The Impact of State Safety-Net Programs and Household Assets on Poverty during the Great Recession

Award: $17,051.00
Awarded Scholar:
  • Keith Bentele, University of Massachusetts, Boston

The Great Recession led to sharp decreases in income and increases in poverty rates across the U.S. However, the severity of the impact of the recession on individual families varied based on the interaction of a number of factors: the local intensity of the recession, the strength of the local social safety net, and the level of individual household assets. Keith Bentele will conduct a study of the state variation of the social safety net and racial and ethnic differences in asset holdings in order to better understand how these and other factors determine whether or not a family fell into poverty between 2007 and 2009.

During the Great Recession, there was a notable variation in state unemployment rates, from 15% in Nevada to only 4% in North Dakota. State poverty rates varied as well, but they did not correlate perfectly with state unemployment levels, due to differences in the states' social safety nets. In order to better understand this interaction, Bentele will use the Current Population Survey data to measure what percentage of family income came from employment, investments, and government benefits before, during, and after the recession, allowing him to examine how income from different sources and total income changed during the recession.