Welfare Reform to Promote Work and Marriage

“The real question is whether anti-poverty programs help enough struggling Americans move beyond needing them. The answer is no.”

— Robert Doar and Kiki Bradley

A disturbing lack of progress within the current poverty model calls for reform. The odds of a child born into poverty moving out of it have remained almost completely static for the last two decades. Importantly, the welfare reforms enacted in 1996, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), serves as a model that moves people off welfare and toward economic self-sufficiency.

Robert Doar and Kiki Bradley ground their approach to alleviating poverty from the holistic success of TANF. They believe its results should spur conservative reforms to bolster self-sufficiency, strengthen civil society, promote marriage, and encourage noncustodial parents to assume greater responsibility.

Doar and Bradley advocate work requirements for means-tested programs. Such a stipulation can enable poor Americans to enter the labor force and ultimately move out of poverty.

Next, few existing anti-poverty programs are held accountable to any measurable performance standard. This should not be the case; instead, means-tested programs must include definitive performances measures and a process for review and revision when outcomes fall short.

Third, Doar and Bradley believe that anti-poverty policy should encourage marriage before childbearing. Extensive research indicates that, if children are raised in two-parent, married families, the likelihood of children remaining in poverty is substantially reduced.

Moreover, Doar and Bradley contend child support enforcement should be enhanced. Government assistance programs should emphasize that a mother and father support their children.

Finally, Doar and Bradley promote civil institutions and organizations to address the moral components of poverty. Government assistance programs address material needs, but fall short of a holistic approach, which is where civil programs can make a difference in people’s lives.