Migration Consequences of Welfare Reform

Robert Kaestner, Neeraj Kaushal, Gregg Van Ryzin

NBER Working Paper No. 8560
Issued in October 2001
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Public Economics

In this paper, we investigate whether or not recent state and federal changes in welfare policy -- the imposition of time-limited benefits, the use of financial sanctions for non-compliance, and the setting of strict work eligibility rules -- affect the migration of low-educated unmarried women. Estimates of welfare's effect on migration reveal that welfare policy does indeed affect migration. Recent changes in policy that have made public assistance a less attractive alternative are associated with greater migration among low-educated unmarried women. Welfare reform has motivated low-educated women to move greater distances more frequently, and to combine such moves with employment. Estimates also indicate that welfare reform is associated with more local (i.e., within county) changes in residential location that are associated with employment, although estimates of this effect were not robust to estimation method. The close link between residential moves and employment in the post-reform period is consistent with the idea that welfare reform has motivated people to move for economic reasons such as better employment opportunities. This evidence suggests that the traditional way of thinking about the effect of welfare on migration -- as a strategic move to obtain higher benefits -- is inadequate.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8560

Published: Kaestner, Robert & Kaushal, Neeraj & Van Ryzin, Gregg, 2003. "Migration consequences of welfare reform," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 357-376, May. citation courtesy of

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