Safety Net Dataset

The Policy Evaluation and Research Linkage Initiative (PERLI) is 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. One of those datasets is the Safety Net Dataset.

The Safety Net dataset includes information about California’s safety-net programs, namely CalFresh and CalWORKS. These data are provided by 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. The data is at the individual person level, and all component datasets have a common identifier that allows for linking the datasets at the person level.

We are currently accepting data request applications for the Safety Net data. Scroll down for details on the approval process and how to submit an application.

Data overview


This data contains records of social service eligibility - both inputs used to determine eligibility and the ultimate determination - and which county is administering benefits for eligible individuals. It includes both individual, case, and family budget unit identifiers (family budget unit identifier data begins in 2020).

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 enrollment each month, county of residence, case numbers, and reason for enrollment in Medi-Cal, if applicable.

Employment Development Department (EDD) Data

The Employment Development Department (EDD) dataset includes base wage data for participants in CalWORKs and CalFresh programs. The EDD data contain person-quarter earnings data for all adults who enroll in these programs. EDD 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, the EDD files contain their total earned income across all formal-sector jobs worked in the relevant quarter (e.g., W2 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 a CDSS program, 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 EDD 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.


The person-level demographics file includes individuals’ race/ethnicity, sex, language, age, and zip code.

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.

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

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.

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