No Love on the Dole: The Influence of the UK Means-tested Welfare System on Partnering and Family Structure

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Two-parent families with dependent children are known to be at lower risk of poverty and significantly less reliant on state financial help than lone-parent households. It might therefore be expected that the factors influencing partnership transitions among low-income women would represent a key area of policy interest. However, driven by concerns about weak work incentives, policy focus and research has to date concentrated on understanding lone parents' labour supply and encouraging the transition from benefits into employment. Surprisingly little is therefore known about demographic decision making among women reliant on UK means-tested welfare. As part of a wider qualitative study exploring family formation, partnership dissolution and repartnering decisions among low-income mothers, this paper examines whether and to what extent entitlement to welfare benefits or tax credits influenced the decision to live with or apart from a partner or child's father. The research found that the aspects of welfare that remove or reduce a mother's access to an independent income and require one partner in a couple to be financially dependent on the other had been strongly influential in partnering decisions and living arrangements. Policy implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-561
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number3
Early online date8 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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