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Abstract

A review of the scholarly literature shows that a number of analyses of welfare are mistakenly based upon the premise that the overwhelming majority of welfare recipients receive benefits because they are young single women who are undereducated and caring for a child either born out of wedlock or abandoned by divorce/separation. The term welfare can encompasses a number of social programs (e.g. Food Stamps, state general assistance programs, Medicaid), but in this paper it refers specifically to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or its contemporary Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In an attempt to calibrate the accuracy of this long held stereotype, the authors surveyed a representative stratified random sample of individuals who received TANF in the state of Georgia. The resulting profile led to the identification of four distinctive groups on the welfare rolls. These groups or groupings, as they are referred to in the paper, show that only some families fit the traditional stereotype while others are accessing the welfare system because of health problems, child abandonment, limited retirement assets, poor education, and fluctuating labor markets.

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