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Fiscal Effects of Block Grants for the Needy: An Interpretation of the Evidence

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  • Howard Chernick

Abstract

In 1996 the United States revamped its welfare system by eliminating the entitlement to cash benefits under Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and replacing it by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Federal financing was converted from open-ended matching grants to fixed block grants. This paper reviews the evidence on the likely impact of block grants for the needy on average benefit levels, total redistributional outlays, and on differentials across states. The econometric evidence on state responses to federal incentives for spending on the needy varies enormously. An evaluation of this evidence, together with an examination of state responses to the federalization of aid to the elderly, blind, and disabled through the Supplementary Security Income program, suggests that in the long run the federal changes will substantially decrease the amount of direct cash redistribution in the United States. A reasonable guess is that average benefits to the needy will be 15 to 30 percent smaller than under current law, while total spending on cash grants could decline by as much as 35 percent. While interstate competition will act to reduce benefit differentials across states, this tendency will be offset by differential matching rate effects. An extreme ‘race to the bottom,’ with a total withering of the transfer state, is unlikely to occur. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

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  • Howard Chernick, 1998. "Fiscal Effects of Block Grants for the Needy: An Interpretation of the Evidence," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 5(2), pages 205-233, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:itaxpf:v:5:y:1998:i:2:p:205-233
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008694405571
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gerald Carlino & Robert P. Inman, 2016. "Fiscal Stimulus in Economic Unions: What Role for States?," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 1-50.
    2. Baicker, Katherine, 2001. "Government decision-making and the incidence of federal mandates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 147-194, November.
    3. Gerald Carlino & Robert P. Inman, 2013. "Macro Fiscal Policy in Economic Unions: States as Agents," NBER Working Papers 19559, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Marton, James & Wildasin, David E., 2007. "State government cash and in-kind benefits: Intergovernmental fiscal transfers and cross-program substitution," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-20, January.
    5. Marcel Thum & Thomas Fester & Andreas Kappler & Helmut Seitz, 2005. "Öffentliche Infrastruktur und kommunale Finanzen : Gutachten im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums für Verkehr, Bau- und Wohnungswesen und des Bundesamtes für Bauwesen und Raumordnung," ifo Dresden Studien, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 37.
    6. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
    7. James P. Ziliak, 2015. "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families," NBER Chapters,in: Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, Volume 1, pages 303-393 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Katherine Baicker, 2001. "Extensive or Intensive Generosity? The Price and Income Effects of Federal Grants," NBER Working Papers 8384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. R. Haveman & B. Wolfe, "undated". "Welfare to Work in the U.S.: A Model for Other Nations?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1159-98, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    10. Santiago Lago-Penas, 2006. "Capital grants and regional public investment in Spain: fungibility of aid or crowding-in effect?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(15), pages 1737-1747.
    11. Luis Ayala & Elena Bárcena-Martín, 2016. "A unified approach for measuring welfare protection under a decentralized framework," Working Papers 405, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    12. Linda Toolsema & Maarten Allers, 2014. "Welfare Financing: Grant Allocation and Efficiency," De Economist, Springer, vol. 162(2), pages 147-166, June.
    13. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 291-364 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. repec:dgr:rugsom:12004-eef is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Robert P. Inman & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 1997. "Rethinking Federalism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 43-64, Fall.
    16. Chernick, Howard, 2000. "Federal Grants and Social Welfare Spending: Do State Responses Matter?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 1), pages 143-52, March.
    17. Toolsema-Veldman, Linda & Allers, M.A., 2012. "Welfare financing," Research Report 12004-EEF, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    18. Robert Moffitt, 1999. "Explaining Welfare Reform: Public Choice and the Labor Market," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 6(3), pages 289-315, August.
    19. Masayoshi Hayashi, 2017. "Do Central Grants Affect Welfare Caseloads? Evidence from Public Assistance in Japan," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-1064, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    20. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 2000. "Errata," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 7(3), pages 369-371, May.
    21. Craig, Steven G. & Howard, Larry L., 2014. "Is Medicaid crowding out other state government expenditure? Internal financing and cross-program substitution," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 164-178.
    22. Baker, Michael & Payne, A. Abigail & Smart, Michael, 1999. "An empirical study of matching grants: the 'cap on CAP'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 269-288, May.
    23. Lucy Kok & Caren Tempelman & Pierre Koning & Lennart Kroon & Caroline Berden, 2017. "Do Incentives for Municipalities Reduce the Welfare Caseload? Evaluation of a Welfare Reform in the Netherlands," De Economist, Springer, vol. 165(1), pages 23-42, March.
    24. Chernick, Howard, 2000. "Federal Grants and Social Welfare Spending: Do State Responses Matter?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(1), pages 143-152, March.
    25. Howard Chernick, 1999. "State Fiscal Substitution Between the Federal Food Stamp Program and AFDC, Medicaid, and SSI," JCPR Working Papers 123, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.

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