From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

Poverty is both a cause and an effect of insufficient access to, or completion of, a quality education.

Addressing Poverty Through Strong Schools and Strong Communities: A Service Learning Approach

A Collaboration between the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Griffin Campus, the College of Education, and the Griffin-Spalding County School System, Cowan Road Middle School

Can a K-12, service-learning approach that uses issues of poverty as the driving force behind what and how students learn improve their academic achievement, civic dispositions, and contribute to the reduction of poverty?

From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

Service-Learning Projects

6th Grade: Financial Literacy

7th Grade: Pre-K, Kindergarten Literacy

8th Grade: Health Impacts of Poverty

Outgrowth of Project

Community Poverty Simulation

New research projects

Math for parents

Partners for a Prosperous Griffin-Spalding County

Strengthening Our Communities

From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

Beginning Question

What key issue must be addressed in order to solve the problem of poverty in Griffin-Spalding County?

Issue Areas


Partners for a Prosperous Griffin-Spalding County

From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

From then to now: Building a Community Program to Address Poverty

Creating an Action Agenda for Our Future

Partners for a Prosperous Griffin-Spalding County spent over a year focusing on issues.

  • Education
  • Single Mother Births
  • Housing
  • Economic Development
  • Health
  • Transportation

33 Recommendations for Action were developed

Recommendations for Action

Four major action items:

  1. Establish a Community Resource Center
  2. Obtain major funding for capacity building
  3. Develop a Community Foundation
  4. Continue a Community Conversation

A Community Conversation

  1. We think education is important—do you? If you do, what can we do to continue to improve the education of our children as well as adults?
  2. We think having a house and contributing to your neighborhood is important—do you? If you do, how can we help you in your neighborhood?
  3. We think being from a dual-parent home is important—do you? If you do, what can we all do to reduce single-parent births?

Strengthening Communities Grant

A federal initiative

  • American Recovery & Reinvestment Act
  • U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
  • Administration for Children & Families

34 awards nationwide

  • $1,000,000 over two years
  • Oct 1, 2009 – Sept 30, 2011
  • $341,600 local match
  • $600,000 toward sub-awards


To build the capacity of grassroots nonprofit organizations to address economic recovery issues present in their communities

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968

The Poverty and the Economy Faculty Research Grants Program Return on Investment

The Poverty and the Economy Faculty Research Grants Program Return on Investment

The Investment

Jeff Jordan, a professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Georgia-Griffin Campus, received two Poverty and the Economy Faculty Research Grants:

  • $21,857 in 2006 for his research entitled Addressing Poverty through Strong Schools and Strong Communities: A Service-Learning Approach, and
  • $19,321 in 2008 for his second proposal entitled Why Do Dropouts Happen? Exploring Education, Homeownership and Poverty.

This represents a total investment of $41,178.

Return on the Investment

Griffin-Spalding County started an anti-poverty initiative.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded the community $1 million dollars to further work started by both of Jordan’s Poverty and the Economy Grants.

  • Jordan was instrumental in receiving a HHS grant for $1 million to help fund the Partners for a Prosperous Griffin Spalding. The grant — part of the Strengthening Communities Fund (SCF), created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — aims to improve the ability of nonprofit organizations to promote the economic recovery of people with low incomes.
  • Jordan cites UGA’s Initiative on Poverty and the Economy, specifically the Poverty and the Economy Grants Program supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research, as the catalyst for the community’s success in obtaining this grant.

Work Program

The $1 million Strengthening Communities Fund from HHS will be used by PPGS to do the following:

Encourage economic development and relieve poverty in Region 4

  • Georgia’s Region 4 (R4) — comprised of Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Troup, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Butts, Lamar, and Upson Counties — is currently, and historically, a distressed community when compared to state and national rates of poverty, unemployment, and educational attainment.
  • Closings of area textile mills have exacerbated economic distress in the region.

Increase capacity of non-profit organizations (NPOs) in Region 4.

