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Effects of welfare reform on household food insecurity across generations

Hope Corman, Dhaval M. Dave, Ofira Schwartz-Soicher and Nancy E. Reichman

Economics & Human Biology, 2022, vol. 45, issue C

Abstract: This study estimates the effects of welfare reform in the 1990s, which permanently restructured and contracted the cash assistance system in the U.S., on food insecurity—a fundamental form of material hardship—of the next generation of households. An implicit goal underlying welfare reform was the disruption of an assumed intergenerational transmission of disadvantage; however, little is known about the effects of welfare reform on the well-being of the next generation of adults. Using intergenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and a variation on a difference-in-differences framework, this study exploits 3 sources of variation in childhood exposure to welfare reform: (1) risk of exposure across birth cohorts; (2) variation of exposure within cohorts because different states implemented welfare reform in different years; and (3) variation between individuals with the same exposure who were more likely and less likely to rely on welfare. We found that exposure to welfare reform led to decreases in food insecurity of the next generation of households, by about 10% for a 5-year increase in exposure, with stronger effects for individuals exposed for longer durations during childhood, individuals exposed in early childhood (0–5 years), and women. We also found smaller favorable effects for individuals whose mothers had less than a high school education, indicating that in terms of food insecurity, welfare reform led to relative disadvantages among the most disadvantaged and thus could be exacerbating socioeconomic and health inequalities.

Keywords: Food insecurity; Welfare reform; Poverty; Intergenerational effects (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2021.101101

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