Welfare Reform and Non-Marital Fertility in the 1990s: Evidence from Birth Records
34 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2002 Last revised: 15 Mar 2021
Date Written: December 2002
The 1996 Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act dramatically altered the economic incentive to bear children out-of-wedlock for economically disadvantaged women or couples most likely to avail themselves of welfare programs. We use data from vital statistics and a difference-in-differences research design to investigate whether state and federal welfare reform in the 1990s reduced rates of non-marital childbearing among women aged 19 to 39 at highest risk of welfare use, relative to women at lower risk. We find little consistent evidence for an effect of welfare reform on non-marital childbearing. This finding is similar to the literature that found little or mixed evidence for an effect of AFDC benefits. If anything, federal welfare reform has been associated with a small positive effect of two to three percent for white and black women ages 19 to 39.
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