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Jobs, Cash Transfers and Marital Instability: A Review and Synthesis of the Evidence


  • John H. Bishop


Expanding welfare benefits to include two-parent families has long been considered an option for a public policy designed to strengthen family units. The negative income tax experiments employed this option, and it was found that the experimental group experienced 50 percent higher marital instability than the control group that was eligible for the current set of income-maintenance programs-AFDC and Food Stamps. Marital instability increased even when an experimental plan was no more generous than AFDC for the splitting wife. The conclusion must be either that because of differences in information, stigma, or transaction costs, the experiments produced more powerful independence effects than an equivalent amount of AFDC, or that receiving NIT payments somehow reduced the attractiveness of the married state by calling into question the success of the husband as provider. These findings suggest that, if strengthening marriages is a public-policy objective, two-parent families would be better aided by wage subsidies that reduce the unemployment of family heads and raise the earnings of the family's working members.

Suggested Citation

  • John H. Bishop, 1980. "Jobs, Cash Transfers and Marital Instability: A Review and Synthesis of the Evidence," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(3), pages 301-334.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:15:y:1980:i:3:p:301-334

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    Cited by:

    1. Gustavo J. Bobonis, 2011. "The Impact of Conditional Cash Transfers on Marriage and Divorce," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(2), pages 281-312.
    2. Nelissen, Jan H. M. & Van Den Akker, Piet A. M., 1988. "Are demographic developments influenced by social security?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 81-114, March.
    3. Starkey, James L., 1996. "Race differences in the effect of unemployment on marital instability: A socioeconomic analysis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 683-720.
    4. Gauthier, A.H., 1995. "Policies and the division of labour within families : The neglected link," WORC Paper 7660c610-7499-4282-ad74-9, Tilburg University, Work and Organization Research Centre.
    5. R. A. Moffitt & R. Reville & A. E. Winkler, "undated". "Beyond single mothers: Cohabition, marriage, and the U.S. welfare system," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1068-95, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    6. Williamson Hoyne, Hilary, 1997. "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 89-117, August.
    7. A. E. Winkler, "undated". "AFDC-UP, two-parent families, and the Family Support Act of 1988: Evidence from the 1990 CPS and the 1987 NSFH," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1013-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.

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