Safety Net Use

  • Karen Jusko
  • Mark Duggan
  • Hilary Hoynes

Leaders: Mark Duggan, Hilary Hoynes, Karen Jusko

The Safety Net RG is devoted to monitoring changes in government transfers and anti-poverty programs and assessing whether they are meeting the needs of the poor. The U.S. safety net is undergoing such changes as (a) an ongoing decline in TANF cash benefits, (b) rapid increases in spending on EITC, Medicaid, Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, and SNAP, and (c) a dramatic shift toward spending that favors the “working poor” over the more destitute. The CPI affiliates working within this research group are monitoring these changes, examining their implications for poverty, assessing the effectiveness of key government and nongovernment programs in reducing poverty, and modeling the costs and benefits of possible changes in policy and programs. We’ve provided a sampling here of some of this ongoing research.

Poverty Relief Project: With Kate Weisshaar, Karen Jusko uses the poverty relief ratio to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs over time, across states, and across countries. Which state is the least effective in fighting poverty? Has the U.S. become more or less effective over time? These and other questions are answered in our latest State of the Union reports.

Long-run effects of SNAP: Have we underestimated the returns to SNAP by ignoring the long-run effects on children exposed to it in their early childhood? It’s now possible to find out.

California Welfare LaboratoryThe poverty rate in California, when measured with the Supplemental Poverty Measure, is the highest in the country. What can be done to bring that rate down? The mission of the California Welfare Laboratory is to make research on California’s welfare programs accessible to all and thus facilitate an informed discussion of what is working and what needs to be improved.

Differential EITC effects: It is often argued that early interventions have especially high payoffs.  Are the returns to the EITC indeed larger when it goes to parents with young children?

Disability and poverty: Does the federal government’s disability program reduce labor supply? Although it’s long been difficult to identify a causal effect, Mark Duggan has now found a way.

The effects of TANF: The TANF program is very decentralized and thus takes on dramatically different forms. How can we exploit that variability to find out what’s working?

Safety Net - CPI Research

Title Author Media
The Impact of Market Size and Composition on Health Insurance Premiums: Evidence from the First Year of the Affordable Care Act Michael J. Dickstein , Mark Duggan, Joe Orsini , Pietro Tebaldi

The Impact of Market Size and Composition on Health Insurance Premiums: Evidence from the First Year of the Affordable Care Act

Author: Michael J. Dickstein , Mark Duggan, Joe Orsini , Pietro Tebaldi
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 05/2015

Under the Affordable Care Act, individual states have discretion in how they define coverage regions, within which insurers must charge the same premium to buyers of the same age, family structure, and smoking status. We exploit variation in these definitions to investigate whether the size of the coverage region affects outcomes in the ACA marketplaces. We find large consequences for small and rural markets. When states combine small counties with neighboring urban areas into a single region, the included rural markets see 0.6 to 0.8 more active insurers, on average, and savings in annual premiums of between $200 and $300.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program Mark Duggan, Melissa S. Kearney, Stephanie Rennane

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program

Author: Mark Duggan, Melissa S. Kearney, Stephanie Rennane
Date: 05/2015

The SSI program provides cash assistance to some of the nation’s most vulnerable elderly, blind, and disabled residents. In this paper, we briefly summarize the history of the SSI program and present descriptive evidence on caseload composition and trends. We discuss relevant conceptual issues and empirical evidence focused on four key issues. First, we describe the advantages and disadvantages of categorical eligibility requirements and we show that the SSI caseload has become increasingly comprised of difficult-to-verify conditions, namely pain and mental disabilities. Second, we describe systematic disincentives to accumulate earnings and assets inherent in the SSI program design, but emphasize that the more relevant set of questions for the SSI population are related to the full disability requirement for eligibility. Third, we describe the questions and research about long-term benefits and costs to program participants, in terms of whether the program adequately and appropriately serves the needs of disabled individuals and their family members. And fourth, we present information and evidence about program spillovers, both across programs and across federal and state levels of government. Throughout the paper we make numerous explicit references to areas where further study is warranted and open research questions remain. SSI is an important part of the U.S. safety net, but particular features of the program raise questions about whether there is a more effective way to provide income support for individuals with work-limiting disabilities and families with disabled the children. Our goal for this paper is to systematically present the issues for scholars and policy-makers to consider and explore.

