During the 1990s, the federal government promised low-income families that work would pay. Parents moved into jobs in response to new welfare rules requiring work, tax credits and other work supports that boosted take-home pay. Unfortunately, the record shows that low-income families have not progressed much. Many don't bring home enough to cover the everyday costs of living. This paper synthesizes the current status of low-income families along with the findings from a set of essays that address key shortcomings in the safety net. The paper summarizes ideas for policies that would make work pay in today's economy.