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Mar 14, 2023

Estimates are that 20–50% of people eligible for social safety net programs don’t access them. While there may be many factors contributing to that gap, recent research has focused on the role that stigma plays. In this episode, Dr. Elizabeth Linos joins us to discuss the paper she co-authored with Jessica Lasky-Fink, titled “It's Not Your Fault: Reducing Stigma Increases Take Up of Government Programs.” Stigma can be direct or anticipated from the wider society, including from agency workers with whom people would need to interact in order to access services. Stigmatizing messages can be internalized as shame or guilt for simply needing services. Through research with municipalities doing outreach for housing assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Linos and her colleagues found that small changes can significantly increase uptake of services simply by destigmatizing the language.

Dr. Elizabeth Linos is the Emma Bloomberg Associate Professor for Public Policy and Management, and Faculty Director of The People Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The majority of her research focuses on how to improve government by focusing on its people and the services they deliver. Specifically, she uses insights from behavioral science and evidence from public management to consider how to recruit, retain, and support the government workforce, how to reduce administrative burdens that low-income households face when they interact with their government, and how to better integrate evidence-based policymaking into government.