In 1996, the U.S. welfare system was restructured. Supporters of this reform maintain that the new system rescues people from poverty and reduces welfare costs. What is the primary evidence they point out to support this?
No one likes the current welfare system. Governors complain that federal law is overly prescriptive and are willing to take less federal money in return for more flexibility. [ The public believes that welfare is anti-work and anti-family although polls show that the public wants welfare reformed in ways that do not penalize children. Welfare recipients find dealing with the system degrading and
demoralizing; most would prefer to work1. Experts note that welfare has done little to stem the growth of poverty among children. In all but two states, welfare benefits (including food stamps) are insufficient to move a family above the poverty line2.
In short, the current indictment against the welfare system has four particulars:
It does not provide sufficient state flexibility.
It does not encourage work.
It is responsible for the breakdown of the family, especially for a rising tide of out-of-wedlock births.
It has done little to reduce poverty, especially among children.
The chapters in this volume address how much truth there is in these propositions and assess the ability of current proposals to deal with the complaints. To summarize the findings at the outset: ]
There are no new answers.