"From welfare to a work-based safety net: An incomplete transition" published by JPAM

November 6, 2015

A research study by Sandra K. Danziger, Sheldon Danziger, Kristin S. Seefeldt, and Luke Shaefer, "From welfare to a work‐based safety net: An incomplete transition," was published in the November 2015 edition of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.


The passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which we label welfare reform, decisively “ended welfare as we knew it” by eliminating the federal entitlement to cash assistance that Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) had provided for 60 years. The new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is a fixed federal block grant that allows states to spend federal and state funds flexibly on cash assistance or a range of other services provided to needy families with children. PRWORA requires only that states enforce participation in work or work-related activities and impose time limits on the receipt of cash assistance from federal funds.

Because it is not an entitlement program, TANF does not require states to provide benefits to all eligible families, nor does it require them to assume responsibility for guaranteeing unemployed recipients who reach their time limit a job if they cannot find one. As a result, the transition to the new “work-based safety net” remains incomplete: neither the federal government nor the states replaced the entitlement to cash assistance with an entitlement to participate in work or work-related activities.

To learn more, read "From welfare to a work‐based safety net: An incomplete transition." For questions, contact Luke Shaefer.