The Effects of Welfare and Tax Reform: The Material Well-Being of Single Mothers in the 1980s and 1990s

55 Pages Posted: 11 May 2001 Last revised: 22 Oct 2010

See all articles by Bruce D. Meyer

Bruce D. Meyer

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

James X. Sullivan

University of Notre Dame - Department of Economics and Econometrics

Date Written: May 2001

Abstract

The tax and welfare programs that provide income and in-kind benefits to single mothers have changed dramatically in recent years. These changes began as far back as the mid-1980s and culminated with the 1996 welfare law that 'ended welfare as we knew it.' These tax and welfare changes have sharply increased the employment of single mothers and cut welfare rolls. However, little is know about the effects of these policy changes on the living conditions of single mothers and their children. Studies of those leaving welfare have found that a substantial percentage have problems paying rent, purchasing enough food, and paying utility bills. Other studies have found a decline in income among the worst-off single mothers. The goal of this paper is to examine the material well-being of single mothers and their families before and soon after welfare reform. Using data from two nationally representative household surveys we examine the consumption patterns of single mothers and their families. We find that the material conditions of single mothers did not decline in recent years, either in absolute terms or relative to single childless women or married mothers. In most cases, our evidence suggests that the material conditions of single mothers have improved slightly, even for highly disadvantaged single mothers.

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Bruce D. and Sullivan, James X., The Effects of Welfare and Tax Reform: The Material Well-Being of Single Mothers in the 1980s and 1990s (May 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8298. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=269548

Bruce D. Meyer (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
(773) 702-2712 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

James X. Sullivan

University of Notre Dame - Department of Economics and Econometrics ( email )

Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

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