Since welfare reform was enacted 10 years ago, caseloads have fallen by 58 percent. Fewer children live in poverty, though some of the gains made during the boom have been lost. USA Today looks at the big picture and profiles three families. Even the woman who’s doing the worst economically has embraced self-sufficiency: She works part-time, lives with her mother and does yard work, with her teen-age children’s help, to make extra money.
I worked on a big San Jose Mercury News series, “Making Welfare Work,” that followed six welfare families for years. It was clear to me that people on welfare hated the life, believed that working is good and dependency is bad and thought working a steady job would make them better role models for their children. There was no values gap. Many people we interviewed said that they needed a “push” into the workforce, along with concrete help in getting child care, or that they thought others on welfare needed the “push.” The people we followed did get jobs and greatly preferred being working poor instead of welfare poor.