IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Was it the economy or reform that precipitated the steep decline in the US welfare caseload?


  • Hal W. Snarr


Objectives of the 1996 overhaul of the US welfare system included reducing dependency, raising employment and de-incentivizing out-of-wedlock fertility. Using public use state-level panel data from 1990 to 2005, I analyse how state implementation of welfare reform simultaneously affects the caseload, employment and out-of-wedlock births (henceforth, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) objectives). Because endogeneity and simultaneity could not be rejected, I use Three-Stage Least Squares (3SLS) method. Results indicated that most of the steep decline in the caseload is attributed to welfare reform, while the economy's overall effect paled in comparison. However, lagged and contemporaneous unemployment individually ranked second and third behind the Hispanic share of state population. The conservative tilt over the period studied ranked forth, followed in declining order by full family sanctions, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) payments, time limits (lagged by length), access to abortion clinics, lump-sum TANF diversion payments, and TANF benefit payments. Findings also suggest that policy does not always work as intended: caseloads are found to be higher in states that have highly regarded family formation and job retention TANF programs; and EITC payments are associated with lower not higher caseloads. The most compelling finding in this study is that low-income families likely turn first to unemployment insurance and then to TANF assistance.

Suggested Citation

  • Hal W. Snarr, 2013. "Was it the economy or reform that precipitated the steep decline in the US welfare caseload?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(4), pages 525-540, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:45:y:2013:i:4:p:525-540
    DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2011.607135

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timothy J. Bartik, 2002. "Instrumental Variable Estimates of the Labor Market Spillover Effects of Welfare Reform," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 02-78, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    2. Mark D. Turner, 1999. "The Effects of Higher Minimum Wages on Welfare Recipiency," JCPR Working Papers 95, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Joshua C. Hall & Dean Stansel & Danko Tarabar, 2015. "Economic Freedom Studies at the State Level: A Survey," Working Papers 15-07, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    2. Hal Snarr & Dan Friesner & Daniel Underwood, 2012. "Evaluating evolutionary changes in state TANF policies," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(17), pages 1753-1758.
    3. 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.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Häkkinen Skans, Iida & Carlsson, Mikael & Nordström Skans, Oskar, 2017. "Wage Flexibility in a Unionized Economy with Stable Wage Dispersion," Working Papers 149, National Institute of Economic Research.
    2. Marianne E. Page & Joanne Spetz & Jane Millar, 2005. "Does the minimum wage affect welfare caseloads?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 273-295.
    3. Brian C. Hill & Matthew N. Murray, 2008. "Interactions Between Welfare Caseloads And Local Labor Markets," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 539-554, October.
    4. Lincoln H. Groves, 2016. "Welfare Reform and Labor Force Exit by Young, Low-Skilled Single Males," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(2), pages 393-418, April.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:applec:45:y:2013:i:4:p:525-540. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.