Effects of Welfare Reform on Illicit Drug Use of Adult Women
22 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2012
Date Written: January 2013
Exploiting changes in welfare policy across states and over time and comparing relevant population subgroups within an econometric difference‐in‐differences framework, we estimate the effects of welfare reform on adult women's illicit drug use from 1992 to 2002, the period during which welfare reform unfolded in the United States. The analyses are based on all available and appropriate national data sets, each offering unique strengths and measuring a different drug‐related outcome. We investigate self‐reported illicit drug use (from the National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse and National Surveys on Drug Use and Health), drug‐related prison admissions (from the National Corrections Reporting Program), drug‐related arrests (from Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports), and drug‐related emergency department episodes (from the Drug Abuse Warning Network). We find robust evidence that welfare reform led to a 10%–21% decline in illicit drug use among women at risk of relying on welfare, as well as associated declines in drug‐related arrests (6%–7%), drug‐related hospital emergency department episodes (7%–11%), and possibly drug‐related prison admissions (11%–19%). The findings indicate that an appropriately designed welfare system with sufficient job opportunities for those who are able to work can result in both increases in employment and decreases in drug use.
JEL Classification: I38, K42, J21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation