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For Better and For Worse

For Better and For Worse: Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children and Families

Greg J. Duncan
P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    For Better and For Worse
    Book Description:

    The 1996 welfare reform bill marked the beginning of a new era in public assistance. Although the new law has reduced welfare rolls, falling caseloads do not necessarily mean a better standard of living for families. InFor Better and For Worse, editors Greg J. Duncan and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and a roster of distinguished experts examine the evidence and evaluate whether welfare reform has met one of its chief goals-improving the well-being of the nation's poor children.

    For Better and For Worseopens with a lively political history of the welfare reform legislation, which demonstrates how conservative politicians capitalize on public concern over such social problems as single parenthood to win support for the radical reforms. Part I reviews how individual states redesigned, implemented, and are managing their welfare systems. These chapters show that most states appear to view maternal employment, rather that income enhancement and marriage, as key to improving child well-being. Part II focuses on national and multistate evaluations of the changes in welfare to examine how families and children are actually faring under the new system. These chapters suggest that work-focused reforms have not hurt children, and that reforms that provide financial support for working families can actually enhance children's development. Part III presents a variety of perspectives on policy options for the future. Remarkable here is the common ground for both liberals and conservatives on the need to support work and at the same time strengthen safety-net programs such as Food Stamps.

    Although welfare reform-along with the Earned Income Tax Credit and the booming economy of the nineties-has helped bring mothers into the labor force and some children out of poverty, the nation still faces daunting challenges in helping single parents become permanent members of the workforce.For Better and For Worsegathers the most recent data on the effects of welfare reform in one timely volume focused on improving the life chances of poor children.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-828-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)

    • Chapter 1 For Better and For Worse: Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children and Families
      (pp. 3-8)
      Greg J. Duncan and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

      A new era in social welfare began when President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) on August 22, 1996. Following six decades of guaranteed government aid for economically deprived children, the new bill eliminated the openended federal entitlement program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), provided block grants for states to impose strict work requirements and to set time limits on cash assistance, and made other sweeping changes affecting child care, the Food Stamp program, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for children, and the Child Support Enforcement program. In addition, this legislation...

    • Chapter 2 Liberal and Conservative Influences on the Welfare Reform Legislation of 1996
      (pp. 9-34)
      Ron Haskins

      Between the Great Depression and the congressional elections of 1994, liberals had dominated the formation of American social policy. This dominance was so complete that even one of the two or three most important Republicans since the end of World War II, Richard Nixon, was a protoliberal in most matters of domestic policy. In neat Hegelian fashion, this liberal dominance produced a reaction against federal social programs, which culminated in substantial changes in social policy following the Republican sweep of Congress in 1994.

      The reaction was prompted in part by the failure of many social programs to achieve their goals....


    • Chapter 3 Welfare Reform, Management Systems, and Policy Theories of Child Well-Being
      (pp. 37-52)
      Cathy M. Johnson and Thomas L. Gais

      Children’s interests were frequently invoked during the congressional debate surrounding the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Supporters surely brought other values and beliefs to bear when developing and assessing the legislation: some thought the act would cap federal spending on welfare or increase the supply of labor to American businesses. However, the act encompassed mainly programs for which only families with children were eligible, and much of the debate centered on how best to end dependency, illegitimacy, and even poverty in families with children, including presumed generational cycles involving children not yet born.

      As Congress deliberated,...

    • Chapter 4 How Do State Policymakers Think About Family Processes and Child Development in Low-Income Families?
      (pp. 53-62)
      Kristin Anderson Moore

      Welfare reform has been an ongoing process for decades, but until recently little attention was paid to the implications of welfare reform for children in welfare families. After the Family Support Act was passed in 1988, an evaluation of the impact of the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) training program on children was initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Even before the 1996 legislation again reformed the welfare system, however, many states had begun to request waivers to experiment with modifying their welfare systems. States obtained waivers to try various time limits, family caps,...

