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Chapter Summary

Katz, Michael (2001). The End of Welfare, Chapter 12 in The Price of Citizenship: Redefining the American Welfare State. New York: Metropolitan Books.

This chapter addresses the reasons why the AFDC model of public assistance had become unpopular by the 1990s and analyzes the debate surrounding the passage of the 1996 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) bill. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of TANF up to the publication of the book in 2001. Katz presents two sides of the debate: 1) conservatives focused on ending dependence on and entitlement to federal funds through the application of market based welfare reform as well as on the devolution of authority and responsibility to state, and in some cases, local governments; the opposing view was rooted in a concern for the poor, particularly children, that would be forced off public assistance, and for the deepening divide between cities and suburbs, and blacks/Hispanics and whites.

Attitudes toward AFDC

Katz argues that opposition to AFDC emanated from both the Republican and Democratic parties. According to these opponents of welfare, AFDC was encouraging dependence on welfare and provided disincentives to work. Of the negative consequences, Katz argues, it was out of wedlock birth that led both Republicans and Democrats to attack AFDC in the 1990s (318). At the same time that these negative attitudes towards AFDC were becoming politically mainstream, conservative State Governors were calling for the devolution of authority regarding welfare programs from the federal to the state level. These Governors agued that the AFDC rules limited their ability to innovate and to combat poverty (321). Tired of the federal bureaucracy that stifled their best intentions and forced them to seek handouts from Washington, these governors advocated for a local level approach to welfare provision.

Expectations of TANF

Thus, the passage of TANF signaled a move away from government provision, and the victory of conservative advocacy of private market provision and personal responsibility. Under the new TANF program, states had the latitude to decide how public assistance would be provided, whether through private providers, non-profit, faith-based, or for profit, either directly or through vouchers (324). Some of the provisions, Katz notes, did attempt to address the shortcomings of the private market approach. These included subsidies for single parents that left the welfare rolls for employment, such as, child care, health insurance, job training, and child support enforcement (326).

Results of TANF

Katz concludes with a discussion of TANFs short-term results. He notes four points: 1) the rapid decline in welfare rolls, partly due to a booming economy but also to stricter eligibility rules 2) the differential effects on cities and suburbs, due to concentrated poverty, lack of jobs in the inner city 3) the lack of oversight and monitoring, due to a failure to include clear standards and tracking mechanisms in the legislation and 4) and the effects on Americas poor, due to low-wage jobs which has trapped many former welfare recipients in a cycle of low-wage poverty.