  • Operational capacity of local NPOs will be enhanced through assessment, planning, implementation, training, one-on-one technical assistance, funding, and mentoring.
  • 60 NPOs will participate in a series of 20 capacity-building workshops over 24 months.
  • Through a competitive process, the PPGS will select 40 NPOs for the one-on-one technical assistance and financial sub-awards of $15,000 each on a tier-level based on performance outcomes designed to further strengthen and expand their organizational capacity.

Create a Community Resource Center (CRC) to provide long-term support for local NPOs.

  • A CRC will provide office space for participating NPOs.
  • The CRC will offer a one-stop option to access services provided by NPOs.
  • The CRC will contribute to the sustainability of NPOs by providing facilities andpotential cost-sharing of other operating expenses.

Meriwether Redevelopment Assessment Study

Study Proposal submitted to Griffin Housing Authority (GHA) on April 28, 2014.

Principal Investigator

Jeff Jordan, Professor, Agricultural & Applied Economics, University of Georgia

Co-principal Investigator

Abdul Munasib, Research Scientist, Agricultural & Applied Economics, University of Georgia

I. Scope

Meriwether Redevelopment (MR), the ‘intervention’, provides a natural experiment where the former residents of Meriwether constitute the treatment group. The control group consists of the residents of Fairmont and public housing applicants on the GHA waiting list. This study will assess various impacts on the families of those former residents of Meriwether Homes by comparing their experiences with those at Fairmont Homes as well as people who are currently on the GHA waiting list utilizing this natural experiment setting.

MR provides an opportunity to examine two kinds of effects. First, as the voucher recipients choose a neighborhood (henceforth referred to as ‘move-out’), we can examine the impact of the chosen neighborhood on her and her children’s (if any) observed outcomes. Secondly, once the redevelopment is completed, conditional on the return of the resident (henceforth referred to as ‘move-back’), we can again assess the impact of redevelopment on her and her children’s observed outcomes.

II. Outcomes of Interest

  1. Relocation decisions: Both ‘move-out’ and ‘move-back’ decisions are prompted by the intervention (MR). In case of ‘move-out’ we can examine the neighborhood choice resulting from the voucher program. Following up on the ‘move-back’ decision, we can examine the impact of the improved environment resulting from the redevelopment.
  2. Self-sufficiency: The goal of the voucher program is often to prompt greater self-sufficiency on the part of the voucher recipient. The ‘move-out’ portion of MR gives us an opportunity to examine the validity of this expectation. Even for the ‘move-back’ portion of MR, we can examine if the improved neighborhood environment could have a similar impact.
  3. Family structure: We are interested in studying what impact these relocation decisions and subsequent changes in environment have on family structure. In particular, we plan to explore the issue of male role model.
  4. Children’s education: As in the case of self-sufficiency, both the ‘move-out’ and the ‘move back’ portions of MR merit examination of their respective impacts on the educational outcomes of the children of the treated families. In this regard, we plan to acquire supplementary information from the school district.
  5. Health: Some of the most robust effects estimated in the HUD-sponsored ‘Moving to Opportunity’ (MTO) studies are those related to health. These studies found evidence of improved physical and mental health for those who left public housing. We intend to re-examine these effects for both adults and children, especially in the context of the presence of social interaction interference (see section IV below).
  6. Safety: While both Meriwether and Fairmont Homes are relatively safe environments, the neighborhoods surrounding them are less so. The ‘move-out’ portion of MR provides us with an opportunity to examine if the voucher recipient relocates to a relatively safer neighborhood, and if so, whether their perception of safety (as well as realized safety) is affected as a result. As for the redevelopment – which is generally aimed to impact not only the housing complex but also the surrounding neighborhood – the ‘move-back’ part of MR provides us with an opportunity to examine the direct impact of a safer neighborhood on the perception of (and the actual) safety of the treated families.
  7. Quality of Life: Some of the most important potential neighborhood effects may be in the form of intangibles such as quality of life, perception of fulfillment, and happiness. Of particular importance, especially for the children of the treated families, are aspirations and expectations. These are some of the quality of life aspects that we are interested in investigating.

