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