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Welfare Dynamics Under Time Limits

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  • Jeff Grogger
  • Charles Michalopoulos

Abstract

Among the most important changes brought about by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is the imposition of time limits. In this paper, we analyze a simple model in which a potential welfare recipient chooses how to allocate her time-limited endowment of benefits so as to maximize her expected lifetime utility. Not surprisingly, the model reveals that time limits provide an incentive for the consumer to conserve, or bank, her benefits. More interesting is the prediction that these incentives to conserve one's benefits vary inversely with the age of the youngest child in one's family. This implies that the reduction in welfare payments that results from PRWORA will fall disproportionately on families with young children. We estimate age group-specific effects of time limits and test the prediction of the model using data from a welfare reform demonstration in Florida. Subject to some assumptions that are necessary to distinguish the effects of time limits from the effects of other provisions of the demonstration, we find that time limits indeed reduce welfare use by the greatest amount among the families with the youngest children. Moreover, time limits have substantial effects on welfare utilization, reducing monthly utilization probabilities by 19 percent. Time limits lead families to exit the welfare rolls well before they exhaust their benefits, suggesting that welfare mothers are rational in the sense of being forward-looking.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeff Grogger & Charles Michalopoulos, 1999. "Welfare Dynamics Under Time Limits," NBER Working Papers 7353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7353 Note: LS PE CH
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Christopher A. Swann, 2005. "Welfare Reform When Recipients Are Forward-Looking," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
    3. Kornfeld, Robert & Bloom, Howard S, 1999. "Measuring Program Impacts on Earnings and Employment: Do Unemployment Insurance Wage Reports from Employers Agree with Surveys of Individuals?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 168-197, January.
    4. 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 241-248, May.
    5. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-1035, December.
    6. Jeffrey Grogger & Charles Michalopoulos, 2003. "Welfare Dynamics under Time Limits," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 530-554, June.
    7. J. P. Ziliak & D. N. Figlio & E. E. Davis & L. S. Connolly, "undated". "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or Economic Growth?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1151-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    8. Rebecca M. Blank, 2001. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 85-118.
    9. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1994. "Parental and Public Transfers to Young Women and Their Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1195-1212, December.
    10. Schoeni, R-F, 1996. "Does Aid to Families with Dependent Children Displace Familial Assistance?," Papers 96-12, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
    11. Greg J. Duncan & Kathleen Mullan Harris & Johanne Boisjoly, "undated". "Time Limits and Welfare Reform: New Estimates of the Number and Characteristics of Affected Families," IPR working papers 97-3, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
    12. Shelly J. Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak & Terence J. Wales, 1997. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from the United Kingdom Child Benefit," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 463-480.
    13. James P. Ziliak & David N. Figlio & Elizabeth E. Davis & Laura S. Connolly, 2000. "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or the Economy?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(3), pages 570-586.
    14. Rebecca M. Blank, 1999. "What Goes Up Must Come Down? Explaining Recent Changes in Public Assistance Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 78, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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