Article Marianne P. Bitler

“If the goal was to get rid of poverty, we failed”: the legacy of the 1996 welfare reform
Research by Marianne Bitler cited in Vox

Vox, June 20, 2016

Presidents are usually effusive, grandiose, and triumphant when they sign major legislation that will form a huge part of their legacy. In 1996, Bill Clinton’s announcement that he’d sign a bill ending “welfare as we know it” was not that.

Two recent papers by UC Davis’s Marianne Bitler and UC Berkeley’s Hilary Hoynes broke down how various programs have affected the “cyclicality” of poverty during the Great Recession: that is, the degree to which poverty changes in reaction to changes in unemployment. For instance, SNAP (food stamps) reduced cyclicality by giving unemployed people boosts in spending power and helping them get out of poverty.

But TANF, unique among the programs analyzed, increased cyclicality, especially for those in deep poverty. It made the deeply poor more vulnerable to changes in the business cycle. “Those at the very bottom,” Hoynes says. “That’s the safety net that’s gone.”

Read the full article at Vox.

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