IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

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

  • Bargain, Olivier


    (University of Aix-Marseille II)

  • Immervoll, Herwig



  • Viitamäki, Heikki


    (VATT, Helsinki)

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5355.

in new window

Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Economic Inequality, 2012, 10 (3), 375 - 395
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5355
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Stephen Pudney & Monica Hernandez & Ruth Hancock, 2007. "The welfare cost of means-testing: pensioner participation in income support," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(3), pages 581-598.
  2. repec:oup:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:3:p:913-37 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Ruth Hancock & Stephen Pudney & Geraldine Barker & Monica Hernandez & Holly Sutherland, 2003. "The take-up of multiple means-tested benefits by British pensioners. Evidence from the Family Resources Survey," Discussion Papers in Economics 03/7, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
  4. Hilke Almut Kayser & Joachim R. Frick, 2000. "Take It or Leave It: (Non-) Take-up Behavior of Social Assistance in Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 210, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  5. Marlene Kim & Thanos Mergoupis, 1998. "The Working Poor and Welfare Recipiency," Macroeconomics 9810006, EconWPA.
  6. Riphahn, Regina T, 2001. "Rational Poverty or Poor Rationality? The Take-Up Study of Social Assistance Benefits," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 47(3), pages 379-98, September.
  7. Virginia Hernanz & Franck Malherbet & Michele Pellizzari, 2004. "Take-Up of Welfare Benefits in OECD Countries: A Review of the Evidence," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 17, OECD Publishing.
  8. Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," JCPR Working Papers 18, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  9. Rebecca M. Blank & Patricia Ruggles, 1996. "When Do Women Use Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Food Stamps? The Dynamics of Eligibility Versus Participation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 57-89.
  10. Currie, Janet, 2004. "The Take-Up of Social Benefits," IZA Discussion Papers 1103, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Glen Bramley & Sharon Lancaster & David Gordon, 2000. "Benefit Take-up and the Geography of Poverty in Scotland," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(6), pages 507-519.
  12. Gustafsson, Bjorn, 1984. "Macroeconomic performance, old age security and the rate of social assistance recipients in Sweden," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 319-338, December.
  13. Kathleen McGarry, 1996. "Factors Determining Participation of the Elderly in Supplemental Security Income," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 331-358.
  14. Duclos, Jean-Yves, 1995. "Modelling the take-up of state support," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 391-415, November.
  15. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2008. "Transfer Program Complexity and the Take Up of Social Benefits," NBER Working Papers 14301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-35, December.
  17. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5355. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.