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adequate, affordable child care make it impossible for many mothers realistically to expect to join the paid labor force. '3 In two-parent families, the high cost of child care means that the unemployed parent cannot help to bring the family out of poverty by simply obtaining a minimum-wage job to supplement the earnings of an already-employed parent." In singleparent families, the prospect that paid employment will bring a family with child care expenses out of poverty, even if the job pays significantly higher than the minimum wage, is remote. If the single parent is female or disabled, the chance of obtaining a high-paying job is extremely limited by employment discrimination and a sex-segregated job system. As a result, the traditional, full-employment approach to ending poverty is not significant. Even if the American economy could expand fast enough to provide a job to every able-bodied person in the country, widespread poverty would still exist unless most of those jobs paid significantly above the minimum wage and provided at least health insurance and child care.

The federal government could, of course, raise the minimum wage and mandate the provision of such benefits. Economists, however, argue that this would greatly diminish the number of available jobs. This, in turn, would push people back into poverty if they are fired, or would never allow them to leave poverty if jobs are unavailable. This means either government must create jobs to fill the gap, or government must provide wage supplements, expand health coverage, and subsidize child care. Each of these approaches is costly; together, they are very expensive. Given the national economic realities outlined above, such costly reforms seem unlikely, at least in the immediate future.

up. On the dark side, unemployment is at an all-time high for a period of economic recovery. The federal budget deficit, business and consumer debt, and the trade deficit are all very large.' In response to some of the problems, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction plan in 1985.8 Under this law, the federal budget must be balanced by FY 1991. In this context, money for new approaches to solving problems in the welfare system will be limited. In other words, the overall economic situation of the country has an effect on policymakers' thinking about welfare reform. Even those elected officials who believe reform is necessary talk about gradual approaches and/or eliminating existing programs in order to fund new ones.

Beyond the national economic picture, there are some specific economic issues relating to poverty that must also be recognized. Most people assume that the best way out of poverty is to get a job. However, in recent years, jobs have not been available. For the last six and a half years, the unemployment rate has been at or about 7 percent. Moreover, the number of long-term unemployed persons climbed 45 percent between 1980 and 1986. In addition, the number of discouraged workers and workers wanting full-time employment but only able to obtain part-time work has grown dramatically. Research shows that, when these trends occur, low-income workers—especially black men—are hit the hardest. 10

Even for those who do obtain jobs, the picture is not rosy. For several years, the minimum wage has remained stagnant while inflation has increased prices. As a result, a single person who obtains a minimum-wage job can move out of poverty; a two-parent family with just one child will still be in poverty even when one of the parents is working full-time. If the family has more than one child, its poverty is staggering." Yet, as Bluestone and Harrison have recently shown, the vast majority of new jobs created in the American economy in the last five years have been in the service industries, which, by and large, pay their workers the minimum wage. There has been no expansion whatsoever of jobs in the higher paying manufacturing sector. ?? Moreover, besides low wages, jobs in the service sector are characterized by provision of few, if any, benefits. The lack of health care coverage is a major, immediate problem: some 35 million Americans have no health care coverage. Most of these are persons employed in the retail or service industries. For them, even a minor illness or accident can be catastrophic.

In addition, more and more recognition is being given to the fact that lack of parental leave policies and a dearth of 7. For a fuller discussion of the current state of the American

economy, see Clark & Corrigan, Ronald Reagan's Economy

Nat'l J., Dec. 13, 1986, at 2982. 8. Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985,

Pub. L. No. 99-177, 99 Stat. 1037 (1985). 9. The Employment Situation January 1986 Through November 1986,

BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS News (Jan. 1987). 10. Gramlich & Laren, How Widespread Are Income Losses in a

Recession?, in THE SOCIAL CONTRACT REVISITED 161 (D.L. Bawden ed. 1984); Blank & Blinder, Macroeconomics, Income Distribution and Poverty, in FIGHTING POVERTY: WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN'T? 180 (S. Danziger & D. Weinberg eds.


