As Congress prepares to debate re-authorization of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), consider the following Johns Hopkins researchers as sources for putting the welfare reform experiment into proper perspective. The list of experts covers areas such as the relationship between welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock childbearing, housing issues, the effects of welfare reform on families and efforts to help the hardest to employ get jobs and build skills.
Effects of welfare reform on families
Cherlin is the principal investigator of a four-year, three-city study on the effects of welfare reform laws on families. (View the project s website at http://www.jhu.edu/~welfare/). Cherlin s research focuses on the well-being of the children of welfare reform.
To many people, the welfare story ends when families go off the rolls, Cherlin says. In truth, no one knows for sure what will happen. This is the greatest social experiment with the lives of poor children since the welfare program was created during the Great Depression.
Cherlin is a national expert on family issues, with an
emphasis on public policy issues, and the effects of family
changes on children. Some of his books include: Marriage,
Divorce and Remarriage, Divided Families: What Happens to
Children When Parents Part and The Changing American
Family and Public Policy.
(View Cherlin s Web site at
Welfare s impact on adolescents and young adults
Hao s research focuses on the American family and public policies. She is currently studying the consequences of welfare reform for adolescents and young adults. Hao suggests it is important to study young people because the success of welfare reform will be judged by its effects on the next generation to enter adulthood, some of whom will enter the welfare system. By examining school enrollment, youth employment, school-to-work transition, premarital teen births and welfare participation using a national, longitudinal survey of the most recent adolescent cohort, Hao hopes her study will further our understanding of the relationship between policy structure and young adult behavior while informing policy makers of the impact of welfare reform on adolescents and young adults.
She has recently completed research that examines
patterns of single mothers' economic strategies to support
their families and its effects on the children's social and
emotional development, using large national, longitudinal
survey data. (View Hao s website at
Helping the hardest-to-employ
Over the past three years, in seven cities across the United States, Siberts and her colleagues worked on demonstrating that people with low literacy levels, poor job history and a history of welfare dependence, the so-called hardest to employ, could not only find steady work but increase their skill and pay levels.
The approach was to pair a mentor from a community college with the employee and the employee s manager or supervisor, who together would assess the worker s skill set versus the job requirements and then make a plan for improvement. Siberts says that of the 1,100 who participated in the past three years, the study s participants held on to jobs longer and increased their pay by an average of $1 per hour, per year, compared with a similar group.
Siberts said the preliminary results are good and
expects to publish the findings in a report due out in
February of 2002. The cities involved in the study include
Baltimore, Chicago, Indian River, Ind.; Portland, Ore.; Long
Beach, Calif.; Hartford, Conn.; and Davenport, Ill.
Racial issues and welfare
McDonald s research centers on analyzing the life experiences of African-American women, past and present. She is particularly interested in a growing detachment, or sometimes tension, between middle-income and low-income black women, particularly those on welfare.
By analyzing urban migratory patterns, kinship ties and
personal interviews with black women, she is working to shed
light on a growing geographical, cultural and emotional
distance between lower and middle classes of contemporary,
urban black women. (View McDonald's website at
What came before welfare?
Crenson spent nearly a decade poring over thousands of documents and other materials relating to orphanages and wrote a book that examines the history of orphanages and how the current welfare system was really a reaction against the traditional orphanage.
While some conservatives have called for a return to
the orphanage as a solution to welfare, Crenson can explain
how the welfare system is actually cheaper and better than
the orphanage system, and give anecdotes and examples. His
book is, Building the Invisible Orphanage: A prehistory
of the American Welfare System.
The economics of welfare
For 10 years, Moffitt has studied the possible
connection between welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock child
bearing, research that recently earned him a prestigious
National Institute of Health MERIT award. Part of his work
has illuminated the role that declining wages and job
prospects of less educated men have played in out-of-wedlock
child bearing, and his current focus is on determining if
the 1996 welfare law is responsible for a recent surge in
marriage rates. He is also the author of the recent book,
Evaluating Welfare Reform in an Era of
Housing and welfare reform
Newman specializes in housing, social welfare and
long-term care policy. She has written a book that looks at
the impact of welfare reform on both assisted and unassisted
housing, reviews the lessons learned about the role of
housing in moving welfare recipients to economic
self-sufficiency and identifies the special challenges
welfare reform presents with regard to housing policy and
research. In her recent book, The Home Front:
Implications of Welfare Reform for Housing Policy,
Newman and her co-contributors examine the important but
often overlooked relationship between housing policy and
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