The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: The Safety Net, Living Arrangements, and Poverty in the Great Recession
Marianne Bitler, University of California, Irvine
Hilary Hoynes, University of California, Berkeley
Much attention has been given to the large increase in safety net spending, particularly in Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps, during the Great Recession. In this paper we examine the relationship between poverty, the social and private safety net, and business cycles historically and test whether there has been a significant change in this relationship during the Great Recession. This analysis yields several important findings. First, the relationship between unemployment and official cash poverty remained remarkably consistent with historical patterns during the Great Recession. Second, the safety net programs receiving the most attention recently (Food Stamps and UI) exhibit adjustments very consistent with their behavior during previous historical cycles. The most dramatic change in the safety net is the post-welfare reform decline of cash assistance in providing protection for the most disadvantaged. Third, changes in living arrangements are modest and for the most part in line with prior cycles.