Term Paper: Welfare System Changes: Early Outcomes

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[. . .] We now know that welfare reform works." 1 Based on the fact that national welfare caseloads have fallen 20% since 1993, the president and others apparently consider reform a success.

While any serious analyst would reject this rosy assessment as being premature, it does raise the important question of how to judge the success of welfare reform. (Bernstein 27)

Yet, a truly fair assessment of any largely bureaucratic social change could not have taken place until reforms were actually implemented and followed for a significant amount of time. Even today the mark of just over a decade may not truly express the long-term effects of welfare reform but early clues might give the system some idea of the measures of success or failure that mark the changes.

This chapter takes the view that the success of reform will largely depend on the extent to which former welfare recipients are successfully integrated into the labor market. Will they be able to find work that pays them enough to keep their already precarious living standards, along with those of other low-wage workers, from falling further? Once they find jobs, will they be able to keep them?

Bernstein 27)

Some preliminary concerns of the new deadline-based reforms, setting caps on the time that one individual or family can receive assistance were associated with the time an individual might need to become gainfully employed or even achieve subsistent employment.

Understanding the issues surrounding the changes can be difficult for any one as the measures of success of this very human situation are seemingly infinitely complex. Do we judge success by figures, or do we judge success by the achievement of independence from social assistance of the many people affected by the changes? The questions that then arise are dependant on how a person defines independence. Does independence always equal success? Are people who need these services independent in any financially successful way or do they just have to rely on other sources or live as members of the increasingly large class of working poor? During the recent economic downturn this information becomes desperately important given the fact that more and more people will need assistance of every kind to shelter their families through desperate economic circumstances, (State and local governments do not have the finances or taxing authority to cope with serious unemployment and poverty during times of economic recessions. The euphoria among policy makers about the initial success of the welfare-to-work initiatives in TANF is sustained by an unusually strong economy, very low employment, and a continuing drop in the number of welfare recipients. The reality is that AFDC rolls have always decreased during periods of economic prosperity and low unemployment e.g., World War II, the Korean War, 1979 to 1981). Conversely, during bad economic times, AFDC rolls have increased, sometimes dramatically.

Hansan and Morris 11)

Regardless of the early assessments or even the conjectures of the future under a system that was charged with changing its entire mindset from a hand out to a hand up, we have now passed the 5-year mark on the implementation of many of the new regulations that surrounded the public outcry for change. The magic number five being the longest, the shortest choice for states being 2 years, of the time-based deadlines for an individual to receive benefits, for their lifetime. It is time to weight the early results of the changes and it is especially important to do so in the current economic when more and more people may find themselves in the position of recipient of the services that have been altered.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Jared. "Chapter 4 Welfare Reform and the Low Wage Labor Market: Employment,

Wages, and Wage Policies" in Hansan, John E., and Robert Morris, eds. Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?. Westport, CT: Auburn House, 1999.

Cammisa, Anne Marie. From Rhetoric to Reform?: Welfare Policy in American Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.

Hansan, John E., and Robert Morris, eds. Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?. Westport, CT: Auburn House, 1999.

Hopkins, Kevin R. "Chapter 2 The Presidency and the Coordination of Public Assistance" in Welfare System Reform: Coordinating Federal, State, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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