by Susan Crandall
As the leaves tumble faster and the weather grows ever cooler, the mounting darkness seems to exacerbate the onslaught of tragedies that befall us. I’ve often wondered how people go on in times of upheaval, conducting their daily business as the world is shattering. But I am frequently reminded that tragedies like gun violence and homelessness have been part of the fabric of everyday life for many communities like our neighbors in Dorchester and Roxbury. If they can on, I can go on: deriving purpose through the Center for Social Policy’s dedication to shine a light on the root causes of economic hardship through our community-engaged research.
Aside from voting, to find comfort elsewhere, I cook soups and stews. With my multi-function Instant Pot, I saute, mix ingredients, simmer, walk away and return to a ready-to-serve meal – usually in less than an hour. It’s quick and easy! In contrast, our projects at the Center for Social Policy are more like cooking in an old-fashioned kitchen. We juggle multiple projects at a time, moving the simmering pots and pans from the back to front burners, sneaking a taste here and there, all while keeping some ideas warm in the oven. Here’s a sample of what’s cooking at CSP on cliff effects:
Our cliff effects research agenda, guided by CSP Senior Fellow and Professor of Economics Randy Albelda, tackles the dilemma of losing public benefits in response to working more. Now ready to serve is our new chart pack which analyzes more family types and benefit packages and spotlights the impact of housing assistance and universal childcare.
Next up, we are washing, slicing, and dicing the data to prepare our next set of cliff simulations based on our recent report on benefit packages authored by Research Associate Caitlin Carey. We are also analyzing the impact of the new minimum wage law on cliff effects, led by Professor of Economics Michael Carr in partnership with Mass Budget and Policy Center.
We provide technical assistance on public benefits and cliff effects for UTEC in Lowell and for the City of Boston Office of Financial Empowerment. These organizations are grantees in Learn to Earn, Governor Baker’s initiative to mitigate cliff effects for job seekers enrolled in workforce development programs to help them advance in their careers. Our cliff effect research also informs the work of On Solid Ground, a family-engaged statewide coalition with over 45 members that advocates for housing stability and economic mobility for vulnerable families.
Early Education and Care
Cliff effects are especially detrimental for very low-paid workers, such as early childhood educators. Thus the Center for Social Policy, along with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, launched a study on Massachusetts’ early care and education workforce. Our interdisciplinary research team is examining compensation and benefits, public benefits and cliff effects, debt load, and professional development in order to provide in-depth data to inform future policymaking for the early care workforce.
Workforce Development and Employment
Our CSP team, spearheaded by Senior Research Associate Brandynn Holgate, is partnering with the City of Boston Office of Workforce Development to map career pathways in the creative economy for non-traditional adult learners. This project is in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute, with whom we are also embarking on a study with the City of Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to expand job training and employment to more underserved Cambridge residents.
Meanwhile, Research Director Francoise Carre, with co-investigators Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz and Chris Tilly of UCLA, is examining the workplace impacts of changing retail technologies, like automation. And through her work with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Dr. Carre lends statistical expertise on job classification for organizations such as the International Labor Organization to improve policies for informal work, such as domestic workers.
Workers and their families need stable housing to thrive. This is why the Center for Social Policy is proud to be selected as the evaluation partner for a cross-sector partnership to address the crisis of 4000 homeless students who attend Boston Public Schools. The collaborative is working together on a pilot program in seven schools to coordinate across housing, education, and health sectors to reduce homelessness and improve educational outcomes. Partners include the Chair of the Boston City Council’s Homelessness and Education Committee, Boston’s Chiefs of Housing and Education, Higher Ground, DSNI, Project Hope, New Lease for Homeless Families, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Housing Authority.
In the Community
When we are not cooking up a storm in the kitchen, we are out and about in the community. Recently, I served on a panel of experts to speak to business leaders on the Modern Workforce, highlighting the need for tuition assistance and debt counseling to attract and retain today’s financially-burdened millennial workforce. I was also an invited speaker on cliff effects and workforce policy at the Department of Labor Employment and Training and Administration Region I Administrators meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.