New Lives for Poor Families?

Mothers and Young Children Move Through Welfare Reform: Executive Summary
Bruce Fuller
University of California, Berkeley
Sharon Lynn Kagan
Columbia University
Susanna Loeb
Stanford Graduate School of Education
Judith E. Carroll
Yale University
Jan McCarthy
Indiana State University
Gege Kreischer
Child Care Concepts
Bidemi Carrol
Research Triangle Institute
Ginger Cook
Oakland Unified School District
Yueh-Wen Chang
Judicial Council of California
Susan Sprachman
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.


Policy leaders in Washington and the states are engaging a new debate over an old question: How can society best aid jobless mothers and enrich their children’s lives?

The dramatic reform of family welfare policies in 1996, aided by robust economic growth, has moved millions of women into low-wage jobs. But how to build from this success?

Would stiffer work requirements raise more families above the poverty line? Could educational opportunities for mothers strengthen parenting? How adequate is the current supply and quality of childcare?

As these and other policy options are debated, one fact is clear: We know surprisingly little about how state welfare-to-work programs have touched the lives of young children since 1996—and perhaps altered the home and child care settings in which they are now being raised.

This report helps to fill that gap. The project team followed an initial sample of 948 mothers and preschool-age children for two to four years after the women entered new welfare programs—in California, Connecticut, and Florida. After two rounds of interviews with mothers, assessments of their children’s development, and visits to homes and childcare settings, these major findings have emerged.

Suggested citationFuller, B., Kagan, S. L., Loeb, S., Carroll, J. E., McCarthy, J., Kreischer, G., Carrol, B., Cook, G., Chang, Y., & Sprachman, S. (2002, April). New lives for poor families? Mothers and young children move through welfare reform: Executive summary [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.