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The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?

  • R. A. Moffitt

The recent literature on the effects of welfare on marriage and fertility includes studies employing a wide variety of methodologies and data sets and covering different time periods. A majority of the studies show that welfare has a significantly negative effect on marriage or positive effect on fertility rather than none at all, and thus the current consensus is that the welfare system probably has some effect on these demographic outcomes. Considerable uncertainty surrounds this consensus because a sizable minority of the studies find no effect at all, because the magnitudes of the estimated effects vary widely, and because puzzling and unexplained differences exist across the studies by race and methodological approach. At present, and with the information provided in the studies, the source of these disparities cannot be determined. While a neutral weighing of the evidence still leads to the conclusion that the welfare system affects marriage and fertility, research needs to be conducted to resolve the conflicting findings.

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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 1153-97.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1153-97
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  1. Robert Hutchens & George Jakubson & Saul Schwartz, 1989. "AFDC and the Formation of Subfamilies," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(4), pages 599-628.
  2. P. K. Robins & P. Fronstin, . "Welfare benefits and family-size decisions of never-married women," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1022-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  3. Danziger, Sheldon, et al, 1982. "Work and Welfare as Determinants of Female Poverty and Household Headship," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 519-34, August.
  4. Hutchens, Robert M, 1979. "Welfare, Remarriage, and Marital Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 369-79, June.
  5. Moffitt, Robert, 1990. "The effect of the U.S. welfare system on marital status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 101-124, February.
  6. Aaron S. Yelowitz, 1998. "Will Extending Medicaid to Two-Parent Families Encourage Marriage?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 833-865.
  7. Matthews, S. & Ribar, D. & Wilhelm, M., 1995. "The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Reproductive Health Services on State Abortion and Birth Rates," Papers 4-95-15, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  8. Saul D. Hoffman & Greg J. Duncan, 1995. "The Effect of Incomes, Wages, and AFDC Benefits on Marital Disruption," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(1), pages 19-41.
  9. T. Paul Schultz, 1994. "Marital Status and Fertility in the United States: Welfare and Labor Market Effects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 637-669.
  10. Lundberg, Shelly & Plotnick, Robert D, 1995. "Adolescent Premarital Childbearing: Do Economic Incentives Matter?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 177-200, April.
  11. Allen, Douglas W, 1993. "Welfare and the Family: The Canadian Experience," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages S201-23, January.
  12. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1995. "Does Welfare Play Any Role in Female Headship Decisions?," NBER Working Papers 5149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Anne E. Winkler, 1995. "Does AFDC-up encourage two-parent families?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(1), pages 4-24.
  14. An, Chong-Bum & Haveman, Robert & Wolfe, Barbara, 1993. "Teen Out-of-Wedlock Births and Welfare Receipt: The Role of Childhood Events and Economic Circumstances," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 195-208, May.
  15. Blank, Rebecca M. & George, Christine C. & London, Rebecca A., 1996. "State abortion rates the impact of policies, providers, politics, demographics, and economic environment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 513-553, October.
  16. Robert Moffitt, 1994. "Welfare Effects on Female Headship with Area Effects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 621-636.
  17. Schultz, T. Paul, 1998. "Eroding the economic foundations of marriage and fertility in the United States," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 391-413, December.
  18. Darity, William, Jr & Myers, Samuel L, Jr, 1983. "Changes in Black Family Structure: Implications for Welfare Dependency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 59-64, May.
  19. Gregory Acs, 1996. "The Impact of Welfare on Young Mothers' Subsequent Childbearing Decisions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 898-915.
  20. Greg Duncan & Saul Hoffman, 1990. "Welfare benefits, economic opportunities, and out-of-wedlock births among black teenage girls," Demography, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 519-535, November.
  21. Mark R. Rosenzweig & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1994. "Inequality among Young Adult Siblings, Public Assistance Programs, and Intergenerational Living Arrangements," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(4), pages 1101-1125.
  22. Saul D. Hoffman & Greg J. Duncan, 1988. "A Comparison of Choice-Based Multinomial and Nested Logit Models: The Family Structure and Welfare Use Decisions of Divorced or Separated Women," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(4), pages 550-562.
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