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psc brown bag iconThe Effect of Unemployment on Household Composition and Doubling Up

Emily Wiemers (University of Michigan)

12/06/2010, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.

Doubling up with family and friends is one way in which individuals and families can cope with job loss but there is little work on how prevalent this form of resource sharing is and to what extent it helps families smooth consumption and maintain well-being through difficult times. This project uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to explore the relationship between household composition and unemployment examining whether families double up during spells of unemployment. The issue of how families change household composition to weather bad economic times and how well these arrangements shelter well-being is especially relevant as unemployment rolls continue to expand. Using the transitions in living arrangements and employment status in the SIPP panels, I find that individuals who become unemployed are twice as likely to move in with others and 25 percent less likely to have others move in with them. I further show that moving into shared living arrangements in response to unemployment is not evenly spread across SES; it is most prevalent among the lowest and highest SES individuals. Because family composition interacts in important ways with benefit receipt, understanding how families alter living arrangements to respond to bad economic conditions has important implications for the effectiveness of programs designed to alleviate poverty.


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