NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Welfare Reform Has Worked

March 14, 2002

Nothing could be more evident than that welfare reform has been a resounding success. The 1996 reforms have been called the biggest public policy success of the 1990s.

But there are opponents of reform who hope to use the upcoming welfare reauthorization to roll back the reforms -- especially the time limits on benefits.

But observers wonder how they will dispute the overwhelming evidence that the reforms worked.

  • Child poverty actually fell from 20 percent to 16 percent in 2000 -- and the proportion of working mothers heading families was up from 58 percent in 1996 to 73 in 2000.
  • Among single mothers who never married, employment rose from 47 percent to 65 percent over the period, according to the Brookings Institution.
  • A White House report says increased earnings and the earned income tax credit boosted incomes for recipients by $5,300 on average.
  • The National Center for Policy Analysis estimates that only 20 percent of the decline in welfare rolls was due to the booming economy -- with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children, accounting for the rest.

Overall, welfare rolls have dropped by half since reforms passed. Only 2 million people remain on the rolls -- the lowest number since the early 1970s.

Source: Sean Higgins, "Welfare Reform's Successes Still Aren't Accepted by Some," Investor's Business Daily, March 13, 2002.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues