Poverty in America: Beyond Welfare Reform

By Lichter, Daniel T.; Crowley, Martha L. | Population Bulletin, June 2002 | Go to article overview

Poverty in America: Beyond Welfare Reform


Lichter, Daniel T., Crowley, Martha L., Population Bulletin


Throughout its history, the United States has struggled with the paradox of poverty amidst affluence. Why do so many people struggle economically in a nation blessed, by almost any international or historical standard, with abundant opportunities? Are the poor themselves to blame? Or are they victims of unequal educational opportunities, racism and sexism, or an economic system that favors the rich over the poor? As a rich society, how can we help poor families without fostering economic dependency, unwed childbearing, or other unintended consequences that may perpetuate rather than end poverty? How do we redress persistent racial or ethnic inequality without affecting the opportunities of others? How do we help poor children without rewarding decisions of parents that may have led to their children's disadvantaged circumstances?

The paradoxes of American poverty are not new. What is new is the intensity of public policy attention directed at America's poor population. More attention is being paid now than at any time since the War on Poverty of the 1960s. One major reason for the increased attention is America's latest overhaul of the welfare system. The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) ended "welfare as we know it." One major target of reform was the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which provided cash payments to very low-income families with children. The legislation sought to end AFDC and other government assistance by promoting self-sufficiency and personal responsibility through "work first" programs (see Box 1, page 4). PRWORA set strict time limits on cash assistance, imposed work requirements, and encouraged marriage and two-parent families as a context for having and raising children. Welfare reform legislation has also challenged us to re-examine the circumstances of America's least advantaged residents. The reforms did not set out to reduce poverty.

Welfare reform has been a big success, at least as measured by the reduction in welfare caseloads. The number of families receiving welfare declined by more than 50 percent between 1994 and 2000, and the percentage of families receiving cash assistance is lower than it has been since 1960. In 2000, only 2.1 percent of the U.S. population received cash assistance (through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] program).' Such success, which was helped by a booming economy, silenced many early critics of welfare reform. Happily, welfare caseload declines have occurred alongside reductions in poverty, even among female-headed families with children. Most of the early predictions that poverty and hardship would increase among the most vulnerable segments of the population have not occurred, at least not yet. The welfare reform bill is up for reauthorization in late 2002, and many poverty and welfare rights advocates argue that PRWORA's emphasis on reducing caseloads should be balanced by placing a higher priority on reducing poverty.

Indeed, welfare reform comes with an obligation to refocus our attention on those left behind, those remaining at the economic margins of American society. Who are they? Why are they still poor? Why does it matter? What can we do about it? This Population Bulletin evaluates whether America's poor are different today: Are they better or worse off than in the past? And it examines whether persistent stereotypes and negative images of poor people match the current reality. Has welfare reform led America's poor to adopt a new or different set of values and standards of behavior? Or does poverty, especially during childhood, transmit socioeconomic disadvantages that carry over from one generation to the next?

America's Poor

In 2000, 11.3 percent of the U.S. population was officially poor, according to the poverty income guidelines provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. This is the lowest poverty rate since the late 1970s (see Figure 1). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Poverty in America: Beyond Welfare Reform
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.