The new welfare reform law has spawned a welfare-watching
Nearly 100 studies of welfare reform are under way, ranging
from questionnaires to multistate surveys. Together, they represent
more than $120 million in private and government investment,
including the cost of the National Research Forum, which was
created to keep track of them all.
Then, market spinoffs abound. This summer, the Welfare Reform
Academy at the University of Maryland will begin offering classes
to administrators and policy makers. The "Local Officials Guide To
Welfare" can be purchased from the National League of Cities for
$10. And journalists can attenda host of conferences and workshops,
or access an on-line chat room and a support group.
No one is busier than local advocates. Action for Boston and
Community Development has four groups meeting regularly and is
considering a newsletter, a hot line and a research clearinghouse.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has a Super Task Force on Welfare
Reform, and the American Public Welfare Association has launched a
Welfare Reform Information Center.
"It's an industry of researchers," said Douglas Besharov, a
researcher at the American Enterprise Institute who founded the
Welfare Academy. "There are many people who make a living doing
this kind of thing, myself included. There are also a lot of people
who are afraid that this new law will do great harm to people, and
they want to document that harm as early as possible."
But many welfare recipients wonder if all that money might not
be better spent elsewhere. The new law, signed by President Bill
Clinton in August, eliminated the Aid for Dependent Children
program, transferred federal funds to states in block grants and
put a five-year limit on benefits.
The Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization in
Washington, has launched a $30 million study of welfare changes and
the shift of power from the federal to state government funded by
several foundations. The project includes development of a 50-state
on-line database, a survey of 50,000 families, and a 13-state
The Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., a nonprofit
organization in New York, is studying welfare overhaul in four
cities and has raised half the $12 million cost. The Nelson A.
Rockefeller Institute of Government is conducting a four-year study
of welfare management systems in 17 states with $2.6 million in
And a five-year study of the impact of welfare changes on
children and families in three cities is being done by Johns
Hopkins University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago,
and Pennsylvania State University, although they have raised only
some of the several million dollars needed.
Federal agencies are getting on the bandwagon, led by the
Census Bureau, which is doing a seven-year survey of welfare reform
costing $70 million. The Department of Health and Human Services is
doing one study of children for $3 million and another looking at
caseloads for $150,000 and has offered $7. …