"The relationship of women to the welfare state hardly needs documenting. Women with children are the overwhelming majority among the beneficiaries of the main "means tested" income maintenance programs, such as AFDC, food stamps, and Medicaid.." (Piven, 25)
-Francis Fox Piven
According to the US Bureau of the Census (1996), 44.3 % of female-headed families with children were living in poverty. This accounted for 34.9 % of the poverty population. (US Bureau of the Census, 1996.) Furthermore, approximately 42 % of welfare spells began within two years of a wife becoming the head of the household. (Welfare Law Center, 1996) The magnitude of these statistics cannot be felt by simply looking at numbers. By examining the structure of our welfare system, and taking a look at why certain individuals are more likely to be receiving federal aid and living in poverty, one can detect severe flaws and anatomic problems within the system. It is clear from looking at current trends that women consistently find themselves in the position of dependency. Whether this is a result of a divorce, a death, or an unwed pregnancy, the fact remains that the majority of those individuals who receive benefits from the various welfare programs are women. This cycle of dependency is a result of the funnel of failure that women have a tendency to fall victim to. Women are left uneducated and living in poverty, and this is because there is a fundamental problem in the structure of our society. Women, despite the desire to improve their current situations, are unable to with the opportunities available.
What is inherently wrong with the structure of our country that dictates this sort of trend? Furthermore, what can be done with the current welfare programs to improve the opportunities for women? The answers to these questions lie in a complete revamping in our current manner of thinking. Our capitalist tendencies must be altered, and a focus on equality, and a decent life for all individuals must be the objective. Before this can happen however, we must identify exactly what it is, fundamentally, that keeps women from achieving their full potential. in this paper I will look at the trends associated with women in poverty and the current welfare programs which have attempted to remedy the problem. Ultimately, we need to see a change in society's objectives when it comes to the question of women in poverty. This paper will address the necessary objectives, and the programs which have the potential to achieve them.
The Cycle of Dependency and the Options Available
Workfare programs can provide us with an important look into why women have been unable to break their cycle of dependency. Linda Gordon writes in her book, Women, the State, and Welfare, the following about how women and work are viewed in our society.
There is a double stan4ard of welfare provision for men and women. One source of this differential treatment is our gender system, including norms that women, especially mothers, should be primarily domestic and supported by men. The failure of several decades of "workfare" programs can only be explained in terms of fundamental ambivalence on the part of legislatures, welfare professionals, and voters about whether public support of single mothers is better or worse than sending mothers into the labor force.. the lack of gender analysis obscures the labor-market sex segregation that makes it difficult for women to get jobs that provide even as good an income as welfare provision. (Gordon, 11)
The above passage is precisely the reason that women consistently find themselves on welfare, and unable to adequately provide for their children. Though they make efforts to improve their financial situations through job searches, the economic structure of our country prevents women from breaking the cycle of dependency. Even if they were able to find work, many of the jobs available do not pay enough to keep women above the poverty level. Furthermore, there is the question of opportunity costs and incentives for a woman to go back to work after having a child.
The question regarding what is the most reasonable and beneficial option for a women is an important question to analyze. Does it make sense for a single mother to work 80 hours a week on minimum wage, spend no time with her children, pay for daycare, and barely have enough money to feed her family? The alternative to this scenario is to place herself on welfare, have more time to spend with her children, and have the capacity to live above the poverty line. Mary 3o Bane and David T. Ellwood write the following in their book, Welfare Realities,
Looking at the options available to many single mothers, it is not surprising to find that long-term welfare use affects an important minority of those who ever use welfare. Most single mothers face a difficult choice: work all the time or be on welfare. Moreover, even if people choose to work full4ime, they often will be only slightly better off than if they stayed on welfare. Many women therefore use welfare. (Bane 118)
The choice is clear for any single mother. She is going to choose that option which is to her greatest benefit, which is many times the decision to accept welfare assistance. Bane and Ellwood continue their analysis by describing different models of dependency, and why certain individuals accept federal aide.
