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Changes in the Welfare Caseload and the Health of Low-educated Mothers

  • Robert Kaestner
  • Elizabeth Tarlov

Declines in the welfare caseload in the late 1990s brought significant change to the lives of many low-educated, single mothers. Many single mothers left welfare and entered the labor market and others re-arranged their lives in order to avoid going on public assistance. These changes may have affected the health and health behaviors of these women. To date, there has been no study of this issue. In this paper, we obtained estimates of the association between the welfare caseload and welfare policies, and three health behaviors --smoking, drinking, and exercise and two self-reported measures of health --days in poor mental health, and overall health status. The results of our study reveal that changes in the caseload had little effect on measures of health status, but were significantly associated with two health behaviors: binge drinking and regular exercise. The fall in the welfare caseload was associated with a decrease in binge drinking and an increase in regular and sustained physical activity.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10034.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10034.

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Date of creation: Oct 2003
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Publication status: published as Kaestner, Robert and Elizabeth Tarlov. "Changes In The Welfare Caseload and The Health Of Low-Educated Mothers," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2006, v25(3,Summer), 623-641.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10034
Note: HE CH
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  1. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Robert Kaestner & Won Chan Lee, 2003. "The Effect of Welfare Reform on Prenatal Care and Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 9769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Marianne Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2004. "Welfare Reform and Health," NBER Working Papers 10549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," IZA Discussion Papers 711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Peter Gottschalk, 2005. "Can work alter welfare recipients' beliefs?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 485-498.
  8. Christopher Ruhm, 1994. "Economic Conditions and Alcohol Problems," NBER Working Papers 4914, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
  10. John Cawley & Sheldon Danziger, 2005. "Morbid obesity and the transition from welfare to work," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 727-743.
  11. John Murray, 2000. "Marital protection and marital selection: Evidence from a historical-prospective sample of American men," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 511-521, November.
  12. Greg Duncan & P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, 2001. "Welfare Reform and Child Well-being," JCPR Working Papers 217, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  13. Steven J. Haider & Alison Jacknowitz & Robert F. Schoeni, 2002. "Welfare Work Requirements and Individual Well-being: Evidence from the Effects on Breastfeeding," Working Papers 02-01, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  14. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2002. "The Impact of Welfare Reform on Living Arrangements," NBER Working Papers 8784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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