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Welfare Reform and Child Well-being

Author

Listed:
  • Greg Duncan
  • P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

Abstract

In this paper we sort through conflicting theory and evidence regarding the impacts of welfare reform on children’s well-being and development. Our conclusions regarding likely child impacts depend crucially on the ages of the children studied. In the case of elementary-school children, the picture is fairly positive. We find strong evidence that welfare reform can be a potent force for enhancing achievement and positive behavior. When welfare reform packages do not appear to help younger children, there is little evidence of harm, even in the one experiment with time limits. If anything, the beneficial impacts are strongest for children in families with longer histories of welfare receipt. On the other hand, in the case of adolescents, more limited evidence suggests that welfare reforms may cause detrimental increases in school problems and risky behavior. The jury is still out on impacts on infants and toddlers. Our list of policy recommendations includes ways of better supporting work, providing after-school and community programs for older children, addressing safety-net issues for families with barriers to stable, full-time employment, and encouraging fathers to become more involved with their children. More generally, we hope that the debate over the future of welfare reform will pay more attention to children’s well-being, to the diverse situations in which children in low-income families find themselves, and to the very different developmental needs of children of different ages.

Suggested Citation

  • Greg Duncan & P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, 2001. "Welfare Reform and Child Well-being," JCPR Working Papers 217, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:217
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jane Waldfogel & Christina Paxson, 1999. "Parental Resources and Child Abuse and Neglect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 239-244, May.
    2. 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.
    3. Boyce, W. Thomas & Jensen, Eric W. & James, Sherman A. & Peacock, James L., 1983. "The family routines inventory: Theoretical origins," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 193-200, January.
    4. Sandra K. Danziger & Mary Corcoran & Sheldon Danziger & Colleen M. Heflin & Ariel Kalil & Judith Levine & Daniel Rosen & Kristin S. Seefeldt & Kristine Siefert & Richard M. Tolman, 1999. "Barriers to the Employment of Welfare Recipients," JCPR Working Papers 90, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    5. repec:pri:cheawb:pwadobe is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Panel on Data & Methods for Measuring the Effects of Changes in Social Welfare Programs of which John L. Czajka is a memeber, "undated". "Evaluating Welfare Reform in an Era of Transition," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 1152fe95ccc24842917ed5e46, Mathematica Policy Research.
    7. David M. Blau, 1999. "The Effect of Child Care Characteristics on Child Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(4), pages 786-822.
    8. 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.
    9. Greg Duncan & Rachel Dunifon & Morgan Ward Doran & W. Jean Yeung, 1998. "How Different ARE Welfare and Working Families? And Do Those Differences Matter for Children's Achievement?," JCPR Working Papers 38, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
    2. Paul Gregg & Susan Harkness & Sarah Smith, 2009. "Welfare Reform and Lone Parents in the UK," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages 38-65, February.
    3. Robert Kaestner & Elizabeth Tarlov, 2006. "Changes in the welfare caseload and the health of low-educated mothers," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(3), pages 623-643.
    4. Christina Gibson, 2001. "Privileging the Participant: The Importance of Take-Up Rates In Social Welfare Evaluations," Working Papers 968, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    5. repec:pri:crcwel:wp01-25-gibson is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Osborne, Cynthia & Knab, Jean, 2007. "Work, welfare, and young children's health and behavior in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 762-781, June.
    7. Lingxin Hao & Nan M. Astone & Andrew Cherlin, 2001. "Adolescents' School Enrollment and Employment:Effect of State Welfare Policies," JCPR Working Papers 232, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    8. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah Gelbach & Hilary Hoynes, 2004. "Welfare Reform and Children's Living Arrangements," Working Papers WR-111-NICHD/NIA, RAND Corporation.

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