Abstract

The goal of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was to end needy parents’ dependence on governmental benefits, in part by promoting marriage. The prereform welfare system was widely believed to discourage marriage because it provided benefits primarily to single mothers. However, welfare reform may have actually decreased the incentives to be married by giving women greater financial independence via the program’s new emphasis on work. This article uses vital statistics data on marriages and divorces during 1989–2000 to examine the role of welfare reform (state waivers and implementation of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and other state-level variables on flows into and out of marriage. The results indicate that welfare reform has led to fewer new divorces and fewer new marriages, although the latter result is sensitive to specification and the choice of data.

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