The “Chilling Effect” of America’s New Immigration Enforcement Regime Francisco I. Pedraza, Ling Zhu

The “Chilling Effect” of America’s New Immigration Enforcement Regime

Author: Francisco I. Pedraza, Ling Zhu
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 05/2015

Are TANF enrollments declining because Hispanic immigrants are afraid that enrollment will lead to deportation?

It's Not Like I'm Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes

It's Not Like I'm Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World

Author: Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, Jennifer Sykes
Publisher: University of California Press
Date: 01/2015

The world of welfare has changed radically. As the poor trade welfare checks for low-wage jobs, their low earnings qualify them for a hefty check come tax time—a combination of the earned income tax credit and other refunds. For many working parents this one check is like hitting the lottery, offering several months’ wages as well as the hope of investing in a better future. Drawing on interviews with 115 families, the authors look at how parents plan to use this annual cash windfall to build up savings, go back to school, and send their kids to college. However, these dreams of upward mobility are often dashed by the difficulty of trying to get by on meager wages. In accessible and engaging prose, It’s Not Like I’m Poor examines the costs and benefits of the new work-based safety net, suggesting ways to augment its strengths so that more of the working poor can realize the promise of a middle-class life.

The short-term impacts of Earned Income Tax Credit disbursement on health David H. Rehkopf, Kate W Strully, William H. Dow

The short-term impacts of Earned Income Tax Credit disbursement on health

Author: David H. Rehkopf, Kate W Strully, William H. Dow
Publisher: International Journal of Epidemiology
Date: 08/2014

Background: There are conflicting findings regarding long- and short-term effects of income on health. Whereas higher average income is associated with better health, there is evidence that health behaviours worsen in the short-term following income receipt. Prior studies revealing such negative short-term effects of income receipt focus on specific subpopulations and examine a limited set of health outcomes.

Methods: The United States Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an income supplement tied to work, and is the largest poverty reduction programme in the USA. We utilize the fact that EITC recipients typically receive large cash transfers in the months of February, March and April, in order to examine associated changes in health outcomes that can fluctuate on a monthly basis. We examine associations with 30 outcomes in the categories of diet, food security, health behaviours, cardiovascular biomarkers, metabolic biomarkers and infection and immunity among 6925 individuals from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey. Our research design approximates a natural experiment, since whether individuals were sampled during treatment or non-treatment months is independent of social, demographic and health characteristics that do not vary with time.

Results: There are both beneficial and detrimental short-term impacts of income receipt. Although there are detrimental impacts on metabolic factors among women, most other impacts are beneficial, including those for food security, smoking and trying to lose weight.

Conclusions: The short-term impacts of EITC income receipt are not universally health promoting, but on balance there are more health benefits than detriments.

safety net - CPI Affiliates

Magnus Nermo's picture Magnus Nermo Professor of Sociology; Head of the Sociology Department; Associate Researcher at the Swedish Institute for Social Research
Stockholm University
Margarita Estevez-Abe's picture Margarita Estevez-Abe Associate Professor of Political Science, Maxwell School
Syracuse University
Markus Gangl's picture Markus Gangl Professor of Sociology
Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
Marta Tienda's picture Marta Tienda Professor, Maurice P. During '22 Professor in Demographic Studies; Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs; Director, Program in Latino Studies
Princeton University
Patrick Heuveline's picture Patrick Heuveline Professor, Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles


Safety Net - Other Research

Title Author Media
Prediction Policy Problems Jon Kleinberg , Jens Ludwig , Sendhil Mullainathan , Ziad Obermeyer

Prediction Policy Problems

Author: Jon Kleinberg , Jens Ludwig , Sendhil Mullainathan , Ziad Obermeyer
Publisher: American Economic Review
Date: 05/2015

Most empirical policy work focuses on causal inference. We argue an important class of policy problems does not require causal inference but instead requires predictive inference. Solving these "prediction policy problems" requires more than simple regression techniques, since these are tuned to generating unbiased estimates of coefficients rather than minimizing prediction error. We argue that new developments in the field of "machine learning" are particularly useful for addressing these prediction problems. We use an example from health policy to illustrate the large potential social welfare gains from improved prediction.

