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Effects of Welfare Reform on Educational Acquisition of Young Adult Women

  • Dhaval M. Dave
  • Nancy E. Reichman
  • Hope Corman

Education beyond traditional ages for schooling is an important source of human capital acquisition among adult women. Welfare reform, which began in the early 1990s and culminated in the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, has promoted work rather than educational acquisition for this group. Exploiting variation in welfare reform across states and over time and using relevant comparison groups, we undertake a comprehensive study of the effects of welfare reform on adult women's educational acquisition. We first estimate effects of welfare reform on high school drop-out of teenage girls, both to improve on past research on this issue and to explore compositional changes that may be relevant for our primary analyses of the effects of welfare reform on the educational acquisition of adult women. We conduct numerous specification checks and explore the mediating role of work. We find robust and convincing evidence that welfare reform significantly decreased the probability of college enrollment among adult women, by at least 20 %. It also appears to have decreased the probability of high school enrollment on the same order of magnitude. These results suggest that the gains from welfare reform in terms of increases in employment and reductions in caseloads have come at a cost in terms of lower educational attainment among adult women at risk for relying on welfare.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14466.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14466.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Publication status: published as Dhaval M. Dave, Hope Corman & Nancy E. Reichman, 2012. "Effects of Welfare Reform on Education Acquisition of Adult Women," Journal of Labor Research, vol. 33(2), pages 251-282.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14466
Note: HE LS ED PE
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  1. Jeffrey Grogger, 2004. "Time Limits and Welfare Use," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  2. 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.
  3. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
  4. Hope Corman, 1983. "Postsecondary Education Enrollment Responses by Recent High School Graduates and Older Adults," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(2), pages 247-267.
  5. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2004. "Welfare Reform and Health," Working Papers 102-1, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  6. Thomas S. Dee & Brian A. Jacob, 2006. "Do High School Exit Exams Influence Educational Attainment or Labor Market Performance?," NBER Working Papers 12199, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Monks, James, 1997. "The impact of college timing on earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 419-423, October.
  8. Thomas DeLeire & Judith A. Levine & Helen Levy, 2006. "Is Welfare Reform Responsible for Low-Skilled Women’s Declining Health Insurance Coverage in the 1990s?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(3).
  9. Robert Kaestner & June O'Neill, 2002. "Has Welfare Reform Changed Teenage Behaviors?," NBER Working Papers 8932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Robert F. Schoeni & Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What Has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure," Working Papers 00-02, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  11. Duane E. Leigh & Andrew M. Gill, 1997. "Labor Market Returns to Community Colleges: Evidence for Returning Adults," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(2), pages 334-353.
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