Child Poverty Impacts of Safety Net Responses to COVID-19

Do policies that reduce administrative burden in social safety net programs reduce child poverty rates and narrow racial and ethnic disparities in benefit participation?

Child poverty is associated with a wide range of negative outcomes, and rates of child poverty are more than twice as high for Black and Latinx children compared to White children. Social safety net programs like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reduce poverty and improve wellbeing. However, administrative burdens, such as complicated paperwork or parental work requirements, make it harder for eligible families to access social benefits and disproportionately affect families of color. Barofsky and colleagues will leverage the natural experiment created during the COVID-19 pandemic as states varied in how and when they relaxed administrative burdens to examine the effect on program enrollment and child poverty outcomes. They will use difference-in-difference models to estimate the effects of changing administrative burden policies on benefit enrollment and child poverty, exploring whether and how effects vary for Black and Latinx children. Findings may inform policy decisions as states undo many pandemic era policies that made the safety net more accessible or decide whether to make these policies permanent. Results will be shared via media, policy, and academic outlets.