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Welfare and the Multifaceted Decision to Move


Whether poor single mothers move in response to welfare benefits has important implications for social policy in a federal system. Many scholars claim that welfare does not affect migration. These claims are not definitive, however, because the models underlying them rely on problematic assumptions and do not adequately control for nonwelfare determinants of migration. I address these shortcomings with an improved statistical model of individual-level migration. The results indicate that welfare does affect residential choice. Although the effects of welfare are much smaller than the effects of family ties, they are real and have the potential to cause nontrivial changes in welfare populations and welfare expenditures.

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Michael A. Bailey is Associate Professor, ICC, Suite 681, Department of Government, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057 (
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AllardScott, and SheldonDanziger. 2000. “Welfare Magnets: Myth or Reality?Journal of Politics 62 (May): 35068.

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PetersonPaul E., and Mark CarlRom. 1989. “American Federalism, Welfare Policy and Residential Choices.” American Political Science Review 83 (September): 71128.

RomMark Carl, Paul E.Peterson, and Kenneth F.Scheve. 1998. “Interstate Competition and Welfare Policy.” Publius 28 (Fall): 1738.

SchramSanford, LawrenceNitz, and GaryKrueger. 1998. “Without Cause or Effect: Reconsidering Welfare Migration as a Policy Problem.” American Journal of Political Science 42 (January): 21030.

SchramSanford, and JosephSoss. 1998. “Making Something Out of Nothing: Welfare Reform and a New Race to the Bottom.” Publius 28 (Summer): 6788.

VoldenCraig. 2002. “The Politics of Competitive Federalism: A Race to the Bottom in Welfare Benefits?American Journal of Political Science 46 (April): 35263.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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