Welfare dependence within and across generations

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Science  29 Jan 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4839, pp. 467-471
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4839.467


A central question in the debate about the effects of welfare programs is whether their intended positive results--providing needed resources to recipients and their children--outweigh any unintended negative results--for example, the breaking up of families, reduction in work effort, or the fostering of a welfare "culture" that is passed on from parent to child. Recent research shows that although work effort is affected adversely by the generosity of welfare programs, effects on family structure appear quite weak, most welfare experiences are relatively short, and the majority of women who grew up in homes heavily dependent on welfare do not rely on those programs when they are young adults.