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Income Transfers and Assets of the Poor

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  • J. P. Ziliak

Abstract

Compared with nonpoor households, many poor households accumulate little wealth over their lifetimes. This rich-poor wealth gap may be due to different abilities to accumulate assets, possibly because the poor face a lifetime of lower incomes and higher income uncertainty. Alternatively, the wealth gap might be due to different responses to economic incentives to accumulate, such as transfer-program policies. In this paper, I use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and a correlated random-effects estimator to estimate the wealth-disincentive effects of both transfer-program income and policies in a buffer-stock model of asset accumulation. With the estimated parameters, I decompose the rich-poor wealth gap into the fraction attributable to ability-to-accumulate differences and the fraction attributable to differences in responses to asset-accumulation incentives. The results suggest that welfare income and policies discourage accumulation of liquid assets, but do not reduce net wealth. However, the wealth decomposition indicates that at least 75 percent of the rich-poor wealth gap emanates from ability differences. This suggests that the disincentives created by transfer programs have a small impact on the overall asset position of the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • J. P. Ziliak, "undated". "Income Transfers and Assets of the Poor," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1202-99, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1202-99
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    Cited by:

    1. James X. Sullivan, 2006. "Welfare Reform, Saving, and Vehicle Ownership: Do Asset Limits and Vehicle Exemptions Matter?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
    2. Hardy Hulley & Rebecca Mckibbin & Andreas Pedersen & Susan Thorp, 2013. "Means-Tested Public Pensions, Portfolio Choice and Decumulation in Retirement," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89(284), pages 31-51, March.
    3. Katie Fitzpatrick, 2015. "Does “Banking the Unbanked” Help Families to Save? Evidence from the United Kingdom," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 223-249, March.
    4. Mário Centeno & Álvaro A. Novo, 2014. "Do Low-Wage Workers React Less to Longer Unemployment Benefits? Quasi-Experimental Evidence," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 76(2), pages 185-207, April.
    5. Yunju Nam, 2008. "Welfare Reform and Asset Accumulation: Asset Limit Changes, Financial Assets, and Vehicle Ownership," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(1), pages 133-154.
    6. Erik Hurst & James P. Ziliak, 2006. "Do Welfare Asset Limits Affect Household Saving?: Evidence from Welfare Reform," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
    7. Peter R. Mueser & Colleen M. Heflin & Jacob M. Cronin, 2015. "The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Asset Limit: Reports of Its Death May Be Exaggerated," Working Papers 1506, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    8. Gittleman Maury, 2011. "Medicaid and Wealth: A Re-Examination," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-25, November.
    9. Susan Thorp & Hardy Hulley & Rebecca McKibbin & Andreas Pedersen, 2009. "Means-Tested Income Support, Portfolio Choice and Decumulation in Retirement," Research Paper Series 248, Quantitative Finance Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney.
    10. Mário Centeno & Álvaro Novo, 2009. "Reemployment wages and UI liquidity effect: a regression discontinuity approach," Portuguese Economic Journal, Springer;Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestao, vol. 8(1), pages 45-52, April.
    11. Colleen M. Heflin & James P. Ziliak, 2008. "Food Insufficiency, Food Stamp Participation, and Mental Health," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(3), pages 706-727.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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