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The Labor Supply Effects of Welfare Reform




Will welfare reform increase unemployment and reduce wages? The answer depends in part on how much welfare reform increases labor supply. This paper considers the labor supply effects of the welfare reforms that have occurred since 1993, when President Clinton entered office with a promise to "end welfare as we know it." The paper reviews previous estimates, and provides new estimates, of how many additional labor force participants have entered the labor force due to welfare reform. I estimate that welfare reform from 1993-96 increased the U.S. labor force by between 100,000 and 300,000 persons. Between 1996, when the major federal welfare reform bill was enacted, and 1998, welfare reform has probably increased the U.S. labor force by at least another 300,000 persons. Assuming current policy trends continue, welfare reform may add another half-million to one-million labor force participants between 1998 and 2005. The cumulative impact of welfare reform from 1993-2005 is likely to add between one and one-and-a-half million persons to the U.S. labor force. This additional labor supply is not huge compared to the U.S. labor force, so welfare reform is unlikely to have large long-run effects on overall wages and unemployment. However, this additional labor supply is large compared to likely growth in labor demand for less-educated women over the 1993-2005 period. As a result, welfare reform is likely to have significant effects on the wages and unemployment rates of less-educated women during the 1993-2005 period.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy J. Bartik, 1998. "The Labor Supply Effects of Welfare Reform," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 98-53, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:98-53

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114.
    2. 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.
    3. Timothy J. Bartik, 1997. "Short-Term Employment Persistence for Welfare Recipients: The "Effects" of Wages, Industry, Occupation and Firm," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 97-46, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:taf:rrpaxx:v:13:y:2009:i:3:p:65-80 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Bradford Mills & Jeffrey R. Alwang & Gautam Hazarika, 2000. "The Impact of Welfare Reform Across Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas: A Nonparametric Analysis," JCPR Working Papers 183, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    3. Timothy J. Bartik, 2002. "Instrumental Variable Estimates of the Labor Market Spillover Effects of Welfare Reform," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 02-78, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

    More about this item


    welfare; reform; labor; supply; Bartik;

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers


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