Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 367-372

First online:

Even the underprivileged are rational: The incentive effects of welfare

  • E. Frank StephensonAffiliated withNorth Carolina State University

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Tanner and Moore (1995) calculate welfare equivalent wages for the six most common social programs for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They assert that individuals who choose public assistance over work are responding rationally to incentives of the welfare system, but they offer no evidence. I present statistically significant support for Tanner and Moore’s assertion. Among potential welfare recipients, a one dollar increase in the welfare equivalent wage is found to increase the welfare take-up rate by approximately 2.7 percentage points and decrease the labor force participation rate by approximately 2.5 percentage points.