Paper 2: In and Out of Poverty

We use data from the U.S. Financial Diaries study to relate episodic poverty to intra-year income volatility and to the availability of government transfers.The data allow the documentation of episodic poverty, and the attribution of a large share of it to fluctuations in earnings within jobs. For households with annual income greater than 150 percent of the poverty line, smoothing within-job income variability reduces the incidence of episodic poverty by roughly half. We decompose how month-to-month income volatility responds to receipt of eight types of public or private transfers. The transfers assist households mainly by raising the mean of income rather than by dampening intra-year income variability. Keywords: poverty, income volatility, episodic poverty, transfers, safety net