While it may not be feasible to cover each and every one of these topics, we plan to accommodate as many of these issues as allowed by the scope and feasibility of the information gathering process.

III. Information Gathering

Some of the basic information would be collected from the Griffin Housing Authority (GHA), the primary partner of this study, and the Griffin-Spalding County School System. We also plan to conduct a number of surveys.

  1. The Baseline: Surveys will be conducted with current Fairmont residents, former Meriwether residents (housing voucher recipients) and individual/families in the GHA waiting list to gather information pertaining to the pre-move baseline. All the individuals surveyed in the baseline will constitute the original sample.
  2. First follow-up: This round of information gathering will take place within the first six months of the re-opening of Meriwether, for everyone in the baseline original sample (subject to availability).
  3. Final follow-up: Approximately two years after the reopening of Meriwether, we plan to follow-up with everyone in the baseline sample (subject to availability).
  4. Intervening periods: Between the first and the final follow-ups, we may consider a round of intervening survey. Similarly, in between the baseline and first follow-up, depending on how much time has passed, we may have to consider conducting another intervening survey.

IV. Expected Contributions

The benchmark study in this area of research is the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that, in 1994, selected families with children in five sites (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York) residing in public and assisted housing projects in census tracts with at least 40 percent poverty rate (See Goering et al. (1999) and Goering et al. (2002) for a description of the program). At each site, randomization was used to assign participants to,

  1. a control group,
  2. an experimental group receiving counseling and housing vouchers that could be used only tomove to a census tracts with poverty rates less than 10 percent, or
  3. a Section 8 group receiving vouchers that could be used anywhere.

The objective was to design an experimental set up so that comparisons between the control group and the experimental (and/or the section 8) group would yield unbiased estimates of neighborhood effects. This can, however, be problematic when substantial fractions do not lease up (i.e., use their vouchers to move). The Chicago lease up rate, for instance, was 34 percent in the experimental group, and 66 percent in the Section 8 group (Goering et al. 1999).

In contrast, in case of Meriwether Redevelopment (MR) the treatment group, by construction, did not have a choice to not lease up. This is a particular advantage of this project that has the potential to offer a more accurate and unbiased estimate.

A specific methodological emphasis in this proposed MR study would be the issue of social interaction that contaminates estimate of neighborhood effects. Neighborhood effect estimates in experimental settings, such as the MTO project, are based on the implicit assumption of no interference between units – that is, a subject’s response to the intervention depends only on the treatment to which that subject is assigned, not on the treatment assignments of other subjects (Sobel 2006). For the MTO studies, this assumption is not reasonable because interference is common in these social settings (e.g., schools and social networks).

Consider, for example, the relocation decision of a former Meriwether resident – while looking for a rental unit she is likely to be heavily influenced by other Meriwether residents who are also looking for accommodations. Note that the relocation decision determines the neighborhood which, in turn, determines the degree and the nature of the neighborhood effects that we intend to estimate. Furthermore, whether she subsequently decides to return to Meriwether after the completion of the redevelopment may also be determined by other former residents’ decision to return. The social network developed at Meriwether, thus, could play a crucial role in the determination of the neighborhood effects.

These social network (or social interaction) effects are the so called interferences that breaks down the no-interference assumption. When data from experimental studies are analyzed under the no-interference assumption, very misleading inferences can result; a research project that fails to recognize this could easily infer that a treatment is beneficial when in fact it is harmful (Sobel 2006). Additionally, the consequences of interference (e.g., spillovers) are themselves of great substantive interest. This project aims to accommodate social interaction (or social network) effects in assessing the neighborhood effects.

V. Time Frame and Deliverables

Since the issuance of vouchers for the Meriwether residents started in November 2013, we plan to begin the baseline survey and basic information gathering immediately. With the final follow-up taking place two years after the re-opening of the redeveloped Meriwether, we plan to submit the final report within a year (12 months) of the completion of the final follow-up survey, which involves preparing the newly collected data, analyses of the data, testing of the hypotheses, and the writing of the report.

