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Female offenders use of social welfare programs before and after jail and prison: does prison cause welfare dependency?

  • Kristin Butcher
  • Robert J. LaLonde

Prior studies indicate that incarcerated women are among the most economically disadvantaged populations in the U.S. In this paper we focus on the links between incarceration and use of the social welfare system. Is prison, for example associated with increased welfare dependency? To better understand this relationship, we examine the temporal pattern of social welfare receipt for 45,000 female offenders from Cook County, Illinois over a ten year period. We find that this group does in fact have high rates of social welfare receipt, especially if they were incarcerated in state prison rather than in county jail. But incarceration is associated with modestly lower rates of social welfare receipt, especially for the less advantaged among the population of offenders. Further, bans on TANF receipt for drug felons enacted as part of welfare reform have not significantly affected this population’s attachment to the social welfare system.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-06-13.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-06-13
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  1. Heckman, James J. & Singer, Burton, 1984. "Econometric duration analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 63-132.
  2. Harry J. Holzer & Robert J. LaLonde, 1999. "Job Change and Job Stability Among Less-Skilled Young Workers," Working Papers 9928, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  3. Robert Moffitt, 2002. "Economic Effects of Means-Tested Transfers in the U.S," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 1-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
  5. Hilary W. Hoynes & Kenneth Y. Chay & Dean Hyslop, 2004. "True State Dependence In Monthly Welfare Participation:A Nonexperimental Analysis," Working Papers 533, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
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