Author: DeLeire, Thomas ; Levine, Judith ; Levy, Helen
Working Paper: Is Welfare Reform Responsible for Low-Skilled Women’s Declining Health Insurance Coverage in the 1990s? (PDF) ; March 2006
Research Findings (HTML)
We use data from the 1989-2001 March Supplements to the Current Population Survey to
determine whether welfare reform contributed to the declines in health insurance coverage
experienced by low-skilled women over this period. During the 1990s, women with less than a
high school education experienced a 10.1 percentage point decline in the probability of having
health insurance. By contrast, during the same period, women with a high school degree
experienced a smaller (3.6 percentage point) decline in health insurance coverage while women
with a college education experienced only a very small decline in health insurance coverage.
Against this backdrop of large overall declines in health insurance coverage, welfare waivers
were associated with a modest, 1.8 percentage point, increase in health insurance coverage for
low-skilled women by increasing their probability of having private health insurance, while
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) itself had no statistically significant effect.
Overall, welfare reform did not contribute to declines in coverage but rather offset them
somewhat. Unfortunately, some groups among low-skilled women did not experience these
relative gains in coverage in response to reforms including non-employed women, African-
American women, unmarried women, and unmarried women with children. Neither welfare
waivers nor TANF were associated with increases in insurance coverage among women with a
high school or college education.