The American welfare state in the economic lives of children
Little is known about the aggregate impact of welfare state benefits on families with children. Nearly all welfare state research focuses on cash benefits and ignores taxes and in-kind benefits such as health, education, and housing. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this chapter examines the prevalence, composition, and value of welfare state benefits in the economic lives of children born in large US cities at the turn of the 21st century. Welfare state benefits – including cash and in-kind benefits, tax benefits, and taxes required to finance the benefits – are examined over a 15-year period. The authors find that American welfare state benefits: (1) loom large in the lives of children; (2) are dominated by education and health; (3) are larger than suggested by prior research; and (4) narrow the gap in the total economic resources available to children born into different types of families.