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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Acs, G. 1995. “Do Welfare Benefits Promote Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing?” Pp. 5154 in Welfare Reform: An Analysis of the Issues, edited by I. Sawhill. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Amato, P.R. 1993. “Children’s Adjustment to Divorce: Theories, Hypotheses, and Empirical Support.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 55:23–38.
Amato, P.R., L.S. Loomis, and A. Booth. 1995. “Parental Divorce, Marital Conflict, and Offspring Well-being During Early Adulthood.” Social Forces 73:895–915.
Becker, G.S. 1981. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bitler, M.P., J.B. Gelbach, and H.W. Hoynes. 2002. “The Impact of Welfare Reform on Living Arrangements.” Working Paper No. w8784. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Bitler, M.P., J.B. Gelbach, H.W. Hoynes, and M. Zavodny. 2004. “The Impact of Welfare Reform on Marriage and Divorce.” Demography 41:213–36.
Blank, R.M. 1999. “Analyzing the Length of Welfare Spells.” Journal of Public Economics 39: 245–74.
— 2002. “Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States.” Journal of Economic Literature 40:1105–66.
Blank, R.M. and P. Ruggles. 1996. “When Do Women Use Aid to Families With Dependent Children and Foodstamps? The Dynamics of Eligibility Versus Participation.” Journal of Human Resources 31:57–89.
Cain, G.G. 1986. “The Income Maintenance Experiments and the Issues of Marital Stability and Family Composition.” Pp. 60–93 in Lessons From the Income Maintenance Experiments, edited by A.H. Munnell. Boston: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Chamberlain, G. 1985. “Heterogeneity, Omitted Variable Bias, and Duration Dependence.” Pp. 3–38 in Longitudinal Analysis of Labor Market Data, edited by J.J. Heckman and B. Singer. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Council of Economic Advisers. 1997. “Explaining the Decline in Welfare Receipt, 1993–1996.” Technical Report. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.
— 1999. “The Effects of Welfare Policy and the Economic Expansion on Welfare Caseloads: An Update.” Technical Report. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.
Crouse, G. 1999. “State Implementation of Major Changes to Welfare Policies, 1992–1998.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Available on-line at http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/Waiver-Policies99/ policy_CEA.htm
Deleire, T. and A. Kalil. 2002. “Good Things Come in Threes: Single-Parent Multigenerational Family Structure and Adolescent Adjustment.” Demography 39:393–413.
Dickert-Conlin, S. and S. Houser. 1999. “EITC, AFDC, and the Female Headship Decision.” Discussion Paper No. 1192-99. Madison: Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin.
Ellwood, D.T. and C. Jencks. 2001. “The Growing Differences in Family Structure: What Do We Know? Where Do We Look for Answers?” Unpublished manuscript, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Fields, J. and L.M. Casper. 2001. America’s Families and Living Arrangements: March 2000. Current Population Reports, Series P-20, No. 537. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Fitzgerald, J.M. 1995. “Local Labor Markets and Local Area Effects on Welfare Duration.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 14:43–67.
Fritzgerald, J.M. 2004. “Measuring the Impact of Welfare Benefits on Welfare Durations: State Stratified Partial Likelihood and Fixed Effect Approaches.” Topics in Economic Analysis and Policy 4(1): Article 1. Available on-line at http://www.bepress.com/bejeap/topics/vol4/iss1/art1
Fitzgerald, J.M. and D.C. Ribar. 2003. “The Impact of Welfare Reform on Female Headship Decisions.” Unpublished manuscript. Department of Economics, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME.
Gennetian, L.A. and V. Knox. 2003. “Staying Single: The Effects of Welfare Reform Policies on Marriage and Cohabitation.” Next Generation Working Paper Series No. 13. New York: MDRC.
Gittleman, M. 2001. “Declining Caseloads: What Do the Dynamics of Welfare Participation Reveal.” Industrial Relations 40:537–70.
Groeneveld, L.P., M.T. Hannan, and N.B. Tuma. 1983. Final Report of the Seattle-Denver Income Maintenance Experiment. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Grogger, J. 2003. “The Effects of Time Limits and Other Policy Changes on Welfare Use, Work and Income Among Female-Headed Families.” Review of Economics and Statistics 85:394–408.
Grossbard-Shechtman, S. 2003. “Marriage and the Economy.” Pp. 1–36 in Marriage and the Economy: Theory and Evidence From Advanced Industrial Societies, edited by S. Grossbard-Shechtman. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Harknett, K. and L.A. Gennetian. 2003. “How an Earnings Supplement Can Affect Union Formation Among Low-Income Single Mothers.” Demography 40:451–78.
Harvey, C., M.J. Camasso, and R. Jagannathan. 2000. “Evaluating Welfare Reform Waivers Under Section 1115.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 14:165–88.
Haveman, R. and B. Wolfe. 1994. Succeeding Generations: On the Effects of Investments in Children. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Hofferth, S.L. and K.G. Anderson. 2003. “Are All Dads Equal? Biology Versus Marriage as a Basis for Paternal Investment.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 65:213–32.