These models include the expectancy model, the cultural model, and the rational choice model. The expectancy model concentrates on the individual's sense of control over certain situations and their desired outcome. The cultural model concentrates on the culture of poverty theory in which those individuals who are confined by their particular culture and their environment will demonstrate antisocial and counterproductive behavior. (Bane, 78) The rational choice model, which I would like to concentrate on, states that an individual will look at the choices and options that are available to them, evaluate them according to their preferences, and then decide which option will be the most beneficial. The emphasis in this model is on "understanding the choices people face and the ways in which these change." Bane and Ellwood continue by stating that the "Rational choice models emphasize the decisions individuals make about whether and how to use welfare." (Bane 69) The question as to whether or not a single mother is going to opt to accept federal aide as opposed to relying on her own earnings appears obvious. Given the fact that women who work are only slightly better off financially than women who receive federal benefits, one would expect that a single mother would rather not work and spend more time with her children. Bane and Ellwood write that "one would anticipate many single parents would choose welfare over work, especially in light of the small gains from working..." They continue by stating that the rational choice models predict "that earnings exits will be rare, that earnings exits will be closely related to factors influencing the relative attractiveness of work, and that people who do not find nonearnings ways off of welfare will stay on welfare a long time." (Bane 71) Therefore, when given the choice, many women would rather live off of federal assistance than support themselves through some form of work. As a result, a cycle of dependency is started in which women live their lives with long spells of welfare, and little motivation to support themselves.
Poverty and Female Headed Households
Now that we have taken a brief look into the reasons that many single mothers go on welfare, we should look at why these federal programs give little incentive for an individual to go back to work and attempt to support themselves. The social welfare system in the United States is in dire need of reform. The current programs have done little to accommodate the changing demographics in this country. Gender roles have changed, and the current policies are not responding to the different experiences of men and women in the family as well as in the labor force. (Miller, 2) Dorothy C. Miller writes that,
the most noteworthy example of what is happening is the reaction to women's poverty. With the popularization of the term 'feminization of poverty,' many social welfare researchers and analysts have documented and discussed widespread poverty among women, generally concentrating on the rise of single-parent families. (Miller, 3)
Low wages in the labor market and the general condition of the welfare state contribute to this growing number of single mothers living in poverty. Furthermore, as seen earlier, these deficient programs provide little to no incentive for the single mother to enter into the labor force. Miller writes, "...the treatment of women in the social welfare system does not always provide work incentives or encourage self-support. While women on welfare are ostensibly pressured to work, programs to get them into the work force usually exclude, by design, large numbers of them." (Miller, 3)
A fundamental problem behind women in the workforce is the fact that their wages have always been considerably less than that of men. Furthermore, they are many times unable to attain those high paying, prestigious positions that are capable of supporting a family. Martin Carnoy writes the following about women and employment in his work, Faded Dreams,
Gender wage inequality - like race discrimination - is driven by relationships inside and outside the labor market that get translated into economic power and the shaping of work roles. Either because men prefer it that way or by women's choice, women are the principal raisers of children. No matter why they assume the role, the male-dominated production system punishes women economically for doing so by awarding them lower wages in the workplace. (Camoy, 28)
It is no wonder, after analyzing the above passage, that women are constantly finding themselves in low paying jobs with few opportunities for advancement As a result, there are severe economic consequences for women who attempt to raise a family on their own, relying solely on their earnings.
Female-headed households have become increasingly connected with poverty and dependency. This rise in female-headed households has obvious social and economic consequences. Single mothers are far more vulnerable when it comes to poverty than are other family structures. Many of these single mothers are young women who have had out of wedlock births. Many times the birth of a child interrupts the schooling or employment of a young woman, and as a result, they are at a greater financial disability. William Wilson, in his work The Truly Disadvantaged, writes that, "...female-headed families are far more likely than married-couple families to be not only poor, but mired in poverty for long periods of time." (Wilson, 90) We see once again that single mothers, especially younger women, find themselves in a severe state of dependency as a result of an out of wedlock pregnancy, and consequently, a one way ticket to a life of poverty. These women find it hard to continue their education, and as a result, can only find minimum wage jobs, that is if they even decide to enter the labor force. These single mothers have found themselves in an undesirable position. There are choices, but they are not necessarily promising a better life. On the one hand, the single mother can opt to accept the benefits from welfare. In this case, she is forced to live with the stigma of being a leach on society, and labeled as an individual incapable of providing for herself. Consequently, she is wrongfully classed with those people who have no motivation or desire to improve their current social and economic status. On the other hand, the single mother may choose to enter the work force, and support her family on her own earnings. The problem with this choice is that a steady job does not guarantee an improvement in one's standard of living. The reason for this is simple: capitalism.
