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Economic Brief

May 17, 2021

Richmond Fed Research Examines ‘Work Bias’ in the U.S. Welfare System

The U.S. welfare system incorporates a “work bias” toward helping the working poor, according to the Richmond Fed’s latest Economic Brief by Claudia Macaluso.

This research notes that this work bias is especially harmful during recessions — such as the one brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic — because people who lose their jobs then become ineligible for benefits.

The Richmond Fed’s Economic Brief series provides essays on economic issues and trends. Sign up to receive an email notification when a new essay is posted.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District — including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia — to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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