).”

Gregg BehrExecutive Director, Grable Foundation

Ready to learn more? Get in touch.