Science & Research

Lecture outlines long-term welfare effects

Compared to rejected applicants, recipients show benefit throughout their lives

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy Anna Aizer studied welfare primarily from between 1911 and 1930, when the U.S. government sponsored its first welfare program directed at single-mother families.

Children who receive welfare may have better educational, economic and health outcomes later in life, said Anna Aizer, associate professor of economics and public policy, at a lecture at the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions Tuesday afternoon.

Aizer began the presentation, attended by about 60 students and faculty members, by talking about the various short-term effects welfare can have on families with financial difficulties, such as improving children’s educational attainment.

She then presented her research methodology, which included analysis of various governmental data sets. Aizer focused her research around data from the Mothers’ Pensions program between 1911 and 1930. The program was “the first U.S. government-sponsored welfare program for single mother families with dependent children,” Aizer said.

Aizer compared two groups of children whose mothers had applied for the cash transfers — those who were accepted and those who were rejected because the government determined they had “enough,” money, Aizer said.

She added that she found evidence of racism within the pension program and chose to focus her research efforts on Ohio, as data from there were less affected.

Her research found that “acceptance into the program increases the probability of the children’s survival to age 70 by 10 to 20 percent and age 80 by 9 to 15 percent,” Aizer said. She added that the children whose families were accepted to the program received more years of education and consequently earned higher incomes later in life. Children whose families were rejected usually ended up in orphanages and tended to die younger.

Based on these findings, Aizer concluded that welfare has significant long-term impacts on health and human capital.

One of the attendees, Angelica Meinhofer Santiago GS, a PhD candidate in economics, said she enjoyed the talk.

“It is the first project to look at the long-term effect of cash transfers, which makes it innovative,” she said.

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