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Papers

Economic Analysis Jun 2, 2016

Where Does All the Money Go: Shifts in Household Spending Over the Past 30 Years

This economic analysis examines shifts in consumer spending patterns over the last thirty years, contrasting the experiences of low, middle, and high-income households. The analysis concludes that low-income households are spending a higher share of their budgets on basic needs—defined as the major budget components of housing, food, transportation, health care, and clothing—than they did three decades ago.

Policy Proposal May 20, 2016

Strengthening Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The experience of the Great Recession reveals important holes in the safety net. In particular, the central cash-assistance program in the United States, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is failing to reach many poor families. In addition, the program does not automatically expand during economic downturns, when the need for the program is likely greatest and when additional consumer spending would be particularly helpful. To strengthen TANF, Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes propose reforms to expand both the program’s reach and its responsiveness to cyclical downturns. They also propose ways to improve its transparency, which will help researchers and policymakers understand how the program works, who it supports, and how effectively it meets its goals. 

Policy Proposal May 20, 2016

Modernizing SNAP Benefits

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance to households that lack food security, with benefit allotments determined by the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). However, the assumptions underlying the TFP are based on increasingly unrealistic assumptions about food preferences, time availability, and prices faced by many SNAP recipients. As a result, SNAP is less effective than it could be. In this Hamilton Project paper, James Ziliak proposes a series of reforms to the TFP aimed at strengthening nutrition assistance. 

Policy Proposal May 17, 2016

Fiscal Policy Reconsidered

In the years following the Great Recession, many economists and policymakers agree that fiscal stimulus was crucial to turning around the faltering economy and helped to save or create millions of jobs. What economists and policymakers do not agree on is whether the stimulus should have been larger, whether it contained the correct mix of tax cuts and targeted government spending, and how it could have best been delivered. In this Hamilton Project policy proposal, Alan Blinder tackles these questions using economic theory and recent evidence from the Great Recession to discuss how fiscal policy can be better designed to mitigate the effects of the next economic downturn.