Department of Economics
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|June 2019||Food Stamps and America’s Poorest|
with Dean Jolliffe, Martin Ravallion: w26025
The paper provides the first assessment of: (i) America’s progress in lifting the lower bound—the floor—of the distribution of real income; (ii) whether the country’s largest antipoverty program, SNAP (“food stamps”), helped do so. An operational method of estimating the floor is implemented on micro survey data spanning 30 years, with various robustness and significance tests. SNAP partially compensated the poorest, and helped stabilize the floor. Nonetheless, the floor has been sinking over the last 30 years. The efficiency of SNAP in lifting the floor has declined over time. Full coverage of the poorest would lift the floor appreciable.
|May 2018||Social Protection and Economic Development: Are the Poorest Being Lifted-Up or Left-Behind?|
with Martin Ravallion, Dean Jolliffe: w24665
Standard measures of poverty may reveal nothing about whether the poorest of the poor are being lifted-up or left-behind, yet this is a widespread concern among policy makers and citizens. The paper assesses whether public spending on social protection benefits the poorest and hence lifts the floor, and what role economic development plays. Evidence is presented for the developing world and the US. Across developing countries, a higher mean income comes with a higher floor. The bulk of this income effect is direct rather than via higher spending on social protection. That spending generally lifts the floor though this is mainly due to social insurance; on average, social assistance adds only 1.5 cents per day to the floor. Turning to the US, the paper finds that the floor has been sinking ...