the areas of health insurance, child care, child support, and tax treatment
for families with children.
Reforming welfare from within can do little to reduce poverty. At best,
work and training programs will make a small positive contribution. Cutting or eliminating benefits will reduce dependence on welfare but only at
the cost of increasing poverty.
To eliminate both poverty and dependence on welfare requires solutions
outside the system. Increasing the minimum wage, strengthening unions,
promoting full employment, and providing universal child care, national
health insurance, child support assurance, and child allowances are the
essential ingredients of real welfare reform.
Eliminating the program entirely would shave $17 billion, or about 10 percent, from the projected FY 1995 deficit of $170 billion and would trim the national
debt by less than 0.5 percent. Proponents of reducing federal spending may consider
such savings worthwhile, but they should not be deluded into thinking that these
savings will eradicate deficits.
The program was originally called Aid to Dependent Children. The name
was changed in 1950 when the program was amended to add benefits for the child's
caretaker as well as the child.
Because of congressional opposition, President Roosevelt proposed neither a
permanent work-relief program nor national health insurance.
In 1961 Congress gave states the option of extending eligibility for AFDC
to families with an unemployed parent--AFDC-UP. Only about half of the states
adopted AFDC-UP programs, and eligibility was severely restricted.
By tightening eligibility standards, the Reagan changes cut the welfare case-
load by as much as 500,000 ( Levitan 1990).
Our participation-rate levels differ from those in Moffitt ( 1992 table 3), apparently due to different data sources; however, the trends are similar. Our data
for these rates come from the following sources: data on family cases headed by
single parents are from various issues of Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of AFDC Recipients (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance); data on female
heads of household with children are from the Bureau of Census (series P-60-185,
See Garfinkel and
McLanahan 1986 review of empirical research in the United States.
The most recent comprehensive review of the literature by
( 1992) comes to the same conclusion: welfare has had very little effect on female
Rainwater ( 1991). That Sweden has a lower proportion
of single-parent families than the United States may come as a surprise. This is
because of the confusion between marital status and residence patterns. Children
who live with unmarried mothers are frequently included in the Swedish count of