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Unintended consequences of welfare reform: evidence from birthweight of Aboriginal children in Australia

Doyle, Mary-Alice ORCID: 0000-0002-6363-4612, Schurer, Stefanie and Silburn, Sven (2022) Unintended consequences of welfare reform: evidence from birthweight of Aboriginal children in Australia. Journal of Health Economics, 84. ISSN 0167-6296

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2022.102618


In 2007, Australia introduced its most radical welfare reform in recent history, targeting Aboriginal communities with the aim of protecting children from harm. The ‘income management’ policy forced Aboriginal welfare recipients to spend at least half of their government transfers on essentials (e.g. food, housing), and less on non-essentials (e.g. alcohol, tobacco). By exploiting its staggered rollout, we estimate the impact of in utero exposure to the policy rollout on birthweight. We find that exposure to the income management policy reduced average birthweight robustly by 85 g and increased the risk of low birth weight by 3 percentage points. This finding is not explained by behavioral change (fertility, maternal risk behavior, access to care), or survival probabilities of at-risk fetuses. More likely, a lack of policy implementation planning and infrastructure led to acute income insecurity and stress during the rollout period, exacerbating the existing health inequalities it sought to address.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 Elsevier B.V.
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
JEL classification: I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I3 - Welfare and Poverty > I38 - Government Policy; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
Date Deposited: 25 May 2022 12:06
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 02:39

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