Despite the successful expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit over decades thatincreased the labor supply of single mothers in the US, many mothers on welfare had nottransitioned to work as of the early 1990s. With welfare participation becoming viewed by manyas a cause of dependence rather than a consequence of disadvantage, a dramatic restructuringof the cash assistance system for poor families took place. This major policy shift, whichimposed work requirements and time limits as conditions for receiving cash assistance, providesan unprecedented opportunity to study the effects of maternal work incentives on the behaviorsof low-income adolescent children, who are at risk of perpetuating an intergenerational cycle ofpoverty. The new regime was successful, in that welfare caseloads plummeted and employmentof low-skilled women increased. An implicit assumption was that the work-focused regime woulddisrupt an assumed transmission of welfare dependence to the next generation. However, fewstudies have considered how the new regime affects children—particularly adolescentbehaviors that developmental science and economic theory suggest would be responsive to thenew regime and that are known predictors of future health and economic success. We willaddress this important gap by undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the effects of theunprecedented large-scale work-focused policy shift known as welfare reform on a range ofhighly salient social and health behaviors of adolescent children. Using all available andappropriate datasets and both traditional and innovative methods, we will investigate the effectsof the work-first regime on anti-social teenage behaviors including crime/delinquency/schoolbehavior problems, as well as pro-social behaviors including participation in school/communityactivities (volunteerism, religious attendance, clubs/teams) and school effort (e.g., homework),and health compromising behaviors (substance use/abuse), as well as health-promotingbehaviors (e.g., healthy eating, exercise, recommended sleep). We will explore heterogeneouseffects (e.g., by age of youngest child, child gender, mother's welfare history) and effects oftiming and duration of exposure to welfare reform, as well as pathways between welfare reformand behaviors. The proposed research focuses on behaviors that are highly salient for publichealth and is essential for understanding the effects of the drastically reduced cash assistancesafety net on the next generation.
|Effective start/end date||9/30/16 → 5/31/20|
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)