Social Safety Net Index

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These files contain data on social safety net index that support the results in Warner, Mildred E. and Xue Zhang. 2021. “Social Safety Nets and COVID-19 Stay Home Orders across US States: A Comparative Policy Analysis,” Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 23(2): 176-190. For the analysis in Warner and Zhang (2021), we collected social safety net policies for 50 states in the US, including whether the state mandates paid sick leave, expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, has a state minimum wage above the Federal minimum, and the level of TANF benefit for a family of three. We ran a factor analysis on these four policies to create an index for all 50-state on their social safety net. We found that during COVID-19, states with a higher level of pre-crisis social safety net protections (paid sick leave, Medicaid expansion, higher state minimum wage, higher TANF benefit) imposed stay-at-home orders earlier and reopened later. This comparative policy research shows that providing social safety net protections is a policy complement to public health.

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The social safety net index is a composite score based on factor analysis of the following state social safety net policies for all 50 states in the US. It includes: whether the state mandates paid sick leave (from A Better Balance, 2020), expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (from Kaiser Family Foundation, 2020), has a state minimum wage above the Federal minimum (from Employment Policy Institute, 2020), and the level of TANF benefit for a family of three (from Urban Institute, 2018).

Original dataset date: June 2020


This research was supported by the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) [grant number #2019-68006-29674, #2021-67023-34437] and by the Cornell Center for Social Sciences and the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality.

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paid sick leave; Medicaid expansion; minimum wage; TANF benefit; state policy; public health


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Warner, M. E., & Zhang, X. (2021). Social safety nets and COVID-19 stay home orders across US states: a comparative policy analysis. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 23(2), 176-190.


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CC0 1.0 Universal



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