Reform Credited For Welfare Women Finding Work

NCPA Study Cites Reform, Not Booming Economy, for Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 1, 2002) — Single mothers in unprecedented numbers have left welfare and found work over the past five years due to welfare reform legislation in 1996, according to a report to be released Monday by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). 

"The number of families on welfare has declined by more than 50 percent during that time," said co-authors June O'Neill and M. Anne Hill. O'Neill is Wollman Professor of economics at Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY) and Hill is economics department chair at Queens College, CUNY. Both are affiliated with Baruch College's Center for the Study of Business and Government.

The report, based the authors' Manhattan Institute study, focuses on the effects of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program:

  • TANF accounts for more than half of the decline in welfare participation since 1996 and more than 60 percent of the rise in employment among single mothers.
  • By contrast, the contribution of a booming economy was relatively minor.
  • Employment gains, and a resulting decline in welfare participation, have been largest among disadvantaged single mothers.
  • Prior to passage of reform legislation, welfare caseloads had more than doubled since the 1960s.

"The combination of welfare reform and a tight labor market has enabled a very large number of single mothers, especially the disadvantaged, to gain work experience," O'Neill and Hill said. "As earnings rise with experience, the less likely they will be to slide back onto the welfare rolls."

This study will be released as part of the NCPA's Women in the Economy Conference, held March 4 in the Holeman Lounge at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) are featured speakers, and other groundbreaking NCPA studies highlighting the effects on women of the tax policy, Social Security, and retirement will be presented.