SHIP TO INCOMES AND POVERTY, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. (1986). 12. B. BLUESTONE & B. Harrison, THE GREAT AMERICAN JOB



B. Philosophical Approaches

To truly understand the different philosophical approaches to the welfare system, one needs to review briefly the legacy of the English poor laws and their effect on American thinking. These laws were based on four important principles. First, the poor could be divided into two categories. The “worthy poor” were impoverished through no fault of their own (e.8., the sick and aged) or because they could not find work. “Paupers,” on the other hand, were those who refused to work. Paupers represented a moral pestilence and had to be controlled, put in the poor house, and made to work. Second, distinguishing between the worthy poor and paupers was a function thought best performed at the local level. Thus, administration of any program—be it community-based or removal to the poor house



Cong., 2d Sess. (1984). 14. For a child under age five, the yearly cost of family day care

ranged from $1,500 to over $3,250 in 1984. For center-based care, costs ranged from $1,750 to over $3,800. Child Care Fact Sheet (available from the National Commission on Working Women, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 508, Washington, DC 20036). If a family has two children, it is probably more costly for both

parents to work unless high-paying jobs are available to both. 15. See, e.g., SEX SEGREGATION IN THE WORKPLACE: TRENDS, Ex

PLANATIONS, REMEDIES (B. Reskin ed. 1984); J. Smith & M.

(1984). 16. Brown, Gilroy, & Kohen, The Effect of Minimum Wage on

Employment and Unemployment, J. Econ. LITERATURE, June 1982.



Photo by Martha Tabor

was left to local governments. Third, funding of any programs was certainly a government responsibility. However, private philanthropy and religious charity were also serious components of any welfare system. Finally, in order to encourage people to seek employment, any welfare system had to pay less in benefits than could be obtained by working. Indeed, it was felt that conditions of relief should be so odious that one would do anything to avoid them.17

Until the 1930s, these principles were largely incorporated into American thinking. Early on there was a system of poor houses for paupers and programs for the worthy poor, both of which were run by local government. Private charity was a recognized part of the system. Benefits were very low. In fact, the major form of available help was to find the needy person a job. Widows, unmarried mothers, and women who had been deserted were expected to take employment to support their children.

The Great Depression created a surplus of labor. In part to provide incentives to widows and to deserted mothers with young children to leave the paid labor force, the Social Security Act created AFDC. The program was not so much born out of altruistic concern with the plight of poor women and children as out of the desire to give the available jobs to men. Moreover, while the federal government pays part of the cost of AFDC benefits, eligibility determinations are made and benefit levels set by state or local governments. "9

It was almost 30 years before work requirements were added to the AFDC program,20 and 40 years passed before there was even an attempt to establish a system for collecting child support from the absent parents of AFDC children. 21 In the meantime, no broad program was developed to provide cash assistance to two-parent families, 22 benefits were low, and there is substantial evidence that the system was administered in a racially discriminatory manner. 23 Nonetheless, critics of the system rarely focused on these inadequacies. Instead, during the 1950s and early 1960s, the welfare system came under attack by those concerned about the “culture of poverty." Sociologists Oscar Lewis, Michael Harrington, Walter Miller, and Edward Banfield were largely responsible for developing


this theory.24 Stripped to its essentials, the culture of poverty theory argues that the poor have different values, aspirations, and psychological characteristics than the rest of society. These differences are largely negative, creating and perpetuating poverty. Moreover, these negative characteristics are passed on from generation to generation, thus creating a permanent class of poor people.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, scholars cast doubt on this theory for a variety of reasons, including the fact that its proponents based their arguments on an extremely small subset of the poor and made sweeping generalizations from very limited data. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," applied the theory to the black family, the culture of poverty theory became, for many, synonomous with racism.26 For a while, at least, few were willing to argue its validity. 27 Other types of criticism did, nonetheless, begin to emerge. One group became concerned because of the “feminization” of poverty. Indeed, while poverty rates for the elderly and two-parent families were decreasing, poverty rates among single-parent, female-headed families with children were reaching shocking heights.

