Policy Matters: Federal Relief Prevented Large Surges in Poverty During the COVID Pandemic Policy Matters: Federal Relief Prevented Large Surges in Poverty During the COVID Pandemic

November 5, 2021

Policy Matters is a series from the Regional & Community Outreach research team at the Boston Fed, using data to illustrate the real or potential implications of policy for promoting equitable outcomes and economic security in New England and across the United States.

Zachary Parolin is an Assistant Professor of Social Policy at Bocconi University (Milan) and a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy. Beth Mattingly is an assistant vice president in regional and community outreach.

Recently, the Center for Poverty Research at Columbia University assessed the ways federal relief prevented dramatic increases in U.S. poverty levels during the onset of the pandemic, as historic unemployment surges coincided with economic challenges that continued to plague families as they juggled work, child care, and children’s schooling in a dramatically altered context. After reading this work, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Beth Mattingly reached out to the team at Columbia to see if they would be interested in looking at the numbers for New England. Columbia’s Zach Parolin and Mattingly then worked together to illustrate how poverty levels changed in the six New England states over the course of the pandemic and detail the important role of expanded benefits in the region using data assembled at Columbia.1 Their findings show overall poverty reductions, though the population experiencing poverty no doubt shifted, with more being lifted out than falling in. And, while Black and Hispanic poverty remained higher than non-Hispanic white poverty, rates for these groups fell more, partially offsetting existing pre-pandemic racial disparities. This Policy Matters short illustrates Mattingly and Parolin’s findings in more detail.

Endnotes Endnotes

  1. For methodology, see: Parolin, Zachary, Megan A. Curran, Jordan Matsudaira, Jane Waldfogel and Christopher Wimer. (2020). “Monthly Poverty Rates in the United States during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Poverty and Social Policy Discussion Paper. New York, NY: Center on Poverty and Social Policy. Available at: https://www.povertycenter.columbia.edu/s/COVID-Projecting-Poverty-Monthly-CPSP-2020.pdf

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