The Effects of Welfare and Child Support Policies on Maternal Health and Wellbeing

August 2006

Jean Knab, Princeton University; Irv Garfinkel, Columbia University; Sara McLanahan, Princeton University.

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Previous research indicates that welfare reform policies work requirements, sanctions, and child support enforcement had negative consequences for mothers health insurance coverage and use of health care service, but there is very little evidence that these policies affected maternal health. This paper examines the effects of post-reform welfare and child support policies on maternal health and health behavior using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Results suggest that increases in welfare generosity are associated with increases in mental health at low levels of generosity and decreases in mental health at high levels of generosity. The effects on smoking, however, go in the opposite direction. Increases in the stringency of child support enforcement are associated with decreases in mental health. That generous welfare and stringent child support enforcement may negatively affect mother's mental health is surprising and worrisome.

Child Support, Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care, Welfare Reform and the Administration of Welfare Programs