Welfare Reform's Fifth Anniversary
Examining the Social, Political and Economic Results

The welfare caseload has dropped to half its peak in 1994. Sources: The Brookings Institution and the Congressional Research Service.

Aug. 22, 2001 -- Five years ago today, a massive overhaul of the nation's welfare system was signed into law. "Welfare should be a second chance, not a way of life," then-President Bill Clinton said as he approved the bill. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act imposed a five-year lifetime limit on assistance to welfare recipients. That cap kicks in this year and next for tens of thousands of families.

Clinton faced vehement protests from some of his staunchest supporters when he signed welfare reform bill. But today, the measures aimed at getting people off assistance and into jobs are generally deemed a success. At its peak in 1996, Aid to Families with Dependent Children -- the main government program providing income assistance to the poor -- had a caseload of 4.55 million families. It is now less than half that.

To mark this anniversary of welfare reform, NPR News this week examines the social, political and economic ramifications of the changes.

• Aug. 22 on Morning Edition, listen as Ina Jaffe looks at the big picture of what the welfare reforms have wrought.

• Aug. 22 on All Things Considered, listen as Tovia Smith reports on one of the most significant developments in the five years since welfare reform: the explosion of federal aid for child care.

• Aug. 23 on Morning Edition, listen as NPR's Melissa Block discusses the future of welfare reform with two experts: Rebecca Blank, formerly an economic adviser to President Clinton, and Marvin Olasky, author of Compassionate Conservatism.

• Aug. 25 on Weekend All Things Considered, listen as Emily Harris looks at how the politics -- and players -- will be different when the federal welfare reform law is reauthorized next year. Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton are gone, the booming economy is slowing down, and the widespread perception that welfare has been a success may make lawmakers less willing to maintain funding.

Read Clinton's announcement
Read the text of the new welfare law

Administration for Children and Families Web site
Welfare Reform Research, Evaluations & National Studies Web site
Welfare Information Network Web site
Welfare Reform Academy Web site
The Brookings Institution's "Welfare Reform & Beyond" Web site
National Conference of State Legislatures Web Site
The Urban Institute's Welfare Web site

Past Coverage:

Welfare and Families
Weekend Edition Sunday, August 19, 2001

Host Liane Hansen speaks with Wendell Primus, director of the Income Security Division at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about the effects of welfare reform on families in America.

Welfare Reform
Weekend Edition Sunday, August 19, 2001

Since the welfare reform law went into effect, millions have been put to work. With the focus on jobs, there's been little attention to the law's other major goal: promoting stable, two-parent families. NPR's Emily Harris looks at whether government can, or should, encourage couples to marry.

Welfare Reform Revisited
Weekend Edition Saturday, August 18, 2001

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports that the welfare reforms have important implications for helping those families receive the services they need, and for maintaining political support for welfare reform.

Welfare On the Move
Weekend All Things Considered, August 18, 2001

Millions of people have found jobs and gotten off public assistance since welfare reforms were launched five years ago. But in California, things haven't gone so smoothly. So several of the state's counties have come up with an unusual solution. Tamara Keith reports on the program.

Welfare Reform
Weekend Edition Sunday, May 6, 2001

A new poll by National Public Radio, The Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government reveals America's changing attitude toward poverty.

Welfare Reform
All Things Considered, April 25, 2001

Host Robert Siegel speaks with Megan Twohey, welfare reporter for the National Journal, about how welfare reform has affected the lives of people.

Declining Economy and Welfare
Morning Edition, April 11, 2001

Andrea Dukakis reports on the effect of an economic downturn on people trying to get off of welfare. Although the number of people on welfare has decreased since the passage of a federal welfare reform law, a recession could cause caseloads to rise.

Legal Aid
All Things Considered, February 28, 2001

NPR's Nina Totenberg reports on today's Supreme Court ruling that poor people may use federally funded lawyers to sue over the loss of welfare benefits.

Welfare Report
All Things Considered, January 23, 2001

Amid the debates over welfare reform, many experts worried that in the push to find jobs for working mothers, their children might suffer. NPR's Emily Harris reports on new research that identifies elements of programs that actually produce benefits for children.

Welfare & Children
All Things Considered, February 4, 2000

A new study looks at the lives and experiences of 1000 mothers just getting off welfare in California, Connecticut and Florida.

Florida Welfare
All Things Considered, December 14, 1999

Welfare caseloads have declined dramatically since the law was overhauled three years ago. But not everyone who leaves the welfare rolls is a success story. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on the struggles of two women in Miami.

Welfare - Drug Tests
All Things Considered, September 30, 1999

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to overturn a new law in Michigan that requires applicants to its welfare program to take a drug test. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

Privatizing Welfare
Morning Edition, August 23, 1999

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on Milwaukee's experiment in privatizing the welfare system.

Privatising Welfare
Weekend Edition Sunday, August 22, 1999

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on YW Works, a private agency that helps welfare clients move into the workforce. Wisconsin's welfare rolls have decreased by 80 percent but the decline is leveling off.

