Friday, November 7, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Cochiti (Convention Center)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Heather Hill, University of Chicago
Panel Chairs: Marci Ybarra, University of Chicago
Discussants: James P. Ziliak, University of Kentucky
The study of household economic instability is one of the critical new frontiers of research on poverty, social policy, and family well-being. The economic circumstances of low-income families are known to be highly dynamic, and many social programs seek to improve employment or income stability, at least in spirit. Yet, research on family income and social policies tends to use point-in-time or averaged measures of family income, which do not reveal the dynamic nature of family circumstances or the extent to which social policies affect income dynamics. Moreover, the design of social policies, particularly employment and income eligibility rules, could conceivably increase instability caused by changes in employment or family structure. Current policy debates about safety net program design and implementation (i.e. recent SNAP and minimum wage discussions) would benefit greatly from additional empirical evidence on the approaches that will maximize family stability and eventual self-sufficiency.
The three papers in this panel are breaking new ground in the study of income dynamics by explicitly measuring income variability and rigorously identifying the effects of social policy on income variability. The first paper uses nationally-representative data to describe trends in family income dynamics across the past three decades. The authors examine intra-year income variability for all families, and separately by income level and income source (e.g. earnings vs. public assistance). The second paper links a state policy database to a nationally-representative sample of household in the U.S. to examine how state-level safety net policies affect the stability of earnings and income among low-income families. The study uses differences between states and across time in eligibility and recertification rules for TANF, SNAP, Medicaid/CHIP, and child care subsidies to identify whether state policy choices affect household income stability. The third paper uses restricted-access municipal tax data from the District of Columbia (DC) to identify the combined effect of the DC supplemental earned income tax credit (EITC) and the federal EITC on poverty, employment, and income changes within Washington, D.C. from 2001-2012. The analysis includes measures of large income changes to capture the effects on income instability.
The presenters in this panel hail from diverse institutions (NYU, University of Chicago, and American University) and disciplines (developmental psychology, public policy, and economics). The paper authors also include students and a practitioner from the D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis. Our chair and discussant are both economists with considerable expertise in the areas of safety net policies and income dynamics.