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Welfare Transitions in the 1990s: The Economy, Welfare Policy, and the EITC

  • Jeffrey Grogger

The rapid decline in the welfare caseload remains a subject of keen interest to both policymakers and researchers. In this paper, I use data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation spanning the period from 1986 to 1999 to analyze how the economy, welfare reform, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other factors influenced welfare entries and exits, which in turn affect the caseload. I find that the decline in the welfare caseload resulted from both increases in exits and decreases in entries. Entries were most significantly affected by the economy, the decline in the real value of welfare benefits, and the expansion of the EITC. The EITC had substantial effects on initial entries onto welfare. Exits were most significantly affected by the economy and federal welfare reform. Federal reform had its greatest effects on longer-term spells of the type generally experienced by more disadvantaged recipients. Some out-of-sample predictions help explain the otherwise puzzling observation that, despite substantial increases in the unemployment rate since 2000, caseloads have remained roughly constant.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9472.

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Date of creation: Feb 2003
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Publication status: published as Grogger, Jeffrey. "The Effects Of Time Limits, The EITC, And Other Policy Changes On Welfare Use, Work, And Income Among Female-headed Families," Review of Economics and Statistics, 2003, v85(2,May), 394-408.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9472
Note: LS PE
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  1. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 1998. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," JCPR Working Papers 32, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  2. Jeffrey Grogger & Steven Haider & Jacob Klerman & Elizabeth Roth, 2003. "The Relationship Between the Economy and the Welfare Caseload: A Dynamic Approach," Working Papers 03-06, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  3. 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.
  4. Rebecca M. Blank & Patricia Ruggles, 1993. "When Do Women Use AFDC & Food Stamps? The Dynamics of Eligibility vs. Participation," NBER Working Papers 4429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Marieka Klawitter & Robert D. Plotnick & Mark Evan Edwards, 2000. "Determinants of initial entry onto welfare by young women," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 527-546.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  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. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 2000. "Local Labor Markets And Welfare Spells: Do Demand Conditions Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 351-368, August.
  10. Jacob A. Klerman & Steven J. Haider, 2001. "A Stock-Flow Analysis of the Welfare Caseload: Insights from California Economic Conditions," Working Papers 01-02, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  11. Jeffrey Grogger, 2004. "Time Limits and Welfare Use," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  12. Frank, Robert H, 1978. "How Long Is a Spell of Unemployment?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 285-302, March.
  13. Jeffrey Grogger & Steven J. Haider & Jacob Alex Klerman, 2003. "Why Did the Welfare Rolls Fall During the 1990s? The Importance of Entry," Working Papers 03-07, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  14. Blank, Rebecca M., 1989. "Analyzing the length of welfare spells," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 245-273, August.
  15. V. Joseph Hotz & John Karl Scholz, 2001. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 8078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. 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 241-48, May.
  18. Jeffrey Grogger, 2003. "The Effects of Time Limits, the EITC, and Other Policy Changes on Welfare Use, Work, and Income among Female-Headed Families," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(2), pages 394-408, May.
  19. Michael J. Boskin & Frederick C. Nold, 1975. "A Markov Model of Turnover in Aid to Families with Dependent Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 10(4), pages 467-481.
  20. Robert M. Hutchens, 1981. "Entry and Exit Transitions in a Government Transfer Program: The Case of Aid to Families with Dependent Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(2), pages 217-237.
  21. Robert Moffitt, 1987. "Historical Growth in Participation in Aid to Families with Dependent Children: Was There a Structural Shift?," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 9(3), pages 347-363, April.
  22. David C. Ribar, 2005. "Transitions from Welfare and the Employment Prospects of Low-Skill Workers," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 514-533, January.
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