The Effect of Welfare and Child Support Policies on Maternal Health
Jean T. Knab, Princeton University
Sara McLanahan, Princeton University
Previous research indicates that welfare reform policies – work requirements, sanctions, and child support enforcement – had negative consequences for mothers’ health insurance coverage and use of health care service, but there is little evidence that these policies had negative effects on health. This paper examines the effects of post-reform welfare and child support policies on maternal health and health behavior using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Using evidence from OLS, fixed effects, and instrumental variables models, we find that policies that increase the likelihood of welfare participation are associated with increases in mothers’ drinking, food insecurity and, possibly, depression, and that policies that increase the likelihood of child support receipt are associated with increases in drinking, depression, and poorer overall health. Together the results indicate that welfare and child support policies do affect maternal health, primarily by affecting mothers’ mental health.