Welfare Receipt and Early Childhood Cognitive Scores

Colleen M Heflin, University of Missouri at Columbia
Sharon Kukla-Acevado, University of Kentucky

Childhood exposure to income poverty is associated with a host of negative characteristics in terms of education, labor market, and physical and mental health outcomes. Yet, past research indicates that family participation in social welfare programs such as TANF may be associated with negative child outcomes, such as reduced probability of graduation or fewer years of completed schooling. We examine the effects of TANF participation on children’s early cognitive development using methods to address concerns about endogeneity and measurement error with panel data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Our results indicate that participating in TANF is associated with positive cognitive development but that there may be a negative dosage effect reducing the positive returns of cash assistance for long-term recipients.

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Presented in Session 36: Public Policy and Child Wellbeing