Horvath-Rose, A. and H.E. Peters. 2001. “Welfare Waivers and Non-marital Childbearing.” Pp. 222–44 in Welfare Reform: For Better, For Worse, edited by G. Duncan and L. Chase-Lansdale. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Hoynes, H.W. 1997a. “Does Welfare Play Any Role in Female Headship Decisions?” Journal of Public Economics 65:89–117.
— 1997b. “Work, Welfare, and Family Structure: What Have We Learned?” Pp. 101–46 in Fiscal Policy: Lessons From Economic Research, edited by A.J. Auerbach. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Jekielek, S.M. 1998. “Parental Conflict, Marital Disruption and Children’s Emotional Well-being.” Social Forces 76:905–36.
Kalbfleisch, J.D. and R.L. Prentice. 1980. The Statistical Analysis of Failure Time Data. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Klerman, J. and S. Haider. 2000. “A Stock-Flow Analysis of the Welfare Caseload: Insights From California Economic Conditions.” Unpublished manuscript, RAND, Santa Monica, CA.
Knox, V., C. Miller, and L.A. Gennetian. 2000. “Reforming Welfare and Rewarding Work: A Summary of the Final Report on the Minnesota Family Investment Program.” New York: MDRC.
Lerman, R. 1996. “The Impact of the Changing US Family Structure on Child Poverty and Income Inequality.” Economica 63:S119-S139.
Lichter, D.T., F.B. LeClere, and D.K. McLaughlin. 1991. “Local Marriage Markets and the Marital Behavior of Black and White Women.” American Journal of Sociology 96:843–67.
Lichter, D.T., D.K. McLaughin, and D.C. Ribar. 1997. “Welfare and the Rise of Female Headed Families.” American Journal of Sociology 103:112–43.
— 2002. “Economic Restructuring and the Retreat From Marriage.” Social Science Research 31: 230–56.
Matthews, S., D.C. Ribar, and M.O. Wilhelm. 1997. “The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Health Services on State Abortion Rates and Birthrates.” Family Planning Perspectives 29:52–60.
Maynard, R., E. Boehnen, T. Corbett, G. Sandefur, and J. Mosley. 1998. “Changing Family Formation Behavior Through Welfare Reform.” Pp. 134–76 in Welfare, the Family, and Reproductive Behavior, edited by R.A. Moffitt. Washington DC: National Academy Press.
McLanahan, S.S. and G. Sandefur. 1994. Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Moffitt, R.A. 1994. “Welfare Effects on Female Headship With Area Effects.” Journal of Human Resources 29:621–36.
— 1995. “The Effect of the Welfare System on Non-marital Childbearing.” Pp. 167–76 in Report to Congress on Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
— 1998. “The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility.” Pp. 50–97 in Welfare, the Family, and Reproductive Behavior, edited by R.A. Moffitt. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
— 2001. “Welfare Benefits and Female Headship in U.S. Time Series.” Discussion Paper No. 1219-01. Madison: Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin.
Moffitt, R.A. and M.S. Rendall. 1995. “Cohort Trends in the Lifetime Distribution of Female Family Headship in the United States, 1968–1985.” Demography 32:407–24.
Morrison, D.R. and M.J. Coiro. 1999. “Parental Conflict and Marital Disruption: Do Children Benefit When High-Conflict Marriages Are Dissolved?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61:626–37.
Murray, C. 1984. Losing Ground. New York: Basic Books.
Peters, H.E., R.D. Plotnick, and S. Jeong. 2003. “How Will Welfare Reform Affect Childbearing and Family Structure Decisions?” Pp. 59–94 in Changing Welfare, edited by R.A. Gordon and H.J. Walberg. Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic.
Ribar, D.C. 1998. “Economic Opportunities and Young Women’s Premarital Childbearing.” Unpublished manuscript. Department of Economics, George Washington University, Washington, DC.
— 2002. “Transitions From Welfare and the Employment Prospects of Low-Skill Women.” Unpublished manuscript. Department of Economics, George Washington University, Washington, DC.
— 2003. “County-Level Estimates of the Employment Prospects of Low-Skill Workers.” Pp. 227–68 in Worker Well-being and Public Policy, Research in Labor Economics, Vol. 22, edited by S.W. Polachek. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.
Ridder, G. and I. Tunali. 1999. “Stratified Partial Likelihood Estimation.” Journal of Econometrics 92:193–232.
Schoeni, R.F. and R.M. Blank. 2000. “What Has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, and Family Structure.” Working paper No. w7627. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Schultz, T.P. 1994. “Marital Status and Fertility in the United States: Welfare and Labor Market Effects.” Journal of Human Resources 29:637–69.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. 1997. “Setting the Baseline: A Report on State Welfare Waivers.” Available on-line at http:// aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/isp/waiver2/title.htm
White House. 2002. Working Toward Independence. Available on-line at http:// www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/welfare-reform-announcement-book.pdf
Wood, R.J. 1995. “Marriage Rates and Marriageable Men: A Test of the Wilson Hypothesis.” Journal of Human Resources 30:163–93.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Fitzgerald, J.M., Ribar, D.C. Welfare reform and female headship. Demography 41, 189–212 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2004.0014
- Female Headship
- Earning Disregard
- Minnesota Family Investment Program
- Income Maintenance Experiment
- Welfare Policy Variable