Consequences of Welfare Reform: A Research Synthesis

Publication Date: July 15, 2002


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The TANF program implemented by PRWORA–and a series of state-level reforms instituted prior to 1996 known as state waivers–produced changes in the structure of welfare benefits, introduced time limits, strengthened requirements for mandatory participation in work-related activities, and changed various administrative procedures.

To inform public debate on issues relating to the reauthorization of the TANF program in 2002 and to help states in refining the designs of their TANF programs, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) contracted with RAND to synthesize the current state of knowledge about the effects of the TANF legislation and the TANF programs of individual states. To this end, this document–the final report for the synthesis project–considers a range of outcomes, including the welfare caseload, employment and earnings, use of other government programs, fertility and marriage, household income and poverty, food security and housing, and child development. The primary focus of the synthesis is on the net effects of TANF, taking into account the effects of other factors such as the economy and other policy changes that may have affected the outcomes of interest. Like the literature on which it is based, the synthesis considers both the effects of specific policies including benefit structures, time limits, work requirements, and sanction policies, as well as the effect of the TANF reforms as a whole.

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