IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Duration of Spells on Welfare and Off-welfare among Lone Mothers in Ontario

  • Jennifer Stewart
  • Martin Dooley

This paper provides a first look at the dynamics of social assistance use among lone mothers in Ontario. We use an administrative caseload data set to analyse the relationship between the duration of spells, both on welfare and off welfare, and a series of factors including the clients’ personal characteristics, their history of welfare use, the duration of current spells, labour market conditions and social assistance benefit levels. We find mixed evidence concerning the key policy question of the scarring or stigmatizing effects of welfare, that is, a “welfare trap”. There is evidence that the likelihood of exiting welfare declines during the first year of a spell. The support is weakest, however, in our preferred specification. There is more consistent evidence that the likelihood of returning to welfare declines during the first year after an exit, that is, staying off the rolls has the beneficial effect of making recidivism less likely. Clients who have spent more months on welfare in the past (controlling for age) do appear to have somewhat longer future spells on welfare and to return more quickly to the rolls once they leave, but the magnitude of this effect is very small. The length of both welfare and off-welfare spells is very sensitive to the levels of welfare benefits. Most of the other coefficients have significant effects of the expected sign. Welfare spells tend to be longer for those lone mothers who are younger, poorly educated, never married, not employable and for those who have more and younger children. Spell lengths also increase with the level of the unemployment rate and decrease with the level of the minimum wage. Off-welfare spells tend to be shorter (the return to welfare more rapid) for those lone mothers who are older, never married, not employable and who have very young children. Off- welfare spells are longer when the minimum wage is higher.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers with number 21.

in new window

Length: 118 pages
Date of creation:
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:cilnwp:21
Contact details of provider: Postal: 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4M4
Phone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 22765
Fax: (905) 521-8232
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Allen, Douglas W, 1993. "Welfare and the Family: The Canadian Experience," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages S201-23, January.
  2. Christofides, L.N. & Stengos, T. & Swidinsky, R., 1996. "Welfare Participation and Labour Market Behaviour in Canada," Working Papers 1996-6, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
  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. Garry F. Barrett & Michael I. Cragg, 1998. "An Untold Story: The Characteristics of Welfare Use in British Columbia," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(1), pages 165-188, February.
  5. Louis N. Christofides & Michael Hoy & Ling Yang, 2006. "The Determinants of University Participation," Working Papers 0608, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
  6. Plant, Mark W, 1984. "An Empirical Analysis of Welfare Dependence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 673-84, September.
  7. Michael Charette & Ronald Meng, 1994. "The Determinants of Welfare Participation of Female Heads of Household in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 27(2), pages 290-306, May.
  8. Blank, Rebecca M., 1989. "Analyzing the length of welfare spells," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 245-273, August.
  9. O'Neill, June A & Bassi, Laurie J & Wolf, Douglas A, 1987. "The Duration of Welfare Spells," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(2), pages 241-48, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mcm:cilnwp:21. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.