Welfare Programs That Target Workforce Participation May Negatively Affect Mortality
Author: Peter Muennig, Zohn Rosen, Elizabeth Ty Wilde
During the 1990s reforms to the US welfare system introduced new time limits on people’s eligibility to receive public assistance. These limits were developed to encourage welfare recipients to seek employment. Little is known about how such social policy programs may have affected participants’ health. We explored whether the Florida Family Transition Program randomized trial, a welfare reform experiment, led to long-term changes in mortality among participants. The Florida program included a 24–36-month time limit for welfare participation, intensive job training, and placement assistance. We linked 3,224 participants from the experiment to 17–18 years of prospective mortality follow-up data and found that participants in the program experienced a 16 percent higher mortality rate than recipients of traditional welfare. If our results are generalizable to national welfare reform efforts, they raise questions about whether the cost savings associated with welfare reform justify the additional loss of life.