Well-Being of Children in Working Poor and Other Families: 1997 and 2004. Introduction


When Congress reformed the welfare system in 1996, major goals of the legislation were to increase employment and income of needy families and to decrease child poverty.  Another major goal was to improve child outcomes through increased parental employment and earnings along with other provisions of welfare reform.[i] However, there was also concern that increased work effort by single mothers would lead to less time spent with their children and that some child outcomes might deteriorate.[ii] In passing the welfare legislation Congress specifically included resources for the Census Bureau to provide data for monitoring child outcomes over time.  Data indicate that the child poverty rate fell after welfare reform.  In 2006, 17.0 percent of all children (under age 18) in families had incomes below the official poverty threshold ($20,444 for a family of four with two children).[iii] This represents a decline from 1997 when 19.2 percent of all children in families had incomes below the poverty threshold.  This background paper explores trends over this time period in a set of measures of child and family well-being.

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