Research Report A Safety Net with 100 Percent Participation: How Much Would Benefits Increase and Poverty Decline?
Linda Giannarelli, Sarah Minton, Laura Wheaton, Sarah Knowles
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The US social safety net includes numerous programs that families with lower incomes can access to obtain cash income, resources for food, and help with housing, child care expenses, and energy costs. However, many people who are eligible for these programs do not receive help. We use the Analysis of Transfers, Taxes, and Income Security (ATTIS) microsimulation model to hypothetically create a situation in which everyone who is eligible for benefits from these programs receives them. We consider seven different means-tested programs:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Child care subsidies supported by the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)
  • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Public and subsidized housing

We examine the results in terms of aggregate benefit dollars and reductions in poverty as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), both nationally and at the state level. We also look at the results by age group and by race and ethnicity.

We find that US families in aggregate are currently receiving slightly less than half of the total value of benefits they could receive if all seven key safety net programs were fully funded and everyone eligible for the programs applied and participated. Under the hypothetical scenario of full funding and 100 percent participation, aggregate annual benefits would increase by $227 billion. Because of the increased benefits, the SPM poverty rate would decline by 31 percent overall and by 44 percent for children. An estimated 14.9 million people—including 4.8 million children—would receive enough additional support to have their families’ resources rise above the SPM poverty level. The extent of the change would vary, but across all states there would be substantial increases in benefits and reductions in poverty. Poverty would also decline for all racial and ethnic groups, with the biggest relative decline for Hispanic people.

Research Areas Social safety net State and local finance Housing Economic mobility and inequality Race and equity
Tags Asian American and Pacific Islander communities Assistance for women and children Black/African American communities Child care subsidies Economic well-being Families with low incomes Family and household data Federal budget and economy Federal housing programs and policies From Safety Net to Solid Ground Housing subsidies Housing vouchers and mobility Latinx communities Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Older adults’ economic well-being Poverty Public and assisted housing Racial and ethnic disparities State programs, budgets Supplemental nutrition - Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Welfare and safety net programs
Policy Centers Income and Benefits Policy Center
Research Methods ATTIS Microsimulation Model Microsimulation modeling Quantitative data analysis
States All states
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