Welfare reform in 1996 ended more than 60 years of guaranteed cash assistance to poor families and turned responsibility for the social safety net over to states. The historic shifts raised many questions: How would states serve the devolved role? How would poor families fare under “work-first” programs? And what would happen to families once they left welfare rolls? Urban’s intensive research project, Assessing the New Federalism, tracked more than 40,000 families across the country, profiled state agencies’ capacities and challenges, and created a database of evolving state welfare rules. These vital statistics filled the vacuum created when the federal government cut back on welfare monitoring and offered a comprehensive history of welfare reform’s effects on families. One finding concerned the central role of food stamps in the new safety net and how many people failed to receive benefits to which they were entitled, leading to new efforts to improve enrollment policies.
The End of “Welfare as We Know It”