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Effects of Welfare on Domestic Violence, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2003
305 pages
This study examined the direct and indirect effects of welfare recipiency on measures of domestic violence.
For the purpose of this study, "welfare recipiency" referred to receipt of public assistance income and/or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, general assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, or energy assistance. The study hypothesized that welfare recipiency would contribute to a reduction in domestic violence by providing women with the financial means to leave an abusive relationship; whereas, policies designed to limit welfare recipiency could contribute to an increase in domestic violence. Economic models were used to explore possible links between welfare recipiency and domestic violence. While controlling for the influences of poverty, race, and ethnicity, researchers tested whether welfare recipients were more likely to be abused than nonrecipients. A second model tested for an indirect impact, i.e., that more welfare recipients would leave abusive relationships due to higher public transfer payments. The economic models were estimated by using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, Waves 1 and 2 (1987-88 and 1992-94). A probability sample of 13,017 respondents in 100 communities were interviewed. The sample included a main cross-section sample of 9,643 households and a double sampling of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, single-parent families, families with stepchildren, cohabiting couples, and recently married persons. The results were replicated with another dataset, the National Youth Survey, which includes individuals in young-adult age groups at greatest risk of domestic violence. The findings indicate that welfare recipients were more likely than similarly situated nonwelfare recipients to experience domestic violence. The initial hypothesis was not supported, in that persons receiving welfare did not leave abusive relationships at rates different from those in nonabusive relationships. There were significant differences between Blacks and Whites regarding welfare recipiency, domestic violence, and exits from intimate partnerships. Although Blacks were more likely than Whites to receive welfare and to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, there was no significant indication that Blacks who received welfare were more or less likely to be victims of domestic violence than Blacks who did not receive welfare. Neither was there any consistent evidence that Blacks who received welfare were more likely to leave abusive relationships than White welfare recipients. Thus, the central finding of the study was that welfare recipiency did not act as a buffer for reducing domestic violence. 36 references and 23 tables

Date Published: February 1, 2003