Has Welfare Reform Changed Teenage Behaviors?

40 Pages Posted: 17 May 2002 Last revised: 30 May 2021

See all articles by Robert Kaestner

Robert Kaestner

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

June O'Neill

City University of New York, Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business - Department of Economics and Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 2002

Abstract

We use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979 and 1997 cohorts to compare welfare use, fertility rates, educational attainment, and marriage rates among teenage women in the years before and the years immediately following welfare reform. Our first objective is to document differences between these cohorts in welfare use and outcomes and behaviors correlated with 'entry' into welfare, and with future economic and social well-being. Our second objective is to investigate the causal role of welfare reform in behavioral change. We find significant differences between cohorts in welfare use and in outcomes related to welfare use. Further, difference-in-differences estimates suggest that welfare reform has been associated with reduced welfare receipt, reduced fertility, reduced marriage, and lower school drop-out among young women who, because of a disadvantaged family background, are at high risk of welfare receipt (relative to those at lower risk). Finally, in the post-welfare reform era, teenage mothers are less likely to receive welfare and are more likely to live with a spouse or to live with at least one parent than in the pre-reform era. Establishing definitively that welfare reform is responsible for these changes among teenagers will require further investigation.

Suggested Citation

Kaestner, Robert and O'Neill, June, Has Welfare Reform Changed Teenage Behaviors? (May 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w8932, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=312645

Robert Kaestner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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June O'Neill

City University of New York, Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

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New York, NY 10010
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

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