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Female Offenders Use of Social Welfare Programs Before and After Jail and Prison: Does Prison Cause Welfare Dependency?

  • Kristin F. Butcher
  • Robert J. LaLonde

Prior studies indicate that incarcerated women are among the most economically disadvantaged populations in the U.S. An important difference between them and male offenders is that these women are usually custodial parents. Therefore, the consequences of incarceration for their well being are especially important because of its effect on children. 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, the second most populated county in the United States. 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 Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0718.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0718
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  1. Robert Moffitt, 2001. "Economic Effects of Means-Tested Transfers in the US," Economics Working Paper Archive 464, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  2. Harry J. Holzer & Robert J. LaLonde, 1999. "Job Change and Job Stability Among Less-Skilled Young Workers," JCPR Working Papers 80, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  3. 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.
  4. Heckman, James J. & Singer, Burton, 1984. "Econometric duration analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 63-132.
  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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