Program participation, disconnection, poverty, social welfare, safety net


The American welfare state is often referred to as a social safety net, yet many in economic need do not receive public benefits. This article examines the characteristics of low-income households in the United States that do not participate in any of several public cash or near-cash support programs. Using the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) 2008 panel—a representative sample of U.S. households—households below the federal poverty threshold but not participating in any of eleven different income support programs were identified. Over a third (38.02%) of households in poverty did not receive any assistance from the examined programs. Non-participating households differ from program participating households in such areas as racial and ethnic demographics, educational attainment, number and age of children, household employment status, and financial resources.

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