Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 275–301

How Welfare Reform Can Affect Marriage:Evidence from an Experimental Study in Minnesota



A stated goal of the welfare legislation of 1996 was to develop policies to encourage “the formation and maintenance of two-parent families,” yet states were given little guidance about how to do this. Experimental evidence from the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), a program that tested the effects of an enhanced earnings disregard designed to encourage work and reduce poverty, shows that welfare policies can produce important effects on marital behavior even without explicit strategies aimed to do so. Three years after study entry, MFIP increased marriage rates among single parent long-term recipients and increased marital stability among two-parent recipient families. Similar effects were not found among newer applicants to welfare, possibly because many of these families leave welfare quickly. Replicating programs like MFIP in different settings and understanding why applicants responded differently will be essential to informing the policy significance of these findings.

welfare policy marriage financial incentives 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MDRCNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.MDRCNew YorkUSA

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