The Duration of Benefit Receipt: New Findings from the Benefit Dynamics Data Set
The duration of benefit receipt has been viewed with increasing concern, yet until recently the only information available has been based on cross-sectional measures of duration and cancellation of benefits in a given period, both of which suffer from inherent biases. In 1995 the development of the Information Analysis Platform in the Department of Social Welfare gave a better picture of benefit duration.
This paper uses a recently updated and enhanced version of the resulting benefit dynamics data set to offer new insights on the duration of working-age social welfare benefits.
The paper explores the benefit experiences of 250,000 people granted a benefit in 1993, allowing a full five-year follow-up. The most significant finding was that although only one in twenty stayed on benefit for the full five years, over a third were on benefits at the end of the five years due to multiple spells. Thus the issue for many is maintaining, rather than gaining, independence from the benefit system.
The patterns found suggest that age, partnership status, the presence and age of children, ethnicity and sex are factors that warrant further research, as does the timing and kind of interventions aimed at reducing overall benefit duration.