, Volume 23, Issue 5-6, pp 441-473

Do family caps reduce out-of-wedlock births? Evidence from Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey and Virginia

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Abstract

During the 1990s, 23 states implemented family cap policies as a means to reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock births among welfare recipients. Using Current Population Survey data from 1989 to 1999, we examine the impact of family cap policies on the birth rates of single, less-educated women with children. We use the first five states that were granted waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services to implement family caps as “natural experiments.” Specifically, we compare trends in out-of-wedlock birth rates in Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey and Virginia to trends in states that did not implement family caps or any other waivers prior to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. We employ several techniques to increase the credibility of results from our “natural experiment,” such as the inclusion of multiple comparison groups, controls for differential time trends, and “difference-in-difference-in-differences” estimators. Our regression estimates generally do not provide evidence that family cap policies reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock births among single, less-educated women with children.