NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Expanding Social Safety Net

Casey B. Mulligan

NBER Working Paper No. 17654
Issued in December 2011
NBER Program(s):   EFG   LS   PE

Inflation-adjusted spending on means-tested subsidies have increased sharply since 2007, and most of this growth was due to changes in eligibility rules, and increases in subsidies per eligible person, rather than increases in the number of people who would have been eligible under pre-recession subsidy rules. The non-elderly parts of the safety net have increased from about $10,000 per year of non- or under-employment by non-elderly household heads and spouses in 2007 to almost $15,000 per year in 2010, adjusted for inflation. From 2007 to 2010, inflation-adjusted safety net spending increased $35,000 for every added year of non-employment or under-employment. As a result, the average private returns to employment are substantially less than they were in 2007.

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A data appendix is available at http://www.nber.org/data-appendix/w17654

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17654

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