Additionally, within a year (12 months) of the completion of the first follow-up, we plan to prepare an intermediate report analyzing the ‘move-out’ part of MR which, again, involves preparing the newly collected data, analyses of the data, testing of the hypotheses, and the writing of the report. Throughout the study period we plan to prepare quarterly progress reports.

VI. Budget

Research Scientist support: $25,000/year

Miscellaneous supplies: $ 1,000/year


Calvó-Armengol, Antoni, Eleonora Patacchini, and Yves Zenou. 2009. “Peer Effects and Social Networks in Education.” Review of Economic Studies, 76, 1239–1267.

Goering, J., Feins, J., and Richardson, T. M. 2002. “A Cross-Site Analysis of Initial Moving to Opportunity Demonstration Results,” Journal of Housing Research, 13, 1-30.

Goering, J., Kraft, J., Feins, J., Mclnnis, D., Holin, M. J., and Elhassan, H. 1999. “Moving to Opportunity for Pair Housing Demonstration Program: Current Status and Initial Findings,” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jackson, M. 2009. “Social Networks in Economics,” The Annual Review of Economics, Vol-ume 1, pages 489-513, January 2009.

Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program. Final Impacts Evaluation.

Sobel, Michael E. 2006. “What Do Randomized Studies of Housing Mobility Demonstrate? Causal Inference in the Face of Interference,” Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 101, No. 476 (Dec., 2006), pp.1398-1407.

The Today and Tomorrow of Kids

Marco Castillo, Georgia Institute of Technology

Paul Ferraro, Georgia State University

Jeff Jordan, University of Georgia

Ragan Petrie, George Mason University


Objective:  To understand how school children view the future.

Goal: To use this understanding to reduce the high school drop out rate.

Result: Inform policies and programs on improving educational outcomes.

Time Preference Instrument

  • Decide between $49 in one month or $49+$X in seven months.
  • Measure of time preferences or discount rate.
    • Implied interest rate you would need to be willing to wait for higher amount of money.
    • Also called impatience.
  • 866 8th-graders (13-15 yrs) in Griffin, GA.
    • 3 cohorts, entire school district.
  • 20 separate decisions ($50.83 to $98.02).
  • Paid with Wal-Mart gift cards.
  • Payment private, by school principal.
  • Switch point implies discount rate range.

Basic Result 1

Discount Rates
Male 90.2



White males

White females

Black males

Black females








Males have higher discount rates than females.

Blacks have higher discount rates than whites.

White males and white females are not significantly different.

Black males are more impatient than black females.

Black boys are most impatient.

Due to risk preferences?

  • May appear to have larger discount rates, when it is really risk aversion.
  • This would imply that black boys are more risk averse than any other group.
  • Collected data on risk preferences in same population to check.
    • Experiment used decisions over 5 lotteries ($25 for sure, increasing in value and risk) – subjects choose one (A, B, C, D or E) – E most risky.
1 $25 1 $40 1 $55 1 $70 1 $85
2 2 2 2 2
3 3 3 3 3
4 4 4 4 4
5 5 5 5 5
6 6 6 6 6
7 7 7 7 7
8 8 8 8 8
9 9 9 9 9
10 10 10 10 10
11 $25 11 $20 11 $15 11 $10 11 $5
12 12 12 12 12
13 13 13 13 13
14 14 14 14 14
15 15 15 15 15
16 16 16 16 16
17 17 17 17 17
18 18 18 18 18
19 19 19 19 19
20 20 20 20 20

Basic Result 2

Black White
Decision Female Male Female Male
1 36 25% 28 19% 34 26% 24 16%
2 24 17% 21 14% 42 32% 36 25%
3 21 15% 30 20% 25 19% 27 18%
4 21 15% 16 11% 12 9% 26 18%
5 39 28% 54 36% 17 13% 33 23%
Average 3.0 3.3 2.5 3.0
Obs 141 149 130 146

Basic Result 3

Black boys have larger discount rates, even when controlling for other variables (including math & reading skills, free & reduced lunch).

This summer we will conduct a phone survey of all families of 8th graders to find out more about what home factors may affect discount rates.

