Using data from the Consumer Expenditures Survey, we document the level and volatility of quarterly consumption across the socio-economic distribution. While the measurement of economic well-being in the United States is focused on income, the secular and policy discourse prioritizes income-adequacy to meet family needs. This concern over income adequacy centers on the capacity of individuals and families to predictably consume minimally acceptable levels of basic needs, and the social and economic mobility consequences of low levels of consumption.

I examine trends in the material well-being of working-class households using data from the Current Population Survey in the two decades surrounding the Great Recession. Average earnings, homeownership, and insurance coverage all fell, while absolute poverty and food insecurity accelerated leading up to the Great Recession. After-tax incomes were stagnant for much of the distribution across and within skill groups.


I compare the extent of food hardships in the United States among all adults, and separately for seniors, in the two decades before and during the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The data come from the 2001-2019 December Supplements of the Current Population Survey, as well as the newly released Census Household Pulse Survey. The results indicate that food insufficiency among all adults increased three-fold during the Covid period compared to 2019, and more than double that observed during the Great Recession.

There is a large literature on earnings and income volatility in labor economics, household finance, and macroeconomics. One strand of that literature has studied whether individual earnings volatility has risen or fallen in the U.S. over the last several decades. There are strong disagreements in the empirical literature on this important question, with some studies showing upward trends, some downward trends, and some flat trends. Some studies have suggested that the differences are the result of using flawed survey data instead of more accurate administrative data.

As of June 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has led to more than 2.3 million confirmed infections and 121 thousand fatalities in the United States, with starkly different incidence by race and ethnicity. Our study examines racial and ethnic disparities in confirmed COVID-19 cases across six diverse cities – Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, San Diego, and St. Louis – at the ZIP code level (covering 436 “neighborhoods” with a population of 17.7 million).

Health insurance improves health and reduces mortality. Expanding insurance is a central feature of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Persons who use drugs (PWUDs) have historically been at high risk of being uninsured. It is unknown if Appalachian PWUDs, who live in an extremely economically distressed region, are more likely to be insured since implementation of the ACA. Data from a cohort of 503 PWUDs from eastern Appalachian Kentucky, who were interviewed at seven time-points between 2008 and 2017, were analysed using mixed effects regression models.

Previous research has shown that investments during the early childhood period are likely to have the highest social return. We use administrative data from Virginia to document participation in SNAP and TANF among children born between 2007- 2010 during their early childhood period, which we define here as birth to age six. We find that participation in SNAP is about four times greater than participation in TANF and that most children begin their connection with the social welfare system in their birth year.

We examine trends in employment, earnings, and incomes over the last two decades in the United States, and how the safety net has responded to changing fortunes, including the shutdown of the economy in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The U.S. safety net is a patchwork of different programs providing in-kind as well as cash benefits and had many holes prior to the Pandemic. In addition, few of the programs are designed explicitly as automatic stabilizers.

We document trends in earnings volatility separately by gender in combination with other characteristics such as race, educational attainment, and employment status using unique linked survey and administrative data for the tax years spanning 1995-2015. We also decompose the variance of trend volatility into within- and between-group contributions, as well as transitory and permanent shocks.


Food insecurity, defined as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food, is a substantial threat to public health in the United States. In 2017, nearly 12% of households reported being food insecure, affecting over 40 million persons.