The Public Interest

The past and future of welfare reform

Douglas J. Besharov

Winter 2003

WTH the passage of the welfare reform law of 1996, 60 years of federal welfare policy was abruptly reversed. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) ended the legal entitlement to benefits, mandated that a large percentage of recipients work, and imposed a five-year time limit on the receipt of federally funded benefits. Since then, welfare caseloads have fallen sharply, and the percentage of single mothers working has risen dramatically. And despite the concerns of manymon the left and the rightmthere has not been a substantial increase in material hardship. In fact, for most single mothers, incomes have risen.

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