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Temporary Aid to Needy Families and Poverty

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Autor:   •  September 12, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  4,347 Words (18 Pages)  •  110 Views

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Temporary Aid to Needy Families and Poverty

Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson

April 20, 2017

Chatham University

Dr. Bell – SWK321


Welfare reform is a major topic discussed by politicians and everyday citizens. Most people believe that welfare reform needs to happen because of the cost to taxpayers and it is considered an entitlement program. However, revision is not simple. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) started welfare reform. The change from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) made sweeping changes to who gets assistance, how long they can get it. and many were forced to take jobs that could not meet their daily living expenses. This paper will discuss how the federal government can help women receiving TANF help them rise above poverty levels.  Increasing their incomes will change the lives of low-income women and will help low-income women get above the poverty level.

Research question

What changes can the federal government make to the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program to get women above poverty levels?

Literature Review

Understanding how TANF programming works is critical to understanding how to help women get higher incomes. The federal government plays a crucial part in creating regulations and policies that affect women receiving TANF. When looking at how to increase income for women, one must look at the current policy and any reforms that are on the subject


        Welfare reform is such a polarizing idea, causing much debate and consternation not only in the political realm but also among citizens. This turn in how the public and politicians perceive entitlement programs has shifted greatly from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s idea of the “Great Society”, established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 notion of the “welfare queen” to President Bill Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it” (Fowler and Besharov, 1993). Between 1930 and 1960 the numbers of families accessing government assistance increased from 162,000 to 1,875,000 (Lewit, Terman, Behrman, 1997). The federal funding for the program did not keep up with inflation and fell behind actual living costs. The benefits received by a family of three fell by 47% after adjusting for inflation (Lewit, Terman, Behrman, 1997).

In 1996, PRWORA eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. AFDC was focused on providing “financial assistance to low-income families with children” and the new program, TANF, putting the focus on “moving participants from welfare into the workforce and financial independence” (Hildebrandt, 2016). TANF was created because of the feelings people had toward welfare recipients. The idea for welfare reform went back to President Richard Nixon. President Nixon made it one of his top priorities and “spent his first days in office pushing for creative and innovative social legislation” to “dismantle the costly failures of President Johnson’s Great Society program” (Barber, 2016.). President Ronald Reagan in his 1976 campaign consistently spoke about the “welfare queen” in Chicago who was defrauding the system, making $150,000, tax-free cash income per year (Levin, 2013). The public’s feelings toward welfare started to swing to the need for welfare reform. President Bill Clinton had made a campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it” and he did with the signing of the PRWORA in 1996 (Semuels, 2016). As mentioned before, this is where TANF came into existence and was based on “assumptions about people in poverty and not necessarily based on empirical evidence” (Hildebrandt, 2016). Hildebrandt in 2016 stated that the AFDC (what TANF replaced) problems that existed and needed “to be addressed were related to irresponsible fertility, propagation of dependence, reluctance to work, a far too lenient welfare system, and mothers’ responsibility for the care of young children.” TANF was to serve as a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” program to get people to be more self-sufficient and move themselves out of poverty by working.

Scope of the Problem

Welfare reform is not the panacea to alleviate poverty. TANF, “at best, has been a path toward employment, and at worst, it is just a different way of being very poor” (Hildebrandt 2016). If the goal of the federal government was to reduce the number of women on welfare, it has been extremely successful. The reform has reduced it by more than one half as women have joined the workforce, but it also created a bigger pool of women in poverty (Bok, 2004). The federal government should focus on making TANF a program that will help put women to work and help get them out of poverty.

One must understand what poverty is and how it affects women in the United States. The current poverty rate in the United States, according the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates, is 13.5 percent meaning that 43.1 million Americans lived in poverty. Of those, 19. 4 million people live in deep poverty, meaning a household’s income is below 50 percent of the 2015 poverty threshold (US Census, 2015).

The official poverty “measure triples the inflation-adjusted cost of a minimum food diet and creates thresholds based on family size, composition and the age of the householder” and in determining eligibility for federal programs, like TANF, WIC, or Medicaid, the “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services develops their Federal Poverty Guideline income thresholds based on the official poverty measure estimates” (Center on Poverty Research, 2015).

Women are found to be poorer than men: 35 percent more likely, with “single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone are at particularly high risk of poverty” (NWLC, 2016). There are “one in eight women and more than one in three single-mother families” living in poverty with women working in more low-wage jobs (NWLC, 2016). Looking at statistics from the National Women’s Law Center in 2016, women are not doing well:

  • Two-thirds of low-wage workers, who work in jobs that typically pay $10.50 per hour or less, are women. Nearly half are women of color.
  • More than one in eight women lived in poverty in 2015. More than half of all poor children lived in families headed by women.
  • More than 2 in 5 women lived in extreme poverty.
  • Women were 35 percent more likely than men to live in poverty in 2015.
  • Poverty rates were particularly high for women of color:
  • African American women: 23.1 percent of African American women lived in poverty.
  • Native American women: 22.7 percent of Native American women lived in poverty.
  • Hispanic women: 20.9 percent of Hispanic women lived in poverty.
  • Asian women: 11.7 percent of Asian women lived in poverty.
  • More than 1 in 6 foreign-born women lived in poverty in 2015.
  • The poverty rate for women with disabilities (ages 18-64) (31.6 percent) was higher than it was for women without disabilities (12.7 percent), men with disabilities (25.3 percent), and men without disabilities (9.3 percent). (NWLC.org).

The TANF program was not created to get families out of poverty, but it does have the ability to give women the opportunities to get out of the system into wage sustaining jobs.


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