Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

What Ever Happened to Welfare Mothers?

Posted by on May. 13, 2010 at 4:26 PM
  • 12 Replies

Long lines of gloomy people in business suits at a jobs fair. Foreclosure signs on tidy suburban lawns. Adults moving into their parents' basement. In the news these days, the face of poverty is middle class, educated and often married: the hard-working, play-by-the-rules victims of the ongoing financial crisis. It's the man-bites-dog story that never ends.

But what about the people who already were poor before the crisis? Like women on welfare? Oh, them. The welfare reform bill, pompously titled the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) and signed by Bill Clinton in the run-up to the election, was supposed to pull these hapless folk off the dole with a mix of carrots and sticks aimed at forcing mothers off welfare and into the workforce. Not only would they find jobs that would allow them to support their children, the theory went; once single motherhood ceased to be subsidized by the taxpayer, poor women would settle down and marry before having kids. On its tenth anniversary PRWORA was widely trumpeted as a success: "Pragmatic progress," declaredNewsweek's Robert Samuelson. "Everything has worked," Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute told USA Today. "Welfare reform has been a triumph for the federal government and the states—and even more for single mothers," claimed Brookings Institution senior fellow Ron Haskins in its newsletter. On the New York Times op-ed page, Clinton patted himself on the back for a successful triangulation ("At the time, I was widely criticized by liberals who thought the work requirements too harsh and conservatives who thought the work incentives too generous") and for moving millions from "dependence to empowerment."

True, the widespread disaster—1.1 million newly poor children, for instance—predicted by some opponents did not come about: child poverty actually went down. Millions of welfare mothers found work, albeit often casual, low-wage jobs that did not lift them out of poverty. How much of a triumph is it that in the late 1990s, 65 percent of former recipients in South Carolina were working, earning an average hourly wage of $6? Or that in Maryland, in one quarter, about half of former recipients had found work at pay that annualized to roughly $9,500—way below the poverty line for an average family? In a New York City study I wrote about in February 1999, only 126 former recipients out of a sample of 569 even had valid phone numbers, hardly a sign of prosperity and stability; of the 126, 58 percent were supporting their families "mainly through work," and the median wage was $7.50.

But those women were entering the workforce at a moment of labor-force expansion and prosperity in the US economy; 16 million jobs were created in the 1990s. And even then—with a good jobs market, well-funded transitional programs and federal and state coffers flush with tax dollars—most welfare mothers stayed poor. Some, indeed, became poorer than ever, a development that tended to be briefly noted, if at all. As for the effects PRWORA was supposed to have on sexual mores, teen pregnancy did go down—but that happened for many reasons, and the United States is still way out in front of the other industrialized nations, including those with generous supports for young mothers and their children. Single motherhood continued to rise, accounting for 41 percent of all births in 2008, a historic high. Since single motherhood is rising all over the world, in countries from Ireland to Japan, it is not surprising that it has proved resistant to PRWORA's supposed miracle cure.

If the boom years failed to lift poor mothers into the middle class, how are they faring now that the middle class is becoming the new poor? The fact that the welfare rolls have risen less than 10 percent since December 2007 while food stamp use has soared by 40 percent—an amazing one in eight Americans now uses them—suggests that welfare isn't reaching poor families: either women who apply are being turned away, or the programs are so minimal, or so onerous, that people aren't signing up. How do they manage? Sharon Hays, author of Flat Broke With Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform, writes in an e-mail, "They get by in the same way the poor of New Orleans and Haiti are getting by, by cobbling together every available source of aid and support, and then trying to learn how to adjust to constant suffering and insecurity. Increasing rates of domestic violence are just one hidden story here." And what about women who have reached their state's time limit—two years, three years, five years—and can't get welfare for the rest of their lives? Jane Collins, the author, with Victoria Mayer, of Both Hands Tied: Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom of the Low-Wage Labor Market, writes, "In Wisconsin, most people who have used up their time limits are simply out of luck."

Sounds like the laid-off workers for whom Congress recently capped unemployment benefits at ninety-nine weeks—but their situation, unlike that of welfare mothers, evokes widespread sympathy. No one sane assumes that today's unemployed are loafing, that jobs are "out there" for them or that getting married would solve their problems. If you think about it, though, given that PRWORA has been in effect for nearly fifteen years, it would not be difficult for a mother to reach the lifetime limit, even in Wisconsin, where it's a comparatively generous sixty months.

