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When Work Is Not Enough

State and Federal Policies to Support Needy Workers

Robert P. Stoker and Laura A. Wilson

Publication Year: 2006

Efforts to promote work have been the centerpiece of welfare reform over the past ten years. In signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, President Bill Clinton pledged that the sweeping overhaul would "end welfare as we know it" by promoting work, responsibility, and family. To accomplish these goals, policymakers relied on two sets of tools: strict limits on eligibility for traditional benefits and a set of programs designed to make work pay. When Work Is Not Enough presents the first comprehensive analysis of the work support system. Drawing on both state and national data, Robert Stoker and Laura Wilson evaluate a broad range of policies that provide cash or in-kind benefits to low-wage workers, low-income working families, and families moving from welfare to work. These programs include minimum wage rates, Earned Income Tax Credit programs, medical assistance programs, food programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families earned income disregards, childcare grants, and rental assistance. Stoker and Wilson break new ground by examining the adequacy and coverage of the work support system in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. They address the prospects for reforming the system, as well as its impact on the politics of redistribution in the United States. Rich in analysis, Wh en Work Is Not Enough will be essential reading for anyone interested in the impact and future of welfare reform.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

This book examines whether the work support system is an effective means of helping needy workers (including former welfare recipients) escape poverty and privation. We initiated the project in the late 1990s, following the implementation of federal welfare reform. Cash assistance welfare rolls had declined markedly, as former welfare ...

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Chapter 1. Redistribution through Work

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pp. 1-23

Millions of American workers live between dependency and selfsufficiency. Despite significant effort, they cannot earn enough to support themselves and their families. Policymakers have not ignored the plight of those workers who must struggle to make ends meet. A number of recent federal policy changes have multiplied and enhanced the opportunities for needy workers to combine earned income ...

PART 1: Describing the Work Support System

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pp. 25

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Chapter 2. Work Support Programs

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pp. 27-63

To identify the programs and benefits that compose the work support system is a devilish problem for two reasons: (1) it is difficult to know what programs to exclude, because government has a broad mandate to promote and support employment opportunities; and (2) many of the same programs serve needy workers and nonworking ...

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Chapter 3. Program Design

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pp. 64-84

This chapter describes and analyzes the design of work support programs. The work support system distributes benefits to needy workers and regulates their behavior by directing consumption and encouraging or requiring work. There is a tension between these goals that reflects a concern that has long been central to social policy ...

PART 2: The Generosity of Work Support Programs

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pp. 85

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Chapter 4. State-Level Benefits

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pp. 87-101

Needy working families can realize significant material gains by participating in work support programs. Work support benefits vary from place to place, they vary according to family size and structure, they vary according to participation in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and they vary according to work effort, earned ...

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Chapter 5. The Cost of Living

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pp. 102-111

The analysis of nominal work support benefit generosity presented in chapter 4 neglects three important considerations: (1) there are differences in living costs across the fifty states and the District of Columbia; (2) the federal poverty standard is a single national standard and does not reflect subnational and substate variation in living ...

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Chapter 6. From Welfare to Work Supports

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pp. 112-126

One objective of the work support system is to encourage work.1 The work support system enhances the material well-being of needy workers by allowing them to combine means-tested tax and transfer benefits with earned income.We demonstrated in chapter 4 that the material rewards of work alone...

Part 3: Evaluating Work Support Performance

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pp. 136-137

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Chapter 7. Who Gets What?

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pp. 129-144

The evidence presented in chapter 4 demonstrates that full-time, year-round minimum wage work combined with full participation in work support programs could result in significant material gains for needy working families. But this information does not necessarily indicate how the system actually performs. Do needy working families in fact ...

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Chapter 8. Racing Up to the Bottom

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pp. 145-157

This chapter evaluates the performance of the work support system at the state level. This is a significant concern because states have discretion over eligibility and benefit standards for many work support programs. In addition, their administrative practices influence program participation, even in programs that are governed by national ...

Part 4: Conclusion

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pp. 159

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Chapter 9. A Work in Progress

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pp. 161-179

Although expansion of the work support system has increased the resources devoted to helping needy working families, observers have suggested that there is room for improvement.1 We have identified a variety of factors that limit the benefits that needy workers are likely to receive; some of these constraints reflect willful decisions by ...

Appendix A: Estimating State Benefit Generosity

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pp. 181-188

Appendix B: Adjusting Basic Family Budgets

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pp. 189-191

Appendix C: Who Are Needy Wokers?

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pp. 192-194


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pp. 195-204


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pp. 205-214

E-ISBN-13: 9780815797982
E-ISBN-10: 0815797982

Page Count: 214
Publication Year: 2006