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Do social policy reforms have different impacts on employment and welfare use as economic conditions change?

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  • Chris M. Herbst

    (School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University)

Abstract

This paper uses March Current Population Survey data from 1985 to 2004 to explore whether social policy reforms implemented throughout the 1990s have different impacts on employment and welfare use depending on economic conditions, a topic with important policy implications but which has received little attention from researchers. I find evidence that many reforms operate differently as labor market conditions fluctuate. Although social policies increase employment during economic slowdowns, the largest effects are generated in favorable labor market conditions. The impact of time limits, mandatory job search, and cash diversion programs are particularly sensitive to the macroeconomy, while the earned income tax credit is associated with similar employment effects in most environments. The results vary substantially across policy “carrots” and “sticks,” levels of work intensity, and subsamples of single mothers, but a tentative conclusion is that a strong economy reinforces the positive incentives created by social policy reforms. © 2008 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Chris M. Herbst, 2008. "Do social policy reforms have different impacts on employment and welfare use as economic conditions change?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(4), pages 867-894.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:27:y:2008:i:4:p:867-894
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20380
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20380
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes & Madeline Zavodny, 2004. "The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(2), pages 213-236, May.
    2. Timothy J. Bartik & Randall W. Eberts, 199. "Examining the Effect of Industry Trends and Structure on Welfare Caseloads," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers,in: Sheldon H. Danziger (ed.), Economic Conditions and Welfare Reform, chapter 5, pages 119-157 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    3. David N. Figlio & James P. Ziliak, 1999. "Welfare Reform, the Business Cycle, and the Decline in AFDC Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 77, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    4. Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2000. "Who Are the Ineligible EITC Recipients?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(4), pages 1165-1186, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herbst, Chris M. & Tekin, Erdal, 2010. "Child care subsidies and child development," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 618-638, August.
    2. Kory Kroft & Kucko Kavan & Etienne Lehmann & Johannes Schmieder, 2015. "Optimal Income Taxation with Unemployment and Wage Responses: A Sufficient Statistics Approach," Working Papers hal-01292126, HAL.
    3. Caroline Danielson & Deborah Reed & Qian Li & Jay Liao, "undated". "Sanctions and Time Limits in California's Welfare Program," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 09550879b2754a38b32e03488, Mathematica Policy Research.
    4. Chris Herbst, 2010. "The labor supply effects of child care costs and wages in the presence of subsidies and the earned income tax credit," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 199-230, June.
    5. Chris Herbst, 2013. "Welfare reform and the subjective well-being of single mothers," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(1), pages 203-238, January.
    6. Michael Lechner & Conny Wunsch, 2009. "Are Training Programs More Effective When Unemployment Is High?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(4), pages 653-692, October.
    7. Herbst, Chris M., 2015. "The Rising Cost of Child Care in the United States: A Reassessment of the Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 9072, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Lane Destro & David Brady, 2010. "Does European-Style Welfare Generosity Discourage Single Mother Employment?," LIS Working papers 548, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    9. Chris M. Herbst & Erdal Tekin, 2010. "The Impact of Child Care Subsidies on Child Well-Being: Evidence from Geographic Variation in the Distance to Social Service Agencies," NBER Working Papers 16250, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Chris Herbst & David Stevens, 2010. "The Impact of Local Labor Market Conditions on Work and Welfare Decisions: Revisiting an Old Question Using New Data," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 29(4), pages 453-479, August.
    11. Kwon, Hyeok Chang & Meyer, Daniel R., 2011. "How do economic downturns affect welfare leavers? A comparison of two cohorts," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 588-597, May.

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