, Volume 23, Issue 5-6, pp 475-511

Family cap provisions and changes in births and abortions

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Abstract

As part of welfare reform efforts in the 1990s, 23 states implemented family caps, provisions that deny or reduce cash assistance to welfare recipients who have additional births. We use birth and abortion records from 24 states to estimate effects of family caps on birth and abortion rates. We use age, marital status, and completed schooling to identify women at high risk for use of public assistance, and parity (number of previous live births) to identify those most directly affected by the family cap. In family cap states, birth rates fell more and abortion rates rose more among high-risk women with at least one previous live birth compared to similar childless women, consistent with an effect of the family cap. However, this parity-specific pattern of births and abortions also occurred in states that implemented welfare reform with no family cap. Thus, the effects of welfare reform may have differed between mothers and childless women, but there is little evidence of an independent effect of the family cap.