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Poverty, Assets, and Safety Net

Mother and ChildGovernment safety net programs aim to protect families during tough times—before they fall into poverty. But rising unemployment, foreclosures, and economic distress are putting pressure on a system already in need of updates and repairs.

Urban Institute experts, building on decades of welfare reform research, evaluated public safety nets and proposed new initiatives to bolster work supports and help families gain a stable financial footing. Read more.

Featured Links

Data Tools

  • NICCNet Income Change Calculator
  • TRIM3 program and poverty analysis model
  • Welfare Rules Database — tables on TANF data from each of the states and Washington D.C.

Related Policy Centers

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Understanding the Implications of Raising the Minimum Wage in the District of Columbia (Research Report)
Gregory Acs, Laura Wheaton, Maria E. Enchautegui, Austin Nichols

The minimum wage establishes a lower bound on what employers must pay their workers. The federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 an hour, but 22 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have established minimum wages above the federal minimum. Today, DC’s minimum wage is set one dollar higher than the federal minimum ($8.25), while the minimum wage in the neighboring jurisdictions of Maryland and Virginia use the federal minimum wage. However, DC and two neighboring counties in Maryland (Prince George’s County and Montgomery County) have passed legislation raising their minimum wages to $11.50 an hour by 2016 and 2017, respectively. This report examines the potential effects of raising DC’s minimum wage on DC workers, their families, and on the government programs that serve them.

Posted to Web: August 12, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Effects of a Higher Minimum Wage in the District of Columbia (Research Report)
Austin Nichols, Jonathan Schwabish

Over the next two years, the minimum wage in DC will increase in stages, ultimately reaching $11.50 in July 2016, and thereafter DC’s minimum wage will increase with inflation. Based on historical patterns for the DC metro area and an analysis of workers in the food service industry nationwide, we find little evidence that even a substantial increase in minimum wages in DC would result in lower employment. Our estimates of the relationship are imprecise, however, and we cannot rule out modest negative impacts.

Posted to Web: August 12, 2014Publication Date: June 30, 2014

Debt in America (Research Report)
Caroline Ratcliffe, Brett Theodos, Signe-Mary McKernan, Emma Kalish, Additional Authors

Debt can be constructive, allowing people to build equity in homes or finance education, but it can also burden families into the future. Total debt is driven by mortgage debt; both are highly concentrated in high-cost housing markets, mostly along the coasts. Among Americans with a credit file, average total debt was $53,850 in 2013, but was substantially higher for people with a mortgage ($209,768) than people without a mortgage ($11,592). Non-mortgage debt, in contrast, is more spatially dispersed. It ranges from a low of $14,532 in the East South Central division to a high of $17,883 in New England.

Posted to Web: July 29, 2014Publication Date: July 29, 2014

Delinquent Debt in America (Research Report)
Caroline Ratcliffe, Signe-Mary McKernan, Brett Theodos, Emma Kalish, Additional Authors

Roughly 77 million Americans, or 35 percent of adults with a credit file, have a report of debt in collections. These adults owe an average of $5,178 (median $1,349). Debt in collections involves a nonmortgage bill—such as a credit card balance, medical or utility bill—that is more than 180 days past due and has been placed in collections. 5.3 percent of people with a credit file have a report of past due debt, indicating they are between 30 and 180 days late on a nonmortgage payment. Both debt in collections and debt past due are concentrated in the South.

Posted to Web: July 29, 2014Publication Date: July 29, 2014

1 in 3 Americans with a Credit File Has Debt Reported in Collections (Press Release)
Urban Institute

Thirty-five percent of adults have a debt in collections reported in their credit files, an Urban Institute study shows. Nevada, hit hard by the housing crisis, tops the list of states: 47 percent of people with a credit file have reported debt in collections. The state also has the highest average collections debt. Twelve other states (11 in the South) and the District of Columbia top 40 percent.

Posted to Web: July 29, 2014Publication Date: July 29, 2014

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