Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Think Tank: City Welfare Rolls on Rise

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Think Tank: City Welfare Rolls on Rise

Article excerpt

While national and state welfare caseloads have dropped substantially since 1993, welfare rolls are not declining as precipitously in America's cities, especially in those with greater and more concentrated poverty.

The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, recently completed a two-year study of welfare rolls in America's cities, methodically tabulating caseload data. (The federal government no longer collects such information.) The study showed that from 1994 to 1998, the number of families on welfare declined 35 percent in big cities (those with populations of more than 470,000), compared with a decline of 44 percent for the nation as a whole.

"The largest American cities are becoming home to a larger and larger share of the nation's welfare recipients," said Bruce Katz, director of the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The 30 largest American cities have 20 percent of the nation's population, but the number of welfare recipients is 39 percent, up from 33 percent in 1994, Katz said. In general, Katz said, people who remain on welfare are those with the most problems. They are more likely to have mental illnesses, learning disabilities or histories of alcohol and drug abuse. They tend to have fewer job skills, less formal education and less work experience. Katz said his research should serve as "a cautionary note for states that are boasting a bit too loudly about the dramatic declines in welfare caseloads. …

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