Economic Snapshot | Retirement

What helps mothers stay employed?

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Snapshot for June 19, 2002.

What helps mothers stay employed?
Congress is currently considering what to include in the reauthorization of the welfare reform bill passed in 1996. The long-term success of those reforms are contingent on whether low-income women, especially mothers, are able to find and maintain employment. Figures A and B show that both access to child care subsidies and finding a job that offers employer-provided health insurance can help former welfare recipients to stay employed once they leave welfare.

Figure A: Mothers who recieve child care subsidies are more likely to stay employed

Figure B: Mothers who recieve employer-provided health care are more likely to stay employed

Mothers – be they single or former welfare recipients – who receive child care subsidies are more likely to stay employed than are mothers who do not receive such help (Figure A). As a part of the welfare reforms implemented in 1996, Congress expanded funding for child care, increasing the funds for welfare and poor working families threefold between 1995 and 2000. But despite this increase, the level of funds remains woefully inadequate. The demand for child care has increased by more than the availability of funding for such programs. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, by 1999 only one out of every eight eligible families received assistance through the Child Care and Development Fund.

Finding a good job – in particular, one with employer-provided health insurance – also leads to longer employment for these mothers (Figure B). In considering the reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reforms, rethinking the WorkFirst ideology – that any job is preferable to welfare – is key to helping welfare recipients find higher quality jobs.

This week’s Snapshot by EPI economist Heather Boushey, with research assistance provided by Brendan Hill.

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