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The American Welfare System and Family Structure: An Historical Perspective

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  • Carolyn M. Moehling

Abstract

Cross-sectional studies find a positive relationship between a state's welfare benefits and single motherhood. But is this evidence of a "welfare effect" or rather of cross state differences in social attitudes that influence both policy and behavior? This paper demonstrates that the spatial variation in welfare policy long preceded the spatial correlation of policy and behavior, undermining the social norm hypothesis. But the findings also raise doubts about the role that welfare policy played in the changes in family structure over the century. The correlation between welfare benefits and family structure only appears in 1970, and then only for whites.

Suggested Citation

  • Carolyn M. Moehling, 2007. "The American Welfare System and Family Structure: An Historical Perspective," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(1).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:42:y:2007:i1:p117-155
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    File URL: http://jhr.uwpress.org/cgi/reprint/XLII/1/117
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Price V. Fishback & Shawn Everett Kantor, 2000. "A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fish00-1, June.
    2. Fishback, Price V. & Kantor, Shawn Everett, 2000. "A Prelude to the Welfare State," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226251639, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Price Fishback & Samuel Allen & Jonathan Fox & Brendan Livingston, 2010. "A Patchwork Safety Net: A Survey Of Cliometric Studies Of Income Maintenance Programs In The United States In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 895-940, December.
    2. Andrew Goodman-Bacon, 2016. "The Long-Run Effects of Childhood Insurance Coverage: Medicaid Implementation, Adult Health, and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 22899, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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