Analyzing family financial security from childhood to retirement

Our Issues

We give decisionmakers cru­cial information by predicting how policy changes will affect people, programs, and gov­ernment. As technological and demographic shifts transform the nature of jobs, our experts on postsecondary education and workforce development study what skills workers will need in the future and what challenges lie ahead for retir­ing baby boomers. And our research on how the social safety net encourages work and alleviates poverty helps policymakers determine the best use of scarce resources. 

Our Approach

The Income and Benefits Policy Center is the birthplace of many of the Urban Institute’s signature microsimulation models, which allow researchers to explore policy “what if” questions. These models can predict how people, programs, and government will be affected by policy changes, giving decisionmakers crucial information about how proposals will play out.

For example, the DYNASIM model provides a powerful tool for forecasting how the coming wave of baby boomer retirements will ripple across our economy and worsen the federal budget deficit. No other private research organization can rival our capacity to make projections and show how policies affect all categories of Americans.  

Our Impact

Federal government agencies from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Social Security Administration use our microsimulation models and research results when considering changes to a wide array of social programs. For example, our Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) model provided vital assistance to the Simpson-Bowles commission when they considered Social Security reforms.

The TRIM model is regularly used by HHS when considering the costs, benefits, and distributional impacts of changes to programs serving low-income families. Nonfederal researchers also use TRIM to assess the impact of federal programs on poverty. Our research has laid the groundwork for important policy and programmatic changes. For example, our recent study of alternatives to reduce poverty for Wisconsin allowed policymakers in Milwaukee to understand the benefits of a transitional jobs program, which they later chose to support.

In addition, we are making significant contributions to workforce development, helping provide a path to upward mobility for low-income families and securing the nation’s economic prosperity. Our research assesses implementation of workforce programs and evaluates whether these programs are leading to increased employment and wages. For example, our analysis of the Accelerating Opportunity program implementation led sponsors to refocus training efforts with program operators to assure fidelity to program models.