A Future of Child Poverty: How Much It Costs and What We Can Do About It

Puerto Rico stands at a critical moment as it carves its future. The economic model that guided development for decades is no longer feasible. As the Boricua Summer of 2019 showed, the entire people of Puerto Rico is dissatisfied with its institutions, and those elected by the people do not seem to provide solutions. This report focuses on the consequences of child poverty for Puerto Rico and what we can do about it. The study presents evidence about the impacts of poverty on Puerto Rican children, quantifies the annual cost of child poverty and develops a roadmap to significantly reduce child poverty in three to ten years.

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Puerto Rico’s Economic Mobility Policy Lab

The Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico is in the process of establishing Puerto Rico’s Economic Mobility Policy Lab. The Lab would provide a research-to-action space for social innovations that promote economic mobility and reduce child poverty among families with children living in the island.

Puerto Rico’s Economic Mobility Policy Lab has the overarching purpose of collecting data and conducting research that will inform public policies and practices related to reducing child and intergenerational poverty. In doing this, the research and policy lab seeks to meet two main goals: 1.) to serve as a testing ground for changes in public policies that limit the ability of families with children and youth to gain economic security through employment; and 2.) to magnify the impact of innovative programs through the generation of an evidence base that will inform public policies and programming in Puerto Rico and beyond.

The Lab will initially be anchored in two main research projects:

The Vimenti Two-Generation Program

Housed at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, and drawing on both public and private funding, this program seeks to lift families with children out of intergenerational poverty through a two-generation approach that simultaneously addresses the needs of children, youth and families through high quality education, including a K-2 charter school, and social and economic development services. All offerings are centered in one location, at the Ramos Antonini housing project in Puerto Rico, offering a one stop-shop approach.

The preliminary stage of work, a formative evaluation, including and evaluability assessment, was completed in June of 2019. The next stage of the work will include strengthening its data systems, and the coordination of external evaluations. The Lab will work with the findings of these studies and will translate them into lessons on policy and programming about what works to promote the economic mobility of families with children in Puerto Rico and other jurisdictions with stubborn levels of intergenerational poverty.

Safety Net and Benefits Cliff Study

Driven by what both, young families and research have identified as an obstacle, our first policy pilot study will seek to examine the ways in which safety nets promote economic mobility in Puerto Rico. The first stage of the study will be completed in the summer of 2020, and will provide an analysis of the existing benefits cliffs in various public assistance programs.

The second stage will be an experimental study that would involve three groups- a control group, a group that has increased income thresholds for benefits, and a group that has both increased income thresholds for benefits and receives intensive two-generation supports through the Vimenti program. Results from this study will provide information to policymakers and government administrators about policies, programs and practices that increase workforce participation and economic security for families, as well as child outcomes.

Impact of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico’s Children

Children have been identified as one of the most vulnerable populations to the onslaught of natural disasters. For that reason, the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico commissioned a study on the effects of Hurricane Maria on children and young. This study addresses ten (10) research questions with the purpose of understanding the impact of the hurricane in Puerto Rico’s children and their families.

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