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Introduction

"The role of social science lies not in the formation of social policy, but in the measurement of its results."
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 19691

In August 1996, President Clinton signed a welfare reform law, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), that could result in fundamental changes in state welfare programs. Building on the extensive array of state waivers his administration and the Bush administration had granted, the new welfare law creates a block grant that caps total federal aid to the states but, in return, allows them much greater flexibility in how they shape their programs.

The new welfare law makes dozens of other changes, including a requirement that a gradually increasing share of state caseloads (including single mothers with young children) must be in work activities; a time limit of five years of benefits (with states free to establish shorter limits, as most have); special residency and education rules for teen mothers; and heightened child support enforcement.2

The general public and federal, state, and local officials, along with experts and advocates on the left and right, are eagerly awaiting evidence of the new law’s impact (as well as that of the changes resulting from the waivers the federal government earlier granted to states). Thus, Senator Moynihan’s wisdom may soon be demonstrated by a steady stream of research on both the state waiver experiments and the new welfare regime.

1997 by the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission in writing from the University of Maryland except in cases of brief quotations embodied in news articles, critical articles, or reviews.  The views expressed in the publications of the University of Maryland are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, advisory panels, officers, or trusties of the University of Maryland


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