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Has Welfare Reform Changed Teenage Behaviors?

  • Robert Kaestner
  • June O'Neill

We use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979 and 1997 cohorts to compare welfare use, fertility rates, educational attainment, and marriage rates among teenage women in the years before and the years immediately following welfare reform. Our first objective is to document differences between these cohorts in welfare use and outcomes and behaviors correlated with 'entry' into welfare, and with future economic and social well-being. Our second objective is to investigate the causal role of welfare reform in behavioral change. We find significant differences between cohorts in welfare use and in outcomes related to welfare use. Further, difference-in-differences estimates suggest that welfare reform has been associated with reduced welfare receipt, reduced fertility, reduced marriage, and lower school drop-out among young women who, because of a disadvantaged family background, are at high risk of welfare receipt (relative to those at lower risk). Finally, in the post-welfare reform era, teenage mothers are less likely to receive welfare and are more likely to live with a spouse or to live with at least one parent than in the pre-reform era. Establishing definitively that welfare reform is responsible for these changes among teenagers will require further investigation.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8932.

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Date of creation: May 2002
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Publication status: published as Kaestner, Robert, Sanders Korenman and June O’Neill. “Has Welfare Reform Changed Teenage Behaviors?” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 22, 2 (2003): 225-248.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8932
Note: CH HE
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  1. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program," NBER Chapters, in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 291-364 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Melissa Schettini Kearney, 2002. "Is There an Effect of Incremental Welfare Benefits on Fertility Behavior? A Look at the Family Cap," NBER Working Papers 9093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 1999. "Making Single Mothers Work: Recent Tax and Welfare Policy and its Effects," JCPR Working Papers 152, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  4. Jeffrey Grogger, 2004. "Time Limits and Welfare Use," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  5. Robert Kaestner & Neeraj Kaushal, 2005. "Immigrant and native responses to welfare reform," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 69-92, 07.
  6. 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.
  7. Dave M. O'Neill & June Ellenoff O'Neill, 1997. "Lessons for Welfare Reform: An Analysis of the AFDC Caseload and Past Welfare-to-Work Programs," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number lwr, March.
  8. V. Joseph Hotz & Seth G. Sanders & Susan Williams McElroy, 1999. "Teenage Childbearing and Its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 7397, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, The Earned Income Tax Credit, And The Labor Supply Of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114, August.
  10. Schoeni, R.F. & Blank, R.M., 2000. "What Has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure," Papers 00-02, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  11. Phillip B. Levine, 2002. "The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity Throughout the Fertility Decision Tree," NBER Working Papers 9021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Meyer, Bruce D. & Rosenbaum, Dan T., 2000. "Making Single Mothers Work: Recent Tax and Welfare Policy and its Effects," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1027-62, December.
  14. Ann E. Horvath-Rose & H. Elizabeth Peters, 2000. "Welfare Waivers and Non-Marital Childbearing," JCPR Working Papers 128, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  15. Robert A. Moffitt, 1999. "The Effect of Pre-PRWORA Waivers on AFDC Caseloads and Female Earnings, Income, and Labor Force Behavior," JCPR Working Papers 89, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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