Study Looks at Impact of Welfare Reforms in Iowa

In 1996, Congress significantly transformed the U.S. welfare system, converting it from a cash-benefit entitlement program to a state block grant program with time-limited assistance in exchange for work or work preparation. How have Iowans in need fared since the enactment of the reforms? In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service funded four state studies, including one in Iowa, to help evaluate the new welfare program's effectiveness in moving people toward economic self-sufficiency. ISU researchers at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development and Statistics Laboratory surveyed a sample of 1997 Food Stamp Program participants still living in Iowa. As was the case nationally, Iowa experienced sharp decreases in Food Stamp Program enrollment following the welfare reforms of 1996. The study found that less than one-half of the 1997 participants surveyed were still enrolled in the Food Stamp Program in 1999. However, other measures of well-being indicated the families in the study continue to struggle. Private assistance is commonly combined with public assistance and earnings to meet basic needs. One-quarter of the families in the survey said they experienced hunger in the year before the interview. Results for the other states, Arizona, Illinois, and South Carolina, were similar to those for Iowa. Contact Helen Jensen, (515) 294-6253, or Sandy Clarke, (515) 294-6257.

(Released March 2002)