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Welfare has four main meanings.

  • In general terms, welfare refers simply to well-being, the human condition whereby people are faring well, that is: prosperous, in good health and at peace.
  • In economics, welfare is associated with material benefit or preferred outcomes. Welfare has a specific meaning in formal or technical economics (see welfare economics), as in the term social welfare function. In this context it refers to utility or well-offness, either for an individual, or aggregated for a group.
  • In the United States, welfare refers more specifically to money paid by the government who are in need of financial assistance, but who are unable to work, or whose circumstances mean the income they require for basic needs is in excess of their salary (e.g. tax credits for working mothers). The sum paid usually gives an income well below the poverty line, and it usually also has conditions attached, such as the need to prove one is searching for work or that there is some condition, such as a disability or obligation to care for children, that prevents them from working. In some cases recipients are forced to do work, and this is often known as workfare. Some kind of safety net provision of this kind is made in almost all developed countries.


Welfare in the US

See also: social security (United States)

Welfare is an appropriation of taxpayer money given to a person, business or entity without expectation of goods or services in return. In less charitable terms, it has been called income redistribution from the productive to the unproductive. Welfare has many forms and can include personal welfare such as AFDC, WIC and EITC, so called "corporate welfare" such as research grants for Embryonic Stem Cell Research or alternative fuels, and grants to institutions such as the United Nations.

In the United States, personal welfare often goes to households where children are included (usually headed by single mothers) and even these households have only been able to access benefits for a maximum of five years per lifetime of the adult recipient since 1996. Before that, most American states had been providing welfare benefits to single adults and childless married couples as well since the Great Depression, but the number of states doing so declined steeply during the 1990s, and many of the states still doling out such benefits use methods other than cash payments to render the assistance; indeed, today only two states - New Jersey and Utah - still give out cash to poverty-stricken adults who do not have child dependents. These programs were often known officially by such names as Home Relief and General Assistance. The federal welfare program for households with children was originally named Aid to Dependent Children; this was later changed to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (often referred to by the acronym AFDC), and since 1996 has been officially known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (or TANF).

The field of welfare often also involves program evaluation to determine if the welfare programs are working, how well they are working, and how they could be improved.

See also

Further reading

  • Brown, Michael K. (1999). Race, Money, and the American Welfare State. New York: Cornell University Press.
  • Blum, B.B., & Francis, J.F. (2002). Welfare research perspectives: Past, present, and future, 2002 edition. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.
  • Chase-Lansdale, P.L., & Duncan, G.J. (2001). Lessons learned. In G.J. Duncan & P.L. Chase-Lansdale (Eds.), For better and for worse: Welfare reform and the well-being of children and families (pp. 307-322). New York: Russell Sage. (ED 459 940)
  • Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2002). America's children: Key national indicators of well-being 2002. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • Gennetian, L.A., Duncan, G.J., Knox, V.W., Vargas, W.G., Clark-Kauffman, E., & London, A.S. (2002, May). How welfare and work policies for parents affect adolescents: A synthesis of research. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. (ED 465 122)
  • Ripke, M.N., & Crosby, D.A. (2002). The effects of welfare reform on the educational outcomes of parents and their children. In W. Secada (Ed.), Review of research in education 26, 2002 (pp. 181-262). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
  • Sherman, A. (2001, August). How children fare in welfare experiments appears to hinge on income. Washington, DC: Children's Defense Fund.
  • Weil, A., & Finegold, K. (2002). Introduction. In A. Weil & K. Finegold, Welfare reform: The next act (pp. xxi-xxxi). Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.
  • Zaslow, M.J., McGroder, S.M., & Moore, K.A. (2000). The national evaluation of welfare-to-work strategies: Impacts on young children and their families two years after enrollment. Findings from the Child Outcomes Study. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (ED 450 963)
  • Zaslow, M., Moore, K.A., Trout, K., Scarpa, J.P., & Vandivere, S. (2002). How are children faring under welfare reform? In A. Weil & K. Finegold, Welfare reform: The next act (pp. 79-102). Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.
  • Zedlewski, S.R. (2002, Winter/Spring). Family economic resources in the post-reform era. The Future of Children, 12(1), 121-145. (ED 464 168)

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