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The Effects of Welfare Reform: The Living Conditions of Single Mothers in the 1980s and 1990s

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  • Bruce D. Meyer
  • James Xavier Sullivan

Abstract

In recent years, we have dramatically changed the character of programs that provide income and in-kind benefits to single mothers. These changes have had large effects on rates of employment and welfare receipt. Despite these changes, there has been little systematic evaluation of the conditions of single mothers and their children since we have "ended welfare as we knew it" following the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). Studies of those leaving welfare have found that a substantial percentage of leavers have problems providing enough food, paying utility bills, and paying rent. Other studies have found a decline in income among the worst off single mothers. The goal of this paper is to examine the living conditions of single mothers and their families before and soon after welfare reform. Using data from two nationally representative household surveys, we examine the consumption patterns of single mothers and their families. Our results indicate that the material conditions of single mothers have changed little after welfare reform, either in absolute terms or relative to single childless women or married mothers. These results hold for relatively disadvantaged single mothers. This paper appears as Chapter 1 in the edited volume The Incentives of Government Programs and the Well-Beings of Families. To view the contents of the entire volume, please click here.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce D. Meyer & James Xavier Sullivan, 2000. "The Effects of Welfare Reform: The Living Conditions of Single Mothers in the 1980s and 1990s," JCPR Working Papers 206, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:206
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1996. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 605-637.
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    3. David Blau, 2003. "Child Care Subsidy Programs," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 443-516 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. Susan E. Mayer & Christopher Jencks, 1989. "Poverty and the Distribution of Material Hardship," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(1), pages 88-114.
    6. Stacy Dickert & Scott Houser & John Karl Scholz, 1995. "The Earned Income Tax Credit and Transfer Programs: A Study of Labor Market and Program Participation," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9, pages 1-50 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Incentives and Income Distribution," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 12, pages 83-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Jonathan Gruber, 1994. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ellwood, David T., 2000. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Policy Reforms on Work, Marriage, and Living Arrangements," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1063-1106, December.
    10. David M. Cutler & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "Macroeconomic Performance and the Disadvantaged," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 1-74.
    11. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Consumption Smoothing Benefits of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(1), pages 192-205, March.
    12. Michael P. Keane, 1995. "A new idea for welfare reform," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 2-28.
    13. Ellwood, David T., 2000. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Policy Reforms on Work, Marriage, and Living Arrangements," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(4), pages 1063-1106, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mykerezi, Elton & Mills, Bradford F., 2009. "On Intra-Annual Poverty in the U.S.: Prevalence, Causes and Response to Food Stamp Program Use," Staff Papers 49095, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.

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