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Welfare Mothers as Potential Employees: A Statistics Profile Based on National Survey Data

Publication Date

When women who receive welfare benefits are compared with other women, both poor and non-poor, in the NLSY and other national sample surveys, welfare mothers are notably different from non-poor mothers. At the same time, these data show that there is considerable diversity within the welfare population. In particular, compared to short-term recipients, longer-term recipients have lower cognitive achievement scores, less education, sporadic work experience, and lower self-esteem. Non-welfare mothers with similar disadvantages disproportionately find only low-paying service jobs, which are insufficient to move them out of poverty. Differences between poor women on welfare and poor working women are too small to represent major positive changes in the lives of the women themselves or in the life prospects of their children. The study suggests that federal programs of education and job training may be of help to those whose academic skills, education, and work experience are in the second quartile among welfare mothers. Those in the top quartile probably possess enough skills, education, and experience to succeed on their own, while prospects for those in the bottom half are unclear. [66 PDF pages]