Effects of Maternal Employment on Adolescent Social and Health Behaviours

Project Details


Project Summary/Abstract: Despite the successful expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit over decades that increased the labor supply of single mothers in the US, many mothers on welfare had not transitioned to work as of the early 1990s. With welfare participation becoming viewed by many as a cause of dependence rather than a consequence of disadvantage, a dramatic restructuring of the cash assistance system for poor families took place. This major policy shift, which imposed work requirements and time limits as conditions for receiving cash assistance, provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the effects of maternal work incentives on the behaviors of low-income adolescent children, who are at risk of perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of poverty. The new regime was successful, in that welfare caseloads plummeted and employment of low-skilled women increased. An implicit assumption was that the work-focused regime would disrupt an assumed transmission of welfare dependence to the next generation. However, few studies have considered how the new regime affects children?particularly adolescent behaviors that developmental science and economic theory suggest would be responsive to the new regime and that are known predictors of future health and economic success. We will address this important gap by undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the effects of the unprecedented large-scale work-focused policy shift known as welfare reform on a range of highly salient social and health behaviors of adolescent children. Using all available and appropriate datasets and both traditional and innovative methods, we will investigate the effects of the work-first regime on anti-social teenage behaviors including crime/delinquency/school behavior problems, as well as pro-social behaviors including participation in school/community activities (volunteerism, religious attendance, clubs/teams) and school effort (e.g., homework), and health compromising behaviors (substance use/abuse), as well as health-promoting behaviors (e.g., healthy eating, exercise, recommended sleep). We will explore heterogeneous effects (e.g., by age of youngest child, child gender, mother's welfare history) and effects of timing and duration of exposure to welfare reform, as well as pathways between welfare reform and behaviors. The proposed research focuses on behaviors that are highly salient for public health and is essential for understanding the effects of the drastically reduced cash assistance safety net on the next generation.
Effective start/end date9/30/165/31/20


  • National Institutes of Health: $285,863.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $279,284.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $318,462.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $283,243.00


  • Medicine(all)

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