A Closer Look

The 1996 Welfare Reform and the Great Recession

The chart below puts these changes in a broad historical perspective. I used annual tables from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on employment among women by marital status for all women 16 and over (the tables are not separated for heads of households and spouses, as I did for my 2007-10 analysis).

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment rate of unmarried women relative to rate among married women, with percentage difference expressed in decimals. In 2010, for example, 49 percent of unmarried women were employed, compared with 57 percent of married women.

From 1980 through the mid-1990s, the fraction of unmarried women who worked increased less than the fraction of married women working, which is why the series shown in the chart declines over that time frame. Then, coincident with 1996 federal legislation reforming welfare, the trend sharply reversed itself.

Some main components of the 1996 welfare reform were to require that a significant fraction of welfare recipients be working and to limit the amount of time that households could receive welfare. (Welfare was called Aid for Dependent Children before the law, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families since its enactment.) One intention of the reform was to give welfare participants more incentives to work and maintain their own living standards…


Read More @ Casey B. Mulligan: Has the 1996 Welfare Reform Been Reversed? – NYTimes.com.



  1. Pingback: Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit – NYTimes.com « Ye Olde Soapbox - April 8, 2012

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