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Welfare reform and the subjective well-being of single mothers

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  • Chris Herbst

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Abstract

Although a large body of research examines the impact of welfare reform, there remains considerable uncertainty as to whether single mothers’ well-being improved in the wake of these policy changes. Using unique data from the DDB Worldwide Communications Life Style TM survey, this paper exploits a large battery of survey questions on self-reported life satisfaction and physical and mental health to study the impact of welfare reform on the subjective well-being of single mothers. The identification strategy relies on a difference-in-differences framework to estimate intent-to-treat effects for the welfare waiver and TANF periods. Results indicate that the bundle of TANF reforms had mostly positive effects on single mothers’ subjective well-being. These women experienced an increase in life satisfaction, greater optimism about the future, and more financial satisfaction. Furthermore, these improvements did not come at a cost of reducing mental and physical health. Welfare waivers, in contrast, had largely neutral effects on well-being. I provide indirect evidence that the increase in single mothers’ employment after welfare reform can plausibly explain the gains in subjective well-being. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Chris Herbst, 2013. "Welfare reform and the subjective well-being of single mothers," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(1), pages 203-238, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:26:y:2013:i:1:p:203-238
    DOI: 10.1007/s00148-012-0406-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. John Ifcher & Homa Zarghamee, 2014. "The Happiness of Single Mothers: Evidence from the General Social Survey," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(5), pages 1219-1238, October.
    2. Bahadır Dursun & Resul Cesur, 2016. "Transforming lives: the impact of compulsory schooling on hope and happiness," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 29(3), pages 911-956, July.
    3. José Giménez-Nadal & Raquel Ortega, 2015. "Time Dedicated to Family by University Students: Differences by Academic Area in a Case Study," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 36(1), pages 132-142, March.
    4. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M. & Ifcher, John & Zarghamee, Homa, 2013. "The Earned Income Tax Credit, Health, and Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 7261, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Boyd-Swan, Casey & Herbst, Chris M. & Ifcher, John & Zarghamee, Homa, 2016. "The earned income tax credit, mental health, and happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 18-38.
    6. Susan Harkness, 2016. "The Effect of Employment on the Mental Health of Lone Mothers in the UK Before and After New Labour’s Welfare Reforms," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(2), pages 763-791, September.
    7. Chris M. Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2014. "Child Care Subsidies, Maternal Health, And Child–Parent Interactions: Evidence From Three Nationally Representative Datasets," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(8), pages 894-916, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Happiness; Single mothers; Welfare reform; I38; J08; I31;

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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