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Does welfare reform affect fertility? Evidence from the UK

  • Mike Brewer

    ()

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and ISER, Essex University)

  • Anita Ratcliffe

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and CMPO, University of Bristol)

  • Sarah Smith

    ()

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Centre for Market and Public Organisation)

In 1999 the UK government made major reforms to the system of child-contingent benefits, including the introduction of Working Families' Tax Credit and an increase in means-tested Income Support for families with children. Between 1999-2003 government spending per-child on these benefits rose by 50 per cent in real terms, a change that was unprecedented over a thirty year period. This paper examines whether there was a response in childbearing. To identify the effect of the reforms, we exploit the fact that the spending increases were targeted at low-income households and we use the (exogenously determined) education of the woman and her partner to define treatment and control groups. We argue that the reforms are most likely to have a positive fertility effect for women in couples and show that this is the case. We find that there was an increase in births (by around 15 per cent) among the group affected by the reforms.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W08/09.

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Length: 43 pp.
Date of creation: Nov 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:08/09
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  1. Guy Laroque & Bernard Salanié, 2008. "Does Fertility Respond to Financial Incentives ?," Working Papers 2008-10, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  2. Kevin Milligan, 2005. "Subsidizing the Stork: New Evidence on Tax Incentives and Fertility," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 539-555, August.
  3. Leigh, Andrew, 2007. "Earned Income Tax Credits and Labor Supply: New Evidence from a British Natural Experiment," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(2), pages 205-24, June.
  4. Laroque, Guy & Salanié, Bernard, 2003. "Fertility and Financial Incentives in France," CEPR Discussion Papers 4064, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Leslie A. Whittington & James Alm & H. Elizabeth Peters, . "Fertility and the Personal Exemption: Implicit Pronatalist Policy in the United States," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 89-6, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  6. Marco Francesconi & Wilbert van der Klaauw, 2007. "The Socioeconomic Consequences of "In-Work" Benefit Reform for British Lone Mothers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(1).
  7. Moulton, Brent R, 1990. "An Illustration of a Pitfall in Estimating the Effects of Aggregate Variables on Micro Unit," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(2), pages 334-38, May.
  8. Phillip B. Levine, 2002. "The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity Throughout the Fertility Decision Tree," NBER Working Papers 9021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Paul Gregg & Susan Harkness & Sarah Smith, 2009. "Welfare Reform and Lone Parents in the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages F38-F65, 02.
  10. Williamson Hoyne, Hilary, 1997. "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 89-117, August.
  11. Paul Gregg & Susan Harkness, 2003. "Welfare Reform and Lone Parents Employment in the UK," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 03/072, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  12. Fraser, Clive D, 2001. "Income Risk, the Tax-Benefit System and the Demand for Children," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(269), pages 105-25, February.
  13. Richard Blundell & Alan Duncan & Julian McCrae & Costas Meghir, 2000. "The labour market impact of the working families’ tax credit," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(1), pages 75-103, March.
  14. Reagan Baughman & Stacy Dickert-Conlin, 2003. "Did Expanding the EITC Promote Motherhood?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 247-251, May.
  15. Eissa, Nada & Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 2004. "Taxes and the labor market participation of married couples: the earned income tax credit," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1931-1958, August.
  16. Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Amitabh Chandra, 1999. "Taxes and the Timing of Birth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 161-177, February.
  17. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
  18. Blundell, Richard & Costa Dias, Monica, 2008. "Alternative Approaches to Evaluation in Empirical Microeconomics," IZA Discussion Papers 3800, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1994. "Unnatural Experiments? Estimating the Incidence of Endogenous Policies," NBER Working Papers 4956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Dan Anderberg, 2007. "Tax Credits, Income Support and Partnership Decisions," CESifo Working Paper Series 2147, CESifo Group Munich.
  21. Mike Brewer, 2001. "Comparing in-work benefits and the reward to work for families with children in the US and the UK," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 41-77, January.
  22. Ellwood, David T., 2000. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Policy Reforms on Work, Marriage, and Living Arrangements," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1063-1106, December.
  23. Brewer, Mike & Duncan, Alan & Shephard, Andrew & Suarez, Maria Jose, 2006. "Did working families' tax credit work? The impact of in-work support on labour supply in Great Britain," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 699-720, December.
  24. Leslie Whittington, 1992. "Taxes and the Family: The impact of the tax exemption for dependents on marital fertility," Demography, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 215-226, May.
  25. John Ermisch, 1988. "Econometric Analysis of Birth Rate Dynamics in Britain," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(4), pages 563-576.
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