Research / BFI Working PaperAug 30, 2021

The Consumption, Income, and Well-Being of Single Mother Headed Families 25 Years After Welfare Reform

Jeehoon Han, Bruce Meyer, James X. Sullivan

We investigate how material well-being has changed over time for single mother headed families—the primary group affected by welfare reform and other policy changes of the 1990s. We focus on consumption as well as other indicators including components of consumption, measures of housing quality, and health insurance coverage. The results provide strong evidence that the material circumstances of single mothers improved in the decades following welfare reform. The consumption of the most disadvantaged single mother headed families—those with low consumption or low education—rose noticeably over time and at a faster rate than for those in comparison groups.

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