The Structural Problem
Capitalism is defined as the economic system in which most of the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions. This system has been characterized by a tendency toward the concentration of wealth and the growth of large corporations and increased governmental control. (Neufeldt, 208) This complicated establishment arose during the mid 1800's, when there was a sudden emergence in social institutions. Michael Katz wrote the following in his work, In the Shadow of the Poorhouse,
How are we to interpret the sudden emergence of the institutional state in early nineteenth century America? Answers are both general and specific. Each institution responded to a specific set of concerns. However, all of them confronted problems inherent in the great transformation of social experience that accompanied the emergence of capitalism in America. (Katz, 11)
This new capitalist institution stressed achievement and endorsed universal standards in the work place. Merit and worth would now be defined by the laborers ability to be productive, and the ability to do the job better than someone else. The idea was that rewards would be earned, and not simply distributed to individuals who were not deserving. This transformation in thinking established the symbolic social ladder in which some will occupy the top rung, while others will find themselves barely hanging on to the bottom. This competition among workers was a trademark of capitalism. Not everyone could advance to the top and attain that sought after fortune.
Capitalism placed an emphasis on classification, and sorting individuals into specific categories. Katz continued with his evaluation of the newly formed capitalist society by writing the following,
Everywhere, reformers wanted to classify:... and demarcate clear standards for passage from one category to another. Rewards should be distributed by clear criteria applied without favor to everyone who fell into one of the narrow and proliferating categories through which nineteenth century policy entrepreneurs viewed their world. The corollary, as Harry Braverman pointed out, was disposing of the rest as cheaply and conveniently as possible through the creation of institutions that cleared the marketplace of all but the economically active and productive. (Katz, 13)
This system, unfortunately, allowed American business to severely alienate the workforce. There was little attempt to control the fluctuations in labor demand, and very little attention was paid towards the social consequences of keeping an enormous amount of surplus labor on hand. (Katz, 187) Individuals were evaluated, not simply according to their abilities, but according to their abilities as compared to other workers.
No longer was a man's income capacity limited to the reputation of his lineage. The capitalist economy was designed to allow an individual to better himself by his own means. As a result, this freedom created a sense of motivation and incentive for the American man to immerse himself in the economy. This notion of a man's independence and wealth represented the beginning of the concept of the self-made man. (Matthaei, 105)
As a result of the capitalist system, many individuals have found themselves in full time jobs, yet still living in a state of poverty. How is this possible? The answer is complicated, but can be explained in the following manner. Piven writes the following,
Under capitalism, manpower distribution is mainly the result of monetary incentives or disincentives: profits or wages, or the threat of no profits or no wages. As these incentives ebb and flow in response to economic changes, most people are more or less continuously induced to change and adapt. Continual change in labor requirements also means that, at any given moment, some people are left unemployed. In subsistence economies everyone works; the labor force is virtually synonymous with the population. But capitalism makes labor conditional on market demand, with the result that some amount of unemployment becomes a permanent feature of the economy. In other words, change and fluctuation and unemployment are chronic features of capitalism. (Piven, 5)
Unfortunately, we are forced to recognize that what Piven so perceptively stated in 1971 regarding the relationship between unemployment problems and capitalism, is still true in the present day. Fluctuations in the demand for labor and the availability of employment makes it very difficult for the laborer to rely on a steady wage. Furthermore, even if an individual holds a steady full time job at minimum wage, it does not mean that they will be able to live above the poverty line.
Capitalism ensures that there will be an economic bottom. It is because of this that I believe that there has been an increasing amount of single mothers living in poverty. They have fallen victim to the capitalist structure of the United States. A continued increase in the amount of jobs for the upper class and highly educated, as well as an increase in those jobs that pay at or below the minimum wage, has only made it more difficult for those individuals living in poverty to improve their current social and economic situation. As a result, there is a widening gap between those who make a significant amount of money, and those who barely make enough money to survive. The shrinking middle class is a large reason why there are so many people living in poverty. It is such a struggle to improve one's social status through hard work and dedication. This alone is many times not enough to lift an individual out of poverty. Furthermore, this helps to explain why so many of those individuals, especially single mothers, opt for welfare rather than work; they see no other viable solution to their economic problems.
