Impacts of Welfare Reform on Marriage, Cohabitation, Doubling up, and Births: Experimental Evidence from Four States

David J. Fein, Abt Associates Inc.
Rebecca A. London, University of California, Santa Cruz
Jane Mauldon, University of California, Berkeley

Evidence from a series of state-level experiments conducted in the mid- to late-1990s suggests that welfare reforms’ effects on demographic behavior have been small and inconsistent across states, subgroups, and family formation outcomes. The degree to which these effects are related to reforms' economic impacts has not been explored; nor have subgroup patterns been documented for impacts on demographic outcomes other than marriage and cohabitation. Using survey data on 7,389 women from state welfare experiments in Delaware, Florida, Indiana, and Minnesota, we document subgroup variability in impacts on marriage, cohabitation, doubling up, and births. We then create and analyze instruments for key economic impacts hypothesized to mediate the relationship between reforms and family formation. The paper represents the first attempt of which we are aware to discern underlying structure in subgroup variability in the demographic impacts that can be measured in welfare reform experiments.

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Presented in Session 25: Experimental Methods in Demographic Research