Cliff Effects

The Center for Social Policy is a research and evaluation think tank of choice for policy makers, funders, and business leaders focused on the root causes of poverty through the framework of economic security and economic advancement. 

Cliff Effects

Cliff Effects Research Agenda

For over a decade, the Center for Social Policy has been a pioneer in “cliff effects” research including the development of a simulator that tracks the degree to which families gain or lose resources as earnings increase. Cliff effects are a growing concern due to the rising costs of living, especially housing, coupled with stagnating wages, making it nearly impossible for thousands of low-income working families to make ends meet without supports from public benefits.

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Our Research Questions

  • What are the disconnects between public assistance programs and the gaps in coverage?
  • When do cliffs happen for various family types and benefit packages in Massachusetts?
  • How do increases in minimum wage impact labor market participation for low-income families?
  • What occupations are impacted by cliff effects?
  • What is the impact of cliffs on labor market participation for low-income youth?
  • What are the solutions to cliff effects?
  • What -- and where -- are the policy levers to impact the cliffs?


Reference Guide: Identifying Policy Levers to Improve the Massachusetts System of Public Supports for Low-Income Families. Center for Social Policy. February 2018. Jason Wright, Caitlin Carey, Marija Bingulac, and Susan R. Crandall.

Analyzing the Massachusetts Public Assistance System: Measuring Coverage Gaps. Center for Social Policy. February 2018. Caitlin Carey and Marija Bingulac.

"A Whole Family Approach to Jobs: Helping Parents Work and Children Thrive. National Conference of State Legislators. An Overview of Cliff Effects: Challenges and Solutions." Center for Social Policy. November 2017. Susan Crandall, Presented at the National Conference on State Legislators September 2017 in Portland, Maine. 

"The Road to the Cliff Edge: Understanding Financial Gaps in Public Assistance Programs Available to Massachusetts Families." Center for Social Policy.  August 2017. Marija Bingulac, Caitlin Carey, Susan Crandall

“Combining Earnings with Public Supports: Cliff Effects in Massachusetts.” Communities & Banking. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 2017. Authors: Randy Albelda and Michael Carr

"Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Closer Look at Cliff Effects in Massachusetts." Center for Social Policy. June 2016. Randy Albelda and Michael Carr

"On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity Preventing Homelessness Report." On Solid Ground Coalition. 2015.

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