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Welfare benefits and family-size decisions of never-married women

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  • P. K. Robins
  • P. Fronstin

Abstract

Since the 1970s, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has been increasing rapidly in the United States and has prompted several states to propose (and in some cases, enact) legislation to deny access to higher AFDC benefits for families in which the mother gives birth while receiving AFDC. The authors investigate whether AFDC benefit levels are systematically related to the family-size decisions of never-married women. Using a Poisson Regression model, applied to Current Population Survey data from the years 1980-1988, they find that the basic benefit level positively influences family size for white and Hispanic women, but not for black women. Incremental benefits for larger families, however, do not affect family-size decisions, suggesting that reducing (or eliminating) this differential will not necessarily reduce the number of illegitimate births. The basic benefit level positively affects the family-size decision of high school dropouts, but not of high school graduates. This suggests that to discourage nonmarital births, policymakers should consider altering the AFDC benefit structure in such a way as to encourage single mothers to complete high school. However, being a high school dropout might be a proxy for some other underlying characteristic of the woman, and inducing women to complete high school who otherwise would not might have no effect whatsoever on nonmarital births.

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Paper provided by University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty in its series Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers with number 1022-93.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1022-93

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  1. David Blau & Philip Robins, 1989. "Fertility, Employment, and Child-Care Costs," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 287-299, May.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Allen, Douglas W, 1993. "Welfare and the Family: The Canadian Experience," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages S201-23, January.
  4. G. Acs, . "The impact of AFDC on young women's childbearing decisions," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1011-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  5. Greg Duncan & Saul Hoffman, 1990. "Welfare benefits, economic opportunities, and out-of-wedlock births among black teenage girls," Demography, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 519-535, November.
  6. Gonul, F., 1988. "An Empirical Analysis Of The Effects Of Afdc On Work, Childbearing, And Marital Status Decisions Of Young Women," GSIA Working Papers 88-89-36, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
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Cited by:
  1. R. A. Moffitt, . "The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1153-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  2. Jeff Grogger & Stephen G. Bronars, 1997. "The Effect of Welfare Payments on the Marriage and Fertility Behavior of Unwed Mothers: Results from a Twins Experiment," NBER Working Papers 6047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ann E. Horvath-Rose & H. Elizabeth Peters, 2000. "Welfare Waivers and Non-Marital Childbearing," JCPR Working Papers 128, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  4. Melissa Schettini Kearney, 2004. "Is There an Effect of Incremental Welfare Benefits on Fertility Behavior?: A Look at the Family Cap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  5. Wendy Tanisha Dyer & Robert W. Fairlie, 2003. "Do Family Caps Reduce Out-of-Wedlock Births? Evidence from Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey and Virginia," Working Papers 877, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.

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