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What has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure

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  • Robert F. Schoeni
  • Rebecca M. Blank

Abstract

This paper evaluates the effectiveness of recent welfare reforms, investigating the effects of both state-specific waivers in the early 1990s and the 1996 federal reform legislation. Unlike earlier work, we analyze a wide array of indicators, including welfare participation, labor market involvement, earnings, income and poverty, and family formation. While no single methodology is entirely satisfying, the results in this paper are convincing in part because they are consistent across alternative approaches. We find strong evidence that these policy changes reduced public assistance participation and increased family earnings. The result was a rise in total family income and a decline in poverty. The gains from the 1996 reforms were not as broadly distributed across the distribution of less-skilled women as were the effects of waivers. Waivers also increased labor market involvement among the less-skilled, but the 1996 reforms had little additional impact on work behavior after controlling for economic forces. These policies also appeared to have an impact on family structure.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert F. Schoeni & Rebecca M. Blank, 2000. "What has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure," NBER Working Papers 7627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7627
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    1. Timothy J. Bartik & Randall W. Eberts, 199. "Examining the Effect of Industry Trends and Structure on Welfare Caseloads," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers, in: Sheldon H. Danziger (ed.), Economic Conditions and Welfare Reform, chapter 5, pages 119-157, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    2. Blank, Rebecca M. & Card, David & Robins, Philip K., 1999. "Financial Incentives for Increasing Work and Income Among Low-Income Families," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt2f15x7sg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    3. Marianne E. Page & Joanne Spetz & Jane Millar, 2005. "Does the minimum wage affect welfare caseloads?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 273-295.
    4. Rebecca M. Blank, 2001. "What Causes Public Assistance Caseloads to Grow?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(1), pages 85-118.
    5. Rebecca M. Blank, 1999. "What Goes Up Must Come Down? Explaining Recent Changes in Public Assistance Caseloads," JCPR Working Papers 78, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    6. Robert A. Moffitt, 1999. "The Effect of Pre-PRWORA Waivers on AFDC Caseloads and Female Earnings, Income, and Labor Force Behavior," JCPR Working Papers 89, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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