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Welfare Reform and Food Stamp Caseload Dynamics

  • J. P. Ziliak
  • C. Gundersen
  • D. N. Figlio

We use state-level panel data for federal fiscal years 1980–1998 to estimate the impacts of welfare reform and the business cycle on food stamp caseloads. The model we employ is a dynamic function of past caseloads, economic factors, AFDC and Food Stamp Program policies, political factors, AFDC caseload levels, and unobserved fixed and trending heterogeneity. Our results suggest that the robust economy has substantially influenced the recent decline in food stamp caseloads, but that the estimated aggregate effect of welfare reform is modest—we attribute around 45 percent of 1994–1998 decline to the macroeconomy and about 5 percent to welfare reform. We do find substantial heterogeneity in the impact of AFDC waiver policies. States with JOBS sanctions policies but not family cap or earnings disregard waivers can expect a larger long-run decline in caseloads than those states with all three policies. In addition, we do find some evidence, albeit weaker, that states with waivers for unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents can expect higher caseload levels than states without the waivers and that the Electronic Benefits Transfer program is leading to food stamp caseload declines. An important finding of this study is that modeling food stamp caseload dynamics has implications for the estimated effects of policy changes and economic factors—when dynamic models are employed, we observe substantially reduced welfare-reform effects but significantly increased effects of the macroeconomy on food stamp caseloads. These results are robust to models that permit the simultaneous determination of AFDC and food stamp caseloads.

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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 1215-00.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1215-00
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  1. James P. Ziliak & David N. Figlio & Elizabeth E. Davis & Laura S. Connolly, 2000. "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or the Economy?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(3), pages 570-586.
  2. Figlio, David N. & Kolpin, Van W. & Reid, William E., 1999. "Do States Play Welfare Games?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 437-454, November.
  3. Rebecca M. Blank, 1999. "What Goes Up Must Come Down? Explaining Recent Changes in Public Assistance Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 78, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  4. David N. Figlio & James P. Ziliak, 1999. "Welfare Reform, the Business Cycle, and the Decline in AFDC Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 77, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. Rebecca M. Blank, 1997. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," NBER Working Papers 6343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Randall W. Eberts & Joe A. Stone, 1992. "Wage and Employment Adjustment in Local Labor Markets," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wea, April.
  7. Timothy J. Bartik & Randall W. Eberts, 1999. "Examining the Effect of Industry Trends and Structure on Welfare Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 74, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  8. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
  9. Thomas Fraker & Robert Moffitt, 1988. "The Effect of Food Stamps on Labor Supply: A Bivariate Selection Model," Mathematica Policy Research Reports efa52cc812a34ce2ac0427b91, Mathematica Policy Research.
  10. J. P. Ziliak & D. N. Figlio & E. E. Davis & L. S. Connolly, . "Accounting for the Decline in AFDC Caseloads: Welfare Reform or Economic Growth?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1151-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-26, November.
  12. 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.
  13. Keane, Michael P & Runkle, David E, 1992. "On the Estimation of Panel-Data Models with Serial Correlation When Instruments Are Not Strictly Exogenous," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 10(1), pages 1-9, January.
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