Effects of Welfare Reform on Women's Crime
We investigate the effects of broad-based work incentives on female crime by exploiting the welfare reform legislation of the 1990s, which dramatically increased employment among women at risk for relying on cash assistance. We find that welfare reform decreased female property crime arrests by 4–5%, but did not affect other types of crimes. The effects appear to be stronger in states with lower welfare benefits and higher earnings disregards, and in states with larger caseload declines. The findings point to broad-based work incentives—and, by inference, employment—as a key determinant of female property crime.
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