    • Chapter 5 Program Redesign by States in the Wake of Welfare Reform: Making Sense of the Effects of Devolution
      (pp. 63-80)
      Alan Weil

      Four purposes are stated in the portion of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) that establishes the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. Each of these purposes—assisting needy families, ending parental welfare dependence, reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and encouraging two-parent families—has ramifications for the well-being of children. Yet before these four purposes are enumerated, the legislation states that its purpose is “to increase the flexibility of States in operating a program designed to” achieve these goals. The clear implication of the legislative language is that state flexibility increases the likelihood that these goals...

    • Chapter 6 Sanctions and Exits: What States Know About Families That Leave Welfare Because of Sanctions and Time Limits
      (pp. 81-100)
      Jack Tweedie

      The wave of welfare reform that occurred from the mid-1990s through the late 1990s presents a rich opportunity to develop a research agenda and, through it, a greater understanding of such critical questions as, How do welfare recipients move or not move into work? How does welfare receipt affect selfesteem and work behavior? How can human capital approaches improve future earnings and family life? Such an agenda requires careful design, substantial resources, and time.

      A vital, yet narrower, policy question still unanswered in the research is the effect on families and children of sanctions for noncompliance with welfare rules. How...


    • Chapter 7 How Different Are Welfare and Working Families? And Do These Differences Matter for Children’s Achievement?
      (pp. 103-131)
      Greg J. Duncan, Rachel E. Dunifon, Morgan B. Ward Doran and W. Jean Yeung

      Welfare reform is upon us and many have already made the transition from welfare to work. There are good reasons to expect that these transitions will benefit many families and children; others, however, may not fare as well. Whether the changes help or hurt depends in large part on families’ responses to welfare reform—the way they manage their time, effort, and division of family responsibilities; the effect on their self-esteem, stress levels, and other aspects of mental health; how their income changes; their connections to extrafamilial support networks; their strategies for seeking and keeping jobs; whether marriages, partnerships, divorces,...

    • Chapter 8 My Children Come First: Welfare-Reliant Women’s Post-TANF Views of Work-Family Trade-Offs and Marriage
      (pp. 132-153)
      Ellen K. Scott, Kathryn Edin, Andrew S. London and Joan Maya Mazelis

      Moving into the workforce for welfare-reliant women, most of whom are single mothers of young children, entails a variety of trade-offs between work and family. These are the same trade-offs faced by more affluent Americans and adults in two-parent, dual-career families; however, single parents (mostly mothers) and the poor experience work-family conflicts very differently from married couples and the financially secure (Bianchi and Spain 1996; Cancian and Oliker 2000; Oliker 1995; Polakow 1993). Just as working women in dual-career households continue to do most of the child care and housework (“the second shift”) (Cancian and Oliker 2000; Hochschild 1989), working...

    • Chapter 9 Does Maternal Employment Mandated by Welfare Reform Affect Children’s Behavior?
      (pp. 154-178)
      Ariel Kalil, Rachel E. Dunifon and Sandra K. Danziger

      Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), legislated in the 1930s as an income maintenance program for widows and children, evolved over sixty years into a program that primarily served families headed by divorced, separated, or never-married mothers. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA,) passed into law in August 1996, responded in part to concerns that AFDC encouraged joblessness (Mead 1992) and out-of-wedlock childbearing (Murray 1993); however, the driving force behind the legislation was the notion that cash assistance should be a temporary stop on the road toward employment (Bane and Ellwood 1994). Critics argued that the...

    • Chapter 10 Lessons from New Hope: The Impact on Children’s Well-Being of a Work-Based Antipoverty Program for Parents
      (pp. 179-200)
      Rashmita S. Mistry, Danielle A. Crosby, Aletha C. Huston, David M. Casey and Marika N. Ripke

      By current estimates, approximately one in five American children are poor, and children represent the largest segment (40 percent) of the poor population, even though they compose only one-fourth of the total population (Dalaker and Naifeh 1998). Social policies targeted toward poor parents represent one potential means for lowering the rates of childhood poverty. The 1990s witnessed a proliferation of research on the adverse consequences of poverty and low income on children’s development (see Brooks-Gunn et al. 1997; Chase-Lansdale and Brooks-Gunn 1995; Huston et al. 1994; McLoyd 1998), and as a result, the links between poverty and child well-being are...

