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The government incentivized single parenting over marriage marriage

How welfare reform made women worse off

Published: Feb. 27, 2018 at 9:33 p.m. ET

By Jacob Passy

New research indicates that welfare reform in the 1990s negatively affected women

Welfare reform in the 1990s was heralded as a success — but the political win it represents may have come at women’s expense.

The 1996 Welfare Reform Act has had a negative effect on women, according to a new report authored by researchers from the University of Cambridge, Stanford University, Yale University and the University of Chicago, and distributed by the National Bureau for Economic Research.

The study examined the effects of the act, also known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton. Primarily, the bill replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, an entitlement program for low-income families, with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The new program, still in effect today, requires recipients to get a job after receiving benefits for two years and limits the duration of benefits paid by federal funds to five years over a person’s lifetime. However, the bill allowed states to impose more stringent requirements, which many did. The legislation further restricted the aid available to unmarried parents.

Also see:Many older Americans are living a desperate, nomadic life

There were arguably two main goals of the legislation: To increase employment by pushing single mothers into the workforce and to prioritize marriage. And to an extent those goals were achieved, researchers wrote.

“Welfare utilization declined dramatically and persistently, especially for single women; and that the employment of all women increased,” the researchers wrote. “Further, the number of divorces declined. On the other hand, we find no detectable effects on the flow of marriages or on fertility.”

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