Family Cap Provisions and Changes in Births and Abortions

Ted Joyce, Robert Kaestner, Sanders Korenman, Stanley Henshaw

NBER Working Paper No. 10214
Issued in January 2004
NBER Program(s):Health Economics, Public Economics, Children

As part of welfare reform efforts in the 1990s, twenty-three states implemented family caps, provisions that deny or reduce cash assistance to welfare recipients who have additional births. We use birth and abortion records from 24 states to estimate effects of family caps on birth and abortion rates. We use age, marital status and completed schooling to identify women at high risk for use of public assistance, and parity (number of previous live births) to identify those most directly affected by the family cap. In family cap states, birth rates fell more and abortion rates rose more among high-risk women with at least one previous live birth compared to similar childless women, consistent with an effect of the family cap. However, this parity-specific pattern of births and abortions also occurred in states that implemented welfare reform with no family cap. Thus, the effects of welfare reform may have differed between mothers and childless women, but there is little evidence of an independent effect of the family cap.

download in pdf format
   (338 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10214

Published: Joyce, T., Kaestner, R., Korenman, S., and S. Henshaw. “ Family Cap Provisions and Changes in Births and Abortions.” Population Research and Policy Review 23 (2004): 475-511.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Kearney w9093 Is There an Effect of Incremental Welfare Benefits on Fertility Behavior? A Look at the Family Cap
Levine w9021 The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity Throughout the Fertility Decision Tree
Ananat, Gruber, and Levine w10705 Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility
Joyce, Kaestner, and Korenman w9406 Welfare Reform and Non-Marital Fertility in the 1990s: Evidence from Birth Records
Hamermesh w10361 Subjective Outcomes in Economics
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us