No Claim, No Pain: Measuring the Non-Take-Up of Social Assistance Using Register Data

25 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2010

See all articles by Olivier Bargain

Olivier Bargain

IZA Institute of Labor Economics; University College Dublin (UCD)

Herwig Immervoll

World Bank, Europe and Central Asia; Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) - Social Policy Division; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; ISER Institute for Social and Economic Research; University of Canberra - National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM); United Nations - European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research

Heikki Viitamaki

Government of the Republic of Finland - VATT Institute for Economic Research

Abstract

The main objectives of social assistance benefits, including poverty alleviation and labor-market or social reintegration, can be seriously compromised if support is difficult to access. While recent studies point to high non-take-up rates, existing evidence does not make full use of the information recorded by benefit agencies. Most studies have to rely on interview-based data, with misreporting and measurement errors affecting the variables needed to establish both benefit receipt and benefit entitlement. In this paper, we exploit a unique combination of Finnish administrative data and eligibility simulations based on the tax-benefit calculator of the Finnish authorities, carefully investigating the measurement issues that remain. We find rates of non-take-up that are both substantial and robust: 40% to 50% of those eligible do not claim. Using repeated cross-section estimations for years 1996-2003, we identify a set of stable determinants of claiming behavior and suggest that changes in behavior could drive the observed downward trend in take-up rates during the post-recession period. We discuss the poverty implications of our results.

Keywords: register data, take-up, social assistance, poverty

JEL Classification: D31, H31, H53, I38

Suggested Citation

Bargain, Olivier and Immervoll, Herwig and Viitamaki, Heikki, No Claim, No Pain: Measuring the Non-Take-Up of Social Assistance Using Register Data. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5355, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1723993

Olivier Bargain (Contact Author)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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Herwig Immervoll

World Bank, Europe and Central Asia ( email )

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Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) - Social Policy Division ( email )

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ISER Institute for Social and Economic Research ( email )

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University of Canberra - National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) ( email )

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United Nations - European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research ( email )

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Heikki Viitamaki

Government of the Republic of Finland - VATT Institute for Economic Research ( email )

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Helsinki, FIN-00531
Finland

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