I asked Collins if she saw anything good in welfare reform. "It was always a stigmatized program, a football in racial politics. If it were possible to make unemployment and other entitlement programs gender sensitive—to take account of caregiving, for example, and the need for childcare—and put women into these mainstream programs instead of welfare, that would reconceive poor mothers as economic citizens, as workers with rights. And that would be good." But for that to happen, people would have to care.

http://www.thenation.com/article/what-ever-happened-welfare-mothers

by on May. 13, 2010 at 4:26 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
tericared
by on May. 13, 2010 at 4:44 PM

 While I was reading this all I could think about was the case worker telling my daughter that now she was 18 she would loose her Medicaid,,,,BUT to call her back when she got pregnant and they could put her back on......I couldnt believe I was hearing her say that....

norwegianwood
by Platinum Member on May. 13, 2010 at 4:54 PM

 The reforms were necessary and as this article points out..successful. What 'people' DO with their options is NOT the responsibility of some 'unseen' hand of government or forces...it's a result of THEIR OWN CHOICES...we are by no means obligated to continue to provide handouts for the sake of handouts, redistributing other people's money. It was always meant to be a temporary measure. People are crippled by TOO MUCH handout..they don't HAVE to then realize their own potential at all or RISK 'losing' in order to try to GAIN...something those from whom they 'take' have done.

P

 

survivorinohio
by René on May. 13, 2010 at 4:57 PM


Quote:

 

But for that to happen, people would have to care.


People dont "care", They are more concerned with the kids getting lunch on their dime than with billions spent to bribe nations a half a world away, or 100 millions  being spent to house drug offenders.  I wont even mention the defense department spending which really reads more like offense to me...

                                                 

   
                                             

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong, because sometime in life you will have been one or all of these. George Washington Carver

tericared
by on May. 13, 2010 at 4:59 PM

 

Quoting survivorinohio:

 

 

Quote:

 

But for that to happen, people would have to care.


People dont "care", They are more concerned with the kids getting lunch on their dime than with billions spent to bribe nations a half a world away, or 100 millions  being spent to house drug offenders.  I wont even mention the defense department spending which really reads more like offense to me...

 

 I so agree....

ThatTXMom
by Platinum Member on May. 13, 2010 at 10:15 PM


Quoting survivorinohio:

 

 

Quote:

 

But for that to happen, people would have to care.


People dont "care", They are more concerned with the kids getting lunch on their dime than with billions spent to bribe nations a half a world away, or 100 millions  being spent to house drug offenders.  I wont even mention the defense department spending which really reads more like offense to me...

 

Sometimes people do care... more about making sure their own children are getting fed before worrying about the neighbor's kid.  Sometimes, families who make to much to qualify for any assistance are left trying to stretch one box of mac and cheese between 5 family members. But that $5 that throws the family over the limit just isn't enough to feed the family for the month.  It isn't only the uber-rich who bitch about taxes being spent on other people.  Sometimes the Robin Hood philosophy just doesn't work out in real life. 

kelfitz
by on May. 14, 2010 at 8:36 AM

Welfare reform was not put in place to make the recipients rich or even middle class. It was put in place so that anybody, namely my best friend, would not be on the dole for 20 yrs and keep spitting out kids to get more $. It was to teach, especially those who have history in their family, to work hard for everything you get. I work 2 & 3 jobs to keep my family afloat on top of my husbands payck, and no, there are not ANY luxuries in this family, just got a comp last yr, because it was too difficult for my child to do all his homework/research without it, we only use the cell phones with min. cards that your buy once every 3 months. But i know a lot of people on the system who have the $189 month, GEEZ the thing will go pee for ya if it want, phones and bills. I am also not feeling bad for the moms who make $6+ an hr, they are still eligible for so many other programs. So, no, they are not existing on only that measley ck. ZERO sympathy!!!!!

mamadixon
by Gold Member on May. 14, 2010 at 8:43 AM


Quoting ThatTXMom:


Quoting survivorinohio:



Quote:


But for that to happen, people would have to care.


