Dynamics of Canadian Welfare Participation

Barrwtt, Garrey F.; Cragg, Michael

Although Canada is contemplating major reforms of welfare policy, there is scant information regarding the use of welfare. This paper rectifies this situation by documenting the dynamics of welfare participation in British Columbia over the period 1980-1982. We find: most welfare spells are shorter than 6- months (75%). a little more than 10% last longer than a year. almost no welfare cases last 4 years and those that do involve families with children. single parents and older individuals have longer spells. couples (with and without children)and childless single individuals have shorter spells . the fraction of the caseload who are employable has been steadily rising from 38% in 1980-82 to 64% in 1991-92 the fraction of the caseload who are single males has risen by 10 percentage points from 34% in 1980-82, while the fraction of all other types of households have fallen. the age structure of the caseload is virtually unchanged over the decade: over 70% are over age 25. a quarter of welfare recipients are back on the welfare rolls within three months of leaving, while a full 50% return within a year. some couples and single individuals without children exhibit a strong seasonal pattern in welfare return rates . These patterns suggest several conclusions important to policy: first, governments need to focus on helping individuals become self-sufficient and remain off-welfare more than encouraging quicker exits; and second, it may be more efficient for governments to target special programs at single parent families who remain on welfare for a long period of time, taking account of their needs and circumstances.

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Academic Units
Department of Economics, Columbia University
Department of Economics Discussion Papers, 709
Published Here
February 28, 2011


November 1994.