Back in the field in 2010 to study the deeply poor, Kathryn Edin began to encounter something markedly different from anything she had seen in 20 years of canvassing poor communities: families with no visible means of cash income from any source. As Edin and I write in $2 a Day: “[W]hat was so strikingly different from a decade and a half earlier was that there was virtually no cash coming into these homes.”
Has there been a spike in the number of children going for periods with virtually no cash in the U.S.? We began to test this with the Survey of Income and Program Participation (the SIPP). We then substantiated our core findings in two other major household surveys beyond the SIPP, and in administrative records. Recently we’ve released analyses using survey data that have been adjusted using a micro-simulation model called TRIM, which corrects for “underreporting” of public benefits—when people forget or choose not to say they receive benefits from a program like TANF. Specifically we used TRIM to correct for underreporting in TANF and SSI income. Even with these corrections, survey data remain imperfect, as discuss in our previous post. But TRIM is a significant improvement over unadjusted CPS data.
In our first blog post on TRIM, we examined the increase in annual $2-a-day poverty for all children using TRIM adjusted data. While the overall levels of extreme poverty are somewhat lower after adjusting for underreporting, the magnitude of the change since 1995 was much bigger. Rather than doubling, extreme poverty using TRIM roughly tripled between 1995 and 2012.
Here we examine TRIM results for children in single mother households. If our hypothesis is correct—and the rise in extreme poverty is driven largely by the declining reach of welfare through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—then the change in extreme poverty should be driven by single mother households, those most affected by welfare reform.Read More