Basic Result 4

  • Discount rates are positively correlated with outcomes (disciplinary referrals) even controlling for other variables that may affect discipline.
  • Disciplinary referrals relate to dropping out of school and lower income later in life.
    • In Spalding school district, among drop-outs, 4.6 referrals.
    • Among our subjects, 1.8 referrals.

Inconsistencies in Risk

(some preliminary evidence)

  • Interested in whether kids exhibit rational preferences over risk.
  • Are they expected utility maximizers?
  • Or, something else?

Risk Preferences Instrument

  • Measures risk preferences and choice consistency.
  • 6 separate decisions over lotteries.
    • One decision over 5 lotteries.
    • Five decisions over $0, $30, $40 (Chew & Waller, 1986, design).
  • Paid with Wal-Mart cards.
  • Payment private, by school principal.
  • 603 8th-graders (13-15 yrs) in Griffin, GA.

Lottery 1

1 $30 1 $30
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
11 11
12 12
13 13
14 14
15 15
16 16 $0
17 17 $40
18 18
19 19
20 20

Lottery 2

1 $0 1 $0
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
11 11
12 12
13 13
14 14
15 15
16 $30 16
17 17 $40
18 18
19 19
20 20

Lottery 3

1 $30 1 $0
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5 $40
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
11 11
12 12
13 13
14 14
15 15
16 16
17 17
18 18
19 19
20 20

Lottery 4

1 $30 1 $0
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5 $40
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
11 11
12 12
13 13
14 14
15 15
16 $0 16
17 $40 17
18 18
19 19
20 20

Lottery 5

1 $30 1 $0
2 2 $40
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 $40 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
11 11
12 12
13 13
14 14
15 15
16 16
17 17
18 18
19 19
20 20

Basic Result 5

  • Black and white students are different in how they make decisions.
  • Black boys and girls exhibit “pessimistic weighting.”
    • Weight bad outcomes higher and good outcomes lower.


Discipline referrals incurred by a child have been found to be a good predictor of the child’s decision to drop out of school and of lower average lifetime earnings.


  • The odds of a student being referred for disciplinary action increases if the student is male, black, in special education classes, or is poor.
  • The gender and race of the teachers who refer students for disciplinary action have a significant impact on the first hypothesis.

Basic Result 6

  • As hypothesized:  the odds of a student being referred for disciplinary action increases if the student is male, black, chronically absent, or is poor.
  • Gender of teacher was not significant but race was although not in the way hypothesized.
  • Black female teachers were more likely to discipline students.
  • Special teacher/student dynamic between black males.
  • Further research will link this to student impatience and other educational outcomes such as dropping out.


  • We see differences in how children view the future as well as how they view likely outcomes.
  • We see connections between impatient decision making and discipline.
  • Does impatience cause discipline problems for black boys or does the disproportionate application of discipline over the course of a school career, even if administered by a black or male teacher, affect how African American children see the future?
  • One implication of this research is the need for more immediate rewards than those long-term rewards suggested by high school graduation.
  • Differences in discount rates may mean changing the level of those rates is less important than making rewards more immediate and sequential.
  • If preferences are stable from a young age, uniform incentive and rewards programs may have the perverse effect of making the gaps between children larger.
  • Children who would already excel and graduate will take further advantage of incentives and reinforce gaps and pessimistic outcomes.
  • This implies the need for targeted incentives.
  • All of this argues for finding out when children form their preferences and risk perceptions and what is behind that formation.
  • This will then require the changing of these discount rates rather than just designing new incentive programs that increase gaps.

Dropping Out: Does Location Matter?

Jeff Jordan, University of Georgia


The purpose of this paper is to:

  • Explore the determinants of dropping out.
  • Examine whether differences in graduation rates and basic determinants have changed since the 1980’s.

Our Approach

We use recent and past national representative data sets to provide an in depth analysis of high school dropout rates in the U.S.

