The Public Interest

Assessing welfare reform: work pays

Jack A. Meyer

Summer 1999

WELFARE reform is off to a good start. Between 1994 and 1998, welfare rolls declined 37 percent. Fewer people are staying on welfare, and fewer are applying for benefits.  Several state evaluations of welfare reform show that many welfare recipients have foregone cash payments for paychecks.  Studies in Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin find that many former welfare recipients are working three to twelve months after the termination of their cash payments. These findings bode well for the ultimate goal of a sound welfare reform policy, which should be to help individuals find and retain employment, and, over time, achieve a decent standard of living. Simply put, welfare reform should move people from dependence to self-sufficiency.

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