How Do Changes in Welfare Law Affect Domestic Violence? An Analysis of Connecticut Towns, 1990–2000
The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act transformed welfare from an ongoing cash assistance program by restricting participation through time limits and emphasizing rapid entrance into the labor force. Changes in welfare dependency induced by these legal reforms had the potential to impact rates of domestic violence. Using decennial census, welfare caseload, and police report data, this paper investigates the introduction of time limits and work mandates across Connecticut towns. For a variety of reasons, Connecticut proves to be an ideal laboratory from which to obtain evidence. We find that rates of domestic violence fell in Connecticut with the passage of the new welfare law, especially in towns most subject to the law’s provisions. Using Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report data, we also find evidence that such results hold independent of the reform’s effects on other personal crimes and crimes in general.
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