The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) gave states more autonomy and responsibility for creating and administering welfare policy. The new law sets forth clear expectations for families on welfare--a maximum of 60 months of cash assistance over their lifetime (states may set stricter time limits), and after a much shorter time, a requirement for most families receiving cash assistance to work.(8) The law includes a requirement for minor, unmarried, custodial parents to participate in education (if their child is at least 12 weeks old). They also must live with a parent or guardian or in an adult-supervised setting, unless the state determines that an exception is appropriate.(9) Under the new law, up to five states will receive a performance bonus for reducing the number of out-of-wedlock births (including those to teenagers) and the abortion rate.
PRWORA provides incentives for states to lower their teenage birth rates and encourages them to help teenage parents on welfare participate in education and move toward economic self-sufficiency. Thus, it is valuable for states to be aware of recent research on programs aimed at promoting improved outcomes for teenage parents relying on public assistance.(10)