The structural problems which are evidently a result of our capitalist society, are extremely difficult, if not impossible to solve without completely disposing of capitalism. And since this is not an immediate solution to the problem, we must look to something more realistic. As a result, we look to policy-making, and reform as a possible answer. However, what type of policy would give individuals on welfare, especially single mothers, the incentive to enter the work force, and attempt to support themselves on their own earnings?
A New Welfare Policy
President Bill Clinton attempted to provide an answer to this question when he signed a piece of welfare legislation on August 22, 1996. This welfare reform bill requires that recipients of federal aid participate in some form of work, Furthermore, benefits are limited to five years. With this bill comes the end of the cash-assistance program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which guaranteed that any eligible poor person could receive aid. (Vobejda, 1996)
Federal welfare funding will be given to the states, where they will be able to establish their own assistance programs. The funding will be distributed in annual federal payments, rather than an open-ended, undetermined amount of federal funds given to the states. The state are also given the responsibility of deciding who is eligible for welfare and for what amount of time, though federal funds can only be provided for five years of benefits over the lifetime of the recipient.
There are many other welfare reform provisions included in this piece of legislation. For example:
· Family heads must find some form of work within two years of receiving benefits or their aid
will be ended.
· States are allowed to spend up to 30% of their welfare aid on child care, child protection or other social services.
· States can continue to pay additional aid to children born to women already receiving benefits
· Teenage parents under the age of 18 are required to stay in school and live with an adult in order to receive federal aid.
· Women with children under the age of 6 will not be penalized for not working if they are unable to find day care. (Bowen, 1996)
With a new welfare program established, what sort of policies would states adopt in order to help solve the problem of poverty? Let us look at a program designed by a state which has proven to be quite a success. This policy is an example of how a work requirement lends itself as a tool to give individuals that final push to end their welfare dependency. This program, which is known as "Wisconsin Works" or "W-2", is being implemented by the state of Wisconsin, and was originally developed by Governor Tommy Thompson.
The concept behind this welfare policy is work requirements for welfare recipients. It is based on the idea that idleness and the lack of motivation, which commonly stems from welfare dependence, is harmful to the recipient's family. Therefore, in order to receive any type of benefit, the individual must perform useful labor. Useful labor is defined as work performed in the community, whether it be for a wage paying organization or a nonprofit group, that gets the individual out of the home and into society as a productive citizen. The W-2 program, which is designed to do essentially this, is being credited with greatly reducing the welfare numbers in the state of Wisconsin. For example, in the early stages of this program, statistics provided by Richard Rector, in the Po1icy Review, painted the following picture.
Wisconsin's experience with welfare reform provides an unparalleled model for implementing reform that other states would be wise to follow. In the last 10 years, while AFDC caseloads in the rest of the nation were rising steeply, the caseload in Wisconsin has dropped by half. In inner-city Milwaukee, the caseload had fallen by 25 percent, but in the rest of the state, caseloads have fallen by nearly 70 percent. In 28 of Wisconsin's 77 counties, the welfare rolls have already dropped by 80 percent or more. And if all this weren't remarkable enough, the pace of Wisconsin's reduction in welfare dependency is accelerating. (Rector, 1997)
The Republican Governor Thompson, declared war on welfare with his W-2 program. The idea behind this "tough love" program is that in order to keep getting aid grants, an individual must work in some manner. Those with few job skills can work in subsidized "transitional" jobs while they learn the tools of the trade. Attaining the necessary skills, such as getting along with co-workers, being on time and receiving the essential training, are all part of the process. Furthermore, those with disabilities can qualify for aide by performing community service work for a nonprofit agency. (Walters, 1997)
Problems Behind the Reform Effort
Though the current results of this program are unbelievably positive, there are skeptics, as well as statistics which suggest that Thompson's welfare reform program is far from beneficial. The question that is being asked by many policy makers is whether there will be enough high paying jobs to accommodate every individual coming off of welfare. It is clear that jobs are the number one factor in this new welfare reform. The fact that individuals will be forced to find employment within two years is not the crux of the problem. The uncertainty and skepticism comes when one considers that there are not enough jobs that pay a high enough wage to support a mother and her children. As a result, in the long run, instead of seeing a greater number of people on their feet, supporting themselves, we may see a larger number of individuals living in poverty, especially children. This increase in poverty may then lead to an increase in crime and violence.
