COUNTING THE CAPPED

Abstract

States with family-cap public assistance policies deny or reduce incremental welfare benefits to mothers who conceive and give birth to additional children while they are receiving aid. Such policies are both controversial and common. Between January 1992 and the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in August 1996, a total of 19 states sought and received approval (waivers) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for experimenting with family caps of one variety or another (HHS 1997). The same 19 states included some sort of cap in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) plan formulated to meet PRWORA requirements. By July 1999 the number of states with family-cap policies in place had increased to 22 (Rowe in press, table 19). Oddly, none of the pre-PRWORA waiver applications included estimates of the size of the problem—the welfare conceptions—that family caps are supposed to address. At least two reasons might be cited for this e familiar departure from the rational policy paradigm. One has to do with Washington, the other with the states. President Clinton’s 1993 invitation to states to increase welfare experimentation produced a tidal wave of applications. Faced with this flood, the federal agency responsible for granting permission fo

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