Why Poor Families Move: Welfare Rules, Life Course Transitions, and Local Area Economic Explanations

Deborah Roempke Graefe, Pennsylvania State University

This study tests alternative explanations for U.S. interstate migration of poor families in the post welfare reform period. In addition to micro-economic local labor market explanations, we examine the effects of family-level marriage, childbearing, and work transitions, and state-level variations in welfare eligibility and behavioral rules. We argue that the 1996 welfare reform act created state welfare policy inequalities resulting in new incentives and disincentives to migrate. Data from three sources are merged for the analysis: 1) migration and family life course transitions from the 1996-1999 SIPP panel, 2) state welfare policy data from the Urban Institute's Welfare Rules Database, and 3) county-level labor market data from the Regional Economic Indicators Service. New migration behavior insights emerge from the discrete-time, event history migration model results of both destination (pull) and departure (push) effects of state lenient-to-stringent welfare policy scores, local labor market economic conditions, and family life course transitions.

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Presented in Session 140: Internal Migration in Developed Countries