“Unless incentives suddenly stopped mattering during this recession, says Casey B. Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, “it appears that the expanding social safety net explains some of the excess nonemployment among unmarried women who are heads of households.”

An unintended but unavoidable consequence of providing someone a cushion when they are without work is that they are provided with less incentive to get back to work.

By definition, married women have husbands and unmarried women do not, and husbands can many times be a source of support. But husbands can provide more flexible support than government programs do. After all, husbands know their wives better than the government does and thereby do less to discourage women from getting back to work than government benefit rules do.

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