A significant focus of our work is partnering with organizations that use the CLIFF tools to advance economic mobility and financial security for workers and families. We partner with a variety of partners to 1) increase awareness of the benefits cliff issue; 2) conduct research on existing and prospective public assistance pilots and policies and their impact on benefits cliffs; 3) advance human services and workforce development counseling efforts, and 4) support employers looking to boost economic mobility among their staff.

Awareness and Education

Career advancement should be a net win for both the individual and the taxpayer. Benefits cliffs, however, can create economic challenges that inadvertently disincentivize increasing hours or wages. Understanding when cliffs occur and how they vary based on family composition, geography, and public assistance programs can help inform mitigation strategies that improve economic mobility and support career advancement. Additionally, addressing benefits cliffs can potentially deliver a significant savings to taxpayers—as individuals move towards economic self-sufficiency, they require less government spending on public assistance programs. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta engages with policymakers, employers, and community and economic development organizations to increase awareness about these potential gains.

You can view some of our previous presentations.

Research, Program Analysis, and Simulation

Research is the foundation of all our efforts. Our research includes the exploration of assistance program rules, qualitative and quantitative analysis on existing and potential pilots and policy measures, and the production of briefs, research reports, and supporting presentations.

A comprehensive compendium of public assistance program rules—dubbed the Policy Rules Database—is central to our research efforts. The rules of such programs frequently vary by state, family size, family structure, and other factors. They are also often difficult to find, extract into a usable form, and interpret. By integrating individual assistance rules into a single database, our team and other external researchers can not only model benefits cliffs that occur throughout various career pathways, but also project how program changes can impact these cliff effects.

Learn about the Policy Rules Database and read this article for an example of how to use the PRD and the PRD Dashboard.

Financial and Career Counseling

Advancing Careers has developed a suite of interactive tools designed to inform individuals about benefits cliffs that may arise along a career path. These tools are currently being deployed by a variety of human services agencies, workforce development organizations, and other aligned nonprofits to help individuals design customized career paths and the financial plans to achieve them. In addition to providing workforce and human services professionals with tools that help identify benefits cliffs and potential mitigation strategies, the Advancing Careers team is also working to identify best practices in career coaching that ultimately bolster economic mobility.

Learn about CLIFF (Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster).

Employer Engagement

The benefits cliff dynamic can make it more difficult for businesses to cultivate, promote, and retain talent. In specific instances, for example, an employee might forgo a raise because the increase in pay may be offset by an even greater decline in public assistance. Such a scenario isn’t merely hypothetical. According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Florida Chamber Foundation, approximately one in three businesses reported that employees or candidates were unwilling to accept jobs, increased hours, or other advancements due to the fear of losing government benefits. For businesses already facing workforce shortages, benefits cliffs make hiring and retaining employees even more challenging. The Advancing Careers teams works with employers to identify and mitigate benefits cliffs that might inhibit career advancement and talent retention among existing workers.

CLIFF Tools Interest Form

If you are interested in accessing these tools for use by your organization, please complete this form. Responses help us understand how organizations plan to use these tools so we can provide support and resources based on specific intended use cases.