The Effect of the US Safety Net on Material Hardship

Research Report

The Effect of the US Safety Net on Material Hardship

Over the Past Quarter Century


US safety net programs are often evaluated in isolation, though families typically participate in multiple programs. Our analysis measures the simultaneous effect of three programs and accounts for behavioral responses. We find that participation in TANF, SNAP, or Medicaid/SCHIP reduces the number of hardships low-income families with children experience by 1.23 (on average) and food insufficiency by 18.5 percentage points. Our 14.9 percentage point reduction in unmet medical or dental need is not statistically significant in our conservative standard error estimate. Our models exploit variation in state rules and policies across states and over two decades to identify the effect of program participation on material hardship using monthly data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and other sources.

Cross-Center Initiative

Cross-Center Initiative: 
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