The Threat to Work

September 22, 2009, by Ron Haskins

“One of the few government strategies that has proven successful in reducing poverty is encouraging or demanding that adults on welfare work, even at low wage jobs, and then subsidizing their earnings. The welfare reform legislation of 1996 is widely viewed as the origin of this two-part strategy. The 1996 reforms and a strong economy produced big increases in employment by poorly educated single mothers.

However, the poor skills of these mothers, combined with the decades-long stagnation of wages at the bottom of the wage distribution, make it unlikely that most of these mothers will ever earn sufficient wages to avoid poverty, let alone join the middle class. Fortunately, both state and federal governments have come to the rescue by providing billions of dollars in wage supplements for these working mothers.

 In our new book Creating an Opportunity Society, Isabel Sawhill and I call these wage supplements the work support system.”

Read full blog post on Up Front, Brookings’ new blog.

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