James P. Ziliak

Why are so many Americans on Food Stamps? The role of economy, policy, and demographics

One in seven Americans received assistance from SNAP in FY 2012, which is a rate 141 percent higher than in FY 2000, but only 59 percent higher than in FY 1980. In this paper, I describe the socioeconomic and policy climate in recent decades that had bearing on SNAP participation, along with a formal empirical analysis of those determinants and detailed simulations of the relative contributions of the economy, policy, and demographics to changes in SNAP participation over time.

The state of senior hunger in America 2011: An annual report

In the report we provide an overview of the extent and distribution of food insecurity among senior Americans in 2011, along with trends over the past decade using national and state-level data from the December Supplements to the Current Population Survey (CPS). Based on the full set of 18 questions in the Core Food Security Module (CFSM), the module used by the USDA to establish the official food insecurity rates of households in the United States, our emphasis here is on quantifying the senior population facing the threat of hunger (i.e. marginally food insecure).

Decomposing trends in income volatility: The 'wild ride' at the top and bottom

We provide a detailed accounting of the trend increase in family income volatility in recent decades by quantifying the contributions of household head earnings, spouse earnings, non-transfer non-labor income, transfer income, and tax payments (inclusive of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit), along with covariances among the income components. Using twoyear matched panels in the Current Population Survey from 1980 to 2009, we find that the volatility of family income, as measured by the variance of the arc percent change, doubled over the past three decades.

On persistent poverty in a rich country

We examine differences in income within the U.S., and the regions of persistent poverty that have arisen, using a newly assembled dataset of counties that links historical 19th century Census data with contemporaneous data. The data, along with an augmented human capital growth model, permit us to identify the roles of contemporaneous differences in aggregate production technologies and factor endowments, in conjunction with the historical roles of institutions, culture, geography, and human capital.

Recent developments in antipoverty policies in the United States

I survey recent developments in antipoverty policy in the United States over the past decade and examine how the safety net and tax system affects poverty and its correlates using data from the 2000 to 2010 waves of the Current Population Survey-Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, and until the health care overhaul in 2009, the first decade of the 21st Century was relatively tepid in terms of major transfer policy reforms.

Food insecurity among older adults

Reducing hunger risk among older Americans requires a concerted policy effort that is informed by rigorous research on the extent, causes, and consequences of food insecurity. In this report we provide a comprehensive portrait of the causes and consequences of food insecurity among adults age 50-59 in comparison to those in their 40s and those 60 and older.

Earnings volatility in America: Evidence from matched CPS

We offer new evidence on earnings volatility of men and women in the United States over the past four decades by using matched data from the March Current Population Survey. We construct a measure of total volatility that encompasses both permanent and transitory instability, and that admits employment transitions and losses from self employment. We also present a detailed decomposition of earnings volatility to account for changing shares in employment probabilities, conditional variances of continuous workers, and conditional mean variances from labor-force entry and exit.