Family Cap and Nonmarital Fertility: The Racial Conditioning of Policy Effects



Using an experimental design, this research examines the effect of the nation's first family cap on the births, abortions, and contraception use of over 8,000 women receiving public assistance in New Jersey. The family cap denies additional cash benefits to children conceived while the mother is receiving public assistance. Our research shows that a targeted welfare benefit manipulation does influence fertility behavior; however, the effect is conditioned by race. We find that Black women in the experimental group have a 21% lower birth rate and a 32% higher abortion rate than Black women in the control group. We do not find a birth effect for Hispanic or White women. We discuss the policy implications of the effects of a segmented family cap.