Family Resource Simulator

Since 2003, the National Center for Children in Poverty has produced the Family Resource Simulator (FRS), an online, interactive data tool ( The first of its kind, the FRS brings modern tools to improve public benefit systems that may fall short in supporting low-income families’ economic mobility. The FRS arms decisionmakers with information about barriers to economic mobility within public benefit rules, such as cliff effects (i.e., large losses in supports due to small wage increases); interactions between eligibility rules that lead to unanticipated losses of benefits; and gaps in supports that impede employment. The FRS can be used by program administrators to test the impact of rules before implementing them and by advocates to show how rule changes will hurt or help working families. Legislators and program administrators have used FRS-informed analyses to enact new policies and public benefit rules that better respond to the needs of working families. To date, the FRS tool has contributed to policy change across multiple states that have improved the economic security of millions of low-income people

The FRS allows users to assess the impact of eligibility rules and benefit amounts provided by comprehensive packages of public benefits on family budgets, tailored to specific family situations and geographic locations. It not only estimates the value of public benefits families receive, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) childcare subsidies, but also estimates family expenses, such as health care, food, and childcare, to calculate a family’s available net resources (also commonly called “net income”). NCCP is currently developing an FRS application aimed at assisting low-income families to strategically navigate public benefit programs. 

More about the FRS: 

Video of FRS Impact and Partners 

FRS From Programming to Policy Change 


The Family Resource Simulator: Two Decades of Impact 

Family Resource Simulator Policy Impact Case Study 

“Modeling Family Budgets, Decision-making, and Policy Reforms Using the Family Resource Simulator.”, Presented at 2020 RECS Conference 

Through our Family Resource Simulator projects, NCCP works with state partners to identify state-specific solutions as well as federal reforms.  

Current and Recent State Projects 


Funder: Schmidt Futures 

State Partner: Opportunity Calculator 

Year: 2021 

New Jersey 

Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

State Partners: New Jersey Policy Perspectives and New Jersey Citizen Action 

Year: 2021 

New Hampshire 

Funder: New Hampshire Department of Employment Security and NH Department of Health and Human Services 

State Partner: EConsult Solutions, Inc., New Hampshire Department of Employment Security and NH Department of Health and Human Services 

Year: 2020 


Funder: Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS) 

State Partner: Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS) 

Year: 2020 


Funder: The Alliance for Early Success 

State Partner: Connecticut Association for Human Services 

Year: 2019 

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 

Funder: Pro bono through general support provided by Annie E. Casey Foundation 

Partner: Allegheny County Department of Human Services 

Year: 2019 

Publications: [(1) Modeling Family Budgets, Decision-making, and Policy Reforms Using the Family Resource Simulator, Presented at 2020 RECS Conference (2) “Determining marginal tax rates, benefit cliffs, and impacts of policy changes using a hypothetical family approach.”, Presented at 2019 APPAM Conference 

Washington, DC 

Funder: District of Columbia Department of Human Services 

State Partner: District of Columbia Department of Human Services 

Publications: (1) Technical Manual: ;The District of Columbia Family Resource Simulator  (2) Updating basic needs budgets to incorporate the impact of nontraditional work, pre-K, and afterschool programs, Presented at 2018 RECS Conference  


Funder: Anonymous donor through Wellspring Philanthropic Fund 

Partner: Colorado Center on Law and Policy 

Publications: Making Work Supports Work_Colorado 


Funder: Anonymous donor through Wellspring Philanthropic Fund 

Partner: No official partner 

Publications: Making Work Supports Work_Florida 


Funder: Anonymous donor through Wellspring Philanthropic Fund 

State Partner: Policy Matters Ohio 

Publications: Making Work Supports Work_Ohio 

National and Regional Projects  

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 

NCCP is currently under contract with the Atlanta Fed to support the development of a benefit rules database, which includes policy codes and policy variables for federal rules and state variations in CCDF, SNAP, Section 8, Medicaid, ACA subsidies, TANF, LIHEAP, Head Start, federally-funded meal programs, and federal, state, and local tax credits. 

Year: 2020 

US Department of Health and Human ServicesAssistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) 

Study Title: A Model Effective Marginal Tax Rate Calculator for Families and Caseworkers 

Contractor (or Intramural): Manhattan Strategy Group  

Year: 2019 

The recent Family Resource Simulator analyses have grown out of the Making Work Supports Work projects, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. 


Heather Koball, Co-Director 
National Center for Children in Poverty 

Bank Street Graduate School of Education 

Seth Hartig, Project Director 
National Center for Children in Poverty 

Bank Street Graduate School of Education 

Suma Setty, Senior Research Associate 

National Center for Children in Poverty 

Bank Street Graduate School of Education