What concerns many members of congress relates to how the new welfare policies will affect children. Millions of children received AFDC, and a large percentage of AFI)C recipients participate in a program designed to protect poor children from going hungry and living on the streets. looking at the numbers, policy makers are asking themselves why Clinton would rather cut a program (AFDC) which cost 1% of the Federal budget, and implement a welfare policy which could possibly place millions of children on the streets, starving. (Conniff, 1994)
In addition to the affect that the new policy will potentially have on children, the outlook for single mothers is also not very positive. Instead of encouraging women to finish their schooling with the financial support of federal money, Thompson is pushing for these individuals to enter the work force as soon as possible. As a result, instead of receiving necessary education and training, the new workfare program simply asks individuals to take up low-paying jobs with few benefits, and little opportunity to improve their skills in order to lift them to higher paying jobs.
The actual numbers which are surfacing from the Wisconsin program paint a grim picture for the workfare program. While many individuals who were once receiving welfare benefits have found jobs, many have not. Furthermore, as explained earlier, those individuals who are working are earning incomes below the poverty level. Many cannot afford to pay the rent, buy food for their families, or pay for other necessities. The following statistics can help shed light on the actual results from Wisconsin's W-2 program.
Although 83% of the individuals who left welfare during the first 3 months of 1998 worked at some point during that year, only 62%, by the end of 1998, still had jobs. This figure totally ignores the 31% of those individuals in the survey who did not respond. Being that these people are probably worse off than those who did respond to the survey, one might expect the numbers to be even more discouraging. ("Welfare to work: Pain in Wisconsin")
There are other skeptics whose words and opinions should be taken into consideration when investigating welfare reform. These individuals are the actual welfare recipients, and more specifically, those recipients who are single mothers. A group of women who call themselves the "Welfare Rights Organizing Committee" are committed to protesting Thompson's policy for welfare reform. Terri Murray, a founder of the group expressed the following about the "Work Not Welfare" program. "Thompson is blaming poor mothers and their children for problems with the economy and further burdening the poor. This doesn't address the causes of poverty." ("Welfare mothers fight back") The women in the group continued by emphasizing the fact that one of the main problems of the program was that the individuals who helped to develop it were not the ones who were actually going to participate in the program. By talking to the recipients, policy makers such as Governor Thompson and President Clinton could discover the specific reasons that people are on welfare, and then develop programs which could ameliorate the problems.
One can see, that despite the fact that Wisconsin's new welfare policy helps individuals to take that next step towards independence, the long run ramifications of forcing people into jobs may be negative. These individuals, instead of getting trained and learning the skills necessary to move up the economic ladder, are forced to find some sort of employment for fear of being unemployed and living in the streets. What will the states do when they discover that all of the minimum wage, low paying jobs have been taken, and those individuals who are less educated with little skills are still looking for a job? Who is going to hire them, and will they be successful?
The Positives Behind Thompson's Reforms
Many reformers do not feel the need to address these questions because they believe that Thompson's plan is nothing short of a miracle, and has helped the citizens in Wisconsin overcome poverty and homelessness. Their numbers paint a somewhat different picture. Since the time that Thompson took office in 1987, a number of positive affects have been seen regarding the number of welfare cases in his state. He is able to brag about a 55 percent drop in the number of welfare cases, as well as the elimination of AFDC in many of the states counties.
Some skeptics say that the reason Wisconsin has experienced such a large decline in the number of caseloads is because of the healthy economy we have experienced over the last few years. This theory, however, can be dispelled by simply looking at other states who have experienced extreme economic growth. These states, though they have enjoyed a good economy, have not seen a significant drop in their welfare rolls. Others think that the reforms have raised welfare costs, and that taxpayers are forced to invest more money into the system in order to end welfare. However, according to Richard Rector in the Po1icy Review,
Wisconsins reforms did not result in increased spending in either the short or long term. Although the state has increased its outlays on welfare administration, job training, and day care, these expenditures have been more than offset by the rapidly shrinking caseload. Wisconsin spends more per family on welfare now than in 1987, but it has half the number of families on welfare. (Rector, 1997)
Though there are a select group of individuals who are not in favor of Thompson's reform policy, there is evidence that past welfare recipients are proponents of the W-2 program. For instance, an actual case was described in an article written by Richard Rector in which a 33 year old women living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had been receiving federal aid on and off since 1982. In 1995, this individual signed a "self-sufficiency contract" in which she pledged to remove herself from the welfare rolls in the next five years. As a result of this pledge, she is currently holding down two jobs, is supporting her two children on her own earnings, and has not felt the economic need to return to welfare. (Rector, 1997)
Another success story from the Wisconsin program includes a mother of two, who had made welfare a way of life. With two children, and no steady job history, this individual was content to let federal money take care of her bills and finances. In an article published in US News & World Reports, the women commented on her attitude towards welfare. 'I made it a way of life, like a lot of people do. I never wanted to admit that, but I did.' (Roberts, 1995) However, as a result of the Work Not Welfare program, this individual has became a certified child-care provider and is interested in opening her own center.
