Evaluation of welfare policy

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We have undertaken several evaluations relating to welfare policy. Many governments are reforming sickness benefits to encourage return to work but high quality evidence is lacking on health impacts of returning to employment. Using a natural experiment difference-in-difference design we found evidence of health benefits in the UK but showed that transitions from sickness benefits to work are very rare, and baseline health very poor.

In the UK, lone parents must seek work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits once their youngest child reaches a certain age. Using a difference-in-difference design on Understanding Society we estimated the effect of exposure to such conditionality on the health of lone mothers. The mental health of lone mothers declined in the intervention groups compared with the control groups suggesting that requiring lone parents with school-age children to seek work as a condition of receiving welfare benefits adversely affects their mental health.

Using rigorous life course methods we conducted a natural experiment US/UK comparison of the health impacts of their differing welfare systems on lifecourse poverty in childhood showing a difference in the prevalence but not the effect of persistent poverty.

Given concerns about increasing isolation of older people, we conducted a properly controlled natural experiment study of the English free bus pass policy where eligibility has been tightened. We showed that free bus travel makes a real difference to people’s use of buses. Health in later life is also impacted by how and when people leave the labour market, and we provided some of the most robust evidence of the casual mechanisms for these health effects, using fixed effect analysis of longitudinal data.

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