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Adolescents' School Enrollment and Employment:Effect of State Welfare Policies

  • Lingxin Hao
  • Nan M. Astone
  • Andrew Cherlin
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    This study hypothesizes that stringent state welfare policies may promote enrollment and reduce employment through four mechanisms taking place in the larger society, the local labor market and the family, particularly for adolescents from low-income families. We conduct a rigorous and robust analysis using a dynamic model and separating out the welfare policies from non-welfare state policies, youth-specific state labor market conditions, and unobserved state characteristics and period effects. Using longitudinal data from the NLSY97, we have tested the welfare policy effects over a period across welfare waivers and welfare reform (1994-1999) for adolescents aged 14-18. We find that welfare reform may change the behavior of teenage students by encouraging full engagement in schooling and reducing employment while in school. If focusing entirely on schooling is the best way for low-income youth to build human capital, these possible effects of welfare reform could be beneficial. However, if low-income youth obtain "soft skills" from a formal job and if "soft skills" turn out to be decisive for low-income youth?s economic future, these welfare policy effects could be harmful. In addition, stringent state welfare policies appear to have a detrimental effect on teenage dropouts from low-income families.

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    Paper provided by Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research in its series JCPR Working Papers with number 232.

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    Date of creation: 03 Jul 2001
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:232
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, 1155 E. 60th Street Chicago, IL 60637
    Phone: 773-702-0472
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    1. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1991. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," NBER Working Papers 3804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Katherine M. O'Regan and John M. Quigley., 1995. "Teenage Employment and the Spatial Isolation of Minority and Poverty Households," Economics Working Papers 95-239, University of California at Berkeley.
    3. 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.
    4. Nan Astone & Sara McLanahan, 1994. "Family structure, residential mobility, and school dropout: A research note," Demography, Springer, vol. 31(4), pages 575-584, November.
    5. V. Joseph Hotz & Lixin Xu & Marta Tienda & Avner Ahituv, 1999. "Are There Returns to the Wages of Young Men from Working While in School?," JCPR Working Papers 101, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    6. 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.
    7. Ruhm, Christopher J, 1997. "Is High School Employment Consumption or Investment?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(4), pages 735-76, October.
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