Both of these individuals expressed the attitude that the old federal welfare system did not give them the motivation or incentive to find a job and provide for themselves. The new policies in Wisconsin have been successful, at least in the above cases, because they have given welfare recipients that extra little push to get them on their feel. As we can see from the two case studies, that was all that was needed to remove them from welfare dependency.
With examples from individuals who were in favor of the program and with those totally opposed to it, the next question to be asked is, what reform policy is the most helpful, and can a program such as the one being implemented in Wisconsin act as a template for the entire country.
The answers to these questions are complicated. The debilitating structure of our capitalist society makes it extremely difficult to find a solution to the problem of poverty. The institution itself, defines a lower class, and it is unfortunate that many women and children occupy this space. Due to the fact that women are not given the same economic opportunities as men, it is unrealistic to believe that single women with children will be able to support their families at the same level as could a male-headed household or a two parent home. However, female-headed households are a reality, and as long as they are in existence, some sort of solution needs to be found so that they are not living in a state of deprivation.
If we ever want to help those individuals, especially single mothers living in poverty, we need to concentrate on reforms which will motivate and give people incentive to support themselves. I believe, that though the workfare programs in Wisconsin have the right idea in pushing people to work and support themselves, these types of programs will only help a select group of individuals. Those people who have the most skills and education will obtain the jobs needed to pull themselves out of poverty. However, there are only a certain number of these jobs. If the wage rate remains at the level it is today, we will continue to see people living on the street, and ultimately starving to death.
What is unfortunate about the entire situation is the fact that it is the most helpless individuals, children, who are most affected by these work or starve welfare reforms. In the past, over two-thirds of the individuals receiving AFDC were children. (Welfare law Center, 1996) Now that this program has been cut, who is going to feed and clothe, and financially support these children? Surely it will not be the single mother with little skill and no education, working at a minimum wage job.
A single mother's willingness to work will not guarantee that she will be able to support her family completely on her earnings. Many individuals in the labor force cannot make it on their own, and though they are working full time, still need federal aid in order to provide for their families. In fact, in 1993, 2 million full-time, year round workers were living in poverty. Furthermore, 1.3 million year round workers in families with children under 18 would have fallen into poverty had they not received some form of aid from means tested government programs. (Welfare Law Center)
After taking a closer look at the reasons that many single mothers find themselves on welfare, and the programs which have been implemented to alter the current trends, I believe that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. The current welfare program, in completely cutting AFDC, will only put more families on the street in the long run. Individuals who are unable to find a job, or are unable to maintain a steady streak of employment, will be forced into poverty, with nowhere to turn. Ultimately, as stated earlier in this paper, we need to take a closer look at the structure of our society, and find ways to better provide for those individuals barely holding on at the bottom of the social ladder. In order to do this, wages need to be improved, and instead of forcing individuals into the work force, we should be concentrating on getting them the skills and education needed to improve their financial situation.
These solutions are crucial for single mothers. Under the old program, most of the adults receiving AFDC were single mothers, and many of them faced, and still do, barriers to getting jobs and keeping them, as a result of limited skills, child care needs, or discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, over half of the women who were receiving AFI)C at some point in their lives, never finished high school. (Welfare Law Center) This is extremely disturbing, considering the fact that the new welfare programs are promoting work not education.
Women currently have very few options when it comes to working and caring for their children. President Clinton's new welfare reform, as well as the program in Wisconsin, are not the answer to the problem. Though they are helpful in motivating individuals to support themselves, it is not fair to believe that these policies will be beneficial for single mothers and their children in the long run. Instead, we should focus on bridging the gap between the lower and middle classes, and through a raise in wages, help those individuals who are living in poverty support themselves on their own earnings. Only then can we possibly see a demographic change among those living in the lower class, where single mothers do not necessarily constitute the largest group living in poverty.
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