Twenty years post US welfare reform and state family caps aka child exclusion: an overdue assessment
The 1996 welfare reform legislation sought to discourage poor women from childbearing by allowing a family-cap policy prohibiting an increase in cash assistance when a new child is born. We conducted key-informant interviews with officials from all 24 family-cap states on the policy’s status, implementation, opinions regarding its effectiveness, benefits and disadvantages. Most stated that the policy’s administrative burden and negative economic impact on poor families outweighed its potential benefits. Some states implemented related policies that further undermined family wellbeing and/or did not adopt the Medicaid expansion increasing access to family planning, revealing a punitive social policy of questionable effectiveness.
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