Marriage among Welfare Recipients: Relationship Commitment Interacts with Welfare Policy

Deborah Roempke Graefe, Pennsylvania State University
Shelley K. Irving, Pennsylvania State University

This study extends prior research on welfare reform effects on marriage 1) by considering specific aspects of welfare reform expected to have the greatest impact on marital behavior and 2) by examining these effects according to indicators of personal relationship commitment. Using the 1996 and 2001 Panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) merged with state contextual data from the Welfare Rules Database (WRD) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, multinomial event history models evaluate the roles of fertility events and cohabitation on the transition to marriage among 4,218 unmarried TANF-recipient women in varying state policy contexts. Preliminary findings support our thesis that welfare can be expected to promote marriage only when relationship commitment is also evident, but that state economic characteristics are at least as important as welfare policies.

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Presented in Session 24: Union Formation