27 Jun 2013: School Seminar

Published: 13 September 2012

Peter Brandon: 'Did American Welfare Reform Really End Welfare as We Knew It?'

Did American Welfare Reform Really End Welfare as We Knew It?

Peter Brandon (University at Albany)

2pm, Room 916, Adam Smith Building


Over a decade and a half ago, President Clinton signed welfare reform into law.  On August 22, 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act ended welfare as we knew it and promised America’s poorest and most economically vulnerable citizens better lives through work.  Since that time, a broad consensus across America now believes that welfare reform did indeed succeed, even possibly working better than its designers originally intended.  However, my current research on single mothers who received public assistance paints a far more complex picture that is sometimes at odds with the conventional positive assessment of welfare reform.  Using assembled longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which spans pre- and post-welfare reform periods, my preliminary research suggests that welfare reform, though successful at reducing welfare caseloads and restricting benefits, fails to improve the economic fortunes of welfare recipients through work.  In fact, economic independence and upward mobility among welfare recipients in the post-welfare reform era seems as elusive as during the pre-welfare reform era.


Peter Brandon is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University at Albany, the State University of New York.  He has held previous academic and research positions at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Brown University, Carleton College, and the Australian National University.  Over the past two decades, funding from various government agencies and private foundations has permitted him to pursue research on the dynamics of welfare, poverty, and income inequality, family change and variation, child and family well-being, and the economic and social organization of households.  Brandon has also researched issues concerning immigrant children and families, which led to his participation in two U.S. National Academy of Sciences panels on the health and well-being of immigrant children and the fiscal impact of immigration.  Currently, he is evaluating the long-term effects of the mid-1990s welfare reforms in the United States, studying childcare provisions for children with disabilities, examining allocations of time within and across households, and charting the spatial distribution of non-profit social services in New York City.

Chair: Annette Hastings, Urban Studies

All welcome.

The CEES Seminar Series is supported by the MacFie Bequest, named after Professor Alec MacFie, Adam Smith Professor of Political Economy at the University from 1945 to 1958. 

Enquiries: Ammon.Cheskin@glasgow.ac.uk, +44 (0)141 330 2845/5585

First published: 13 September 2012