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Family Safety Nets and Economic Transition: A Study of Worker Households in Poland

By Donald Cox, Emmanuel Jimenez and Wlodek Okrasa

Abstract

Can Eastern European families most severely impoverished during the transition to capitalism rely on private family safety nets? This question is likely critical for the transition's success, but little is known about family networks in Eastern Europe. We analyze newly available Polish household surveys, conducted both before and after Poland's economic transition, which measure private inter- household transfers. Such transfers are large and widespread in Poland, and in many ways they appear to function like means-tested public transfers. They flow from high to low-income households and are targeted to young couples, large families and those experiencing illness. Private transfer patterns also suggest that they are responsive to liquidity constraints. Our results from 1987 data indicate that private transfers could fill a non-trivial portion of the income gap left by unemployment. But we also find evidence from 1992 data that family networks weakened somewhat after the transition.Private transfers, public transfers, economic transition, socialism, altruism, Poland.

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