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The impact of welfare reform on the health insurance coverage, utilization and health of low education single mothers.


The Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 imposed time limits on the receipt of welfare cash benefits and mandated cash benefit sanctions for failure to meet work requirements. Many studies examining the health implications of PRWORA have found associated declines in health insurance coverage and healthcare utilization among single mothers but no impact of PRWORA on health outcomes. A limitation of this literature is that most studies cover a time period before time limits were implemented in all states and also before individuals began actually timing out. This work builds on previous studies by exploring this research question using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation that covers a time period after all states have implemented time limits (1991-2009). We use a difference-in-differences study design that exploits variability in eligibility for cash welfare benefits by marital status and state-level variation in timing of PRWORA implementation to identify the effect of PRWORA. Using ordinary least square regression models, controlling for state-level and federal policies, individual-level demographics and state and year fixed-effects, we find that PRWORA leads to 7 and 5 percentage point increases in self-reported poor health and self-reported disability among white single mothers without a diploma, respectively.

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