Diana Pearce, then Director of Research of the Center for National Policy Review, and Harriet McAdoo, a professor at Howard University, believe the problem is rooted in the dual

17. For a discussion of the Elizabethan poor laws in general, see K.

DESCHWEINITZ, ENGLAND'S ROAD TO SOCIAL SECURITY (1943). 18. See, e.g., Reisenfield, The Formative Years of American Public

Assistance Law, 43 Calif. L. Rev. 175 (1975); W. BELL, AID TO DEPENDENT CHILDREN (1965); J. TEN BROEK, THE LAW OF THE


THE FUNCTIONS OF PUBLIC WELFARE (1971). 20. Pub. L. No. 90-248, 81 Stat. 884 (codified at 42 U.S.C.A. $$

630 et seq. (West 1984)). 21. Pub. L. No. 93-647, 88 Stat. 2351 (codified at 42 U.S.C.A. $$

651 et seq. (West 1984 & Supp. 1986)). 22. An optional program that covers a small number of two-parent

families with a primary wage earner who is unemployed or underemployed does exist. This program is called AFDC-U. 42 U.S.C.A. $ 607 (West 1984 & Supp. 1986). There are also a small number of two-parent families who receive AFDC because the wage earner is disabled. Id. at $ 606(a). Further, the Food Stamp Program does provide food coupons to poor two-parent

families. 7 U.S.C.A. 88 2011 et seq. (West Supp. 1986). 23. See Piven & CLOWARD, supra note 19, at 115-16.


SAN JUAN AND NEW YORK (1968); Miller, Focal Concerns of
Lower Class Culture, in POVERTY IN AMERICA (Ferman, Kornbluth,

(1970). 25. For an excellent discussion of the theory and its critics, see

Corcoran, Duncan, Gurin, & Gurin, Myth and Reality: The
Causes and Persistence of Poverty, 4 J. POL'Y ANALYSIS &

MGMT. 516 (1985) (hereinafter Myth and Reality). 26. D. Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action

(unpublished Labor Dep't document 1965). 27. For a critique of the reluctance of social policy experts to

acknowledge the relationship between family structure and black poverty, see Wilson & Neckerman, Poverty and Family Structure: The Widening Gap Between Evidence and Public Policy Issues, in FIGHTING POVERTY, supra note 10, at 232.

welfare system and the dual labor market.28 In their view, women with children are poor because they face a labor market that undervalues their work and consigns them to the lowest paying jobs. At the same time, when they need help they are sent into the low-benefit, stigmatizing AFDC system, not the more generous and prestigious systems of unemployment compensation or social security payments. From their point of view, any “reform” would have to include both making the employment system fair to women and changing public benefits. This would include expanding opportunities for women in nontraditional jobs, providing benefits such as disability and pension coverage to full-time homemakers, and making quality child care broadly available.?

Sylvia Law, a professor at New York University School of Law, added to the discussion by demonstrating that much of the sex segregation in the work force, as well as the inadequacy of the welfare system itself, is directly attributable to the policies of the federal government. 5The federal government,


Policies favoring the requirement of outside work for AFDC mothers may be based on a faulty premise.

ways. The not-so-supermom has an additional prob-
lem. Unless she has a trusted relative or friend who
will take care of her children, she must entrust her
small child to the cheapest alternative, and her slightly
older child to the mercy of the neighborhood. While
her material condition is not measurably altered, her
stress quotient has soared. Her self-respect may be
higher than the welfare mother's, but that can go down
the tubes quickly if the local junkies take an interest in
her son, or the bargain babysitter turns out to be a child
molester. 33

While the debate about the appropriateness of work requirements for mothers with young children rages, many have argued that better child support enforcement is also an integral part of anti-poverty strategy. 34 Recent work at the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research on Poverty bolsters this view, indicating that noncustodial fathers should pay between $16 billion and $24 billion more each year in child support than they currently do.35 To demonstrate how obtaining this money might help low-income families, these researchers have developed a new prototype, which is currently being tested in Wisconsin. Under this plan, an income standard is set for all children. Absent parents pay support through mandatory wage withholding. If the support they pay is less than the income standard, the state supplements the difference. If all goes well, thousands of children could be moved out of poverty at a cost of less than what the state is currently spending on AFDC—a system that leaves those children in poverty.

