NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Poor Benefited From Welfare Reform

May 8, 2000

In 1996, opponents of welfare reform predicted catastrophe for the nation's poor following implementation of the program: there were wild forecasts of a million more children thrown into poverty, that the 50 states would engage in a "race to the bottom," and that the poor were doomed.

But even the critics must now admit that none of those things happened. And champions of reform point out that developments since 1996 have demonstrated that the reforms did more to help the poor than any Great Society program.

  • Welfare rolls have declined for five consecutive years -- and through June of last year they are down 49 percent nationwide.
  • Critics contend this is a result of the booming U.S. economy -- but during the booming 1980s, when the economy was creating 18 million new jobs, welfare caseloads actually increased by 12 percent.
  • From 1993 to 1999, the share of never-married mothers who found jobs grew by nearly 50 percent -- and 25 percent among all single mothers.
  • States which have had large caseload declines have witnessed an almost two percentage point decline in poverty rates -- six times greater than in states which initiated only modest reforms.

This is evidence that those leaving welfare are also leaving poverty.

Source: Editorial, "Apologize to Newt," Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2000.


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