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Do Attitudes and Personality Characteristics Affect Socioeconomic Outcomes? The Case of Welfare Use by Young Women

  • R. Plotnick
  • M. Klawitter
  • M. Edwards
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    We develop and estimate a model of social-psychological determinants of entry to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the primary cash welfare program in the United States for 60 years until replaced in 1996. The structural model holds that attitudes and personality characteristics influence a woman’s likelihood of becoming demographically and financially eligible for welfare and her willingness to bear the stigma of receiving benefits. These factors, in turn, affect the likelihood of actually going on welfare. We test for a relationship between social-psychological variables and welfare participation using data from the youngest cohorts of women in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. We estimate logit models of the probability of ever participating in AFDC up to age 25 and hazard models of the timing until first use of AFDC. The attitudes and personality characteristics in the empirical model are self-esteem, locus of control, attitudes toward school, attitudes toward women’s work and family roles, commitment to work, and aversion to accepting public assistance. We find strong associations between welfare use and several attitudes and personality characteristics, but most of the associations are not robust to the inclusion of exogenous personal and family background characteristics. Consistent, strong evidence suggests that more positive attitudes toward school lower the likelihood of using welfare and increase duration until first receipt.

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    File URL: http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/dps/pdfs/dp116198.pdf
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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 1161-98.

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    Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1161-98
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    1. Gary Solon & Mary Corcoran & Roger H. Gordon & Deborah Laren, 1987. "Sibling and Intergenerational Correlations in Welfare Program Participation," NBER Working Papers 2334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Derek A. Neal & William R. Johnson, 1995. "The Role of Pre-Market Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," NBER Working Papers 5124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Hoynes, Hilary & MaCurdy, Thomas, 1994. "Has the Decline in Benefits Shortened Welfare Spells?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 43-48, May.
    4. Peter Gottschalk, 1993. "Is The Correlation In Welfare Participation Across Generations Spurious?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 224, Boston College Department of Economics.
    5. Besley, T. & Coate, S., 1990. "Understanding Welfare Stigma: Taxpayer Resentment And Statistical Discrimination," Papers 42, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
    6. Bassi, Laurie J, 1990. "Employment and Welfare Participation among Women," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(2), pages 222-38, April.
    7. 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.
    8. Greg J. Duncan & James N. Morgan, 1981. "Sense of Efficacy and Subsequent Change in Earnings-A Replication," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(4), pages 649-657.
    9. Robert Plotnick, 1983. "Turnover in the AFDC Population: An Event History Analysis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(1), pages 65-81.
    10. Greg J. Duncan & Rachel Dunifon & Dave Knutson, . "Vim Will Win: Long-Run Effects of Motivation and Other "Noncognitive" Traits on Success," IPR working papers 96-23, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
    11. Blank, Rebecca M & Ruggles, Patricia, 1994. "Short-Term Recidivism among Public-Assistance Recipients," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 49-53, May.
    12. Sara McLanahan, 1988. "Family structure and dependency: Early transitions to female household headship," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 25(1), pages 1-16, February.
    13. M. Szekelyi & R. Tardos, . "Attitudes that make a difference: Expectancies and economic progress," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1003-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    14. Lane, Julia & Stevens, David, 1995. "Family, Work, and Welfare History: Work and Welfare Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 266-70, May.
    15. John M. Fitzgerald, 1995. "Local labor markets and local area effects on welfare duration," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(1), pages 43-67.
    16. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-35, December.
    17. Robert M. Hutchens, 1981. "Entry and Exit Transitions in a Government Transfer Program: The Case of Aid to Families with Dependent Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 16(2), pages 217-237.
    18. Gottschalk, Peter & Moffitt, Robert A, 1994. "Welfare Dependence: Concepts, Measures, and Trends," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 38-42, May.
    19. Greg Duncan & Saul Hoffman, 1990. "Welfare benefits, economic opportunities, and out-of-wedlock births among black teenage girls," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 27(4), pages 519-535, November.
    20. Clarkberg, M. & Stolzenberg, R.M. & Waite, L.J., 1993. "Attitudes, Values, and the Entrance into Cohabitational Unions," Papers 93-40, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
    21. P. D. Brandon, . "Vulnerability to future dependence among former AFDC mothers," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1055-95, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    22. Mark Rank & Thomas Hirschl, 1993. "The link between population density and welfare participation," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 30(4), pages 607-622, November.
    23. O'Neill, June A & Bassi, Laurie J & Wolf, Douglas A, 1987. "The Duration of Welfare Spells," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(2), pages 241-48, May.
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