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Risks that Come with Increasing Earnings for Low-Income Workers Receiving Safety Net Programs: Perspectives of Working Parents

Publication Date
Nina Chien, Pamela Winston, Rachel Gaddes, Rachel Holzwart

In focus group discussions with 44 working parents receiving assistance from one or more federal programs, many parents shared the view that increasing earnings involves a number of risks. Participants described the sequence of possible risk events as follows:

  1. An earnings increase leads to benefit reductions.
  2. Risk of subsequent earnings loss: the earnings increase may be lost later, either due to a reduction in work hours or to a total loss of employment.
  3. Risk of being unable to regain lost benefits: following an earnings loss, needed benefits may be difficult or impossible to get back.
  4. Risk of being unable to provide for children’s basic needs: Should this sequence of events occur, the parent would no longer be able to provide for the family’s basic needs.

In spite of these risks, most participants (about 70 percent) said that they would nonetheless increase their earnings if presented with an opportunity.

Related Products

Product Type
Research Brief
Low-Income Populations | Working Parents
Location- & Geography-Based Data
State Data
Medicaid | Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) | Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)