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