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Life after Welfare: Women, Work, and Repeat Dependency


Harris, Kathleen Mullan (1996). Life after Welfare: Women, Work, and Repeat Dependency. American Sociological Review, 61(3), 407-26.


I examine the process by which single mothers who have ever experienced and ended a spell on welfare return to welfare for further economic support. My analyses address the permanency of welfare independence by type of exit and identify those women who manage to stay off welfare. I use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) for the years 1983 to 1988; the data contain monthly reports of welfare receipt (AFDC) and employment status. Returns to welfare are quite common and often occur soon after leaving: Over one quarter of the women in this study return to welfare within one year of exiting, and 42 percent return within two years. I find that repeat dependency on welfare is determined by social isolation, child-care responsibilities, human capital, and family economic status. Moreover, the route by which women exit welfare is less important to their chances of remaining off welfare than is the sequence of life events and changing circumstances that occur after their welfare exit.


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Journal Article

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American Sociological Review


Harris, Kathleen Mullan

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