Welfare and the Politics of Poverty
By the mid-1990s, with record numbers of Americans on welfare, public resentment reached a tipping point. Recipients were stigmatized as lazy ne’er-do-wells feeding at the public trough. Politicians railed against “welfare queens”, the unwed mothers they claimed were gaming the system, having more babies to get more taxpayer cash.
Republicans had been pushing to overhaul welfare for decades, with little success. But in 1996, in a move that outraged liberals, a Democratic president signed into law a bill that “ended welfare as we know it.”
The vision of welfare reform was an optimistic one. The poor would be liberated from dependency on government handouts, so they could enjoy the dignity of work and move from poverty to self-sufficiency. What actually happened is a lesson in good intentions gone awry, and raises questions about whether the politics of poverty have changed much in 20 years.
20 Years Later, Welfare Overhaul Resonates for Families and Candidates by Clyde Haberman
More Like This
Whites-Only Suburbs: How the New Deal Shut Out Black Homebuyers
Race-based federal lending rules from New Deal programs in the 1930s kept Black families locked out of suburban neighborhoods, a policy that continues to slow their economic mobility.
How a 1944 Supreme Court Ruling on Internment Camps Led to a Reckoning
The U.S. government ordered 120,000 people of Japanese descent, most American citizens, imprisoned during World War II. An admission of wrongdoing and reparations payments came decades later, but a Supreme Court ruling had lasting impact.
Can Race Be a Factor in College Admissions? SCOTUS Reconsiders Affirmative Action.
The Supreme Court considers new arguments challenging admissions practices that colleges use to select a diverse student body.
Since the summer of 2020, we’ve documented the impact of the pandemic on housing and evictions. We followed tenants, landlords, lawyers, judges, sheriffs and social workers across the U.S. who were affected.