Has the decline of cash assistance impacted the well-being of poor children?

A PSC Brown Bag Seminar

H. Luke Shaefer

Monday, 1/23/2017, 12:00 pm.   ARCHIVED EVENT

Location: 6050 ISR - Thompson

The 1996 Welfare Reform ended the only cash entitlement program for poor families with children (AFDC), replacing it with a block grant, a small fraction of which states now use to provide cash assistance. Since this change, the proportion of poor families receiving cash assistance has declined precipitously. However, during this time period other forms of assistance to poor families were increased. The net result is that the total number of federal aid dollars flowing to poor families with children has increased, but not uniformly so. More is is provided to working poor families, while aid to non-working families has been reduced, and shifted away from cash and toward in-kind sources. Have poor families been impacted by the decline in cash assistance? This study uses the significant variation in the change in cash assistance participation across states, over time to examine the relationship between the decline in cash assistance and a series of direct measures of well-being. Preliminary findings suggest that declines in cash assistance are associated with increases in food insecurity among households with children, an increase in the number of homeless children (including those temporarily doubled up), and an increase in the number of children born with low birthweight.


H. Luke Shaefer, Ph.D. is the director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, an interdisciplinary, university-level initiative that seeks to inform, identify, and test innovative strategies to prevent and alleviate poverty. He is an associate professor at the University of Michigan, School of Social Work and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. His research focuses on poverty and social welfare policy in the United States His recent book with Kathryn Edin, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015 by the New York Times Book Review, and won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, among other awards.

PSC Brown Bag seminars highlight recent research in population studies and serve as a focal point for building our research community.

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