The welfare reform of 1996 was highly fueled by the belief among many Americans that many poor parents were no longer working, and that they depended on the pre-1996 welfare law (Sawhill, 2002, p.107). The federal government wanted to reduce the spending on the welfare and also reduce the number of unwed mothers and births by teenage mothers (Foy, 2005, p.90). The welfare reform has not been successful as it was expected to be by its supporters as the gap of income inequality has widened.
The welfare reform made more women who were beneficiaries of the welfare to be employed. Though employment increased, poverty levels increased as the gross income for single mothers increased from $18000 to $ 23000, they were poorer than they were in early 1990s (Blank, 2006, p.2). The increase in income and the single mothers becoming poor was a definite proof of the gap in wealth distribution. The number of working poor increased in late 1990s. The employment rate of single mothers increased from 74 % in 1996 to 79% in 2004 (Fang & Keane, 2004, p.1).
The families that were benefiting from the welfare moved from it and started working. Wealth was not equally distributed, and some gathered enough wealth while others did not even get enough money from employment to feed their children who were already left unattended (Berg, 2006, p.12). Those unable to feed their families sunk into more poverty. The reflection of this is shown by the situation in New York where, 1.2 million of the city dwellers live with food insecurity. Among these are 400,000 children. After the reform, 37 million people still live below the poverty level (Berg, 2006, p.16). The working people in New York total to around 3.6 million. Out of these, 425,000, which is around 12 %, do not have sufficient food for their families (Berg, 2006, p.16).
The number of billionaires in New York increased from 28 to 45 between 2005 and 2006 (Berg, 2006, p.16).Such an increase in a short time implies that the wealth inequality is very high. It is evidence because they have 17 times more wealth than the earnings of the poor. In 2006, the city’s wealthiest person, David Koch, had a net worth of $12 billion, three point five times the total income of the poor. These statistics from New York reflect the situation in the whole country (Berg, 2006, p.17).
Beneficiaries of the welfare who continued to benefit after the reform decreased as expected (Blank, 2006, p.5). However, the poverty level increase and the wealth distribution in America worsened. The reform has not been as successful as expected mainly because it was not sufficiently developed to deal with changing economic periods such as the recession. The reform has not been helpful to the well-being of many poor Americans. Their situation has worsened than before the reform.
- Berg, J. (2006). New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Nyccah.org. Retrieved from https://nyccah.org/files/welfarepromise.doc
- Blank, R. (2006). Was Welfare Reform Successful? (1st ed.). Retrieved from http://www.usi.edu/business/cashel/331/welfare%20reform.pdf
- Card, D., & Blank, R. (2000). Finding Jobs: Work and Welfare Reform. Russell Sage Foundation.
- Fang, H., & Keane, M. (2004). Assessing the Impact of Welfare Reform on Single Mothers (1st ed.). Yale University. Retrieved from http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/lec-lun/2004/keane-040505.pdf
- Sawhill, I. (2002). Welfare Reform and Beyond. Washington DC, USA: The Brookings Institution.