Effects of Maternal Work Incentives on Youth Crime
48 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2017 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021
Date Written: January 2017
This study exploits differences in the implementation of welfare reform across states and over time to identify causal effects of maternal work incentives, and by inference employment, on youth arrests between 1990 and 2005, the period during which welfare reform unfolded. We consider both serious and minor crimes as classified by the FBI, investigate the extent to which effects were stronger in states with more stringent work incentive policies and larger welfare caseload declines, and use a number of different model specifications to assess robustness and patterns. We find that welfare reform led to reduced youth arrests for minor crimes, by 7-9 %, with similar estimates for males and females, but that it did not affect youth arrests for serious crimes. The results from this study add to the scant literature on the effects of maternal employment on adolescent behavior by exploiting a large-scale social experiment that is still in effect to this day, and provide some support for the widely-embraced argument that welfare reform would discourage undesirable social behavior, not only of mothers, but also of the next generation.
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