The Journal of Politics

Original Articles

Welfare Magnets: Myth or Reality?

Scott W. Allarda1 and Sheldon Danzigera2

a1 Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, Syracuse

a2 Program on Poverty, the Underclass and Public Policy, University of Michigan


Since the passage of federal welfare reform in late 1996, 15 states have passed welfare residency requirements that restrict cash assistance to new migrants, an indication that welfare-induced migration concerns state policy-makers. Models of state welfare policy-making assume that states compete in a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ over the generosity of their welfare policies, where neighboring states continuously reduce benefit levels in reaction to one another. This paper analyzes longitudinal data on individual-level migration among single-parent families and estimates the extent to which these families make interstate moves to states with higher benefit levels. We find that relatively few single-parent households make interstate moves and that welfare benefits are not a significant determinant of them. We discuss the implications of these findings for models of state welfare policy-making.

(Online publication December 09 1998)

(Received September 30 1999)