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The Road Not Taken? Changes in Welfare Entry During the 1990s

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  • Gregory Acs
  • Katherin Ross Phillips
  • Sandi Nelson

Abstract

Objective. This article examines how welfare entry rates changed during the 1990s, and also assesses whether changes in entry rates are accompanied by improvements in the circumstances of families that choose not to receive welfare. Methods. This analysis uses data from the 1990 and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to identify three cohorts of low‐income single mothers who are potentially eligible for welfare but are not receiving benefits. Multivariate (competing risk) regression models and decomposition techniques are used to identify the factors responsible for changes in welfare entry patterns over the 1990s. Results. We find that welfare entry rates declined during the 1990s with the largest declines coming toward the end of the decade. Neither changes in the characteristics of low‐income single mothers nor improvements in the economy directly account for this shift. Rather, the introduction of new policies like time limits, full‐family sanctions, and family caps under welfare reform, along with unmeasured factors such as changes in attitudes toward work and welfare, account for the drop in welfare entry rates. The analysis also shows that declining entry rates are not accompanied by substantial improvements in the circumstances of low‐income single mothers who are not on welfare. Conclusions. Welfare reform policies adopted during the 1990s reduced entry into welfare, but single mothers who stayed off welfare remained in precarious economic circumstances.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory Acs & Katherin Ross Phillips & Sandi Nelson, 2005. "The Road Not Taken? Changes in Welfare Entry During the 1990s," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 86(s1), pages 1060-1079, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:socsci:v:86:y:2005:i:s1:p:1060-1079
    DOI: 10.1111/j.0038-4941.2005.00336.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey Grogger, 2004. "Welfare transitions in the 1990s: The economy, welfare policy, and the EITC," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4), pages 671-695.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nathan Berg & Todd Gabel, 2015. "Did Canadian welfare reform work? The effects of new reform strategies on social assistance participation," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 48(2), pages 494-528, May.
    2. John C. Ham & Xianghong Li & Lara D. Shore-Sheppard, 2016. "The Employment Dynamics of Disadvantaged Women: Evidence from the SIPP," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(4), pages 899-944.
    3. Wu, Chi-Fang, 2011. "Long-term employment and earnings among low-income families with children," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 91-101, January.
    4. Chase-Lansdale, P. Lindsay & Cherlin, Andrew J. & Guttmannova, Katarina & Fomby, Paula & Ribar, David C. & Coley, Rebekah Levine, 2011. "Long-term implications of welfare reform for the development of adolescents and young adults," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 678-688, May.
    5. Purtell, Kelly M. & Gershoff, Elizabeth T. & Aber, J. Lawrence, 2012. "Low income families' utilization of the Federal “Safety Net”: Individual and state-level predictors of TANF and Food Stamp receipt," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 713-724.
    6. Wu, Chi-Fang & Eamon, Mary Keegan, 2010. "Need for and barriers to accessing public benefits among low-income families with children," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 58-66, January.
    7. Kwon, Hyeok Chang & Meyer, Daniel R., 2011. "How do economic downturns affect welfare leavers? A comparison of two cohorts," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 588-597, May.

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