While those concerned about the impoverishment of women have looked at what is structurally wrong with the employment, welfare, and child support systems, others have revisited the culture of poverty theory. In 1981, journalist Ken Auletta reopened the debate with a series of articles in The New Yorker. Again using a limited group of people, he argues that America does have an underclass that is composed of hostile street criminals, hustlers, the mentally ill, and welfare mothers. Auletta claims that this underclass is responsible for a disproportionate amount of the crime, unemployment, welfare costs, and hostility that beset many American cities. 37

This resurgence of interest in the underclass theory led others, such as University of Michigan researchers Greg Duncan, Mary Corcoran, and Gerald and Patricia Gurin, to examine the broader data rather than a limited subset of individuals. 18 Using information obtained by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a long-term study of poverty in America, they conclude that the culture of poverty theory is not completely consistent with reality. While the data show that there is a group of


therefore, has an obligation to end these policies. In addition, Law raised the question of the appropriateness of work requirements for AFDC mothers with young children. Such requirements demean childrearing as a legitimate occupation worthy of dignity and respect.

Moreover, policies favoring the requirement of outside work for AFDC mothers may be based on a faulty premise. The current argument assumes that most mothers with young children are working outside the home. If most mothers do this, why should AFDC mothers not do so as well? Recent work by Douglas Besharov and Michele Dally of the American Enterprise Institute, however, has shown that, while 62 percent of married mothers with children now participate in the paid labor force, less than one third work full-time year-round. 32

Thus, even if work requirements are contemplated because working mothers are the standard, full-time requirements do not reflect the norm. And, if married mothers do not work full-time year-round, can single AFDC mothers legitimately be expected to do so and still have time to be good parents? As welfare advocate Theresa Funicello has poignantly expressed it:

The not-so-supermom is not married, gets up just as early in the morning, has a job at Chock-Full-o' -Nuts bustling on her feet all day, and then returns home and bustles some more. While dad isn't there to add to the laundry, neither is he there to defray the cost of a washing machine or to take out the garbage. He also can't help with the kids in even the most minor of


AND IN POVERTY (1981). 29. Id. at 28-29. 30. Law, Women, Work, Welfare, and the Preservation of Patriarchy,

131 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1249 (1983). 31. Id. at 1328-39. 32. Besharov & Dally, How Much Are Working Mothers Working?,

PUB. OPINION, Nov/Dec. 1986, at 48.

33. Funiciello, Welfare Mothers Earn Their Way, CHRISTIANITY &

Crisis, Dec. 1984, at 469-70. 34. See, e.g., Roberts, Ameliorating the Feminization of Poverty:

Whose Responsibility?, 18 CLEARINGHOUSE Rev. 883 (Dec.

1984); R. SIDEL, WOMEN AND CHILDREN Last (1986). 35. I. Garfinkel & D. Oellerich, Noncustodial Father's Ability to Pay

Child Support 26 (Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion

Paper No. 815-86, 1986). 36. A. Nichols-Casebolt, I. Garfinkel, & P. Wong, Reforming Wis

consin's Child Support System (Institute for Research on Poverty

Discussion Paper No. 793-85, 1985). 37. These articles were later reprinted as a book. K. AULETTA, THE

UNDERCLASS (1982). 38. Myth and Reality, supra note 25.

persistently poor people in America, they are not young, black, inner-city ghetto residents or welfare mothers. Rather, one third are elderly or live in households headed by an elderly man or woman; two fifths live in households headed by a disabled person. Moreover, they live mainly in small towns or rural areas, largely in the South. 39

Analysis specifically relating to the long-term dependence of AFDC recipients has yielded conflicting results. Early work by Harvard's David Ellwood and Mary Jo Bane0 (as well as the Urban Institute's June O'Neill, Laurie Bassi, and Michael Hannan“') using the PSID data appeared to be consistent with the Corcoran findings showing that there was little long-term dependence on AFDC. Ellwood, who recently updated his work, suggests that most AFDC recipients do leave the program within two years. One sixth, however, remain for eight years or longer, and 24 percent eventually use AFDC for ten or more years. 42 This finding has led to a growing concern that there is a significant group of people who are becoming welfare-dependent, particularly among young, black women who enter the system as teenage parents.

