About Us
Topics
BUDGET POLICY
CHILD CARE, EARLY
EDUCATION & HEAD START
CHILD WELFARE & CHILD ABUSE
EDUCATION
ELDERLY
FAMILY POLICY, MARRIAGE & DIVORCE
FOOD ASSISTANCE, SNAP & WIC
HEALTH CARE POLICY
INCOME & POVERTY
JOB TRAINING
LEGAL ISSUES
PAY FOR SUCCESS, PAY FOR RESULTS & SIBS
POLITICAL PROCESS
PROGRAM EVALUATION
SOCIAL POLICY
TEEN SEX & NON-MARITAL BIRTHS
WELFARE REFORM
Child Abuse Training
International Activities
Health Policy Collaboration
Rossi Award for Program Evaluation
UMD Capstone Courses
Publications
Mailing List
Contact Us




Lawrence Mead Talking Points

Introduction

    We're supposed to look to the future of welfare.

    It's tough to guess, since so much unexpected has happened already.

    But three things are reasonably clear:

1. There's no going back

    The public desire to base welfare on work was always profound.

    For thirty years, politicians, especially in Washington, chiefly pursued other agenda.

      Liberals wanted to do more for the poor, conservatives less.,

      Rather than change the nature of welfare to enforce work.

    Somehow PRWORA broke the logjam

      It set the toughest work requirements yet from the federal level.

      States are also getting much tougher about expecting work.

        It's true that only a few, such as Wisconsin, have a hard-and-first work requirement.

        But most have:

          Sharply raised participation levels, backed up by much tougher sanctions.

            In a recent GAO study of seven states, the share of welfare adults participating in work programs rose from 44 to 65 percent between 1994 and 1997

          Insisted on "work first" rather than education and training.

            In the same GAO study, the share of participants in job placement rose from half or less to half or more in the the same period.

    A reversal is inconceivable.

      To link welfare and work is deeply popular and legitimate.

      To question it would take far more adverse consequences for families than we see to date.

2. Not everyone is going to work

    The new demands have sharply raised work levels among recipients and former participants, both on and off welfare.

      In GAO's study, 6 out of 7 states had raised job placement rates sharply, 1995-7.

      Also, the share of families meeting TANF participation standards, which require work for most, rose from 8-28 percent to 19-55 percent over 1994-7.

      If all the former recipients were working, the future would be clear--keep enforcing work and driving the rolls down.

    But the largest effect of work enforcement to date hasn't been work but diversion.

      Massive numbers of people are simply leaving the rolls and disappearing.

        The national TANF rolls have fallen by more than a third since 1994, far more than anyone predicted.

        In some states, the fall is far greater than this.

      But surveys suggest that only about half of these families are working.

        The others are finding other ways to survive, typically by getting help from friends and relatives.

    This suggests:

      Not everyone is capable of working.

      The rolls will not fall indefinitely.

      Hence:

3. Welfare will change but persist

    Something must be done for those who:

      Can't work in regular jobs.

        Guesses range from a fifth to a third of the caseloads at its height as of 1994.

      Leave without working and then can't sustain themselves.

        What happens when the friends and neighbors give out?

      Both groups will grow in the next recession.

    Welfare agencies will engage in outreach to former and potential clients.

      Partly to address these needs.

      And because the current caseload fall leaves them with slack capacity.

    We can't go back to entitlement.

      The public will not accept large numbers of clients getting aid simply because they appear to be incompetent.

      Even those who can't work in regular jobs will be expected to something for society in return for aid.

        Some form of structured community service.

        That would be good for them and the community.

      The only out will be for those impaired enough to qualify for the disability programs.

        Even these will come under pressure to expect more of their benef iciaries.

    Rather, welfare will become paternalist.

      Fewer people will be on welfare.

      But those who remain on the rolls will be dealt with more ambitiously.

        They will get aid.

        But they will also be expected to function, in minimal ways.

          A build up public jobs programs is likely, perhaps using Welfare to Work money.

          Intensive social services will play a larger and more directive role than in the past.

          Social work academics hate paternalism.

          But for operating social workers, it's a mandate for full employment,

          Welfare will become a regime--both supportive and mandatory.

How is all this consistent with the TANF time limits--it isn't.

For the bottom of the caseload, I think, welfare will have to choose between time limits and work.

    TANF has cut dependency more than it has raised work levels, although it doing both.

    The 1 /5 exemption from the time limit may or may not be enough to "carry" the difficult cases beyond five years.

    These cases need structure to function at all--and that may take a welfare system that looks beyond five years.

    The public ultimately is more interested in promoting effort than in ending all dependency.


Back to top


HOME - PUBLICATIONS - CONFERENCES - ABOUT US - CONTACT US