Gordon Berlin

Gordon L. Berlin is president of the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, which rigorously tests new approaches to the nation's social welfare problems.

Recent Articles

Welfare That Works

Through recent decades, America's social welfare policies have oscillated between two contradictory impulses. The 1960s were marked by a campaign against poverty; in the 1980s, welfare policy was increasingly concerned with fighting dependency. By the early 1990s, when welfare rolls hit an all-time high, the fear of unintended consequences--that welfare was discouraging work and marriage, and encouraging out-of-wedlock childbearing--led to reforms that limited how long someone could receive welfare benefits, the incorporation of strict work requirements, and, thus, the end of welfare as we knew it. At issue is an age-old conundrum: The jobless poor need cash benefits to escape destitution and to have any hope of moving up. Yet cash benefits can reduce the incentive to work (and, some believe, to marry)--especially if policies make the welfare package more attractive than a low-wage job (or a low-wage husband). Under the old welfare system, many families ended up no better off...