Burial Assistance


  • Burial Assistance - Catholic Charities Chicago, Illinois

Focus Area

  • Self-Sufficiency

The death of a loved one often bears several monetary shocks for a household. The cost of a funeral can cause financial strain in addition to the loss of income from the individual who has passed away.

The Issue

The passing of a loved one often brings about numerous financial challenges for a household. The expenses associated with a funeral not only add to the financial burden but also exacerbate the loss of income resulting from the loss of a working partner or parents.. While research on the impact of these financial shocks is lacking, studies on various expenditure shocks have demonstrated significant consequences on households' financial stability. For instance, one study revealed that receiving a traffic citation increases the likelihood of default by 8 percent and leads to an additional $75 in unpaid bills in collections. Similarly, researchers have found that healthcare expenses contribute to the inability to meet financial obligations and elevate the probability of bankruptcy. Moreover, income shocks have been associated with a considerable decline in self-reported financial well-being and are strongly correlated with food insecurity. Among those particularly vulnerable to unexpected expenses are low- and middle-income households, households of color, and households with lower educational attainment, as they often face limited liquidity and rely heavily on borrowing. Financial shock effects can ripple through various aspects of someone’s quality of life, including credit, employment, earnings, and housing.

The Intervention

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago (CCAC) operates a program through which low-income individuals can receive financial assistance to help fund the cost of a friend or family member’s funeral or burial. Without assistance, these large expenses can have significant negative impacts on a household’s financial well-being.

Research Question

What is the impact of receiving burial and funeral assistance equal to most or all of the expense of a funeral on outcomes such as credit, income, employment, and housing stability?

Intended Outcomes

Those who receive services will have a boosted credit rating and enhanced credit usage practices.

They will also have strengthened income stability and job security.

And they will have improved housing permanence. 

Research Study Design

This study is a randomized controlled trial that examines the impact of providing financial assistance for funeral or burial expenses on various participant outcomes , including creditworthiness, credit utilization, income, employment, and housing stability. The research focuses on low-income households seeking burial or funeral aid through the CCAC hotline. Once callers have a finalized invoice, they proceed to complete a survey to determine eligibility. To qualify for the program, callers must have an income below 40% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and an invoice at or below $12,000. CCAC verifies income by requesting proof or having callers complete a self-attestation form. Participants eligible for the study with an invoice amount equal to or exceeding $3,000 will be randomly assigned to the treatment group (receiving up to $8,000) or the control group (receiving $1,000). All eligible callers, regardless of study participation, will receive a minimum of $750 in assistance. The study aims to help researchers understand the impact of providing significant financial support to alleviate debt for the treatment group, and how to best allocate limited resources.

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