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Welfare Reform at 10: Marking the Milestone

Recorded on August 17, 2006

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

The 1996 welfare reform legislation was one of the most successful social policy reforms in U.S. history. In contrast to the prior system, which rewarded idleness and dependency, reform policy made remarkable headway in helping welfare dependents move toward self-sufficiency and dramatically reduced state welfare caseloads. Today, one and a half million fewer children live in poverty today than a decade ago and the once explosive growth in the rate of unwed childbearing has dramatically slowed. While the old system resulted in unwed pregnancy and a host of related social problems, welfare reforms reduced child poverty and increased employment. Because of lax enforcement and efforts to undermine the principles and goals of this reform, however, its full potential has not been realized. Reauthorization of welfare reform in February 2006 renewed a focus on promoting work among welfare recipients, but additional action and continued attention for years to come are required to fulfill the promise of welfare reform in helping more Americans escape government dependency.