Specifically we:

  1. Use recent, geo-coded nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 1997 (NLSY97)
  2. Use geo-coded household level data from a similar cohort of youth as the NLSY97 but who attended high school in the late 70’s and early 80’s (NLSY79) to examine whether the graduation rates and determinants have changed over the last 30 years.


NLSY79: 12,686 young men and women who were 14-22 years old when first surveyed in 1979, and surveyed annually through 1994 (biannually since).

NLSY97: 9,000 youths, 12-16 years old by 1997.

Data Grouping

Based on the Beal Codes we grouped individuals in four categories: those living in:

cities (zone 1) suburban/metro area (Zone 2) adjacent non-metro (Zone 3) remote non-metro (Zone 4).

High School Graduation Rates (%)


All      Zone 1   Zone 2   Zone 3   Zone 4

80.3    80.1       81.1        80.1        78.6


77.1    76.9       77.3        77.1        77.1

Determinants of Graduation

Testing for:

  1. Individual and family characteristics (race, gender, income, “hard times”, net worth, household size and composition, relation of youth to adults in house, education of parents, poverty ration, attending public school).
  2. Peer characteristics:
    • Percent of peers that are part of a gang
    • Do drugs
    • Skip class
    • Want to attend college
  3. Geographic context:
    • Total population
    • Crime rates
    • Median family income
    • Racial composition
    • Unemployment
    • Employment by sector


  1. High School dropout rates are similar throughout the urban-rural continuum.
  2. Overall, dropout rates are three percentage points higher in the 2000s than in the 1980s across all locations.
  3. The determinants of dropping out are also similar across the urban-rural continuum.
  4. Family level characteristics are far more predictive of dropping out than geographic attributes and appear to operate in similar ways across locations.

These determinants are gender, race (in some cases), family assets, the presence of both biological parents, maternal attributes, and peer characteristics.

  1. The biggest exception, after adding all control variables, is that Black and Hispanic males are at an advantage in the most rural areas in terms of graduating.
  2. Females are more likely to graduate than males, holding all other variables constant.
  3. Differences in graduation rates among races mostly disappear when peer and some location attributes are included.
  4. Graduation rates for Black students have declined in the 2000s compared to the 1980s.
  5. The difference in graduation rates between public and private schools in the 1980s have disappeared in the 2000s.
  6. Dropout prevention policies need to focus on the effect of different family arrangements, poverty, and peer surroundings, regardless of location.

The Feeding of our Children: Griffin School Nutrition Past and Present

As Part of the Impact Speaker Series, sponsored by Impact Office Interiors, was held Tuesday, August 19, 2014, from 5:30—7:00 p.m.

Hosted by the University of Georgia Griffin Campus at the Stuckey Auditorium and was free and open to the public.

Volunteers including Misty Smith, Freida Maddox, Janice Buice, Joseph Walker (Spalding Collaborative), Vera McIntosh, Beth Mathis, Cebell Miller, and Cynthia Anderson packed bags for the Backpack Food for Kids Program

In 1948, General Mills captured the story of the nutritional education of East Griffin Elementary School in the video “The School That Learned to Eat.” This historic footage documented the intentional changes involving what students ate, where students ate, and how students ate.

On August 19th, a special viewing was held of this historic video as well as a presentation detailing how the nutritional condition of students in Spalding County Schools today compares to that of students in 1948. The importance of the availability of nutritional food to the educational success of students is as critical today as it was when identified in 1948. Food insecurity is not new in Spalding County but programs like the Backpack Food for Kids Program are being implemented to help alleviate hunger among our children.

We thank all those who came out to this free, public event and heard the story of how we have fed and are feeding the children of Spalding County and what food is still needed to sustain this young generation.

Special Guest Speakers included:

  • Jeff Jordan, Professor at UGA Griffin
  • Jack Sutton, former East Griffin Elementary School alumnus
  • Joseph Walker, Executive Director of the Spalding Collaborative
  • Aveory Allen, Atkinson Elementary Principal
  • Gloria Brown, Moore Elementary Principal
  • Evelyn Jones, Anne Street Elementary Principal
  • Laura Jordan, Jackson Road Elementary Principal