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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Welfare state scholars have amassed competing theoretical explanations for the development of welfare policies. When considering the U.S. case, a discussion of federalism is central to these theoretical examinations. How power in policymaking is distributed amongst the varying levels of government is influential in the construction of the U.S. welfare state. Standard quantitative approaches to U.S. welfare research have offered a limited analysis of how theoretical explanations change after historical moments of welfare reform. In this study, I examine the institutional changes introduced to U.S. welfare in 1996 by way of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). This study examines the changes in welfare maximum benefit levels for a 3-person family from 1987-2015. However, I apply an alternative quantitative approach to studying the effects PRWORA has had on benefit maximums by splitting models into two separate time periods and running analyses separately: pre-PRWORA (1987-1996) and post-PRWORA (1997-2015). By applying this methodological approach, I demonstrate how the influence of different sets of theories change after institutional reforms, such as PRWORA. The results offer new insights to the temporal applicability of different theoretical explanations and the construction of social citizenship.


First Advisor

Jasmine Kerrissey

Second Advisor

Joya Misra

Third Advisor

Sanjiv Gupta