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Welfare Reform, Work Requirements, and Employment Barriers

By Ellen Meara and Richard Frank


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act imposed work requirements on welfare recipients. Using 1999-2001 data from Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio, we compared the labor market and welfare experience of women with four employment barriers: poor mental health, moderate to heavy drug and alcohol use, a child with a behavior problem, and a child under the age of 3. Women with poor mental health and drug and alcohol users were much less likely to move into work than other groups, and more likely to be sanctioned for noncompliance with welfare requirements in 2000-2001 as federal work participation requirements increased

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