Welfare reform and female headship

Abstract

While much of the focus of recent welfare reforms has been on moving recipients from welfare to work, many reforms were also directed at decisions regarding living arrangements, pregnancy, marriage, and cohabitation. This article assesses the impact of welfare reform waivers and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs on women’s decisions to become unmarried heads of families, controlling for confounding influences from local economic and social conditions. We pooled data from the 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which span the period when many states began to adopt welfare waivers and to implement TANF, and estimated logit models of the incidence of female headship and state-stratified, Cox proportional hazard models of the rates of entry into and exit from headship. We found little consistent evidence that waivers affected female headship of families.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Joint Center for Poverty Research and the U.S. Census Bureau through a research development grant and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development through Grant HD39806-01. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in March 2001, the Institute for Research on Poverty Summer Conference in June 2001, and the Joint Center for Poverty Research/Census Bureau Research Development Grant Conference in September 2001. The authors thank the participants at those conferences and several anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions. The research in this article was conducted while John Fitzgerald was a research associate at the Boston Research Data Center. The research results and conclusions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily indicate concurrence by any of the sponsoring organizations. This article has been screened to make sure that no confidential data are revealed.

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Fitzgerald, J.M., Ribar, D.C. Welfare reform and female headship. Demography 41, 189–212 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2004.0014

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Keywords

  • Female Headship
  • Earning Disregard
  • Minnesota Family Investment Program
  • Income Maintenance Experiment
  • Welfare Policy Variable