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No Claim, No Pain: Measuring the Non-Take-up of Social Assistance Using Register Data

Author

Listed:
  • Bargain, Olivier

    () (University of Bordeaux)

  • Immervoll, Herwig

    () (OECD)

  • Viitamäki, Heikki

    () (VATT, Helsinki)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bargain, Olivier & Immervoll, Herwig & Viitamäki, Heikki, 2010. "No Claim, No Pain: Measuring the Non-Take-up of Social Assistance Using Register Data," IZA Discussion Papers 5355, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5355
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ruth Hancock & Stephen Pudney & Geraldine Barker & Monica Hernandez & Holly Sutherland, 2004. "The Take-Up of Multiple Means-Tested Benefits by British Pensioners: Evidence from the Family Resources Survey," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 25(3), pages 279-303, September.
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    3. Monica Hernandez & Stephen Pudney & Ruth Hancock, 2006. "The Welfare Cost of Means Testing: Pensioner Participation in Income," Working Papers 2006004, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2006.
    4. Janet Currie, 2004. "The Take Up of Social Benefits," NBER Working Papers 10488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    6. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2011. "Transfer Program Complexity and the Take-Up of Social Benefits," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 54-90, February.
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    13. Rebecca M. Blank, 2001. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 85-118.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    poverty; take-up; social assistance; register data;

    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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