Welfare reform, single mothers, public cash assistance


The 1996 welfare reform law transformed the nation’s cash welfare system into a time-limited, work-based program. Welfare caseloads dropped by more than half, but in more recent years and in the wake of the Great Recession, relatively little research has focused on TANF program participation, particularly from the vantage point of clients and potential clients. This paper uses qualitative data from interviews with very low-income single mothers conducted in 2013. Analysis of the interview data yielded three different narratives regarding how TANF did not meet their needs: it did not help them find jobs; it did not assist those with personal and family challenges; and it failed to perform as a safety net.

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