Incomes Fell for Poorest Children of Single Mothers in Welfare Law’s First Decade

Average incomes fell significantly among the poorest children in single-mother families in the first decade after enactment of the 1996 welfare law, reflecting a large drop in cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant.  These findings provide further evidence that supports the growing agreement among researchers that TANF’s record has been mixed.  Since the welfare law’s enactment, the overall poverty rate for single-parent families has fallen — though many other factors besides TANF influenced this trend — but the poorest families and children have become worse off.  Previous analyses have found that the share of children in “deep poverty,” with incomes below half of the poverty line, climbed during the welfare law's first decade.

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