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Welfare Reforms in the United States Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 26th, 2021

Welfare reforms refer to the policy change in countries that have state-administered systems to enable governments to support their citizens in meeting their basic human wants and needs, especially the unemployed where the governments provide payments to the unemployed through welfare payments. The welfare reforms policy advocates for government policy changes to reduce the welfare payments’ recipient dependence on the government. Though it has been an issue of controversy in many nations all over the world, welfare reforms have their merits and demerits. In this paper, the two sides (proponent and opponent) will be discussed.

Advantages of welfare Reforms

The welfare systems increase the dependence of the recipients on the government, instead of on themselves. The welfare payments provided to the people do very little in reducing poverty levels and introducing welfare reforms reduce the recipient’s dependence on the government,( Patrick et al, 2003). On the other hand, it encourages the recipients to seek employment, which will, in turn, improve their living standards due to the income that they earn. When people depend on the government for welfare payments they fail to make any efforts to earn an income on their own, increasing poverty levels. The welfare reforms would be very instrumental in reducing the poverty level if people are encouraged to earn their own income. Welfare programs are said to act counterproductively towards poverty eradication goals but instead increase poverty by increased the dependency of the people on the government.

Welfare reforms are very important in discouraging unemployment and encourages them to work with the welfare reform proposals providing the best alternative to welfare, by encouraging people to work. The welfare reform policymakers use three tools to increase employment and earnings in the people. Under federal waivers, one tool is by using financial incentives to encourage recipients to work. In this manner, they can keep their welfare check even after going to work. Providing education and training to welfare recipients is another tool; through the reforms education and training are very important in empowering people to work. Skills and knowledge are acquired to make it easy for them to acquire jobs and even pursue further education as well as making work pay more than welfare encourages people to work. The policies may allow child-care assistance for low-income working families, which will be effective in moving the recipients into jobs and also encourage good work ethics instead of poor ethics that are promoted by welfare systems,( MacDougal, 2005).

Consequently, good working ethics promoted by welfare reforms encourage productivity in work. Encouraging people to work instead of depending on welfare, increases the number of people in employment in any given nation. The economy is able to gain revenue from improved productivity instead of spending a lot of money through welfare systems to support the unemployed, especially where the welfare rolls increase. For example, in the US the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 authorized Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for recipients, if they worked for 20 hours per week. This encourages people to work rather than just wait and get the welfare payments.

Furthermore, encouraging people to work through the reforms results in another advantage where the welfare rolls (number of people receiving payments) have been observed to drop after the introduction of the welfare reforms,( MacDougal 2005). According to MacDougal 2005, welfare rolls in many states and cities declined, with Illinois getting an 86% reduction in welfare recipients.

The welfare system has encouraged the exploitation of some citizens through cheating by introducing welfare reforms curbing this irresponsible behavior in citizens,(Michael.D. T, 2003). For instance, the welfare payments distributed through an AFDC program (Aid to Families with Dependent children) in the US experienced numerous cases of ‘welfare queens’ who used to cheat the welfare system. This they did by receiving multiple checks every month while they didn’t work. Reforms to the welfare system stopped this kind of cheating with the failed AFDC program replacement with PRWORA( Personal Responsibility and work opportunity Reconciliation Act) which transformed the welfare system and allowed the reconstruction of the welfare system. The TANF program through welfare programs has prevented and encouraged a two-parent family, with decreased rates of illegitimate births to single parents. On the other hand, TANF allows illegitimate children born after a period of ten months of public assistance case establishment, entitled to cash benefits,( Debra W. 2004). The number of children born out of wedlock has reduced due to the reforms through the TANF program.

Disadvantages of welfare reforms

Welfare reforms provide time limits with the time limits given by the policies subjecting the recipients to illegal alternative ways of earning an income, especially where the policies have a short time limit. The welfare reform bill that was signed in 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act provided a time limit of five years,(Ron. H, 2006). The five-year time limit was considered short and may encourage those who exceed the limit to turn into begging or crime. Furthermore, adopting welfare reforms may provide too little money for vocational training. Education and training are important in developing knowledge and skills for people to work and where the reforms devote little finances for vocational training more people would be forced to stay out of employment because they lack the working qualifications.

The welfare reforms do not reduce the rate of child poverty in families. There are sharp increases in extreme poverty with very little improvement for low-income families in overall conditions (Debra. W,2004). In the US, very few poor children receive cash from safety net programs or food stamps due to the reforms. TANF cash assistance no longer exists since the 1996 legislation. In 1998 the largest poverty gap per poor child was recorded. Furthermore, welfare reforms where parents are working with only a minimum wage do not provide an income above poverty levels,( Jacqueline. K.P et al, 2001).

Though TANF has encouraged two-parent families through the reforms, it is considered as an intrusion into people’s private lives at the expense of single parents as a TANF benefits condition of receipt. Getting married is a private decision and the US government should not coerce people into getting married. Marriage and reproducing is a man’s basic right and the constitution protects one right in making a choice about marriage.


The Welfare Reforms have been successful in achieving its goals through the implemented programs. The reforms have reduced poverty and hunger, encouraged work and productivity as well as decreased the welfare rolls. In addition, good working ethics have resulted from mitigated cheating practices and the culture of poverty discouraged.

Works Cited

Debra W. 2004 “Welfare Reform Harms the poor” Opposing viewpoint: Poverty, Ed Karen Balking, San Diego: Green haven press.

MacDougal, 2005. Make A Difference: A spectacular Breakthrough in the Fight Against Poverty St Martin’s Press.

Jacqueline. K.P and Martha. D, 2001. Welfare Reform Testimony Submitted to House ways and means Human Resources Subcommittee Hearing.

Michael.D. T , 2003. The poverty of Welfare: Helping others in Civil Society. Cato Institute Libertarian approach.

Patrick F.F. and Robert R. 2003 “The Continuing Good News About Welfare Reform” The Heritage Foundation.

Ron.H, 2006. Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law. Brookings Institution Press

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