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Fragile Families and Welfare Reform

  • Irwin Garfinkel
  • Sara McLanahan
  • Kristen Harknett
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    The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is designed to shift more of the responsibility for poor children from government to parents. To accomplish this goal, the new law requires welfare clients to work and limits the total number of years they can receive assistance. In addition, the new legislation requires unwed fathers to establish paternity and strengthens child support enforcement among nonresident fathers. Although many people believe that poor children would be better off if their mothers worked and their fathers were more involved in their upbringing, the scientific evidence for these assumptions is weak. We know very little about the ability of poor parents to support their children, and we know even less about their ability to cooperate with one another. Whether recent welfare reform is good public policy will depend in large part on the answers to the following questions: What are the conditions and capabilities of low-income parents, especially fathers? What is the nature of the parents' relationships in low-income families? How many couples are involved in stable, long-term relationships? How many fathers want to be involved in raising their children? How are policies being implemented at the local level? How will they affect parents' capabilities and relationships? And how will they affect child wellbeing? This paper describes a new study - Fragile Families and Child Well being - that is uniquely suited to answer these three questions.

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    Paper provided by Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research in its series JCPR Working Papers with number 113.

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    Date of creation: 01 Aug 1999
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    Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:113
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, 1155 E. 60th Street Chicago, IL 60637
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    Web page: http://www.jcpr.org/wp/ByDate.html
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    1. David Neumark & Sanders D. Korenman, 1988. "Does marriage really make men more productive?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 29, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. 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.
    3. Schultz, T.P., 1993. "Marital Status and Fertility in the United States: Welfare and Labor Market Effects," Papers 703, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    4. Daniel, K., 1991. "Does Marriage Make Men More Productive?," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-2, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
    5. Lucia A. Nixon, 1997. "The Effect of Child Support Enforcement on Marital Dissolution," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(1), pages 159-181.
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