Accounting for Recent Declines in Child Poverty: Effects of Changing Family Structure and Parental Employment since PRWORA

Daniel T. Lichter, Ohio State University
Martha L. Crowley, Ohio State University

Changing family structure, especially the growth in the proportions of children living with single parents, accounted for a large share of the rise in child poverty during the 1980s. Since the mid-1990s, and after the passage of the 1996 welfare reform legislation (i.e., Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act), poverty rates among American children have plummeted to their lowest levels since the late 1970s. Welfare reform has also coincided with significant increases in maternal employment and growing shares of children residing in married-couple families, especially among the low-income population. In this paper, we decompose recent changes in child poverty rates, both pre- and post-welfare reform, into rate and composition effects (i.e., parts dues to family structure and maternal employment). We also consider variations across racial and ethnic groups. The analyses are based on concatenated files from the 1988-to-2001 March Supplements of the Current Population Survey.

Presented in Session 98: Public Policy and Children's Economic Well-Being