Working Paper The Effect of the US Safety Net on Material Hardship Over the Past Quarter-Century
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, John Iceland
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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.
Research Areas Social safety net
Tags Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Welfare and safety net programs Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Earned income tax credit Families with low incomes Hunger and food assistance
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population