U.S. welfare reform vindicated

Two more studies have been released confirming the success of the 1996 federal welfare reform package. One examines how families who left welfare in 1999 have fared. The other details how families on welfare have changed.

Data for the two studies – by Pamela Loprest and Sheila Zedlewski of the Urban Institute – were compiled from surveys of 42,000 households. Among their conclusions:

  • Welfare leavers in 1999 were more likely to work, have higher earnings and live with a partner than those who left earlier – and they were less likely to go back on welfare than previous leavers.

  • Despite higher incomes, many of the 1999 leavers worried about basic household needs – which is not surprising since two-thirds of them also left the food stamp programme.

  • In 1999, about one-third of welfare recipients worked – compared with about one-fifth in 1997.

  • The percentage of single parents living with a partner doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent.

    The proportion of rolls made up of black families grew from 34 percent to 46 percent.

    Despite the encouraging news, there were some areas of concern. For example, families who left welfare in 1999 were more likely to report serious health problems – including mental health problems – than those who left in 1997.

    Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, Studies Find Welfare Leavers Better Off, Washington Times, April 27, 2001.

    For more on the Effects on Families of Federal Welfare Reform

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