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Journal Issue: Welfare to Work Volume 7 Number 1 Spring 1997

Low-Wage Maternal Employment and Outcomes for Children: A Study
Kristin A. Moore Anne K. Driscoll


Despite the importance of anticipating how children may be affected by policies that move mothers off welfare and into employment, as the article by Zaslow and Emig in this journal issue points out, few research studies have addressed this critical policy question. To help fill that gap, this article presents the results of a new study using national survey data to examine child outcomes among families that had previously received welfare. About half the families studied had mothers who remained at home, the others were working at varying wage levels.

The findings reported here echo themes discussed in the two preceding articles. Maternal employment does not appear to undermine children's social or cognitive development from ages 5 to 14, and it may yield advantages. Children whose mothers earned more than $5.00 per hour, particularly, had somewhat better outcomes than others. The authors emphasize, however, that background characteristics specific to the mothers who chose employment contributed to these positive outcomes. The authors add that it would be risky to apply these generalizations based on these findings to families forced into employment by welfare reform.