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
State of the States: Safety Net Karen Long Jusko

State of the States: Safety Net

Author: Karen Long Jusko
Date: 09/2015

In non-recessionary periods, the safety net provides about 38 percent of the income support needed to raise incomes up to the official poverty line. Only four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington) provide more than 60 percent of the support needed.

Spatial Assimilation in U.S. Cities and Communities? Emerging Patterns of Hispanic Segregation from Blacks and Whites Daniel T. Lichter, Domenico Parisi, Michael C. Taquino

Spatial Assimilation in U.S. Cities and Communities? Emerging Patterns of Hispanic Segregation from Blacks and Whites

Author: Daniel T. Lichter, Domenico Parisi, Michael C. Taquino
Publisher: Sage Publications
Date: 07/2015

This article provides a geographically inclusive empirical framework for studying changing U.S. patterns of Hispanic segregation. Whether Hispanics have joined the American mainstream depends in part on whether they translate upward mobility into residence patterns that mirror the rest of the nation. Based on block and place data from the 1990–2010 decennial censuses, our results provide evidence of increasing spatial assimilation among Hispanics, both nationally and in new immigrant destinations. Segregation from whites declined across the urban size-of-place hierarchy and in new destinations. Hispanics are also less segregated from whites than from blacks, but declines in Hispanic-black segregation have exceeded declines in Hispanic-white segregation. This result is consistent with the notion of U.S. Hispanics as a racialized population—one in which members sometimes lack the freedom to join whites in better communities. Hispanic income was significantly associated with less segregation from whites, but income inequality alone does not explain overall Hispanic segregation, which remains high. The segmented assimilation of Hispanics that we observe supports two seemingly contradictory theories: both the idea that spatial assimilation can come from economic and cultural assimilation and the notion that economic mobility is no guarantee of residential integration.


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?

State of the Union: Safety Net Karen Jusko, Kate Weisshaar

State of the Union: Safety Net

Author: Karen Jusko, Kate Weisshaar
Date: 04/2014

safety net - CPI Affiliates

Janet Currie Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs; Chair, Department of Economics; Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research; Director, Center for Health and Well Being
Princeton University
Jeffrey Grogger Irving Harris Professor in Urban Policy
The University of Chicago
Jeffrey R. Kling's picture Jeffrey R. Kling Associate Director for Economic Analysis, Congressional Budget Office; Senior Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research
Congressional Budget Office
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


Safety Net - Other Research

Title Author Media
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.

Are Latino Immigrants a Burden to Safety Net Services in Non-Traditional Immigrant States? Lessons from Oregon Daniel López-Cevallos

Are Latino Immigrants a Burden to Safety Net Services in Non-Traditional Immigrant States? Lessons from Oregon

Author: Daniel López-Cevallos
Publisher: American Journal of Public Health
Date: 12/2013

The significant growth of the Latino population in the midst of an economic recession has invigorated anti-Latino, anti-immigrant sentiments in many US states. One common misconception is that Latino immigrants are a burden to safety net services. This may be particularly true in nontraditional immigrant states that have not historically served Latino immigrants. Oregon data suggest that despite a higher prevalence of poverty, use of safety net services among Latino immigrants in Oregon is lower than that among non-Latino Whites. Immigration status, costs, lack of insurance coverage, and discrimination are among the reasons for this group’s limited use of services. Nevertheless, policies designed to strengthen community and institutional support for Latino immigrant families should be considered in the context of current health care and immigration reform efforts.

How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates The Pew Charitable Trusts

How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates

Author: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Publisher: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Date: 01/2013

Past research from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project has shown the power of a college education to both promote upward mobility and prevent downward mobility. The chances of moving from the bottom of the family income ladder all the way to the top are three times greater for someone with a college degree than for someone without one. Moreover, when compared with their less-credentialed counterparts, college graduates have been able to count on much higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. Even during the Great Recession, college graduates maintained higher rates of employment and higher earnings compared with less educated adults. However, the question of how recent college graduates have fared has remained largely unexamined, and many in the popular media have suggested that the advantageous market situation of college graduates is beginning to unravel under the pressure of the economic downturn. This study examines whether a college degree protected these recent graduates from a range of poor employment outcomes during the recession, including unemployment, low-skill jobs, and lesser wages.

Vulnerable Populations and Transformative Law Teaching Society of American Law Teachers, Golden Gate...

Vulnerable Populations and Transformative Law Teaching

Author: Society of American Law Teachers, Golden Gate...
Publisher: Carolina Academic Press
Date: 03/2011

The essays included in this volume began as presentations at the March 19–20, 2010 “Vulnerable Populations and Economic Realities” teaching conference organized and hosted by Golden Gate University School of Law and co-sponsored by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). That conference, generously funded by a grant from The Elfenworks Foundation, brought together law faculty, practitioners, and students to reexamine how issues of race, gender, sexual identity, nationality, disability, and generally—outsider status—are linked to poverty. Contributors have transformed their presentations into essays, offering a variety of roadmaps for incorporating these issues into the law school curriculum, both inside the classroom as well as in clinical and externship settings, study abroad, and social activism. These essays provide glimpses into “teaching moments,” both intentional and organic, to help trigger opportunities for students and faculty to question their own perceptions and experiences about who creates and interprets law, and who has access to power and the force of law. This book expands the parameters of law teaching so that this next generation of attorneys will be dedicated to their roles as public citizens, broadening the availability of justice. Contributors include: John Payton; Richard Delgado; Steven W. Bender; Sarah Valentine; Deborah Post and Deborah Zalesne; Gilbert Paul Carrasco; Michael L. Perlin and Deborah Dorfman; Robin R. Runge; Cynthia D. Bond; Florence Wagman Roisman; Doug Simpson; Anne Marie Harkins and Robin Clark; Douglas Colbert; Raquel Aldana and Leticia Saucedo, Marci Seville; Deirdre Bowen, Daniel Bonilla Maldonado, Kathleen Neal Cleaver, Colin Crawford, and James Forman, Jr.; Susan Rutberg; Mary B. Culbert and Sara Campos; MaryBeth Musumeci, Elizabeth Weeks Leonard, and Brutrinia D. Arellano; Libby Adler; and Paulette J. Williams. The editorial board includes Raquel Aldana, Steven Bender, Olympia Duhart, Michele Benedetto Neitz, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Hari Osofsky, and Hazel Weiser.

The Invisible Safety Net: Protecting the Nation's Poor Children and Families Currie, Janet M.

The Invisible Safety Net: Protecting the Nation's Poor Children and Families

Author: Currie, Janet M.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Date: 11/2008

Safety Net - Multimedia

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