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Abstract

This study analyzes the relative effect of the amount of public assistance income received one year on the probability that a single mother is employed the following year compared to a variety of other determinants of employment status. The analysis is based on a national sample which was drawn from the Public Use Micro data 5 percent Sample (PUMS) of the 1990 U.S. Census. It consists of the 275,744female householders who were divorced, separated, widowed or never married, and living with their own children age 18 and under. Logistic regression was utilized to calculate the probability of being employed in 1990 according to sources and amounts of income in 1989, level of education, age, work experience, number and age of children, race, and marital status. The results indicate that greater amounts of public assistance income reduced the probability of being employed. However, several other factors-including race-ethnicity, family form and size, educational background and previous earnings-were significant, independent determinants of labor-force status. In particular, African- American women, women with children under six, women with relatively low levels of education and low earnings in the previous year, and nevermarried women all faced a reduced probability of being employed in 1990 regardless of how much public assistance income they received in 1989. The paper concludes with an assessment of the implications of these findings for current debates on the relationships among welfare receipt, work incentives, and employment.

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