Economic Snapshot | Retirement

Job tenure of former welfare recipients

A weekly presentation of downloadable charts and short analyses designed to graphically illustrate important economic issues. Updated every Wednesday.

Snapshot for June 5, 2002.

Job tenure of former welfare recipients
In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (commonly known as “welfare reform”) was signed, fundamentally changing the system of welfare assistance. This year, Congress must decide whether or not to re-authorize this legislation.

As can be seen from the chart below, women who left welfare for employment in the late 1990s-that is, after welfare reform-were more likely to stay employed than those who had left welfare in the early 1990s, regardless of their welfare recipiency status. However, compared to women who had not been on welfare just prior to being employed, former welfare recipients are much less likely to maintain employment. In the late 1990s, former welfare recipients are less than half as likely to still be employed after two years, compared to women who hadn’t received welfare at all.

Percent of women remaining consistently employed for at least two years, by welfare status

Although job tenure has certainly improved in the latter half of the 1990s, when evaluating the success of welfare reform it must be noted that these reforms were implemented during an economic expansion. Those who left welfare benefited from the strong labor market, and many found jobs. Unemployment was at historic lows during the late 1990s, and most who wanted a job could find it. However, the strong economy did not eradicate all the other problems facing low-income, working mothers. Many continue to struggle to find adequate child care, to find jobs that offer employer-provided health insurance, and to secure employment at wages that allow them to support their families. Their relatively short employment tenure, even during the economic expansion, reflects these continuing difficulties.

This week’s Snapshot by EPI economist Heather Boushey.

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