The effects of AFDC on American family structure, 1940-1990

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The "end of welfare as we know it" in the United States was predicated on the belief that the welfare system was responsible for a dramatic upsurge of single-parent families. This article addresses the issue historically, examining the potential impact of interstate differences in Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefit levels on family structure from 1940 to 1990. The author's results reveal that the impact of AFDC on family structure was considerably smaller in the period from 1940 to 1970 than in 1980 or 1990. It is concluded that increasing welfare benefits cannot account for a significant portion of the increase in illegitimacy, divorce, or separation in the postwar period. Nevertheless, rising benefit levels are significantly associated with changes in the living arrangements of unmarried mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-325
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Family History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1997

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