IPR Policy Research Briefs


wage theft galvin

Policies to Protect Workers from Wage Theft

By Daniel Galvin

Overview: Raising the minimum wage is a hot-button topic in the United States, yet the discussion often ignores “wage theft”, which includes when employers pay their employees below the minimum wage. Existing research views wage theft in economic terms—employers underpay their workers because the financial benefits outweigh the potential costs of getting caught—but IPR political scientist Daniel Galvin frames it as a policy issue. Analyzing wage- and-hour laws and minimum wage violations in all 50 states, Galvin finds that workers are significantly less likely to be paid below the minimum wage in states with stricter laws against wage theft. And states that have enacted treble damages—triple back pay as a penalty—have seen the steepest declines in wage theft. However, effective policies require three conditions: favorable partisan majorities in state government, determined coalitions of workers’ advocates lobbying for change, and strong enforcement of penalties. 

school spending

The Benefits of Increased School Spending

By Kirabo Jackson

Overview: Does money matter for schools? This controversial topic of debate originates with the influential 1966 Coleman Report that found no connection between how much money is spent per student and test performance. IPR economist Kirabo Jackson leads a study that takes a fresh approach beyond just examining K-12 standardized test results to observing long-term effects, such as how much students earn as adults. Examining changes in K-12 public school spending due to school finance reforms in 28 states, Jackson and his colleagues find strong ties between increased school spending and positive outcomes.

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SNAP's Short- and Long-Term Benefits 

By Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Overview: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is the fundamental safety net for American families, lifting 5 million people out of poverty in 2014 (the most recent data available). With more and more families receiving benefits from programs like SNAP, IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is examining the program’s short- and long-term effects. She finds that SNAP improves birth outcomes and long-term health for recipients, and leads to better economic outcomes for women.



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The Safety Net as an Investment

By Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Overview: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays an important role in the lives of low-income children. After accounting for underreporting in the data, researchers have found that in 2012 the program lifted 4.9 million children out of poverty—and also lifted more than 2.1 million children out of deep poverty, defined as having an income level less than half of the poverty line. In addition, two-thirds of total SNAP benefits go to families with children. A growing body of evidence suggests it is particularly important to protect children from deprivation. In recent work the authors find that SNAP’s impact on children is large and the benefits endure into adulthood, especially when implemented at key developmental points in infancy and childhood.

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