Immigrant and Native Responses to Welfare Reform

Robert Kaestner, Neeraj Kaushal

NBER Working Paper No. 8541
Issued in October 2001
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Public Economics

In this paper, we investigate the effect of federal welfare reform on the employment, hours of work and marriage rates of three groups of low-educated women: foreign-born citizens, foreign-born non-citizens and native-born citizens. Among non-citizens, we investigate whether the behavioral response to welfare reform differed by recency of immigration. Finally, because some states created programs to insure that all legal immigrants remained eligible for benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program and others did not, we compare the response of foreign-born non-citizens between these states to investigate whether the immigrant provisions of federal welfare reform legislation had a 'chilling' effect. The results suggest that welfare reform induced native-born citizens and foreign- born non-citizens to increase their employment and attachment to the labor market. TANF appears to have had a larger effect on the least educated native-born women and among foreign-born non-citizens, a larger effect on more recent arrivals. The 'chilling' hypothesis that has received so much attention in the popular press is not supported by our results. Finally, our estimates indicate that TANF had no effect on native- and foreign-born citizens' marriage decisions. TANF was associated with a decrease in the marriage rates of foreign-born non-citizens.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8541

Published: Kaestner, Robert and Neeraj Kaushal. "Immigrant And Native Responses To Welfare Reform," Journal of Population Economics, 2005, v18(1,Mar), 69-92. citation courtesy of

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