Barbara Wolfe

Recent Articles

Welfare Reform Depends on Good Child Care

W hen the 1996 welfare-reform bill was passed, one of its many controversial provisions was the imposition of work requirements on single mothers applying for welfare assistance, even if they had very young children. In part, these requirements simply reflected the overall thrust of the legislation, which aimed to make work the fulcrum of the U.S. welfare system. But the inclusion of a single-mothers provision also signaled an acknowledgment of the sea change in American society and family structure that had occurred over recent decades, as large numbers of women with children have entered the labor force. In spelling out a mother's obligation to work, most states' have accepted as a corollary the government's obligation to provide work supports. The most important of these has been child care. The change in this area has been rapid and substantial, for families both in and outside the welfare system: In the United States today, more than 60 percent of children under four years old,...