William Julius Wilson and Kathryn Neckerman of the University of Chicago, also using demographic analysis, argue that this problem stems from high unemployment among black men. Not only are these men poor and thus unable to support themselves, but they are also unable to support a family and thus form traditional family ties. This leaves young black women without potential mates, forcing them into opting for out-of-wedlock births, single-head-of-household status, and, inevitably, poverty. It also forecloses marriage—the major avenue out of poverty for AFDC mothers.43 These findings are consistent with those of Princeton University's Rebecca Blank, who has shown that black women stay on AFDC longer than white women because marriage is rarely an option.

Wilson suggests that any attempt to eradicate underclass poverty must include an employment strategy for black males. Similar views have been echoed by lawyer and civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes Norton. Her writing for The New York Times Magazine argues that public assistance should, therefore, be converted from a system of passive maintenance to a program built around education and work for both men and women.“S

Another viewpoint has been expressed by those whose primary concern is preservation of the traditional family. Charles Murray, in Losing Ground, argues that federal welfare policy is destroying the family and that families could be strengthened and poverty eliminated by ending welfare programs entirely. *

Economists Lowell Galloway and Richard Vedder of Ohio University provided statistical data to demonstrate that, for every $1 billion the federal government spends, a quarter of a million people fall into poverty.“7 Galloway and Vedder argue that AFDC, food stamps, and other benefit programs create disincentives to work and undermine the normal effects of a growing economy. Moreover, they posit that, because twoparent families are ineligible for AFDC, people deliberately remain single parents in order to qualify for benefits. 48

A careful examination of the data suggests that these analysts are incorrect. What the data show is that post-transfer poverty decreased during the 1950s and 1960s because the economy was strong and transfer payments were increasing. When the economy weakened, poverty reductions continued for those groups, such as the elderly, whose transfers continued to grow. For children, women with families, and others whose transfers declined, poverty increased. 49 Moreover, research by Ellwood and Bane demonstrates that there is no correlation between high benefits and single parenthood,o and Duncan, Corcoran, Gurin, and Gurin's evidence shows that most poverty occurs due to loss of a job or change in family composition. Si

Others concerned about families, therefore, take a different view. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in a book entitled Family and Nation, concludes that America desperately needs a family policy.52 This policy could include expanding welfare benefits to cover two-parent families, establishing a minimum



executive summary (National Center for Policy Analysis Report

121, 1986). 48. Id. at 8. 49. Ellwood & Summers, Is Poverty Really the Problem?, PUB.


STRUCTURE AND LIVING ARRANGEMENTS (1984). 51. Myth and Reality, supra note 25, at 532. See also B. LEYSER, A.



Welfare Rights Handbook


39. Id. at 26. 40. M. Bane & D. Ellwood, Slipping into and Out of Poverty: The

Dynamics of Spells (National Bureau of Economic Research

Working Paper 1199, 1983). 41. J. O'Neill, L. Bassi, & M. HANNAN, AN ANALYSIS OF TIME


OF AFDC xii (1986). 43. See Wilson & Neckerman, supra note 27. 44. R. Blank, How Important Is Welfare Dependence? (Institute for

Research on Poverty Discussion Paper No. 821-86, 1986). 45. Norton, Restoring the Traditional Black Family, N. Y. Times, June

2, 1985, Magazine at 43, 98. 46. C. MURRAY, LOSING GROUND: AMERICAN Social POLICY,

1950-1980 (1984). For critique of Murray's thesis, see Danziger & Gottschalk, The Poverty of Losing Ground, CHALLENGE, May/June 1985, at 32; Greenstein, Losing Faith in Losing Ground, NEW REPUBLIC, Mar. 25, 1985, at 12.

