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Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or Economic Growth?

  • J. P. Ziliak
  • D. N. Figlio
  • E. E. Davis
  • L. S. Connolly

Nationwide, AFDC caseloads have decreased by about 18 percent since March 1994, while some states, such as Wisconsin, Indiana, and Oregon, have seen declines of 40 percent or more. Two factors are frequently suggested as possible causes: state-level experiments with welfare reform and strong economic growth. In this paper, we use state-level monthly panel data from 1987 to 1996 to assess the importance of each of these factors by estimating a model of AFDC caseloads as a dynamic function of time-dependent state welfare reform variables (welfare waivers) and economic variables such as per capita employment. Our results from the dynamic model suggest that the decline in per capita AFDC caseloads is attributable largely to the economic growth of states and not to waivers from federal welfare policies. In the 26 states experiencing at least a 20 percent decline in per capita AFDC caseloads between 1993 and 1996, we attribute 78 percent of the decline to business-cycle factors and 6 percent to welfare waivers.

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Paper provided by University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty in its series Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers with number 1151-97.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1151-97
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  1. Rebecca M. Blank, 2001. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 85-118.
  2. Edward M. Gramlich & Deborah S. Laren, 1984. "Migration and Income Redistribution Responsibilities," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(4), pages 489-511.
  3. Shroder, Mark, 1995. "Games the States Don't Play: Welfare Benefits and the Theory of Fiscal Federalism," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(1), pages 183-91, February.
  4. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1996. "Local Labor Markets and Welfare Spells: Do Demand Conditions Matter?," NBER Working Papers 5643, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-26, November.
  6. Robert A. Moffitt, 1996. "The effect of employment and training programs on entry and exit from the welfare caseload," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(1), pages 32-50.
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