Tools & Research

We partnered with the Atlanta Fed to create some groundbreaking interactive tools. They can show you how your income may be affected, or could be improved, based on career changes and the Cliff Effect.

About the Tools

Springfield WORKS and the Economic Pathways Coalition have partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to develop groundbreaking tools (tabs to the right) that help individuals, employers, and policymakers understand which in-demand career pathways will lead to self-sufficiency and mitigate the potential loss of public assistance (sometimes known as a benefits cliff) based on their income, residence, career goals, and family dynamics. 

These tools:

  • Help individuals understand how much money they will gain through paid employment and the financial tradeoffs from the loss of public assistance as they progress through their career pathways
  • Identify benefits cliffs by analyzing how public benefits interact with career pathways in specific Massachusetts geographic areas
  • Assist stakeholders in identifying barriers to career advancement and economic mobility and to support workers and job seekers in their movement toward economic self-sufficiency.
  • Simulate policy and programmatic changes to eliminate benefits cliffs and support family financial stability (coming soon)
  • Promote broad cross-sector use of the tool to help influence collective action to change systems related to public benefits for working families
  • Engage the private sector to examine compensation structures, practices, and policies related to low- to moderate-income upskilling and advancement opportunities

These tools come from a partnership between the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council and Springfield WORKS, in coordination with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Baystate Health’s Ascend Family Prosperity Initiative MA Department of Transitional Assistance, MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, and MA Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  It is powered by the Atlanta Fed’s Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster (CLIFF).

Online Cliff Tools Training

For service providers, and some individuals

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta developed the virtual training program to teach new users about the cliff effect and how to use the dashboard and the planner. Taking the course is the first step for anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of how to use the tools and anyone who wants to use the tools in a professional environment. Each training is around 2 hours.

Click here to access the TRAINING on the AtlantaFed website.

Cliff SNAPSHOT

For individuals and service providers

The SNAPSHOT tool allows an individual or family to see how a change in income or weekly hours would change their take-home pay, monthly budget, change their access to public benefits, and out-of-pocket expenses.

Click here to access the SNAPSHOT tool on the AtlantaFed website.

Cliff DASHBOARD

For individuals and service providers

DASHBOARD is used to explore the potential financial returns of different careers. allows you to put in information about your household and career, and the tool will show how someone in that career path may expect to earn over time. The tool compares that expected income to your household budget target, impacts to any public assistance, and other factors.

Click here to access the DASHBOARD tool on the AtlantaFed website.

Cliff Snapshot

For individuals and service providers

PLANNER is used to create a detailed budget in support of a career move. You enter information about your current job, a possible new career, and your budget. The tool helps you see when or how you may become ‘financially stable’ on two different career paths.

Click here to access the PLANNER tool on the AtlantaFed website.

Policy Rules Database

For service providers, advocates, and policymakers

The Policy Rules Database was developed for policymakers and advocates, but is also very useful for client-facing applications like career counseling. It allows the user to quickly create customizable and detailed charts with valuable information for almost any application. The PRD is a powerful multi-use tool that is like the Swiss army knife in the cliff effects toolbox.

Click here to access the POLICY RULES DATABASE on the AtlantaFed website.

Employer Edition

For employers

This is our latest tool! It enables employers to see how changes in wages will affect their employees. That way, they can intelligently plan their incentives to provide real benefits for their employees. This tool breaks down the knowledge barriers between employers and their employees by providing them insight into the realities of the cliff effect. 

Click here to access the EMPLOYER tool on the AtlantaFed website.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta developed the virtual training program to teach new users about the cliff effect and how to use the dashboard and the planner. Taking the course is the first step for anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of how to use the tools and anyone who wants to use the tools in a professional environment. Each training is around 2 hours.

This is our latest tool! It enables employers to see how changes in wages will affect their employees. That way, they can intelligently plan their incentives to provide real benefits for their employees. This tool breaks down the knowledge barriers between employers and their employees by providing them insight into the realities of the cliff effect. 

The SNAPSHOT tool allows an individual or family to see how a change in income or weekly hours would change their take-home pay, monthly budget, change their access to public benefits, and out-of-pocket expenses.

DASHBOARD is used to explore the potential financial returns of different careers. allows you to put in information about your household and career, and the tool will show how someone in that career path may expect to earn over time. The tool compares that expected income to your household budget target, impacts to any public assistance, and other factors.

PLANNER is used to create a detailed budget in support of a career move. You enter information about your current job, a possible new career, and your budget. The tool helps you see when or how you may become ‘financially stable’ on two different career paths.

The Policy Rules Database was developed for policymakers and advocates, but is also very useful for client-facing applications like career counseling. It allows the user to quickly create customizable and detailed charts with valuable information for almost any application. The PRD is a powerful multi-use tool that is like the Swiss army knife in the cliff effects toolbox.

Research and News

Research

  1. Research from the Center for Social Policy at UMass Boston: Link.
  2. Dodson, Lisa, and Wendy Luttrell. “Families Facing Untenable Choices.” Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the American Sociological Association, Contexts, WINTER 2011, Vol. 10, No. 1, capturing community, pp. 38-42. Link.
  3. Explore the work done by the National Conference of State Legislatures that focuses on the whole family approach to careers and explores its intersection with cliff effects: Link.

News Articles

  • Chiarenza, Gabriella. “A hand up, not a handout, to cross the benefits cliff.” Fed Communities, fedcommunities.org, 2 DEC 2022. Link.
  • Coy, Peter. “The ‘Benefits Cliff’ Discourages People From Making More Money.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 10 NOV 2021. Link.
  • Molina, Eneida. “Managing the ‘Cliff Effect’ (Viewpoint).” MassLive. MassLive.com. 17 July 2022. Link.
  • Nargi, Lela. “What’s a “benefits cliff,” anyway?” The Counter, thecounter.org, 9 DEC 2021. Link.
  • Kandilis, Anne, and Laura Sylvester. “Economic pathways coalition asks state to remove obstacles to economic opportunity.” MassLive, masslive.com, 24 OCT 2021. Link.