    • Chapter 11 How Families View and Use Lump-Sum Payments from the Earned Income Tax Credit
      (pp. 201-221)
      Jennifer L. Romich and Thomas S. Weisner

      In 1990 and again in 1993, Congress approved significant expansions of the previously modest Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These increases targeted working families with children and transformed the EITC from a relatively obscure tax provision into our largest federal antipoverty transfer program and an important complement to other work-based elements of welfare reform. As the “heart of the work support system” (see chapter 14, this volume) that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the EITC enjoys bipartisan support. Republicans like that it rewards work and addresses child poverty without imposing requirements on businesses that employ low-income workers....

    • Chapter 12 Welfare Waivers and Nonmarital Childbearing
      (pp. 222-244)
      Ann E. Horvath-Rose and H. Elizabeth Peters

      Nonmarital childbearing increased dramatically in the second half of the twentieth century, from 3.8 percent of births in 1940 to more than 32.0 percent of births in 1996.¹ A large body of research shows that unmarried mothers have lower education level and lower earnings and are more likely to experience other negative life outcomes than married mothers. Similarly, the children of these mothers are also more likely to have worse outcomes compared to children born within marriage (Annie E. Casey Foundation 1998; Baldwin and Cain 1980; Bane and Ellwood 1986; Blank 1993, 1997a; Card 1981; Duncan and Hoffman 1990a, 1990b;...


    • Chapter 13 Reducing Child Poverty by Improving the Work-Based Safety Net
      (pp. 247-263)
      Wendell Primus and Kristina Daugirdas

      Several changes in poverty policy, most notably welfare reform in 1996, were intended to promote work effort among the poor. However, when families with children earn low wages, even if they are working full time and year-round, it is unlikely that they will escape poverty through their wages alone. Government benefits in the form of refundable tax credits, food stamps, child care subsidies, health insurance, and cash assistance play a crucial role in supplementing earnings from low-paying jobs and in lifting children from poverty.

      Because eligibility for these government benefits depends on income, as income increases, eligibility for various benefits...

    • Chapter 14 Effects of Welfare Reform at Four Years
      (pp. 264-289)
      Ron Haskins

      In recent years, the nation has experienced two social policy changes that, taken together, constitute a revolution in American domestic policy. The welfare reform law of 1996, which codified and extended a reform movement that had been growing in the states for several years, made unprecedented changes in the federal statutes that govern cash and other welfare benefits for able-bodied adults with children. In effect, the welfare reform law of 1996 renegotiated the nation’s social contract with the poor. The second revolution, which began in the mid-1980s and may still be happening today, aimed to use federal dollars to make...

    • Chapter 15 Reforming the Social Family Contract: Public Support for Child Rearing in the United States
      (pp. 290-306)
      Paula England and Nancy Folbre

      Politicians offered a number of reasons for reforming the social welfare system in 1996. The actual wording of the legislation emphasized the importance of reducing out-of-wedlock births.¹ Conservatives pointed to the advantages of giving states more autonomy from the federal government. They also emphasized the importance of reducing the number of families receiving welfare. Another goal, especially among liberal Democrats who supported the bill, was to create a stronger political consensus for reducing poverty among children. By at least one account, President Bill Clinton offered this hope as his rationale for signing the bill (Morris 1998). Since that time, a...

    • Chapter 16 Lessons Learned
      (pp. 307-322)
      P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and Greg J. Duncan

      Welfare reform in the 1990s—as instituted by state waivers and then as federal law—came about as a sweeping effort to reduce the dependency of the poor on government. Taken together, it has ushered in a new “work-contingent social contract,” which holds that every healthy family, regardless of income level or child-rearing responsibility, should seek employment before or, in some cases, in conjunction with turning to the state for support. No longer does this nation guarantee that children living in poverty will receive some cash assistance from the state for basic survival needs. Instead, the prevailing assumption is that...

  8. Index
    (pp. 323-329)