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The Safety Net dataset is part of the Policy Evaluation and Research Linkage Initiative (PERLI), a four-year project funded by the National Science Foundation that will establish powerful new datasets of linked administrative microdata from California state and local government sources.

The Safety Net dataset includes information about California’s safety-net programs, namely CalFresh (known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and CalWORKs (known federally as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF). These data are derived from records from the California Department of Social Services to facilitate research that has the potential to shed light on promising policies about the social safety net and improve the lives of current and future participants.

The data primarily includes records on enrollment, issuance amounts, earnings data for enrolled adults, and demographics. The Safety Net dataset is comprised of seven component datasets; each dataset includes at least 10 years of data, although the years available vary by dataset. All data, which is at the individual person-level, is anonymized and de-identified. All the below component datasets can be linked.

Researchers* interested in accessing the Safety Net datasets through the secure data infrastructure set up by the California Policy Lab can submit a data request. Scroll down for details on the approval process and how to submit an application. All applications for data use are subject to approval by participating departments, including the California Department of Social Services, as well as approval by the State of California Committee on the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS).

*Note: the research team must have at least one University of California affiliate. If you need more information on whether you or someone on your team is a UC affiliate please reach out to

Data overview

CalFresh and CalWORKs Longitudinal Databases

The Longitudinal Databases (LDBs) are person-level files that capture CalFresh and CalWORKs program eligibility and enrollment. These data include indicators for an individual’s and assistance unit's enrollment each month, county of residence, and demographic information (race/ethnicity, sex, language, age, and zip code).

This data is limited only to individuals enrolled in CalFresh and CalWORKs; it does not include application data or information on applications that are denied.


This data contains monthly enrollment records of Californians enrolled in social services programs administered by the California Department of Social Services, including demographic information for individuals (race/ethnicity, sex, language, age, and zip code) and assistance units (cases). These data include information on enrollment in CalFresh (SNAP), CalWORKs (TANF), Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program, Adoption Assistance Program (AAP)/Aid Adoption of Children (AAC), Approved Relative Caregiver (ARC) program, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants-Qualified (CAPI-Qualified) Aliens, Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA), Foster Care, Former Foster, KinGAP Cash Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), and the Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP).

This data is limited to individuals enrolled in programs during a given month or year– it does not include application data or information on applications that are denied.

Quarterly wage earnings data

This data includes base wage data for participants in CalWORKs and CalFresh programs from the Employment Development Department: person-quarter earnings data for all adults who enroll in these programs. Quarterly wage earnings data should only be used in conjunction with the enrollment data found in the CalWORKS and CalFresh Longitudinal Data Bases (LDBs).

For every individual in the data, these files contain their total earned income across all formal-sector jobs worked in the relevant quarter (e.g., W-2 information). This does not include non-wage, self-employment, or informal income sources. These earnings records include any quarter in which an individual was enrolled in CalFresh or CalWORKs, as well as for the six quarters before and after enrollment.

Note that approval to access this data can take longer because it requires additional approvals from CDSS and the Employment Development Department that may or may not be granted.

Issuance Data

The issuance datasets are case-level files that capture monthly allotment data (amount of aid) and the issuance start dates for individuals enrolled in CalFresh or CalWORKs.

Linked Data

In addition, the Safety Net data is currently linked to additional datasets from other departments, with more linkages planned. These datasets include: data (linkage available from January 2020 through July 2021)
Consumer Credit Panel data (linkage underway: available from January 2012 through present)
Hospitalizations and birth/death records data (linkage underway: available from January 2012 through present)
● California Public Utilities Commission data (linkage underway: available from January 2019 onwards]
California Student Aid Commission financial aid data, Community College enrollment and completion data, and University of California enrollment and completion data (linkage available from January 2012 to present)

If you are interested in linking the Safety Net dataset with any of the above, it will take longer as it requires additional approvals from the participating department(s) that may or may not be granted. There is space to indicate your interest in these additional data on your Safety Net data application.

How to access the Safety Net data

We are currently accepting data request applications for the Safety Net data.

Apply Now

Applications will be reviewed at the end of each quarter. Deadlines are 12pm on the following dates.

  • January 14th
  • March 31st
  • June 30th
  • September 30th

Applications will undergo a two-stage review process: following an internal review, California Policy Lab will then present data requests and project proposals to CDSS, who will have final approval. Following the application deadline, applicants can expect to be notified of an outcome within eight weeks, although times may vary depending on our partnering Department’s availability and approvals required.

Upon approval, researchers are responsible for getting approval for their projects through the California Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS, the State IRB), which is necessary to execute the data sharing agreement and access the data, and complying with all data security requirements required by participating departments, including sharing written products for departmental review prior to publication.

If you have any questions about the dataset or the application process, please reach out to To stay connected about PERLI, please subscribe to our updates list.

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