The social safety net is widely recognized as having been quite successful in providing major financial support to low-income families during the Great Recession, one of the most severe economic downturns in modern U.S. history. Safety net expenditures grew in aggregate and were widely distributed to all types of needy families. Before the recession, however, while aggregate transfers to the low-income population also exhibited steady growth, the growth was not equally shared across different types of families. Transfers grew much more for the elderly and disabled relative to the nonelderly and nondisabled, for married-parent families relative to single-parent families, and for families with incomes around the poverty line relative to those with the lowest incomes. This brief discusses whether these pre-recession trends have resumed their course now that the recession is over and most of the additional spending adopted during the recession has been phased out. We find that the favorable effects on aggregate spending onlow-income families during the recession have been sustained, with few declines and mostly resumed expenditure growth rather than a return to pre-recession levels. Also, the pre-recession disproportionate growth in support for the elderly, the disabled, and married families has not resumed. However, the gap between supportfor the poorest families and those with higher incomes has resumed and is growing. (Author abstract)
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