Welfare Reforms of the 1990s

Examines the negative impact of recent welfare reforms in America, particularly for women.

The new welfare reform programs in the United States and, most notably, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 were instituted with the intention of “eliminating welfare as we know it”. This essay explores the negative consequences that this welfare reform legislation has had on women in the United States. It critiques the new policies, as well as suggests alternative legislation that would improve the state of women on welfare.
“Another extremely troubling element of the new welfare programs that have been instituted in recent years has been efforts to control the reproductive choices of women on welfare. These efforts have taken shape in the form of two different policies, one of which has been implemented in many states. The first of these policies is known as benefit cap legislation, which actually penalizes women for having children beyond a threshold set by the government. In Wisconsin for example, for a woman with a single child, the benefit cap plan dictates that if she has “another child while receiving welfare [she] will receive only half the current grant increment for that child and no additional increment for another subsequent child” (Thomas). Other states have instituted similar legislation with the hopes that they can limit the number of children born to welfare women and thereby reduce their expenses. Taking this one step further, a number of states have recently began to consider offering incentives for women on welfare to use Norplant, a surgically implanted device that prevents the possibility of pregnancy for a period of several years.”