Trajectories of Public Assistance Receipt among Female High School Dropouts
This paper maps patterns of public assistance receipt for 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth female high school dropouts between 1984, when they were 19-27 years old, and 1998 when they reached their early 30s and 40s. Using latent class cluster models, I test whether obtaining a GED, occupational training, work experience, marriage, and delayed parenthood reduce the probability of receiving public assistance. I find that dropouts who earn their GEDs within 4 years after leaving high school have a high probability of never receiving public assistance across the 14-year period. Those who earn GEDs 5 or more years after dropping out have a sharply reduced risk of welfare use in mid-adulthood, suggesting that a late GED may act as a turning point for those formerly reliant on public assistance. Although work experience is the strongest predictor of avoiding public assistance, marriage and education provide a more effective route off of welfare for some recipients. On-the-job training and earning a GED later in life increase the likelihood that chronic recipients will permanently exit welfare. Highlighting the diversity within the welfare population, I conclude that no single approach to ending reliance on public assistance will lead to economic self-sufficiency among the undereducated.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)