Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The New York Times Weighs In On SIPP Funding

A few days ago I posted this petition regarding the President's decision to discontinue funding for the longitudinal SIPP data set.

I worked with the data set when I was a research fellow at the Institute for Women's Policy Research where we studied the effects of changing what was then our "welfare" system to a set of block grants to states. Specifically, we looked at the link between people's use of AFCD and food stamps predicting that once people were forced off of AFDC, they would not use food stamps even if they qualified for them. This research contributed to this report.

The point is, this data set allows researchers of all stripes to answer many extremely important questions and make legitimate predictions about the consequences of any policy change.

I can only assume that Bush (as he has shown in the past on other important decisions) does not value credible "intelligence".

On March 4th, the New York Times weighed in on the subject. Here is the article:

The White House has a sorry history of withholding information that the public and Congress need to make informed policy judgments. A proposal in President Bush's new budget would take that damaging tendency one step further by eliminating a government survey that captures the real-world impact of welfare reform, Medicaid, child-support enforcement and many other policies and programs.

Started by the Census Bureau in 1984, this study, called the Survey of Income and Program Participation, questions thousands of the same people every four months for two to four years and gathers details about their lives, including their use of government aid. It is particularly valuable for the way it uncovers the actual effects of government programs and the way people move in and out of them. Most other polls simply capture data at a given point in time.

Take welfare reform, for example. Rather than evaluating it simply by the number of people on welfare before and after, researchers using the survey have isolated the factors — social, economic and personal — that have allowed some men and women to successfully leave welfare for work and the factors that caused others to fall into deeper poverty. Such information is vital to build on what works, to amend what doesn't and to allocate scarce government resources accordingly.

Getting rid of the survey this year, as the new budget proposes, would make it very difficult to study the fallout from deep cuts in food stamps, child care, Medicaid and other programs for the poor that Congress passed and Mr. Bush signed last month. That would be great for politicians who don't want to be held accountable. But it would be a big loss for anyone who wants government to work well.

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