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 Labor Force and the Great Recession Michael Hout, Erin Cumberworth

The Labor Force and the Great Recession

Author: Michael Hout, Erin Cumberworth
Date: 10/2012

The Great Recession and the slow recovery since have been the longest economic slump in seventy years. It affected vulnerable populations more than others. In this brief, our aim is to put this disaster into historical context, looking first at the overall state of the labor market and then at how the economic harm has been distributed across the population by gender, level of education, and race and ethnicity.

Older Workers, Retirement, and the Great Recession Richard W. Johnson

Older Workers, Retirement, and the Great Recession

Author: Richard W. Johnson
Date: 10/2012

The workforce in the United States is becoming ever older. Because the number of older workers is growing, and because work is increasingly important to older adults, it is worth examining how older workers are faring in the Great Recession. This brief reports on employment, unemployment, and labor force participation among older workers since 2007, just before the labor market collapsed. It focuses on workers age 62 or older, nearly all of whom qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, an important safety net if laid off. However, it also examines outcomes for workers as young as age 50, whom employers appear somewhat reluctant to hire.

Partisan Representation of the Poor: Electoral Geography, Strategic Mobilization, and Implications for Voter Turnout Karen Long Jusko

Partisan Representation of the Poor: Electoral Geography, Strategic Mobilization, and Implications for Voter Turnout

Author: Karen Long Jusko
Date: 01/2011

How do electoral rules affect the poor? When do parties have an incentive to stand as the party of low-income citizens? When will parties mobilize the electoral support of low-income voters? This discussion presents evidence that rates of turnout among,low-income citizens reflect legislators’ and parties’ electoral incentives to be responsive to the poor, and that these electoral incentives are determined by electoral geography – the joint geographic distribution of legislative seats and low-income voters across electoral districts. Further, this discussion demonstrates that under SMD electoral rules, low-income voters are more likely to vote in those electoral districts in which they are likely to be pivotal. By presenting a strategic mobilization account of voter turnout, this discussion breaks with current accounts of voter turnout that emphasize facilitative and motivational individual and system-level factors. Instead, this discussion argues that low-income voters’ turnout decisions, in fact, reflect parties’ electoral incentives to cultivate and mobilize a low-income constituency. 

Making Ends Meet Kathryn Edin, Laura Lein

Making Ends Meet

Author: Kathryn Edin, Laura Lein
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 04/1997
Getting a Job Mark Granovetter

Getting a Job

Author: Mark Granovetter
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Date: 03/1995

safety net - CPI Affiliates

Julie-Berry Cullen Professor of Economics, Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
University of California, San Diego
Kathleen Gerson's picture Kathleen Gerson Professor of Sociology
New York University
Kazuo Yamaguchi's picture Kazuo Yamaguchi Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology; Affiliated Faculty, The Center for East Asian Studies
University of Chicago
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


Safety Net - Other Research

Title Author Media
Flexible Firms and Labor Market Segmentation: Effects of Workplace Restructuring on Jobs and Workers Arne. L. Kalleberg

Flexible Firms and Labor Market Segmentation: Effects of Workplace Restructuring on Jobs and Workers

Author: Arne. L. Kalleberg
Publisher: Work and Occupations
Date: 05/2003
From Mill Town to Board Room: The Rise of Women’s Paid Labor Dora L. Costa

From Mill Town to Board Room: The Rise of Women’s Paid Labor

Author: Dora L. Costa
Publisher: Journal of Economic Perspectives
Date: 03/2000
A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The Split Labor Market Edna Bonacich

A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The Split Labor Market

Author: Edna Bonacich

An important source of antagonism between ethnic groups is hypothesized to be a split labor market, i.e. one in which there is a large differential in price of labor for the same occupation. The price of labor is not a response to race or ethnicity of those entering the labor market. A price differential results from differences in resources and motives which are often correlates of ethnicity. A split labor market produces a three-way conflict between business and the two labor groups, with business seeking to displace higher paid by cheaper labor. Ethnic antagonism can take two forms: exclusion movements and "caste" systems. Both are seen as victories for higher paid labor since they prevent undercutting.

Punishment and Inequality in America Bruce Western

Punishment and Inequality in America

Author: Bruce Western
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Publisher: Metropolitan Books

Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity. Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job - any job - can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity - a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival.

Safety Net - Multimedia

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