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Data Show Welfare Reform Has Been Overwhelmingly Successful

July 17, 2012

Last week, the Obama Administration took action to dismantle the work requirement that was central to the success of the bipartisan 1996 welfare reforms.  As the data below shows, that action will undo policies that have led to more work and earnings and less welfare dependence and poverty among low-income Americans.  

Since the work-based 1996 welfare reforms were enacted:

Work and earnings rose….

  • The employment of single mothers increased by 15 percent from 1996 through 2000, and even after the recession it is still higher than before welfare reform. (Source: Congressional Research Service estimates based on Census Bureau data)
  • According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ latest report on the TANF program, “earnings in female-headed families remained higher in 2009 than in 1996 despite various shifts in the economic climate since TANF’s enactment.” (Source: Department of Health and Human Services)

…while welfare dependence and poverty has fallen.

  • Since it replaced the New Deal-era Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in 1996, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has been successful at cutting welfare dependence as caseloads have declined by 57 percent through December 2011. (Source: Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Child poverty in female-headed households fell dramatically after welfare reform and is still down by more than 15 percent below the level in the early 1990s. (Source: Census Bureau)