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Intergenerational reliance on social assistance: Evidence from Canada


This paper provides the first analysis of the intergenerational transmission of participation in a Canadian social assistance program. Two sources of intergenerational transmission are taken into account: one that is due to a possible causal link between parents' and children's participation, and one that is due to a correlation between individual and environment specific characteristics across generations. The basic data come from the Québec government's administrative records and cover 17,203 young people who were 18 years old in 1990 and whose parents were recipients of social assistance during at least one month between 1979 and 1990. The results reveal that, on average, a one-percentage unit increase in parental participation during the youth's pre-adult years (age 7–17) raises the youth's participation rate by 0.29 percentage unit during early adulthood (age 18–21). This impact is stronger during the early stages of childhood (age 7–9) and during late adolescence (age 16–17).

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Correspondence to Jean-Yves Duclos.

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Bernard Fortin is a fellow of CIRANO

We thank the Conseil Québécois de la Recherche Sociale (CQRS) and the Chair of Canada in Social Policies and Human Resources for their financial support. We are also grateful to the Ministère de la Solidarité Sociale for access to and advice on the data used in this paper. We especially benefited from the expertise of Pierre Lanctôt and Alain Boisvert from the Ministère. We also thank Hélène Roberge and France Labrecque for their invaluable contribution to the collection and treatment of the data, as well as Andrew Clark, Peter Gottschalk, Simon Larose, Marc Van Audenrode, Carole Vincent and two anonymous referees for helpful comments.

Responsible editor: Christoph M. Schmidt.

This paper is written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily represent the views of HRDC.

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Beaulieu, N., Duclos, JY., Fortin, B. et al. Intergenerational reliance on social assistance: Evidence from Canada. J Popul Econ 18, 539–562 (2005).

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JEL classification

  • C34
  • C35
  • H53
  • I38


  • Dynamics of social assistance participation
  • intergenerational correlation
  • Canadian welfare programmes