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The impact of welfare reform on marriage and divorce

  • Marianne P. Bitler
  • Jonah B. Gelbach
  • Hilary W. Hoynes
  • Madeline Zavodny

The goal of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was to end the dependency of needy parents on government benefits, in part by promoting marriage; the pre-reform welfare system was widely believed to discourage marriage because it primarily provided benefits to single mothers. However, welfare reform may have actually decreased the incentives to be married by giving women greater financial independence via the program's new emphasis on work. This paper uses Vital Statistics data on marriages and divorces during 1989-2000 to examine the role of welfare reform and other state-level variables on marriage and divorce rates. The results indicate that implementation of TANF is negatively associated with marriage and divorce rates, as are pre-TANF waivers from the AFDC program in some specifications.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2002-9.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2002-9
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  1. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2003. "What Mean Impacts Miss: Distributional Effects of Welfare Reform Experiments," NBER Working Papers 10121, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rebecca M. Blank, 2001. "Declining caseloads/increased work: what can we conclude about the effects of welfare reform?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 25-36.
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  12. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2003. "Some Evidence on Race, Welfare Reform, and Household Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 293-298, May.
  13. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1995. "Does Welfare Play Any Role in Female Headship Decisions?," NBER Working Papers 5149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  27. Robert Moffitt, 2002. "Economic Effects of Means-Tested Transfers in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 8730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. David C Ribar & John M Fitgerald, 2003. "The Impact of Welfare Waivers on Female Headship Decisions," Working Papers 03-03, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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