Policies That Improve Family Income Matter for Children

Cauthen, Nancy K.

With an unparalleled focus on employment, the 1996 federal welfare reforms changed the nature of cash assistance programs for low-income families. By the end of the decade, welfare caseloads had reached their lowest level since 1969. Prior to these changes, employment rates among single mothers had begun to rise, and the trend continued throughout the 1990s. At the same time, child poverty declined steadily, reaching its lowest level since 1979, and the percent of low-income children living in families with at least one working parent increased. Although researchers disagree about the precise causes of these trends, the trends themselves have focused new attention on low-income families in the work force. Observers across the political spectrum have recognized that low-wage employment—even if full-time—may be insufficient to meet a family's basic needs. This recognition has led to new thinking about the role of government policies in helping low-income working families move toward economic security. This policy brief series focuses on state policy options that have the potential to improve children's economic security by increasing family income. More specifically, the series examines policies that seek to increase family income by encouraging, supporting, and rewarding work.

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National Center for Children in Poverty
National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University
Published Here
July 8, 2010