Native American reservations are marked by poverty rates that remain persistently above national averages through generations, but a recent shift in policy toward greater tribal control over previously federal and state-operated programs shows great promise in improving the situation. This report seeks to better understand the economic impact of such self-governance policy, first by examining the marginal effect of having a tribe administer its own Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and second by examining results from 75 household surveys that I conducted on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. I find that the implementation of a TANF program by a reservation government produced a five-percentage-point drop in the poverty rate above and beyond any reduction in poverty that occurred in state-run programs on Native reservations. Further, within tribal TANF programs, there seem to be community gains associated with both geographical proximity and administrative proximity, that is, having decisions made by a single local reservation government as opposed to a consortium of reservation governments. The survey shows similarly positive effects associated with proximity and gives some reason to suggest that local programs would be preferred to federal programs. Finally, I end the report with a brief look at the Rosebud Reservation’s preferences for future economic development programs as revealed in the survey.
This research was supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
Mather, Ryan A.
Temporary Assistance with Lasting Effects: A Report on Policies of Self-Determination in Native America.
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