The Impact of Welfare Reform on Marriage and Divorce

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Working Paper No. 2002-9

30 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2002

See all articles by Marianne P. Bitler

Marianne P. Bitler

University of California, Davis - Departments of Economics and Agricultural Resource Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jonah B. Gelbach

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law; NYU School of Law

Hilary Williamson Hoynes

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Madeline Zavodny

University of North Florida; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Agnes Scott College

Date Written: June 2002

Abstract

The goal of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was to end the dependency of needy parents on government benefits, in part by promoting marriage; the pre-reform welfare system was widely believed to discourage marriage because it primarily provided benefits to single mothers. However, welfare reform may have actually decreased the incentives to be married by giving women greater financial independence via the program's new emphasis on work. This paper uses Vital Statistics data on marriages and divorces during 1989-2000 to examine the role of welfare reform and other state-level variables on marriage and divorce rates. The results indicate that implementation of TANF is negatively associated with marriage and divorce rates, as are pre-TANF waivers from the AFDC program in some specifications.

Keywords: welfare reform, marriage, divorce

JEL Classification: I3, J1

Suggested Citation

Bitler, Marianne P. and Gelbach, Jonah B. and Hoynes, Hilary Williamson and Zavodny, Madeline, The Impact of Welfare Reform on Marriage and Divorce (June 2002). Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Working Paper No. 2002-9, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=325621 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.325621

Marianne P. Bitler

University of California, Davis - Departments of Economics and Agricultural Resource Economics ( email )

United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jonah B. Gelbach

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

NYU School of Law ( email )

Hilary Williamson Hoynes (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Madeline Zavodny

University of North Florida ( email )

4567 St. Johns Bluff Road, South
Jacksonville, FL 32224-2645
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Agnes Scott College ( email )

United States

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