Welfare Reform and Young Child Health and Behavior

Cynthia A. Osborne, University of Texas at Austin

We investigate the effects of welfare and work on young child well-being. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a survey of primarily unmarried, low-income mothers, to examine the health and emotional behavior of the 3-year-old children of four groups of mothers: welfare only, welfare and work, work only, and no welfare or work. Using OLS models, we control for several antecedent characteristics that may be correlated with both welfare receipt, work, and child well-being, however, the risk remains that we have not accounted for some unmeasured characteristic that is driving the observed associations. To this end, we use instrumental variable models to limit our selection effects. We find that children’s health and behavior is poorest among mothers who do not work, but only receive welfare, and that the children of working mothers have the best outcomes. However, this association does not appear to be causal.

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Presented in Session 117: Policy and the Family