Effects of Maternal Work Incentives on Adolescent Behaviors

Dhaval Dave, Bentley University
Hope Corman, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago
Ofira Schwartz-Soicher, Princeton University
Nancy Reichman , Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Robert Moffitt’s 2014 PAA address highlighted the need for studies of effects on children of the substantial (and un-reversed) reduction of the cash assistance safety net that took place in the 1990s. This study investigates the effects of welfare reform, which dramatically limited cash assistance for low-income families, on adolescent behaviors that are important for socioeconomic trajectories and represent observable outcomes of the reforms for the next generation as they transition to adulthood. Using two nationally-representative datasets, we exploit differences in welfare reform implementation across states and over time in a difference-in-differences framework to identify causal effects of welfare reform on a range of social behaviors (volunteering, clubs/teams/activities; delinquency, substance use). We investigate differential effects by gender and age and explore maternal employment and supervision as potential mediators. Preliminary results suggest that welfare reform had largely unfavorable effects on adolescent behaviors and do not support longstanding culture of poverty arguments.

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 Presented in Session 153. Poverty and Social Policy