August 2003

IZA DP No. 864: A Couples-Based Approach to the Problem of Workless Families

published in: Economic Record, 2006, 82 (259), 428-444

The goal of this paper is to evaluate a “couples-based” policy intervention designed to reduce the number of Australian families without work. In 2000 and 2001, the Australian Government piloted a new counseling initiative targeted towards couple-headed families with dependent children in which neither partner was in paid employment. Selected women on family benefits (who were partnered with men receiving unemployment benefits) were randomly invited to participate in an interview process designed to identify strategies for increasing economic and social participation. While some women were interviewed on their own, others participated in a joint interview with their partners. Our results indicate that the overall effect of the interview process led to lower hours of work among family benefit recipients in the intervention group than the control group, but to greater participation and hours in job search and in study or training for work-related reasons. At the same time, there are few significant differences in the effect of the interview process on the economic and social activity of women interviewed with and without their unemployed partners.