Many more leaving welfare rolls for work, report says Maryland among states with 'significant increases'

Those on welfare fell from 14.1 million in 1993 to 8.9 million in 1998.


WASHINGTON -- Millions of people have left the welfare rolls since Congress overhauled the federal program two years ago, but what happened to them has been a puzzle for policy-makers.

Now, the most comprehensive study of the new system says more and more are going to work.

The General Accounting Office, a nonpartisan arm of Congress, said yesterday that there had been sharp increases in the proportion of welfare recipients being placed in jobs.

Since President Clinton took office, the number of people on welfare has fallen 37 percent, to 8.9 million in March 1998 from 14.1 million in January 1993. The number has dropped 27 percent since August 1996, when Clinton signed a bill ending the federal guarantee of cash assistance for the nation's poorest children.

The accounting office examined the experiences of seven states chosen to be representative of the nation as a whole. In five of the states, it found "significant increases" in the proportion of welfare recipients who obtained jobs.

"California, Louisiana and Maryland more than doubled their job placement rates from 1995 to 1997, and Oregon and Wisconsin increased their rates by more than 70 percent," the report said.

Texas had a slight decline in the proportion of welfare recipients who found jobs. Data from Connecticut, while not exactly comparable, showed a substantial increase in the number of families leaving welfare because of increased earnings.

The GAO said 17 percent of Maryland's welfare recipients were placed in jobs in 1997, up from 4 percent in 1995. In Louisiana, the proportion rose to 17 percent, from 6 percent, while in California it rose to 19 percent from 9 percent.

Authors of the report were quick to point out that some important questions remained unanswered. The report does not measure the effects of the 1996 law on children, or the extent of hunger and homelessness among people removed from the welfare rolls.

The GAO said that the people who left welfare in the last few years were "the most readily employable," while those remaining on the rolls may have more difficulty getting jobs because they have fewer skills, less education or more serious medical problems.

Pub Date: 6/19/98

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