The Houston Welfare Rights Organization has published the seventh edition of its Welfare Rights Handbook in conjunction with its annual program of community education. The Handbook is a comprehensive collection of information on Texas welfare programs, with an emphasis on services for school children. Programs providing school clothes, school breakfasts and lunches, and school supplies for poor children are described in the Handbook. In addition, information is presented on food stamps, AFDC, child support enforcement, emergency assistance, Medicaid, unemployment compensation, and SSI. Sample forms are included for each area, and benefits calculators are provided that indicate how benefit levels are determined under the various programs. Finally, the Handbook includes sample problems, "tips" for welfare applicants, and a copy of the Welfare Bill of Rights. This 45-page handbook is available from the Clearinghouse, No. 40,755.

national AFDC benefit, indexing benefits to inflation, and reforming the tax system. Others, like Lawrence Mead in Beyond Entitlement, argue that, if these changes are to be made, the poor must accept certain obligations, such as work requirements, if their claim to entitlement and increased income is to be acceptable to the public.53

C. State-Level Experiments

The final piece of information necessary to an understanding of the current debate is that there has been a proliferation of state and local experiments designed to move people from welfare to self-sufficiency. Apart from the Wisconsin child support program described above, most of these are work programs for AFDC and/or food stamp recipients. One set of experiments involves the concept of “workfare.” Under workfare, participants earn their benefits by working in a public or private nonprofit sector job for a number of hours each month. Usually, the required number of hours is determined by dividing the value of the benefits by the minimum wage.

In 1977, Congress authorized the Department of Agriculture to operate 14 food stamp workfare demonstration projects in various areas around the country. 54 It was hoped that the

doubt on these findings. Nonetheless, to some workfare emerged as a vehicle to provide work or job training to public benefits recipients.

In 1981, Congress amended the AFDC law to allow states the flexibility to establish work programs for AFDC recipients. Three options were created: (1) Community Work Experience Programs (CWEP), including workfare;S6 (2) Work Supplement Programs, which allow the states to reduce AFDC grants and to use the money to subsidize jobs in public and private nonprofit organizations;$7 and (3) Work Incentive Demonstration Projects (WIN Demos),58 which allow the states to experiment with a variety of approaches, such as job clubs and supported work, to help people get into the wage labor system. At the same time, states were given the option to establish workfare programs for food stamp recipients. 59 As a result, by 1986, at least 39 states were operating some kind of work or workfare program at either the state or local level. 60

Simply put, there are now a large number of experiments testing how best to move people away from public assistance. Some of these have been touted as highly successful. The most publicized of these is the Massachusetts ET Choices program, which is a WIN Demo. While registration is mandatory, participation in ET Choices is largely voluntary. The client and a caseworker assess the client's education, training, and previous work experience. They then develop an employment plan, which can include career planning assessment, education and training, supported work, work experience, and/or job search. Participants are entitled to child care vouchers or babysitting reimbursement, and to transportation costs related to participating in ET activities. Recently, health insurance was also added as a transition service.61

In 1981, Congress amended the AFDC law to allow states the flexibility to establish work programs for AFDC recipients.

projects would represent a mix of urban and rural areas located in different geographical areas of the country. Early analysis of the experiments particularly the one conducted in San Diego, California-purported to show success in moving participants into unsubsidized employment and in discouraging malingerers. Later reports, particularly those by Ketron, Inc., cast grave



PROJECT (1981). 56. 42 U.S.C.A. $ 609 (West 1984 & Supp. 1986). 57. Id, at $ 614. 58. Id. at $ 645. 59. 7 U.S.C.A. § 2029 (West Supp. 1986). 60. Family Support Administration, Office of Family Assistance,

AFDC Work Programs (unpublished paper 1986). 61. For a description of the history and functioning of the ET Choices

program, see Savner, Williams, & Halas, The Massachusetts Employment and Training Program, 20 CLEARINGHOUSE Rev. 123 (June 1986).


OF CITIZENSHIP (1985). 54. 7 U.S.C.A. $ 2026(b)(2) (West Supp. 1986).

Call for Papers

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The editors of Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice are currently seeking material to review for publication in volume V of the journal. Volume V will address all possible topics of law and inequality: people's experiences of systematic oppression, how the law contributes to their lack of power, and how the law might remedy or begin to end group-based oppression. The focus includes issues of race, poverty, gender, age, sexual orientation, and handicaps. The perspective of lawyers, non-lawyers, and scholars from many disciplines is sought. For more information, contact Law & Inequality Journal, University of Minnesota Law School, 229 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 625-5807.

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