A Rising Tide Lifts All Homes? Housing Quality Improvements for Safety Net Recipients Since the 1980s
32 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2023
Date Written: April 20, 2023
This study analyzes patterns of housing consumption and expenditures among social safety net recipients since 1985. For safety net recipients, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and cash welfare (AFDC/TANF), monthly housing expenditures have risen from $692 to $1,341. However, these increased expenditures partially reflect housing quantity improvements, including more square footage, more rooms, and larger lot sizes. The data also show a marked improvement in housing quality, such as fewer sagging roofs, broken appliances, rodents, and peeling paint. The housing quality for social safety net recipients improved across 35 indicators. These quality improvements equate to a 35 to 44 percent increase in housing consumption and suggest that a typical safety net recipient in 2021 experiences housing consumption equivalent to the average national household in 1985. Though relative housing consumption has remained similar for safety net recipients, this “rising tide” of housing quality may have additional benefits for the health and well being of families and children living in better housing.
Keywords: Consumption Inequality, Housing Quality, Safety Net, Poverty
JEL Classification: I31, I32, R21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation