Welfare Reform Studies Costing $120 Million

Article excerpt

The new welfare reform law has spawned a welfare-watching industry.

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 analysis. 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 funding. 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. …

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