The Effect of Safety Net Generosity on Maternal Mental Health and Risky Health Behaviors
Lucie Schmidt (),
Lara Shore-Sheppard () and
No 29258, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc
Single mothers are more likely to experience mental health problems and stress-related negative health behaviors, but a more generous safety net may improve these outcomes. We use a simulated safety net eligibility approach that accounts for interactions across safety net programs and relies on changing policies across states and time to identify causal effects of safety net generosity on psychological distress and risky behaviors of single mothers. Results suggest that a more generous safety net is protective of maternal mental health: a $1000 increase to the simulated potential combined cash and food benefit package reduces severe psychological distress by 8.4 percent. Breaking out effects by individual programs while still controlling for potential benefits from other programs, we find protective effects of tax credits, cash benefits provided by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and food benefits provided by Supplemental Nutritional Assistance, but no effects of Medicaid eligibility. The effects are primarily driven by single mothers with the lowest levels of education. We find no significant effects of generosity on daily smoking, but we find evidence that benefits reduce the likelihood of heavy drinking. Results suggest that government investments in resources available to low-income families are effective at improving well-being.
JEL-codes: I12 I38 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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Published as Lucie Schmidt & Lara Shore‐Sheppard & Tara Watson, 2023. "The Effect of Safety Net Generosity on Maternal Mental Health and Risky Health Behaviors," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol 42(3), pages 706-736.
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