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

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  • Lingxin Hao
  • Nan M. Astone
  • Andrew Cherlin

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:232
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. V. Joseph Hotz & Lixin Colin Xu & Marta Tienda & Avner Ahituv, 2002. "Are There Returns To The Wages Of Young Men From Working While In School?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 221-236, May.
    2. Cameron, Stephen V & Heckman, James J, 1993. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-47, January.
    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. Katherine M. O'Regan & John M. Quigley, 1996. "Teenage Employment and the Spatial Isolation of Minority and Poverty Households," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(3), pages 692-702.
    5. Nan Astone & Sara McLanahan, 1994. "Family structure, residential mobility, and school dropout: A research note," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 31(4), pages 575-584, November.
    6. Ruhm, Christopher J, 1997. "Is High School Employment Consumption or Investment?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(4), pages 735-776, October.
    7. 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.
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