Want to boost test scores and increase graduation rates? Give low-income families benefits or money.

That’s the conclusion of a story we published looking at the link between anti-poverty programs and better outcomes for poor students in school. Along the way, we compiled a list of studies of anti-poverty programs and the effects on children and families. We’re providing that here as a reference; it also includes a handful of studies that go against the main trend. Our full story summarizes these results and also points to these studies’ limits.

This list is generally limited to those published in the last decade focusing on the U.S. (One paper focuses on Canada and two others that were published before 2008; these studies are included because they are mentioned in the original story.)

You can also reviews of similar research from the Brookings Institution, Future of Children, and London School of Economics, some of which Chalkbeat drew from for our own story.

Earned income and child tax credits

  • “An additional $1,000 in EITC exposure when a child is 13–18 years old increases the likelihood of completing high school (1.3%), completing college (4.2%), and being employed as a young adult (1.0%) and earnings by 2.2%.” Journal of Labor Economics (2018)
  • “An increase in the maximum EITC of $1,000 (2008 dollars) in a given year significantly increases math achievement by about 0.072 nationally normed standard deviations. This change in EITC generosity during childhood also increases the probability of graduating high school or receiving a GED at age 19 by about 2.1 percentage points and increases the probability of completing one or more years of college by age 19 by about 1.4 percentage points. Estimated effects are larger for boys and minority children.” Institute for Child Success (2015)
  • Increased income through EITC “raises combined math and reading test scores …. Test gains are larger for children from disadvantaged families.” American Economic Review (2012 and 2017 update)
  • “We find that a $1,000 increase in tax credits raises students’ test scores by 6% of a standard deviation, using our most conservative specification.” IRS (2011)
  • “We exploit changes in child benefits in Canada to study the impact of family income on child and family well-being. …The findings suggest that child benefit programs had significant positive effects on test scores, maternal health, and mental health, among other measures…an increase of 6.9 percent of a standard deviation for an increase in $1,000 of benefits.” American Economic Journal (2011)

Income, wealth, or cash benefits

  • “We collected individual-level administrative records of applicants to the Mothers’ Pension program … Male children of accepted applicants lived one year longer than those of rejected mothers. They also obtained one-third more years of schooling.” American Economic Review (2016)
  • “We find a $10,000 increase in housing wealth increases the likelihood of public flagship university enrollment relative to nonflagship enrollment by 2.0 percent and decreases the relative probability of attending a community college by 1.6 percent. These effects are driven by lower-income families, predominantly by altering student application decisions. … Furthermore, for lower-income students, each $10,000 increase in home prices leads to a 1.8 percent increase in the likelihood of completing college.” Journal of Human Resources (2013)
  • “Family Rewards offered cash assistance to low-income families to reduce immediate hardship, but conditioned that assistance on families’ efforts to build up their “human capital” to reduce the risk of longer-term and second-generation poverty. … The program … did not improve school outcomes overall for elementary or middle school students, perhaps in part because, for these children, the program rewarded attendance (which was already high) and standardized test scores (rather than more immediate performance such as good report card grades).” MDRC (2013)
  • “Although each additional quarter of either mother’s employment or welfare use results in only a small increase in a child’s standardized math test score, the total effects after several quarters are sizable. A child who has the mean level of observed innate ability with a mother who simultaneously worked and used welfare in all 20 quarters after childbirth experiences an 8.25 standardized‐point increase in standardized scores. The positive impact is more pronounced for the more disadvantaged children.” Economic Inquiry (2012)
  • The study examines a “set of welfare and antipoverty experiments conducted in the 1990s … Our estimates suggest that a $1,000 increase in annual income increases young children’s achievement by 5%–6% of a standard deviation.” Developmental Psychology (2011)
  • “An additional $4000 per year for the poorest households increases educational attainment by one year at age 21 and reduces having ever committed a minor crime by 22% at ages 16−17.” American Economic Journal (2010)

