The Great Recession and the Private Safety Net

Christopher Wimer, Columbia Population Research Center
Publication Date:
Jan 2015
Project Programs:
The Social and Economic Effects of the Great Recession

The Great Recession originated in financial and housing markets, but eventually led to large spikes in unemployment and eventually a decrease in families’ market incomes. Research on the response of government policies such as unemployment insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has shown that these programs responded robustly to the crisis, and blunted some of the rise in family poverty that might have occurred in their absence. But what about the private safety net? Government programs are not the only actors that can step in when times are tough. Also important are the roles played by people’s family and friends, who are often the first called when a family experiences an economic crisis.

In a recent paper, Princeton University’s Aaron Gottlieb and Columbia University’s Natasha Pilkauskas and Irwin Garfinkel provide some of the first insights into how families’ private safety nets responded to the Great Recession. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), the authors investigate whether the Great Recession was associated with increased transfers to parents of young children by anyone other than the child’s father.


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