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The Working Poor and Welfare Recipiency


  • Marlene Kim

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)

  • Thanos Mergoupis

    (The Jerome Levy Economics Institute)


Current welfare debates assume that the poor are taking unfair advantage of the largess of the government by shunning work for welfare benefits. Yet many studies have shown that many of those who qualify for welfare benefits fail to receive assistance. This study adds to this growing body of research by examining the extent to which the working poor who qualify for AFDC, Food Stamps, and Medicaid receive these benefits. We find that a substantial number of the working poor do not receive the benefits for which they qualify. In addition, those who qualify for welfare benefits are not out of the ordinary: most are in married couple families, are in their prime working years, have at least high school educations, and work many hours. The jobs they hold, which tend to be in low-paid service occupations and industries, seem to deposit them into their precarious position of belonging to the working poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Marlene Kim & Thanos Mergoupis, 1998. "The Working Poor and Welfare Recipiency," Macroeconomics 9810006, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:9810006 Note: Type of Document - Acrobat PDF; prepared on IBM PC; to print on PostScript; pages: 45; figures: included

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
    2. Rebecca M. Blank, 1991. "Why Were Poverty Rates So High in the 1980s?," NBER Working Papers 3878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Rebecca M. Blank & Patricia Ruggles, 1993. "When Do Women Use AFDC & Food Stamps? The Dynamics of Eligibility vs. Participation," NBER Working Papers 4429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gueron, Judith M, 1990. "Work and Welfare: Lessons on Employment Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 79-98, Winter.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karl Widerquist, 1999. "Reciprocity and the Guaranteed Income," Politics & Society, , vol. 27(3), pages 387-402, September.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Joël Hellier, 2012. "Working Poor Trajectories," Journal of Income Distribution, Journal of Income Distribution, vol. 21(3-4), pages 83-102, November.
    5. Ann Dryden Witte & Magaly Queralt & Tasneem Chipty & Harriet Griesinger, 1998. "Unintended Consequences? Welfare Reform and the Working Poor," NBER Working Papers 6798, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Riphahn, Regina T., 2000. "Rational Poverty or Poor Rationality? The Take-up of Social Assistance Benefits," IZA Discussion Papers 124, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Stephen Pudney & Ruth Hancock & Holly Sutherland, 2006. "Simulating the Reform of Means-tested Benefits with Endogenous Take-up and Claim Costs," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 68(2), pages 135-166, April.
    8. Hancock, Ruth & Henandez, Monica & Pudney, Stephen, 2004. "Participation in multiple welfare programmes: discrete choice with heterogeneous awareness," ISER Working Paper Series 2004-15, Institute for Social and Economic Research.

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    JEL classification:

    • E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics

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