Who Needs a Ring? The 1996 Welfare Reform’s “Independence Effect”

Ratio of earnings and employment for single mothers vs. single men

In 1996 federal welfare reform replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the oldest welfare program for the poor, with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The primary goal of this historic reform was to encourage work and decrease welfare dependence. However, another explicit goal was to decrease single motherhood and encourage marriage. This emphasis on single motherhood and marriage is based on a long-standing criticism of the AFDC program—that it discouraged marriage because the eligibility rules made it difficult for married couples to receive benefits from the program.

In a recent study, Robert Moffitt, Brian Phelan, and Anne Winkler take advantage of the passage of time to reexamine whether welfare reform had its intended effect of discouraging single motherhood and encouraging marriage.
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Does Parents’ Access to Family Planning Increase Children’s Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X

For the past several decades, the U.S. government has invested heavily in anti-poverty programs, like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Head Start, aimed at closing the resource gap for disadvantaged children and improving their long-term outcomes. There is a vast literature studying the impacts of such programs, yet there is one potential source of disparity that has been largely overlooked: family planning.
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Study Finds Wives Often Lose When Husbands Take Social Security Early

Potential survivor benefits when husband claims at age 68, actual claiming choices, and potential survivor benefits that maximize household benefits

Social Security provides a large portion of household income in old age. Most women receive at least some Social Security benefits over their lifetime based upon their husbands’ work record, and this will continue even as women are more attached to the labor market and receive higher wages. Unfortunately for many wives, the age her husband begins receiving Social Security benefits can have a spillover effect and also impact her lifetime benefits.
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