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Transitions in Welfare Participation and Female Headship


  • Fitzgerald, John M.

    () (Bowdoin College)

  • Ribar, David C.

    () (University of Melbourne)


This study uses data from the 1990, 1992, 1993 and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine how welfare policies and local economic conditions contribute to women's transitions into and out of female headship and into and out of welfare participation. It also examines whether welfare participation is directly associated with longer spells of headship. The study employs a simultaneous hazards approach that accounts for unobserved heterogeneity in all of its transition models and for the endogeneity of welfare participation in its headship model. The estimation results indicate that welfare participation significantly reduces the chances of leaving female headship. The estimates also reveal that more generous welfare benefits contribute indirectly to headship by increasing the chances that mothers will enter welfare. More generous Earned Income Tax Credit benefits are associated with longer spells of headship, non-headship, welfare participation and nonparticipation. Other measures of welfare policies, including indicators for the adoption of welfare waivers and the implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, are generally not significantly associated with headship or welfare receipt. Better economic opportunities are estimated to increase headship but reduce welfare participation among unmarried mothers.

Suggested Citation

  • Fitzgerald, John M. & Ribar, David C., 2003. "Transitions in Welfare Participation and Female Headship," IZA Discussion Papers 895, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp895

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Biewen, 2004. "Measuring State Dependence in Individual Poverty Status: Are there Feedback Effects to Employment Decisions and Household Composition?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 429, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2006. "Welfare Reform and Children's Living Arrangements," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
    3. Chris Herbst & David Stevens, 2010. "The Impact of Local Labor Market Conditions on Work and Welfare Decisions: Revisiting an Old Question Using New Data," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 29(4), pages 453-479, August.
    4. H. Benitez-Silva & F. Heiland, 2008. "Early claiming of social security benefits and labour supply behaviour of older Americans," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(23), pages 2969-2985.
    5. Martin Biewen, 2009. "Measuring state dependence in individual poverty histories when there is feedback to employment status and household composition," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(7), pages 1095-1116.

    More about this item


    hazard models; female headship; welfare participation;

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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