NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wisconsin Reports Welfare Reform Successes

March 17, 2000

Wisconsin has long been noted as a leader in welfare reform among the states. Now it has come up with some figures that give it bragging rights.

The state's Department of Workforce Development set out to discover whatever happened to all those who entered its welfare-to-work program, known as W-2.

  • Since W-2 started in September 1997, welfare caseloads have dropped from about 35,000 families to 7,000 now.
  • About 76 percent of former welfare beneficiaries found jobs or other family income.
  • Many of those who left had earnings and other benefits equivalent to jobs paying $31,500 to $38,000 a year -- figures arrived at through hypothetical projections based on first month job earnings.

Critics from among welfare-advocacy groups faulted the study for basing its conclusions on only the first month's pay, rather than tracking pay through a two-year period.

Initially, in a policy called "light touch," the state did not emphasize to W-2 clients what other benefits might be available to them -- such as food stamps. But in recent months state officials have abandoned that policy and have reportedly put a heavy emphasis on making W-2 participants aware of all benefit programs.

Source: Steve Schultze, "Study Paints Rosy Picture of Welfare Reform," Washington Times, March 17, 2000.


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