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The Effect of Health on the Work Effort of Single Mothers


  • Barbara L. Wolfe
  • Steven C. Hill


Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation are used to investigate ways in which health influences a single mother's decision whether to work: the direct effect of a woman's health on work effort and potential wage; the impact of her children's health on hours available to work; and the impact of health on the values of health insurance and Medicaid associated with work and AFDC participation, respectively. Simulations suggest that wage subsidies and decreases in AFDC benefits are unlikely to increase the labor force participation of single mothers in poor health or with disabled children, as they face limitations on work hours and the kinds of work they can perform that prohibit them from earning enough to stay out of poverty. Extending health insurance coverage to all children of single mothers regardless of AFDC status would induce a large percentage of these mothers to seek and accept employment, as would a pay-or-play insurance plan covering all workers (and their dependents) who work 15 or more hours a week.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara L. Wolfe & Steven C. Hill, 1995. "The Effect of Health on the Work Effort of Single Mothers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 42-62.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:30:y:1995:i:1:p:42-62

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ben-Porath, Yoram, 1973. "Labor-Force Participation Rates and the Supply of Labor," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 697-704, May-June.
    2. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1982. "The Youth Labor Market Problem in the United States: An Overview," NBER Chapters,in: The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature, Causes, and Consequences, pages 35-74 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Arthur M. Okun, 1973. "Upward Mobility in a High-Pressure Economy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(1), pages 207-262.
    4. Kim B. Clark & Lawrence H. Summers, 1982. "Labour Force Participation: Timing and Persistence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(5), pages 825-844.
    5. George L. Perry, 1977. "Potential Output and Productivity," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 8(1), pages 11-60.
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