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Welfare Benefits and Female Headship in U.S. Time Series


  • Robert A. Moffitt


A considerable amount of work has been done on the relationship between AFDC benefits and family structure in the United States. The evidence to date—based on cross-state variation in welfare benefits and family structure, often with state fixed effects—indicates that there is some nonzero effect of those benefits on marriage and fertility, although disagreement remains about the magnitude of the effect. It is undisputed, however, that time-series trends in family structure are not correlated in the direction that the cross-state evidence would suggest, because real benefits have been falling, even relative to wages, in aggregate time series. This paper reexamines the time-series evidence with particular attention to the role of wages in explaining trends in headship, and notes that the correct specification includes male as well as female wages. When both are controlled, welfare benefits have a slight positive impact on female headship even in time series. The results demonstrate the importance of labor market factors in explaining trends in female headship.
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Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Moffitt, 2000. "Welfare Benefits and Female Headship in U.S. Time Series," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 373-377, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:90:y:2000:i:2:p:373-377 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.90.2.373

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Joe Stone, 2012. "The Black-White Gap in Non Marital Fertility: Education and Mates in Segmented Marriage Markets," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 328-336, September.
    2. Sakata, Kei & McKenzie, C.R., 2009. "The impact of divorce precedents on the Japanese divorce rate," Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (MATCOM), Elsevier, vol. 79(9), pages 2917-2926.
    3. Edith Duclos & Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 2001. "A 'Natural Experiment' on the Economics of Storks: Evidence on the Impact of Differential Family Policy on Fertility Rates in Canada," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 136, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
    4. Gray, Joanna & Stockard, Jean & Stone, Joe, 2010. "A birth-cohort test of the wilson willis model of nonmarital fertility," MPRA Paper 22538, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes & Madeline Zavodny, 2004. "The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(2), pages 213-236, May.
    6. Jo Gray & Jean Stockard & Joe Stone, 2006. "The rising share of nonmarital births: Fertility choice or marriage behavior?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(2), pages 241-253, May.
    7. Jie Chen, 2006. "The Dynamics of Housing Allowance Claims in Sweden: A Discrete Time-Hazard Analysis," European Journal of Housing Policy, Taylor and Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 1-29, April.
    8. Dirk Konietzka & Michaela Kreyenfeld, 2005. "Nichteheliche Mutterschaft und soziale Ungleichheit: zur sozioökonomischen Differenzierung der Familienformen in Ost- und Westdeutschland," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2005-001, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    9. Libertad González, 2005. "The Determinants of the Prevalence of Single Mothers: A Cross-Country Analysis," LIS Working papers 413, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    10. Mary C. Daly & Robert G. Valletta, 2000. "Inequality and poverty in the United States: the effects of changing family behavior and rising wage dispersion," Working Paper Series 2000-06, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    11. David Brady, 2003. "The Poverty of Liberal Economics," LIS Working papers 343, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    12. Evenhouse, Eirik & Reilly, Siobhan, 2010. "Multiple-Father Fertility and Welfare," MPRA Paper 26305, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Fitzgerald, John M. & Ribar, David C., 2003. "Transitions in Welfare Participation and Female Headship," IZA Discussion Papers 895, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Rebekah Burroway & David Brady, 2010. "Targeting, Universalism and Single Mother Poverty: A Multi-level Analysis Across 18 Affluent Democracies," LIS Working papers 554, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    15. Gonzalez, Libertad, 2007. "The effect of benefits on single motherhood in Europe," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 393-412, June.
    16. Sakata, K. & McKenzie, C.R., 2011. "Social security and divorce in Japan," Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (MATCOM), Elsevier, vol. 81(7), pages 1507-1517.
    17. Maria Cancian & Daniel Meyer & Steven Cook, 2011. "The Evolution of Family Complexity from the Perspective of Nonmarital Children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(3), pages 957-982, August.
    18. David Brady, 2004. "The Welfare State and Relative Poverty in Rich Western Democracies, 1967-1997," LIS Working papers 390, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    19. Arnstein Aassve, 2003. "The impact of economic resources on premarital childbearing and subsequent marriage among young American women," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(1), pages 105-126, February.
    20. David Brady & Rebekah Burroway, 2012. "Targeting, Universalism, and Single-Mother Poverty: A Multilevel Analysis Across 18 Affluent Democracies," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(2), pages 719-746, May.
    21. Alison Aughinbaugh & Maury Gittleman, 2003. "Does Money Matter?: A Comparison of the Effect of Income on Child Development in the United States and Great Britain," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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