Welfare Anniversary
Weekend Edition Sunday, August 22, 1999

After three years of welfare reform, critics say it will drive many into poverty; supporters claimed in would bring economic independence to millions. NPR's Peter Overby reports on conflicting opinions about the success of the law since its inception.

All Things Considered, August 20, 1999

One of the most active states in experimenting with its welfare program is Wisconsin, where the caseload has dropped by about 80 percent. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports from Milwaukee.

Welfare to Work
Morning Edition, August 5, 1999

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports on the Welfare to Work Partnership conference in Chicago. For the past two years the program focused its attention on persuading businesses to help reduce welfare roles by hiring welfare recipients. Now the program is concentrating on small businesses.

Welfare Reform
Morning Edition, August 4, 1999

Host Elizabeth Arnold talks with Pamela LoPrest, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, about welfare reform.

Clinton - Welfare
All Things Considered, August 3, 1999

President Clinton highlights the latest figures that show a smaller percentage of people on the nation's welfare rolls.

Welfare to Work
All Things Considered, August 3, 1999

Host Linda Wertheimer speaks with Gordon Berlin, Senior Vice President with the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. Berlin says there are a few studies that are tracking people who leave welfare to find out how they fare after leaving the system, but they are not yet complete.

Welfare Cases Decline
Morning Edition, July 16, 1999

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on the dramatic decline in welfare caseloads since Congress reformed the welfare system three years ago. Although reported cases dropped by as much as 80-percent in some states, it's not known exactly why those recipients got off assistance.

Welfare Changes
Morning Edition, May 28, 1999

NPR's Pam Fessler reports on a study of welfare changes by the General Accounting Office. Republicans say the 1996 changes to welfare have been a huge success. But Democrats and advocates for the poor say the report's information is misleading.

Welfare Payments
Morning Edition, May 18, 1999

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports that the Supreme Court has overturned a California law that limited the size of welfare payments new residents could receive, to the lower amounts paid by states where they used to live.

SCOTUS - Welfare
All Things Considered, May 17, 1999

The Supreme Court ruled today that states cannot pay new residents lower welfare benefits than they pay to long-time residents. The justices' 7-2 decision, which came in a California case, also affects laws in at least 14 other states. NPR's Nina Totenberg reports.

Welfare Reform
Morning Edition, January 7, 1999

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on early results from changes in the welfare system. Many states have adopted shorter time limits for recipients than the five year limit commonly imposed. But so far this has not caused the problems many analysts predicted.

Welfare Data
All Things Considered, December 30, 1998

NPR's Ina Jaffe talks with Robert about recently-released statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services which show that states are, by and large, meeting the requirements for the new federal welfare reform law.

Rural Welfare
All Things Considered, October 1, 1998

Andrea Dukakis reports that people who live in rural areas are having a tough time getting off welfare because those areas are not seeing record low unemployment. Welfare recipients are struggling to compete with more attractive candidates for jobs.

Welfare Rule Change
All Things Considered, October 1, 1998

New welfare rules go into effect nationwide which increase the work requirement for a number of welfare recipients to receive their benefits. Illinois has implemented a policy that eases sanctions if people are actually working 25 hours a week or more. NPR 's Cheryl Corley reports.

Welfare Law
Weekend All Things Considered, August 22, 1998

Host Jacki Lyden speaks with Wendell Primus, a former top official at the Department of Health and Human Services who resigned two years ago in protest over President Clinton's signing of the Welfare Bill.

Welfare and College
All Things Considered, August 11, 1998

Should welfare support college students? Most states give a resounding "NO," but others argue its the surest way to helping people off government assistance into good-paying jobs.

Employing Welfare Recipients
Morning Edition, July 28, 1998

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on the latest findings about welfare reform, citing two new reports that show employers are eager to hire in entry-level recipients, and that even a part-time job can increase one''s wages significantly.

Welfare Reform
All Things Considered, June 23, 1998

Two reports are issued by the Department of Health and Human Services indicate that the approach of getting welfare recipients into jobs first, versus training first, then looking for jobs seems to be having some success in getting people off of welfare.

Clinton on Welfare to Work
All Things Considered, May 27, 1998

We'll hear an excerpt of President Clinton's speech at the White House, commemorating the first anniversary of his welfare-to-work initiative.

Rejecting Federal Welfare Money
Morning Edition, April 21, 1998

NPR's Larry Abramson reports on the decision by Ohio and four other states not to apply for federal money that's intended to help welfare recipients make the transition to work.

Workfare Rules
All Things Considered, April 13, 1998

New York City Mayor Giuliani is implementing one of the toughest welfare-to-work policies in the country. The city's new, strict welfare rules will require that everyone on public assistance must either find a paying job or work for their benefits by working for the city, doing office or maintenance work.

Welfare in Workplace
All Things Considered, April 9, 1998

A new survey reveals that 3 out of 4 companies that have hired welfare recipients say the workers have proven to be good and productive employees. NPR's David Molpus reports.

Morning Edition

All Things Considered