Desperate or Deviant? Causes of Criminal Behavior among TANF Recipients

Lindsay M. Monte, Dan A. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


As state welfare rolls declined significantly throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, female criminality was on the rise. Under these circumstances, we examine the links between gender, welfare receipt, financial hardship and crime. We ask, did the 1996 welfare reform legislation affect the criminal behavior of current and former recipients? Does going off welfare increase the likelihood of committing an offense, as many critics of the reform argued that it would? Or is there more crime among women who remain on the rolls, as the culture of dependency argument suggests? Using the Illinois Families Study (IFS), a longitudinal study of individuals who were receiving welfare in Illinois in 1998, we explore trends in arrest by welfare receipt and employment. We find that financial hardship, in both the forms of unemployment and non-receipt of welfare, is significantly associated with an increased hazard of criminal behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPoverty & Public Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • crime
  • poverty
  • welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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