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A Couples-Based Approach to the Problem of Workless Families


  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A.

    () (University of Sydney)

  • Ryan, Chris

    () (University of Melbourne)

  • Breunig, Robert

    () (Australian National University)


The goal of this paper is to evaluate a “couples-based” policy intervention designed to reduce the number of Australian families without work. In 2000 and 2001, the Australian Government piloted a new counseling initiative targeted towards couple-headed families with dependent children in which neither partner was in paid employment. Selected women on family benefits (who were partnered with men receiving unemployment benefits) were randomly invited to participate in an interview process designed to identify strategies for increasing economic and social participation. While some women were interviewed on their own, others participated in a joint interview with their partners. Our results indicate that the overall effect of the interview process led to lower hours of work among family benefit recipients in the intervention group than the control group, but to greater participation and hours in job search and in study or training for work-related reasons. At the same time, there are few significant differences in the effect of the interview process on the economic and social activity of women interviewed with and without their unemployed partners.

Suggested Citation

  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Ryan, Chris & Breunig, Robert, 2003. "A Couples-Based Approach to the Problem of Workless Families," IZA Discussion Papers 864, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp864

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul Gregg, 1996. "It Takes Two: Employment Polarisation in the OECD," CEP Discussion Papers dp0304, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra E. Todd, 1997. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from Evaluating a Job Training Programme," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 605-654.
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    5. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
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    7. Thierry Kamionka & Guy Lacroix, 2003. "Assessing the Impact of Non-Response on the Treatment Effect in the Canadian Self-Sufficiency Experiment," Working Papers 2003-37, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    8. Israel, Mark & Seeborg, Michael, 1998. "The impact of youth characteristics and experiences on transitions out of poverty," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 753-776.
    9. Heckman, James J. & Lalonde, Robert J. & Smith, Jeffrey A., 1999. "The economics and econometrics of active labor market programs," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 31, pages 1865-2097 Elsevier.
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    11. Davies, Richard B & Elias, Peter & Penn, Roger, 1992. "The Relationship between a Husband's Unemployment and His Wife's Participation in the Labour Force," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 54(2), pages 145-171, May.
    12. Peter Dawkins & Paul Gregg & Rosanna Scutella, 2005. "Employment Polarisation in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 81(255), pages 336-350, December.
    13. Robert Breunig & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Yvonne Dunlop & Marion Terrill, 2003. "Assisting the Long-Term Unemployed: Results from a Randomised Trial," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 79(244), pages 84-102, March.
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    15. repec:nsr:niesrd:72 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Peter Dawkins & Paul Gregg & Rosanna Scutella, 2002. "The Growth of Jobless Households in Australia," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 35(2), pages 133-154.
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    More about this item


    treatment effects; income-support policy; randomized experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

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