People dont "care", They are more concerned with the kids getting lunch on their dime than with billions spent to bribe nations a half a world away, or 100 millions  being spent to house drug offenders.  I wont even mention the defense department spending which really reads more like offense to me...


Sometimes people do care... more about making sure their own children are getting fed before worrying about the neighbor's kid.  Sometimes, families who make to much to qualify for any assistance are left trying to stretch one box of mac and cheese between 5 family members. But that $5 that throws the family over the limit just isn't enough to feed the family for the month.  It isn't only the uber-rich who bitch about taxes being spent on other people.  Sometimes the Robin Hood philosophy just doesn't work out in real life. 

Yeah ...I feel that one.

norwegianwood
by Platinum Member on May. 14, 2010 at 9:04 AM

 

Quoting survivorinohio:

 

 

Quote:

 

But for that to happen, people would have to care.


People dont "care", They are more concerned with the kids getting lunch on their dime than with billions spent to bribe nations a half a world away, or 100 millions  being spent to house drug offenders.  I wont even mention the defense department spending which really reads more like offense to me...

 

 I am with you on the housing drug offenders; we'll just have to disagree on the military, sorry, my reading of history and the ENTIRE logic of even having a centralized gov't was to provide for the raising and maintaining of a military to provide for defence--not ONE mention of a social service in the ENTIRE debate back then, and really not with you on the lunch thing..sorry. When I worked hard to get a point where I SHOULD have been able to afford to buy my kids their lunch everyday if I chose, I couldn't afford to because we moved to a state that charged those PAYING FOUR TIMES what the 'underprivileged' kids had to pay...so, hell yeah, I made my kids lunches that much longer figuring that those OTHER moms could just do the same. "I" didn't have their kids...THEY did.

P

prettymama72106
by Silver Member on May. 14, 2010 at 9:47 AM

I do have a problem with the fact that people want to raise so much money to help other countries when we have serious problems here that need attention I mean hell I get asked to help raise money to buy girls in africa tampons and help get allt he kids in africa computers. I would rather help people here first There are plenty of kids here who don't have computers or proper clothing. I understand people take advantage of the system and there will always be those that will but There are people who need the system especially in this economy and wish thye didn't have to and are doing what they can so they no longer need it.  I firmly believe you can't help others unless you fix whats broken here first. I think our country would be a lot better off if we focused more on fixing whats wrong here then constantly worring about others problems. We should help others don't get me wrong but it shouldn't be more important then helping our own. I also think we shouldn't judge the people that get welfare because we don't know there stories and not everyone uses the system

survivorinohio
by René on May. 14, 2010 at 10:47 AM


Quoting norwegianwood:

 

Quoting survivorinohio:



Quote:


But for that to happen, people would have to care.


People dont "care", They are more concerned with the kids getting lunch on their dime than with billions spent to bribe nations a half a world away, or 100 millions  being spent to house drug offenders.  I wont even mention the defense department spending which really reads more like offense to me...


 I am with you on the housing drug offenders; we'll just have to disagree on the military, sorry, my reading of history and the ENTIRE logic of even having a centralized gov't was to provide for the raising and maintaining of a military to provide for defence--not ONE mention of a social service in the ENTIRE debate back then, and really not with you on the lunch thing..sorry. When I worked hard to get a point where I SHOULD have been able to afford to buy my kids their lunch everyday if I chose, I couldn't afford to because we moved to a state that charged those PAYING FOUR TIMES what the 'underprivileged' kids had to pay...so, hell yeah, I made my kids lunches that much longer figuring that those OTHER moms could just do the same. "I" didn't have their kids...THEY did.

P

First I agree that our military should be strong, however I do not feel as if we should be involved in war at all right now.  To defend ourselves is one thing to launch an offense over lies, well thats all together something else.

I wonder what our budget would look like without all the funds we send Israel and Egypt gone.  I also believe we have a responsibility to give some humanitarian aid around the globe, but Israel and Egypt arent even on the same field with Ethiopia or even Uganda where they simply wont survive without help. 

If our money wasnt being used in such a way then perhaps lunches could be provided across the board and no one would be 1) In the know of the financial situation of another or 2) sore about it.

I believe it was the elite who came here not the poor.  There was no need for social services until the population and values of this country got out of hand.

I


                                                 

   
                                             

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong, because sometime in life you will have been one or all of these. George Washington Carver

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)