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Migration consequences of welfare reform

  • Kaestner, Robert
  • Kaushal, Neeraj
  • Van Ryzin, Gregg

In this paper, we investigate whether or not recent state and federal changes in welfare policy -- the imposition of time-limited benefits, the use of financial sanctions for non-compliance, and the setting of strict work eligibility rules -- affect the migration of low-educated unmarried women. Estimates of welfare's effect on migration reveal that welfare policy does indeed affect migration. Recent changes in policy that have made public assistance a less attractive alternative are associated with greater migration among low-educated unmarried women. Welfare reform has motivated low-educated women to move greater distances more frequently, and to combine such moves with employment. Estimates also indicate that welfare reform is associated with more local (i.e., within county) changes in residential location that are associated with employment, although estimates of this effect were not robust to estimation method. The close link between residential moves and employment in the post-reform period is consistent with the idea that welfare reform has motivated people to move for economic reasons such as better employment opportunities. This evidence suggests that the traditional way of thinking about the effect of welfare on migration -- as a strategic move to obtain higher benefits -- is inadequate.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 53 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3 (May)
Pages: 357-376

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Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:53:y:2003:i:3:p:357-376
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  1. P. B. Levine & D. J. Zimmerman, . "An empirical analysis of the welfare magnet debate using the NLSY," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1098-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  2. Jan K. Brueckner, 1999. "Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom: Theory and Evidence," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 505-525, January.
  3. Robert F. Schoeni & Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure," NBER Working Papers 7627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Enchautegui, Maria E, 1997. "Welfare Payments and Other Economic Determinants of Female Migration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 529-54, July.
  5. J. P. Ziliak & D. N. Figlio & E. E. Davis & L. S. Connolly, . "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or Economic Growth?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1151-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  6. David N. Figlio & James P. Ziliak, 1999. "Welfare Reform, the Business Cycle, and the Decline in AFDC Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 77, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  7. Edward M. Gramlich & Deborah S. Laren, 1984. "Migration and Income Redistribution Responsibilities," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(4), pages 489-511.
  8. Blank, Rebecca M., 1988. "The effect of welfare and wage levels on the location decisions of female-headed households," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 186-211, September.
  9. James P. Ziliak & David N. Figlio & Elizabeth E. Davis & Laura S. Connolly, 2000. "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or the Economy?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(3), pages 570-586.
  10. J. R. Walker, . "Migration amoung low-income households: Helping the witch doctors reach consensus," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1031-94, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
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