Princeton University Library Catalog

Welfare to Work: Did it Work? The Implementation of TANF in New York City after PRWORA

Rabner, Jack [Browse]
Senior thesis
Grohsgal, Dov Weinryb [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
120 pages
Summary note:
Political scientists, economists, and sociologists have assessed various aspects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). However, no clear agreement emerges among scholars on TANF’s effectiveness in improving the structure of the welfare system or outcomes for welfare recipients. While caseloads declined significantly—sometimes at a greater rate than even the most ambitious estimates—some evidence shows that aid recipients and former aid recipients remained unemployed or underemployed, and without the means to improve their standard of living. Most researchers have analyzed TANF’s quantitative outcomes at the national-­‐ and state-­‐levels. While these studies provide important insight into the program’s finances and aggregate outcomes, they fail to tell the complete story of the program’s inception, implementation, and breadth of outcomes. This project utilizes a qualitative approach in an attempt to frame a more complete understanding of the outcomes of TANF and the causal paths that have led to those outcomes. The project draws descriptive inferences about TANF’s mandate, implementation, execution, and the way in which TANF unfolded on the ground in New York City. It probes the bureaucracy around welfare in New York City, examines the processes that aimed to transition unemployed welfare recipients to employment, brings to light the experiences of those cut from welfare rolls, seeks to describe the politics that surrounded welfare reform. Overall, this project seeks a better understanding of the causal processes involved in TANF and tries to measure more thoroughly various outcomes related to TANF. In doing so, it complicates prevailing understandings of PRWORA and TANF in the scholarship and among policy analysts, and attempts to offer those inferences as a way for policymakers to improve outcomes related to TANF in New York City and nationally. While the number of welfare recipients did decline significantly, this often came at the expense of welfare recipients and former welfare recipients, who struggled to find suitable employment and the means to maintain an acceptable standard of living.