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Incentive Effects of Social Assistance: A Regression Discontinuity Approach

  • Milligan, Kevin
  • Lemieux, Thomas

Before 1989, childless social assistance recipients in Quebec under age 30 received much lower benefits than recipients over age 30. We use this sharp discontinuity in policy to estimate the effects of social assistance on various labour market outcomes using a regression discontinuity approach. We find strong evidence that more generous social assistance benefits reduce employment. The estimates exhibit little sensitivity to the degree of flexibility in the specification, and perform very well when we control for unobserved heterogeneity using a first difference specification. Finally, we show that commonly used difference-in-differences estimators may perform poorly with inappropriately chosen control groups.

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Paper provided by Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch in its series Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series with number 2006280e.

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Date of creation: 14 Jun 2006
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Handle: RePEc:stc:stcp3e:2006280e
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  1. Garry F. Barrett & Michael I. Cragg, 1998. "An Untold Story: The Characteristics of Welfare Use in British Columbia," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 31(1), pages 165-188, February.
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  4. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Milligan, Kevin & Lemieux, Thomas, 2006. "Incentive Effects of Social Assistance: A Regression Discontinuity Approach," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2006280e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  6. Justin McCrary, 2007. "Manipulation of the Running Variable in the Regression Discontinuity Design: A Density Test," NBER Technical Working Papers 0334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wilbert van der Klaauw, 2002. "Estimating the Effect of Financial Aid Offers on College Enrollment: A Regression-Discontinuity Approach," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(4), pages 1249-1287, November.
  8. 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.
  9. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation Of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599, May.
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  11. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan & Martin Dooley, 1998. "Lone Female Headship and Welfare Policy in Canada," Department of Economics Working Papers 1998-02, McMaster University.
  12. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2004. "Welfare Reform and Health," Working Papers 102-1, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  14. 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.
  15. Lee, David S. & Card, David, 2008. "Regression discontinuity inference with specification error," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 655-674, February.
  16. Wei-Yin Hu, 2001. "Welfare and Family Stability: Do Benefits Affect When Children Leave the Nest?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 274-303.
  17. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, October.
  18. Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy & Drolet, Simon, 2004. "Welfare benefits and the duration of welfare spells: evidence from a natural experiment in Canada," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1495-1520, July.
  19. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1996. "Local Labor Markets and Welfare Spells: Do Demand Conditions Matter?," NBER Working Papers 5643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2006. "Welfare Reform and Children's Living Arrangements," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
  21. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-09, January.
  22. Kapsalis, Costa, 2001. "An Assessment of EI and SA Reporting in SLID," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 2001166e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  23. Black, Dan A. & McKinnish, Terra G. & Sanders, Seth G., 2003. "Does the availability of high-wage jobs for low-skilled men affect welfare expenditures? Evidence from shocks to the steel and coal industries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 1921-1942, September.
  24. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moff03-1, October.
  25. Kevin Milligan, 2002. "Subsidizing the Stork: New Evidence on Tax Incentives and Fertility," NBER Working Papers 8845, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Moffitt, Robert A., 2002. "Welfare programs and labor supply," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 34, pages 2393-2430 Elsevier.
  27. Carol Harvey & Michael J. Camasso & Radha Jagannathan, 2000. "Evaluating Welfare Reform Waivers under Section 1115," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 165-188, Fall.
  28. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1990. "Empirical Age-Earnings Profiles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 202-29, April.
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