Associate Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
Today’s antipoverty safety net is dramatically different from the one in place two decades ago when welfare reform was enacted. Rather than a safety net primarily dependent on cash assistance programs, as is the common perception, the current system is highly reliant on social service programs funded by government and delivered through community-based nonprofits. Annual public and private expenditures for social service programs today exceed total federal outlays for cash assistance programs like welfare, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Yet, little attention has been paid to the implications of this transformation in antipoverty assistance and the challenges a service-based safety net faces in the wake of the Great Recession.
Drawing on unique survey data from over 1,500 social service providers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., the author will discuss the new geography of the American safety net and the presence of spatial mismatches that undermine the system’s ability to respond to rising poverty. The author also will discuss implications of shifts in safety net assistance for the study of public policy and the welfare state moving forward.