Has Welfare Reform Increased Women’s Civic Participation?

Nancy E. Reichman, Rutgers University
Hope Corman, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Dhaval Dave, Bentley University

This study tests the widely-held assumption that maternal work incentives encourage pro-social behavior by investigating the effects of welfare reform in the U.S. on voting, an important form of civic participation but a fundamental right that many do not exercise. Exploiting changes in welfare policy across states and over time, and comparing relevant population subgroups within a difference-in-differences framework, we use the November CPS to estimate the effects of welfare reform on women’s voting registration and voting from 1990–2004, when welfare reform implementation unfolded. We explore the extent to which the effects operated through employment and varied by specific state welfare policies. The findings inform culture-of-poverty debates, provide a more complete picture of the effects of a major policy shift that is still very much in effect today, and contribute to the literatures on the determinants of voting and how citizens’ experiences with government programs affect their political participation.

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 Presented in Session P8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, and Inequality/Gender, Race and Ethnicity