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Welfare to Work in the U.S.: A Model for Other Nations?

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  • R. Haveman
  • B. Wolfe

Abstract

The 1996 welfare reform legislation establishing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program marks a significant change in U.S. social and economic policy. This legislation represents the ascendance of the view that individuals and families need to be self-reliant and that collective support for individual well-being should be minimized. We first describe the major provisions of TANF, providing some background on its differences from prior policy targeted at needy families. Then we catalogue the wide variety of economic changes that are implicit in the new law, stressing those related to changed property rights, fiscal relations among jurisdictions, and economic incentives facing families. Third, we illustrate the form of state reforms that are likely to develop in response to the federal policy change by describing the actions of the state of Wisconsin, which has taken the lead in implementing the new policy. We conclude with a list of yet unanswered questions that will ultimately determine just how far this policy change will slide the nation along the efficiency-equity tradeoff function, away from the equity axis. The answer to these questions will influence the attraction the U.S. reform might hold as a model for other nations concerned with their own safety net programs for poor people.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty in its series Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers with number 1159-98.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1159-98

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  1. Danziger, Sheldon & Haveman, Robert & Plotnick, Robert, 1981. "How Income Transfer Programs Affect Work, Savings, and the Income Distribution: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 975-1028, September.
  2. P. B. Levine & D. J. Zimmerman, . "An empirical analysis of the welfare magnet debate using the NLSY," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1098-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  3. Howard Chernick, 1998. "Fiscal Effects of Block Grants for the Needy: An Interpretation of the Evidence," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 205-233, May.
  4. B. L. Wolfe & S. Hill, . "The health, earnings capacity, and poverty of single-mother families," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 964-92, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  5. R. A. Moffitt, . "The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1153-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  6. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
  7. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Luc Godbout & Matthieu Arseneau, 2005. "La prime au travail du Québec : Un véritable outil d’incitation au travail ou une simple façon de baisser l’impôt?," CIRANO Working Papers 2005s-01, CIRANO.

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