The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?
R. A. Moffitt
The recent literature on the effects of welfare on marriage and fertility includes studies employing a wide variety of methodologies and data sets and covering different time periods. A majority of the studies show that welfare has a significantly negative effect on marriage or positive effect on fertility rather than none at all, and thus the current consensus is that the welfare system probably has some effect on these demographic outcomes. Considerable uncertainty surrounds this consensus because a sizable minority of the studies find no effect at all, because the magnitudes of the estimated effects vary widely, and because puzzling and unexplained differences exist across the studies by race and methodological approach. At present, and with the information provided in the studies, the source of these disparities cannot be determined. While a neutral weighing of the evidence still leads to the conclusion that the welfare system affects marriage and fertility, research needs to be conducted to resolve the conflicting findings.
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