The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession

54 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2013

See all articles by Marianne P. Bitler

Marianne P. Bitler

University of California, Davis - Departments of Economics and Agricultural Resource Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Hilary Williamson Hoynes

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: September 2013

Abstract

Much attention has been given to the large increase in safety net spending, particularly in Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamp spending, during the Great Recession. In this paper we examine the relationship between poverty, the social safety net, and business cycles historically and test whether there has been a significant change in this relationship during the Great Recession. We do so using an alternative measure of poverty that incorporates taxes and in-kind transfers. We explore the mediating role played by four core safety net programs--Food Stamps, cash welfare (AFDC/TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Unemployment Insurance--in buffering families from negative economic shocks. This analysis yields several important findings. Our most robust and important finding is the safety net is doing less to provide protection for the most disadvantaged. In the post-welfare reform world, TANF did not respond in the Great Recession and extreme poverty is more cyclical than in prior recessions. On the other hand, Food Stamps and UI are providing more protection-or at least providing no less protection-in the Great Recession, although these results are less robust across our different models. These programs are more likely to affect households somewhat higher up the income distribution; we find some evidence of a reduction in cyclicality at 100% poverty and little evidence about this at higher income-to-poverty levels.

Suggested Citation

Bitler, Marianne P. and Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? The Safety Net and Poverty in the Great Recession (September 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19449, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2328496

Marianne P. Bitler (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - Departments of Economics and Agricultural Resource Economics ( email )

United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Hilary Williamson Hoynes

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
15
Abstract Views
533
PlumX Metrics