Since 1996, when Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act · the "welfare reform" law · welfare caseloads have dropped sharply, and the number of single mothers who work has grown dramatically. But how have poor mothers fared, now that they are playing by the new welfare rules and working?
This report describes the experiences of women from poor urban neighborhoods who once relied on public assistance and entered the labor market. It presents findings from the Project on Devolution and Urban Change, a study of the implementation and effects of welfare reform in the counties encompassing four big cities: Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia. This report draws on representative survey data and in-depth ethnographic interviews from each of those sites to compare the work experiences and life circumstances of four groups of women defined by employment status and history.
In May 1995, the 3,900 survey respondents were receiving public assistance and living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Three to four years later, they were interviewed about their recent employment experiences: Three-quarters had worked in the past two years, and about half were working at the time of the interview. Respondents' stories from the ethnographic interviews are interwoven throughout the report to complement and augment the survey findings. (author abstract)