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Immigrant and Native Responses to Welfare Reform

  • Robert Kaestner
  • Neeraj Kaushal

In this paper, we investigate the effect of federal welfare reform on the employment, hours of work and marriage rates of three groups of low-educated women: foreign-born citizens, foreign-born non-citizens and native-born citizens. Among non-citizens, we investigate whether the behavioral response to welfare reform differed by recency of immigration. Finally, because some states created programs to insure that all legal immigrants remained eligible for benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and others did not, we compare the response of foreign-born non-citizens between these states to investigate whether the immigrant provisions of federal welfare reform legislation had a 'chilling' effect. The results suggest that welfare reform induced native-born citizens and foreign- born non-citizens to increase their employment and attachment to the labor market. TANF appears to have had a larger effect on the least educated native-born women and among foreign-born non-citizens, a larger effect on more recent arrivals. The 'chilling' hypothesis that has received so much attention in the popular press is not supported by our results. Finally, our estimates indicate that TANF had no effect on native- and foreign-born citizens' marriage decisions. TANF was associated with a decrease in the marriage rates of foreign-born non-citizens.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8541.

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Date of creation: Oct 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Kaestner, Robert and Neeraj Kaushal. "Immigrant And Native Responses To Welfare Reform," Journal of Population Economics, 2005, v18(1,Mar), 69-92.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8541
Note: LS PE
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  1. Borjas, George J & Hilton, Lynette, 1996. "Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant Participation in Means-Tested Entitlement Programs," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 575-604, May.
  2. George J. Borjas, 1998. "Immigration and Welfare Magnets," NBER Working Papers 6813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Neeraj Kaushal & Robert Kaestner, 2001. "From Welfare to Work: Has Welfare Reform Worked?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 699-719.
  4. Robert F. Schoeni & Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure," NBER Working Papers 7627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1992. "Workfare versus Welfare Incentive Arguments for Work Requirements in Poverty-Alleviation Programs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 249-61, March.
  6. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1995. "The Design of Income Maintenance Programmes," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 187-221, April.
  7. 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.
  8. David N. Figlio & James P. Ziliak, 1999. "Welfare Reform, the Business Cycle, and the Decline in AFDC Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 77, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  9. J. P. Ziliak & D. N. Figlio & E. E. Davis & L. S. Connolly, . "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.
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