NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shouldn't The Welfare Reform Naysayers Admit Their Errors?

December 14, 2000

Even welfare reform advocates have been amazed at how successful their pet program has turned out. But those who predicted such dire consequences as rampant child poverty if the reforms were passed should now be flabbergasted.

Here is just a small sampling of what things were like in 1996, when welfare reforms were enacted:

  • The Department of Health and Human Resources was predicting the legislation would increase child poverty by 11 percent.
  • AFL-CIO president John Sweeney called the welfare reform bill "anti-poor, anti-immigrants, anti-women and anti-children."
  • "This is nor reform, this is punishment," raged the New York Times.
  • Social critic Barbara Ehrenreich labeled the bill "ingeniously sadistic."

But between 1995 and 1999, the percentage of all Americans earning below the poverty level fell steadily from 13.8 percent to 11.8 percent.

The decline was even more dramatic for children under age 18. Poverty rates in that group fell from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 16.9 percent last year.

While the economic boom has doubtless eased the way, it has not been the deciding factor, economists say. During the prior economic boom of the 1980s the child poverty rate scarcely moved at all -- remaining stuck at around 20 percent.

Source: Dan Seligman, "The Welfare Surprise," Forbes, December 25, 2000


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