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No claim, no pain. Measuring the non-take-up of social assistance using register data

Author

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  • Olivier Bargain

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  • Herwig Immervoll
  • Heikki Viitamäki

Abstract

The main objectives of social assistance benefits, including poverty alleviation and labor-market or social reintegration, can be seriously compromised if support is difficult to access. While recent studies point to high non-take-up rates, existing evidence does not make full use of the information recorded by benefit agencies. Most studies have to rely on interview-based data, with misreporting and measurement errors affecting the variables needed to establish both benefit receipt and benefit entitlement. In this paper, we exploit a unique combination of Finnish administrative data and eligibility simulations based on the tax-benefit calculator of the Finnish authorities, carefully investigating the measurement issues that remain. We find rates of non-take-up that are both substantial and robust: 40 to 50% of those eligible do not claim. Using repeated cross-section estimations for years 1996–2003, we identify a set of stable determinants of claiming behavior and suggest that changes in behavior could drive the observed downward trend in take-up rates during the post-recession period. We discuss the poverty implications of our results. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Bargain & Herwig Immervoll & Heikki Viitamäki, 2012. "No claim, no pain. Measuring the non-take-up of social assistance using register data," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 10(3), pages 375-395, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecinq:v:10:y:2012:i:3:p:375-395
    DOI: 10.1007/s10888-010-9158-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Take-up; Social assistance; Poverty; Register data; D31; H31; H53; I38;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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