Ending Welfare As We Know It

A welfare mother is a black woman, with several children, who spends her entire life on welfare, having another kid whenever she needs more money—at least according to prevalent stereotypes. But in reality the average family receiving welfare consists of a 32-year-old

white woman with two children. And, according to current patterns, half of the five million households receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) will be off the rolls within two years.

Some families are locked into a cycle of welfare dependency. And women of color, many of them residents of economically devastated inner cities, are disproportionately on welfare. But these women are not helped by politicians engaging in punitive moralizing about "those people who’d stop having babies if we stopped paying them," or by feel-good, "we can help ’em up by their bootstraps and still cut the budget" plans to end welfare as we claim to know it.

What is needed is an honest assessment of our country’s economic and societal health, one that doesn’t just cast blame but shares responsibility.

Some approaches to reform that claim to be efforts to reduce poverty seem more focused on eliminating poor people, or at least making them invisible. A small group of conservative Republicans in the House, prodded by conservatives such as William Bennett, insist that the welfare system promotes illegitimacy and that all benefits to unmarried mothers under the age of 21 should be cut off. In an interesting twist for family-values types like Bennett, the plan states that the savings in cut benefits should be given to the states—to care for the children of these women in orphanages and group homes.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1994
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