Women and Drug Crime: The Role of Welfare Reform

Nancy E. Reichman, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Hope Corman, Rider University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Dhaval Dave, Bentley University
Dhiman Das, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Arrest rates of women have grown over the past decade while they have fallen for men. This trend has coincided with large increases in labor force participation, decreases in fertility, increases in real wages, and increases in educational attainment among women, as well as increases in nonmarital childbearing. We make inroads into understanding the role of these social forces in shaping women’s criminal behavior by investigating the effects of welfare reform, a recent and widespread policy shift designed to both increase female employment and decrease nonmarital childbearing, on one type of criminal activity among women, illicit drug use. We use multiple datasets in a difference-in-difference framework to estimate the effects of welfare reform on women’s drug use, arrests, and imprisonments from 1992-2002. Preliminary findings suggest that welfare reform led to declines in drug crime among women at risk for relying on welfare compared to both other women and men.

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Presented in Session 68: Demography of Crime