Immigration Enforcement and the “Chilling Effect” on Latino Medicaid Enrollment Francisco I. Padraza, Ling Zhu

Immigration Enforcement and the “Chilling Effect” on Latino Medicaid Enrollment

Author: Francisco I. Padraza, Ling Zhu
Date: 01/2015

Is contemporary interior immigration enforcement generating a “chilling effect” on Medicaiduse among Latinos? In the first section we theorize the “chilling effect” as a subclass of “massfeedback effects,” which we expand to include a narrative of contemporary Latino politics. In the second section we introduce the details of Secure Communities and explain how itfits in the broader development of America’s new immigration enforcement regime. The section after that describes our data, measures and methods. In addition to complimenting existing findings on the “chilling effect” of immigration enforcement, we present analyses that show patterns of heterogenous “chilling effects,” both in terms of nativity and immigrantgeneration, and across race/ethnicity and immigration status. The final section summarizes and concludes with thoughts about future research directions.

The Inverse Equity Hypothesis: Does It Apply to Coverage of Cancer Screening in Middle-Income Countries? Lee, J. T., Huang, Z., Basu, S., Millett, C.

The Inverse Equity Hypothesis: Does It Apply to Coverage of Cancer Screening in Middle-Income Countries?

Author: Lee, J. T., Huang, Z., Basu, S., Millett, C.
Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group Limited
Date: 10/2014

It is uncertain whether the inverse equity hypothesis-the idea that new health interventions are initially primarily accessed by the rich, but that inequalities narrow with diffusion to the poor-holds true for cancer screening in low and middle income countries (LMICs).This study examines the relationship between overall coverage and economic inequalities in coverage of cancer screening in four middle-income countries.Secondary analyses of cross-sectional data from the WHO study on Global Ageing and Adult Health in China, Mexico, Russia and South Africa (2007-2010). Three regression-based methods were used to measure economic inequalities: (1) Adjusted OR; (2) Relative Index of Inequality (RII); and (3) Slope Index of Inequality.Coverage for breast cancer screening was 10.5% in South Africa, 19.3% in China, 33.8% in Russia and 43% in Mexico, and coverage for cervical cancer screening was 24% in South Africa, 27.2% in China, 63.7% in Mexico and 81.5% in Russia. Economic inequalities in screening participation were substantially lower or non-existent in countries with higher aggregate coverage, for both breast cancer screening (RII: 14.57 in South Africa, 4.90 in China, 2.01 in Mexico, 1.04 in Russia) and cervical cancer screening (RII: 3.60 in China, 2.47 in South Africa, 1.39 in Mexico, 1.12 in Russia).Economic inequalities in breast and cervical cancer screening are low in LMICs with high screening coverage. These findings are consistent with the inverse equity hypothesis and indicate that high levels of equity in cancer screening are feasible even in countries with high income inequality.


Multiple Program Participation and the SNAP Program Robert A. Moffitt

Multiple Program Participation and the SNAP Program

Author: Robert A. Moffitt
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 02/2014

Receipt of benefits from other traditional transfer programs by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) families is common, with 76 percent of those families receiving at least one other major benefit of that type, excluding Medicaid, in 2008. However, over half of these only received one other benefit and only a very small fraction received more than two others. Over the long-term, multiple benefit receipt among SNAP families has been falling, a result of declines in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseload offsetting rises in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) caseloads. Finally, this analysis shows that high marginal tax rates generated by multiple program receipt are relevant for only a small portion of the TANF caseload, namely, the portion of the caseload that is nondisabled, nonelderly, and have earnings in the phaseout regions of the programs where marginal tax rates are high. The vast majority of SNAP families are not affected and, indeed, most have sufficiently low earnings that they face negative cumulative marginal tax rates.

The Impact of Earnings Disregards on the Behavior of Low-Income Families Jordan D. Matsudaira, Rebecca M. Blank

The Impact of Earnings Disregards on the Behavior of Low-Income Families

Author: Jordan D. Matsudaira, Rebecca M. Blank
Publisher: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
Date: 01/2014

This paper investigates the impact of changes in earnings disregards for welfare assistance received by single mothers following welfare reform in 1996. Some states adopted much higher earnings disregards (women could work full-time and still receive substantial welfare benefits), while other states did not. We explore the effect of these changes on women's labor supply and income using several data sources and multiple estimation strategies. Our results indicate these changes had little effect on labor supply or income. We show this is because surprisingly few women used the earnings disregards. We discuss several explanations for why this might occur.

Safety Net - Multimedia

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