Food stamps/SNAP

  • “Results indicate differences in students’ math and reading performance based on the recency of SNAP benefit transfer. … Test scores peak in the third week following benefit transfer.” American Educational Research Journal, Chalkbeat story (2018)
  • “Scores are notably lower when the exam falls near the end of the benefit cycle and when food stamps arrive on the four days immediately preceding the exam.” Economics of Education Review (2018)
  • “I next explore the effects [of food stamps] on other health outcomes including the likelihood the child was hospitalized overnight in the past year, the number of school days missed and chronic school absence (>15 days) in the past year, and the likelihood the child visited the doctor at all or 2 or more times in the past year. … The point estimates on all the outcomes measuring poor health are negative, but the standard errors are large. The only estimate that is statistically different from zero is chronic school absence.” Journal of Human Resources (2018)
  • “For SNAP recipient children, a ten percent increase in SNAP purchasing power is associated with a decrease in missed school days of just over 1 day (or a 22 percent decrease relative to the mean of approximately 5 days missed).” Working paper (2017)
  • “We find that students whose families received SNAP were more likely than students whose families did not receive SNAP to have disciplinary infractions at the end of the monthly SNAP disbursement cycle than at the beginning of the cycle. This effect is particularly pronounced for male students.” Social Service Review (2016)
  • “We focus on the introduction of the Food Stamp Program, which was rolled out across counties between 1961 and 1975. … All coefficients with the exception of employment status suggest that exposure to food stamps leads to an improvement in later life economic well-being: increases in education, earnings, and income and a reduction in poverty and participation in public assistance programs. However, only the coefficient on educational attainment reaches statistical significance.” American Economic Review (2016)
  • “Starting [Food Stamp Program] participation during the 4 years from K to third grade was associated with about a 3-point greater improvement in reading and mathematics score as compared with stopping FSP participation during that period.” The Journal of Nutrition (2006)

Health insurance and services

  • “We evaluate how an expansion of Medicaid coverage for pregnant women and infants affected the adult outcomes of individuals who gained access to coverage in utero and during the first year of life. … We also find that the expansions increased high school graduation rates.” Journal of Human Resources (2018)
  • “We find consistent evidence that Medicaid exposure when young increases later educational attainment. Our baseline estimates suggest a ten percentage point increase in average Medicaid eligibility between the ages of zero and 17 decreases the high school dropout rate by 0.4 of a percentage point, increases the likelihood of college enrollment by 0.3 of a percentage point, and increases the four-year college attainment rate (BA receipt) by 0.7 of a percentage point. … We find that the high school completion effects are larger among nonwhites, while the college enrollment and completion rate impact sare largest among white children.” Journal of Human Resources, Chalkbeat story (2016)
  • “We estimate a substantial decrease in antisocial behavior among individuals whose BLL test results trigger eligibility for an intervention. Relative to our control group, we find a 0.184 standard deviation decrease in antisocial behavior for adolescents using a summary index. We also estimate a marginally significant 0.117 increase in primary and middle school educational performance among children eligible for an intervention that is administered prior to school entry.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Chalkbeat story (2018)
  • There was “no evidence Medicaid implementation affected high school completion, college attendance, or college graduation probabilities.” NBER (2016)
  • “We find that both male and female Medicaid eligibles are more likely to have attended college. This effect is more pronounced for women. … On a base of 68% of the female population that has ever attended college by age 20, one additional year of eligibility from birth to age 18 increases the likelihood of having ever attended college by 0.40 percentage points.” NBER (2015)
  • “I study a federal law that expanded Medicaid eligibility discontinuously for low-income children born after September 30, 1983. Using administrative data on students in Chicago Public Schools, I demonstrate that Medicaid enrollment increased significantly for those children likeliest to be affected by the expansion. I also offer suggestive evidence that these children were more likely to graduate high school, and that this effect is particularly strong for males.” Working paper (2015)
  • “We find that test scores in reading, but not math, increased for those children affected at birth by increased health insurance eligibility. A 50 percentage point increase in eligibility is found to increase reading test scores by 0.09 standard deviations.” NBER (2009)

Public housing and housing vouchers

  • “Our findings provide evidence that children whose households received housing assistance make small academic gains. Specifically, we find some evidence that housing recipients experience minor math gains two years following housing receipt relative to future recipients. Further analyses suggest that these gains are concentrated among Black students. In addition, and unlike much of the past research on housing assistance and educational outcomes, we are also able to test whether rental subsidies or public housing assistance is more strongly associated with academic performance. We find weak evidence of a positive association between rental subsidies and math test scores two to three years after receipt, but, surprisingly, we also find a negative association between public housing receipt and later test scores.” AEFP working paper (2018)
  • “We find that the receipt of housing assistance has little, if any, impact on neighborhood or school quality or on a wide range of important child outcomes.” Quarterly Journal of Economics (2014)
  • Housing vouchers through the Moving to Opportunity program “had few detectable effects on a range of schooling outcomes, even for those children who were of preschool age at study entry.” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2012)
  • “I find that children in households affected by the demolitions do no better or worse than their peers on a wide variety of achievement measures. Because the majority of households that leave public housing in response to the demolitions move to neighborhoods and schools that closely resemble those they left, the zero effect of the demolitions may be interpreted as the independent impact of public housing.” NBER (2003)