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

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Date: July 2022
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report
Length: 594 words

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Keywords Welfare reform; Aboriginal children; Birthweight; Income management; Unintended consequences Abstract 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. Author Affiliation: (a) London School of Economics and Political Science UK (b) University of Sydney, Australia and Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA), Germany (c) Menzies School of Health Research, Australia * Corresponding author. Article History: Received 10 May 2021; Revised 26 March 2022; Accepted 2 April 2022 (footnote)[white star] The authors thank the following people for their valuable feedback on elements of this research program: Heather d'Antoine, Victoria Baranov, Nicholas Biddle, Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, Robert Breunig, Julie Brimblecombe, Janet Currie, David Cooper, Steven Durlauf, Denzil Fiebig, Marco Francesconi, Matthew Gray, Olga Havnen, James J. Heckman, Matthew James, Liz Moore, Patrick Nolan, Dilhan Perera and Jim Smith; participants of seminars at the University of Chicago, University of Essex, University of Melbourne, Australian National University, University of Western Australia, Institute for Fiscal Studies; and participants of Inaugural Conference of the Asian and Australasian Society of Labour Economists (Canberra, Dec 2017), the European Society of Population Economics (Bath, June 2019), the European Society of Labour Economics (Uppsala, September 2019), the NBER workshop on Health, Wellbeing, and Children's Outcomes for Native Americans and other Indigenous Peoples (Boston, November 2019), the Southern Economics Conference (Washington, DC, Nov 2018) and of the 9th Australasian Workshop on Econometrics and Health Economics. This study uses data from the Northern Territory (NT) Early Childhood Data Linkage Project, "Improving the developmental outcomes of NT children: A data linkage study to inform policy and practice across the health, education and family services sectors", which is funded through a Partnership Project between the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the NT Government. This study uses administrative data obtained from the NT Department of Health through this NHMRC Partnership Project. The analysis has followed the NHMRC Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (2003) and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (2012) (Reciprocity, Respect, Equality, Responsibility, Survival and Protection, Spirit and Integrity). The researchers are bound by, and the research analysis complies with, the ethical standards outlined in the ethics agreement HREC Reference Number: 2016-2611 Project Title: Improving the developmental outcomes of Northern Territory children: A data linkage study to inform policy and practice in health, family services and education (Human Research Ethics Committee of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Menzies School of Health Research). The authors acknowledge funding from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Award DE140100463 and a University of Sydney SOAR Fellowship (2017--2018). Byline: Mary-Alice Doyle [m.s.doyle@lse.ac.uk] (a,*), Stefanie Schurer (b), Sven Silburn (c)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A709525723