Session: Patterns of Economic Instability and Implications for Social Policy (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

04 Patterns of Economic Instability and Implications for Social Policy

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Golden Gate 7, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Inequality, Poverty, and Social Welfare Policy (IP&SWP)
Symposium Organizer:
Yu-Ling Chang, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Jennifer Romich, University of Washington
American working families, particularly low-income families, experience multiple domains of economic instability, including employment and earnings volatility, public benefit variability, and family composition instability (Hill et al., 2017). Research has documented that different domains of economic instability are interconnected and may cause adverse effects on family well-being and children's development (Adams et al., 2016; Ben-Ishai, 2015). Yet, important questions remain about the extent to which and how families experience economic instability.

This symposium adds to social work knowledge by showcasing high quality new research on the prevalence, complexities, and nuances of economic instability. All three studies draw on recently released nationally representative survey data (cross-sectional and longitudinal) to examine different dimensions of economic instability and their determinants and consequences. The authors of each paper use appropriately sophisticated research methods and incorporate necessary quality and robustness checks to ensure validity.

The first paper explores the longitudinal patterns of multidimensional economic instability among low-income single-mother families. Using the 2008 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which covers 2008 through 2013, and group-based multi-trajectory modeling, the authors examine the inter- and intra-year instability of work hours, earnings, and means-tested benefits over a five-year period. The authors identify three distinct patterns of multidimensional economic instability and analyze the sociodemographic factors that predict the different trajectory groups. This paper highlights the importance of promoting economic stability as a policy goal of income and work support programs and the implications for addressing racial disparity in multidimensional economic instability.

The second paper investigates the impact of five public transfer programs (TANF, SNAP Social Security, SSI, and Unemployment Insurance) on monthly income instability among low-income families by analyzing the 2008 SIPP panel data, using sequence analysis and cluster analysis. The authors find five distinct patterns of post-transfer income instability among low-income families. They also assess the association between single or multiple program participation and post-transfer instability by using multivariate logistic regression analyses. Findings have implications for program designs that address various patterns of income instability.

The third paper uses the cross-sectional 2016 General Social Survey – Fluctuating Work Hours Module to examine the prevalence of precarious work schedules (i.e., work hour volatility, control over work hours, and advance schedule notice), whether precarity lessens with age, and the association between precarious work schedules and financial insecurity. The authors will present the sociodemographic characteristics related to precarity and discuss possible mechanisms to explain the difference in the relationships between precarious work schedules and financial insecurity for hourly and salaried workers.

Our discussant, an expert on issues related to economic well-being and social policy for low-income working families, will connect findings from the three papers and provide insight into how these findings inform social policy and future research. In light of the conference theme of “Ending Gender Based, Family, and Community Violence,” the participants and discussant will attend to gender, racial/ethnic, and family status disparities as manifested in experiences of instability and the potential for stability as a necessary foundation for stability, growth, and well-being across domains.

* noted as presenting author
Multidimensional Economic Instability Among Single-Mother Families with Children
Yu-Ling Chang, PhD, University of California, Berkeley; Chi-Fang Wu, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Woojin Jung, MPP/MSW, University of California, Berkeley
Relationship between Public Program Participation and Income Instability Among Low-Income Families
Margaret M.C. Thomas, MSW, Boston University; Thomas Byrne, PhD, Boston University; Yoonsook Ha, PhD, MSSW, Boston University; Daniel Miller, PhD, Boston University
Precarious Work Schedules and Financial Insecurity
Susan Lambert, PhD, University of Chicago; Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago; JaeSeung Kim, MSW, University of Chicago
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