New Jersey's Family Cap and Welfare Births: An Examination of Racial Differences in Fertility Within the Framework of Proximate Determinants


* Radha Jagannathan, Urban Studies and Community Health, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1958. Email:


Abstract New Jersey's family cap policy was designed to encourage responsible childbearing among welfare recipients by placing an economic disincentive on births conceived while the mother was receiving welfare. In this study, we use data from an experiment conducted with 8,400 women from October 1992 to December 1996 to determine which of the proximate determinants (abortion, contraception, or family planning visits) are critical in women's decisions to give birth while on welfare. We use structural equations modeling to trace the total effect of these proximate determinants on births and the indirect effect of family cap, time on welfare, mother's age, and race. Our analysis shows that length of time on welfare, family cap limitations, and mother's race are indicative of distinctive patterns of proximate determinant use.