• end the “maintenance of effort” requirement and • prohibit new entrants to the welfare rolls.
Four years ago President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, promising to put an end to welfare dependence through work, responsibility, and two-parent families. The conversion of the old entitlements-based Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program into the new work-oriented Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has brought about some of the most talked-about public-policy phenomena of the last decade, including dramatically reduced caseloads and an influx of single mothers into the labor market. Welfare reform is generally regarded as a great success, and policymakers today are speaking primarily of ideas for incremental add-ons to the 1996 legislation.
A closer review of the research, however, reveals that the celebration of welfare reform's success has been premature and that the new law, in fact, merits fundamental restructuring. The key objectives of welfare reform are still far from being realized, despite states' success in cutting welfare rolls and moving more single mothers into work.
Although caseloads declined by 47 percent between 1996 and 1999, most people who have left the rolls have been short-term recipients who have benefited from the nation's booming economy. Policymakers, four years into reform, continue to face the critical task of tackling long-term dependence and its host of associated pathologies, including long-term joblessness, criminal behavior, and multigenerational dependence.
Furthermore, although families who do leave welfare for work are generally better off, most are achieving increased well-being through