PAUL BUTLER, HOST: A new Cato Institute study indicates that single-parent poverty dropped by 62 percent between 1995 and 2016. Researchers claim that this decline points to the success of welfare reforms in the 1990s.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Why is this study significant? To find out, we asked WORLD’s Compassion Beat reporter, Addie Offereins.
ADDIE OFFEREINS, REPORTER: This story is showing us that welfare reforms that added work requirements and time limits to programs for needy families in the 1990s are paying off now. And we're seeing the caseload on these programs dropped significantly, earnings went up. And these programs, the vast majority were servicing single parents. And so Congress had a goal in mind to incentivize two parent households to get people off of welfare into the workforce. And that’s why they added these work requirements and time limits and urge states to enforce these so they would penalize states who didn’t. And today, this study is showing us that we’re seeing —we have seen—a significant increase in the incomes of single mothers and single fathers that point to these reforms being successful. And like I mentioned before, because single parents were the vast majority of those cases, those welfare cases, that's who this is impacting the most. And that's what the study is looking into.
BUTLER: How does single-parent poverty look different today than it did back in the 90s?
OFFEREINS: Congress passed reforms with a couple of goals in mind, like I mentioned, to get people off welfare in the long term to increase their earnings. And in some ways, they worked in the sense that we do see an overall increase in single parent earnings and less people on welfare. But at the same time, we still do see overall higher rates of single mothers and single fathers on welfare in poverty than their married counterparts. And one of the goals of the welfare reforms was to incentivize more two parent households, to incentivize people getting married at higher rates. And that’s actually something we didn’t see happen after these reforms. So we saw that overall increase in income, but today, we’re still seeing a decline in marriage. So I talked with a couple ministries that specifically minister to single mothers—one in California and one in New York—and what they emphasize is less about getting someone out of poverty by getting them the resources that they need, but they’re emphasizing building relationships and building a support network around single mothers. They pointed out that an increase in income is helpful for sure. But what’s even more helpful long term is these relationships, this long term support that will move them out of poverty in the long term and is much more helpful than another round of welfare assistance in the short term.
BROWN: Addie Offereins is WORLD’s Compassion Beat reporter, and if you’d like to read more from Addie’s story, we’ll post a link in today’s transcript.
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