Kevin Schnepel, Simon Fraser University - Paid too soon: Monthly assistance payments and crime in Vancouver

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Melbourne Institute Seminar



Title: Paid too soon: Monthly assistance payments and crime in Vancouver

Co-author: Hamza Abdelrahman

Abstract: Monthly payments from social safety net programs are often received on or around the first-of-the-month and are thus well aligned with the timing of large expenses such as rent. In the United States, cash welfare and disability are almost always paid on the first-of-the-month. However, many jurisdictions choose alternative payment schedules for benefit programs (e.g. food stamps in the US) which can create more misalignment between the timing of benefit receipt and the timing of major monthly expenses. The provincial employment and disability assistance program in British Columbia intends to pay recipients on the last Wednesday of the preceding month. However, a payment assignment rule requires at least three business days between payday and the first-of-the-month. This rule creates substantial month-to-month variation in how early assistance arrives relative to it’s intended month-of-use. This rule also causes variation in time between payments from four to five weeks. We estimate the impact of this exogenous variation in the timing of and the time between social assistance payments on property and violent crime in Vancouver, British Columbia. We find that receiving benefits a week too early increases daily theft by 6 percent and daily assaults by 4.5 percent. We also find 5.5 percent more thefts when there are five weeks in between payments compared to four weeks. Our results suggest policies that better align the timing of payments with major monthly expenses and provide less variation in the length of time between paydays will reduce month-to-month financial hardship and lower both property and violent crime.

Presenter: Kevin Schnepel, Simon Fraser University

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