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This paper reconsiders the methods used in previous studies to assess the welfare caseload movements during the 1990s. We develop a model in which the welfare caseload is the net outcome of past flows onto and off of the caseload and show that such a stock-flow model can explain some of the anomalous findings in previous studies. We then estimate the stock-flow model using California administrative data. We find that approximately 50 percent of the caseload decline in California can be attributed to the declining unemployment rate. These estimates are more robust and larger than those obtained when applying more typical methods to the same California data.

Originally published in: The Journal of Human Resources, v. 38, no. 4, 2004, pp. 865-886.

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